Feature driving tablet adoption: Battery life

Feature driving tablet adoption: Battery life

Summary: Tablets are replacing laptops in more gear bags than ever before. The capabilities of tablets have evolved to make them viable alternatives for mobile professionals. Even as capable as they are, the long battery life is what's driving adoption.


The move to fixed batteries made the run time of batteries more important than ever to the true mobile professional. With no way to swap batteries, the ability to get through heavy workdays away from an outlet became a real concern. Even though battery life improved most laptops could not get through a long day. The exposure to a dead battery was even more pronounced on business trips. It was no longer guaranteed that mobile workers could get through a full day no matter what happened.

The powerful processor of Windows 8 tablets has an appeal for power users but the mobile professional has to take a step back from the 5-hour battery life.

That's why mobile professionals were open to using tablets such as iPads to replace the laptop. All other advantages aside, having a battery life of 10+ hours was a lifeline for those needing to get through a full work day. No matter how the day unfolds for the mobile worker, these new tablets can handle it without power outlets entering into the picture.

The importance of this change cannot be overstated. Laptops for the most part lost the ability to use spare batteries, thus eliminating the ability of the user to guarantee getting through a whole day, and tablets stepped in with easy all-day battery life.

Once exposed to the liberation from the power outlet, mobile professionals are adopting the tablet in increasing numbers. Go to any meeting or public work space and you see tablets in numbers greater than ever before. It is now common to see more tablets, both with and without keyboards attached, than laptops in such venues.

Replacing a laptop with a tablet is not for everyone, some workers couldn't do it even if they wanted. But as the capabilities of tablets have increased they work just fine for more folks than ever before. That battery life is a big advantage over laptops and once exposed to that many users realize how big an advantage that is.

Long battery life was a feature driving purchases of first the iPad and then Android tablets. The ability to last 10+ hours on a single charge quickly made its value known to buyers. The same can be said for the first Windows tablets to hit the market, the Surface RT in particular. 

Windows 8 tablets are aimed squarely at the mobile professional, and the 10-hour battery life of Windows RT tablets is appealing to that market segment. The same can be said for Intel Atom-based Windows 8 Pro tablets. Long battery life coupled with full Windows is a powerful draw for many mobile workers.

The same cannot be said for Windows 8 tablets with Core processors such as the Surface Pro from Microsoft. The powerful processor has an appeal for power users but the mobile professional has to take a step back from the 5-hour battery life. That won't last through even an average work day away from an outlet, much less a long one. Mary Jo Foley points out that Microsoft is aware of this shortcoming and hinted at an external battery solution for the Surface Pro. That's good but not an attractive solution for the true mobile worker.

The sealed battery technology being used in laptops and now tablets makes this feature on any mobile device more important than ever for the mobile worker. Those devices with less than 10 hours are going to have a hard time meeting the needs of the very market segment that such gadgets are trying to attract. It is a shortcoming that Windows 8 tablet makers must address, and quickly.

See related:

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets

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  • Windows8 tablets makers have already addressed the battery issue

    Windows8 tablets with batter life on par with Ipads/Androids

    Just to name a few.

    Asus VivotabRT
    Microsoft SurfaceRT
    Lenovo Lynx (RT)
    Asus Vivotab Smart (x86, full windows)
    Acer inconi W510 (x86, full windows)
    Samsung Ativ 500t (x86, full windows)
    Fujitsu Sytlistic (x86, full windows)
    Dell Envy x2 (x86, full windows)
    Dell Latitude 10 (x86, full windows)
    Lenovo Thinkpad 2 (x86, full windows)

    James, I think you know these windows8 offerings exist, so I have no idea why you make those comments.
    • I trust battery life claims....

      As much as I trust motor manufacturers MPG claims.
      Alan Smithie
    • Read the article

      It clearly states what you pointed out- RT and Atom-based Windows 8 tablets are fine with good battery life. It's the Core ix models that have trouble.
      • I did read the article, but I disagree with your focus and conclusions.

        It isn't just Windows8 tablets with core i5 that have battery lives shorter than 10 hours, it is all devices with corei5 that last less than 10 hours. I guess those are problem devices now that Ipads are out and have 10 hours batteries?

        I don't necessarily agree with your conclusion that 10 hours is the magic number for battery life for work or that target market of core i5 devices. It would be nice, but I would guess that the majority of the mobile work force would be just fine with 6 hour battery life core i5's or if someone really does need 10 hours they would be just fine on an atom based tablet.

        It seems that every article talking about windows tablets gets hung up comparing it to one aspect of a device in a different catagory. Such as comparing the battery life of SurfacePro to the battery life of an Ipad or comparing the ability to run desktop apps of SurfaceRT to that of an ultrabook. Almost as if they are articles in search of a problem to reveal while ignoring the strengths. Countless are those articles around ZDnet. On the flip side I don't think I have seen one article of a blogger running an atom based tablet, because I don't think they could conjure the same problems to reveal to readers.

        Beyond that, how exactly do you expect Windows tablet makers to address this issue other than with bigger batteries? The technology just doens't yet seem to be available to deliver 10 hours of battery life in a 2lb device that can effectively replace a desktop and a tablet.

        Likewise I think the device makers are awaiting improvements from Intel/Amd and not somehow holding back the breakthrough that you are suggesting they might be able to deliver?
        • Nice Analysis, but....

          The article starts with an assumption:

          Battery Life is the most important factor in the switch from laptops to tablets.

          I do not see your arguments as negating those of the original article, because you fail to address his assumption. Unless you can provide good evidence that his assumption is false, then you cannot truly refute his conclusion.

          Now, you did point out one of the failures in JK's argument. The fault is using the phrase "Windows 8" when in fact what he means is "Windows 8 on Core processors"

          Of course, his argument fails because he wears his intention quite openly.

          Clearly, the conclusion he wants us to believe is:

          Windows 8 tablets are useless.

          What we really see in his arguments is the conclusion:

          Windows 8 tablets with Core processors are not really a good solution for mobile warriors who want 10 hours of battery life.

          Or, to be more to the point:

          The Surface Pro is not really a good replacement for iPads and Android tablets.

          Given JK's quite clear anti-Microsoft leanings, this is the quite obvious take away from this article.
      • Revelation

        What's next...pick-up trucks with a V-8 get worse gas mileage than a hybrid compact?

        When people ask me for advice, I always ask them what is important to them. For some, that answer might be mobility and long battery life. For others, higher performance might be the overriding concern. Recommendations differ as some features are diametrically opposed. I think most understand that their stock Pinto is never going to be a hotrod.
      • the options are there

        if you need a beefy CPU to get thru a couple of hour long meetings with a tablet, the i5 tablets offer you that solution.
        Apple's solution? use an underpowered underfeatured tablet and "there's an app for that!"
  • IPAD4

    • Indeed...

      You get a device that can not run standard work software.
      • It's 2013

        You no longer need a PC and a pressurised water reactor to do email, browsing, messaging, documents and spreadsheets.
        Alan Smithie
        • thanks to ipads

          enterprise IT support has things to sort out for users and can't sit there surfing porn or facebook all day.
  • Solution is on the way

    " Mary Jo Foley points out that Microsoft is aware of this shortcoming and hinted at an external battery solution for the Surface Pro. That's good but not an attractive solution for the true mobile worker."

    - A mobile professional will definitly have a bag ( say a laptop bag) with him. With Surface Pro's compact size, there will be plenty of space to carry another battery. No big deal here. Surface Pro's space and battery issue is only an issue for the bloggers, not for professionals.
    • Another battery? How is that portable

      I have heard this excuse before. Microsoft will offer a flat panel battery. So tell me, how much added weight will that be? Now we are talking weighing more then a ultrabook and costing how much more to buy a flat panel battery. Really, this is a duct tape solution to a bad ideal.
      • To be fair

        There are no 10 hour ultrabooks either.

        The only game in town capable of 10+ hour battery life below 1.5 lbs:

        Windows8 on Atom cpus.

        Three run limited mobile operating system and one runs full a full powered desktop operating system.

        The next generation of Haswell chips might offer better battery life, but who knows.
        • Thinkpad Helix

          The thinkpad helix has a core processor in it and up to 10 hours of battery life, 6 hrs in tablet form, 10 hrs when in ultrabook form. Its a rip style hybrid that looks very promising. The tablet weights 1.8 lbs, and with the transformer style keyboard adds 2 more pounds.

          Is that too heavy? Consider the smaller MacBook Air ways about 2.5 lbs but only gets 5 hours of battery life, then perhaps 1.8 lbs to get 6 hours of battery life isn't bad.

          To get 7 hours of battery life on the MacBook Air, you have to go to the 13 inch model and that weighs in at around 3 lbs.

          The iPad (4?) weighs in at around 1.5 lbs. If you add a cover + keyboard to that, you are at about 2.5-3 lbs depending on the cover/keyboard you add (like the Zagg Pro series). However, this does give you a good 9-10 hours of battery life, plus whatever the battery-life of the keyboard battery is.

          In addition to all that, the Thinkpad Helix is running at 1920 x 1080 resolution, while the MacBook Air is only 1366 x 768.

  • But it isn't available NOW.

    And NOW is what is being reported.

    Not vapor.
  • The batteries get tired over time

    For how long this wonderful full day charge will last if I am charging every day - for a year?
    • everyone knows this

      batteries wear. Apple for example guarantee 500 recharge cycles to retain 80% capacity for tablets/phones and 1000 recharge cycles to 80% for notebooks.

      If you run about a full day on one charge, 500 cycles makes about two years of "normal" use. After two years, your 10 hour runtime will become 8 hour runtime. Something like this.
      • Less than 2 years...

        ...unless you do not use it everyday, and a significant portion of batteries will fail before that time.

        In the old days, batteries were warranted for one year, and then you replaced it with a new battery. Now, the battery cannot be easily replaced, if it can be replaced at all, and over 50% of them will die, I repeat, die, not lose 20% charge before 2 years is up.
  • Battery life is key

    I think its why Microsoft and the Surface Pro has missed the mark on what makes for a good portable. Its battery life! I am not sure a fast CPU and GPU can make up for lost time running in the field. In fact on my Lenovo laptop I gladly would drop some CPU cycles and speed for a bit more battery sometimes. I doubt I would ever trade my $500 laptop with 5Hrs battery for a $900 Surface Pro that does not last as long? I thought the key to a tablet was battery life? I know many who have iPads say the 10 hour or so battery life is why they like it. Somehow Microsoft missed that memo. Probably on Ballmers desk and he threw it away.