Battery life remains the number one annoyance for smartphone owners, but it feels like manufacturers have hit a wall figuring out ways to improve it. But hey, if we can’t have more power in something the same size, then maybe being able to charge it up faster is the next best thing? That’s what StoreDot is betting on with its proprietary battery technology and chargers, which can completely refuel your phone from empty to 100 percent in around five minutes.
We got a live demonstration of the technology at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, and it works. They showed us a Samsung Galaxy S6 with a modified battery and charging port being charged up from around 10 percent to 100 percent, and it took 5 minutes and 25 seconds. We also spoke to CEO and founder, Doron Myersdorf, about what makes StoreDot’s solution unique.
“The physics and the chemistry of what’s happening inside the battery is new,” Myersdorf told Digital Trends. “It’s a new generation of lithium ion batteries.”
There are a lot of new fast-charging standards and claims in the industry right now, but Myersdorf believes many of them are achieving faster charging speeds at the cost of lifespan. A traditional lithium ion battery can survive around 600 cycles of charge and discharge before it starts to deteriorate. Myersdorf argues that by doubling the current to achieve faster charging they are effectively shortening the battery’s useful life.
Anyone familiar with fast-charging right now will know that the phone can get awfully warm. We worried that this might be a factor with StoreDot’s tech, but during our tests the temperature only rose 4 degrees celsius during the charging process. We handled the charger and phone immediately afterwards and neither one was hot. This is partly because the process is so quick.
Apparently, the problem isn’t usually the battery, because there are low resistance materials inside. The real challenge is in the charger and connection. This means you can’t have a wire between the phone and the charger. It needs a solid connection.
StoreDot used a wall-mounted charger unit that was quite large, but they also showed another, smaller, wired charger that can do the same job. The thing that immediately jumps out is the requirement for a large contact area between the phone and the charger. They used a 20-pin connector for the demo, because there’s no connection type right now that can deliver the wattage required.
“Even USB Type-C would need to be modified in order to enable five minute charging,” said Myersdorf. “This is a whole ecosystem effort that needs to happen.”
That means that there’s an insane amount of coordination needed for this battery improvement to happen: StoreDot’s batteries have to be in the device; There has to be a suitable connection port to enable the top speed charging; And you need one of StoreDot’s 150 watt chargers.
The batteries are similar to what we use today in terms of size and performance, but the need for a new charging port will obviously pose a challenge.
The new technology is also more expensive right now, perhaps double the price, but that will come down with scale if it is adopted by a major player and there’s every indication that it will be. It’s no secret that Samsung has invested in StoreDot and there are other interested parties.
“We are working in parallel with the larger OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturer] for smartphones,” explained Myersdorf. “Six out of the 10 major smartphones OEMs are in line for testing and we’re also talking to the large ODMs [Original Design Manufacturer], those that make the batteries, because we will need to provide high volume very quickly.”
The ability to charge a smartphone fully and safely in five minutes would be a great differentiator for any new flagship. Myersdorf believes 2017 will be the year for a mass production launch, so we could see this in the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the LG G6 at next year’s MWC.
The technology also has potential applications beyond the smartphone.
“If this chemistry works as we show, there’s no reason we couldn’t charge a car in five minutes,” says Myersdorf. “We would just need a more powerful charging station.”
That could solve a real headache for the electric car industry, allowing electric car drivers to juice up in the same time it takes to fill a tank of gas.