If there’s one thing plaguing smartphone innovation, it’s the battery. Faster charging techniques may be catching on, but it’s still just a half measure. What about sacrificing the thinness of your phone for a bigger battery? That’s what Justin Leader thinks people want.
Leader, CEO of Fat Battery, wants to double the thickness of your iPhone 6S through a “surgical modification,” while adding four times the battery power. Leader has his team launched a Kickstarter campaign that’s aiming to raise $100,000, and as of publication, they have hit $10,826.
The question is whether people will bite.
It’s not an iPhone case; it’s not an external battery pack. So how does Fat Battery work? Leader and his team propose using a custom-sized 6,800mAh battery to place in between the screen and the rest of the iPhone 6S. A round piece of metal, or “spacer,” would fill the gap around the sides of the phone to make up for the extra thickness.
Make iPhones fat again
Installation is the “hardest part,” Leader tells Digital Trends, though it will likely only take 20 minutes.
“You’ll certainly be able to do it yourself if replacing your screen is something that you want to do,” Leader said. “It’s not something I want to do, so we found a cost-effective way would be to have people just go into any of those iPhone repair kiosks. It works the same way as it would if you ordered a replacement screen.”
So the company’s big bet is on people being willing to buy a device that requires them to have to then go to a third-party vendor to install it. Right. You’ll also have to pay the technician for his work in installing Fat Battery, on top of the cost of the battery itself. If the technician doesn’t know what to do, there will be a instruction manual that comes with your kit, as well as a link to a YouTube video.
One way the company is considering lowering costs of installation is through working out deals with these local technicians, and also having them sell Fat Battery at their stores and stalls. The question is whether people will bite.
Not to mention that your iPhone’s warranty will be void when you open the device — you could get away with it if it was a simple screen replacement, but Fat Battery’s impact on the device will likely be noticed. In a video, Leader says the company is partnering with a warranty company to make sure that you can still get a repair if you need one.
Battery cases, anyone?
After all that effort, you may think of just going ahead and getting a case that doubles as a battery pack. Leader says there’s nothing wrong with that, but these cases can be limiting as they use up the lightning port the whole time they are on the iPhone.
“I think that [Fat Battery is] definitely for people that need a lot of battery power, that don’t find battery cases to serve their needs,” Leader said. “For people who really do need this amount of improvement, it’s the only real usable way to get it in one piece. I do think that there is definitely a market for it. We’re hoping to get thousands of backers on Kickstarter.”
Visual verification, please
If you scan the Kickstarter page, you may notice a severe lack of photographic evidence of an iPhone 6S equipped with Fat Battery. That’s because Leader says his team estimates it would cost around $20,000 just to get a custom-sized battery that will offer the correctly configured voltage and amp level.
There are, however, a few videos that document what Fat Battery could potentially do. A battery test shows the Fat Battery Prototype A playing a looped video — with cell radio and Wi-Fi on, and the screen at full brightness — and lasting a whopping 36 hours and 24 minutes. A regular iPhone lasted 13 hours.
A physical prototype with the spacers would give people a better idea of what they’re really backing.
There’s another video that shows how the battery connects to the inside of the phone to provide additional juice, and another purportedly shows the first prototype, but Leader barely gives us a proper look. We’re likely not going to see a complete version of Fat Battery until after the Kickstarter campaign. This could prove detrimental to the campaign — we’ve seen battery packs, we’ve seen battery cases, but Fat Battery is something we haven’t seen before. A physical prototype with the spacers would give people a better idea of what they’re really backing, and what the end product would look like.
If the campaign is successful, the company will place an order for at least 2,000 spacers, which would be manufactured through an injection-mold process. The company already has pricing and manufacturing details for the battery from two partners.
Right now, the battery will only work on the iPhone 6S. If Fat Battery takes off and becomes popular, the iPhone SE may be next, and then the iPhone 7 when it launches. Leader doesn’t think there’s much value in making batteries for Android phones, as many still offer removable batteries. If there was enough demand for it, Leader said he may as well just build an Android phone that shipped with a much bigger battery.
Fat Battery for Kickstarter backers will cost $129; the company hasn’t finalized retail prices yet. If successful, Fat Battery is expected to ship in August.