Apple’s Impact On Battery Power

The iPhone changed the way consumers look at battery power. Is power management different outside of the consumer realm?

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More than one person I’ve spoken with lately has pointed out the fact that battery life is no longer the most important thing when a consumer is choosing a smartphone. Wait! I thought power was the #1, be all end all in the mobile area.

It was, until the Apple iPhone showed up on the scene and stole the show, dazzling consumers with the touch screen, unique features, and very Apple-like experience. Then the iPad showed up and it was game, set, match — Apple. Consumer buying decisions have been different ever since.

Bernard Murphy, CTO of Atrenta said, “They are not competing on the battery life which is the way things were to some extent before the iPhone and the iPad emerged. The value is based on something completely different. Power is always going to be an issue it’s not like it’s going to go away, it’s just not perhaps the most important issue right now.”

Connected to this, I started to wonder about the differences between the power management challenge in consumer devices compared to industrial or automotive applications.

Richard Rejmaniak, technical marketing engineer at Mentor Graphics said they are different. “You trade problems. In consumer the key is you have to hide the fact that this is happening from them. If you ask somebody what their computer performance is they will tell you how smooth it is when they drag a window across the screen – it’s what they see and touch and feel. The user in a consumer environment has to be able to feel the buttery screen movement and when they download something they want to see it appear on there’s appear on their screen instantly – that’s their perception so responsiveness is the perception of performance.”

In the industrial environment you don’t have to worry about that, he said. “If it takes you an extra two seconds to download the next set of instructions it really doesn’t matter. The machine can wait it’s not a big deal. However at the same time for the consumer, if my phone lasts a day and a half instead of two days, that’s not a big deal. In industrial if I have to change the batteries in this unit every six months instead of every eight months that’s an extra $7 million a year across my corporation. I knew a guy who was using railroad cars for transponders. He said if you have to touch this transponder more often than every two years, they can’t afford it because you know what it takes to bring a railroad car off-line – there’s millions of real cars out there, there’s hundreds of workshops and they are all union and they all cost a fortune. They are in a different world that when the responsiveness and the touchy-feely is not there you get that reprieve but that battery life — it sounds like consumer would be more important with battery life but its industrial — because what it takes to get into remove that battery is costly.

What is interesting to think about is how the design tools will evolve over time. Given the very different requirements, will we start to see more application-specific automated tools, or will the focus continue to be on modeling the use case and levering a system-level approach to architecture development?

Chime in with your thoughts!

–Ann Steffora Mutschler