Tech festival -- a long weekend in the mud shows battery life needs to improve

For me, virtually any trip out of the house means loading up on various pieces of tech. I, obviously, cannot leave the house without my phone -- my trusty HTC Sensation has been with me for two years -- but there are usually other things to consider as well. While my phone is great for picking up my emails on the move and staying in touch with people via IM, Facebook etc, it’s far from ideal for doing any work.

Depending on where I’m going, and how strong I’m feeling, there are various other pieces of kit I can take with me to make things easier. My Sony Tablet S is easier to type on than my phone, thanks mainly to its larger screen, but it’s not something I like to use for extended periods of time. I could take my laptop with me, or the MacBook Pro, which are great to work on, but rather weighty to hump from place to place.

This weekend my girlfriend and I headed off to the Leeds Festival after she won tickets in a last minute competition. This wasn’t necessarily a festival either of us would have chosen to attend, but free tickets and the prospect of seeing Johnny Marr (his performance of Smiths tracks brought a lump to the throat), Eminem, the Strypes and Nine Inch Nails was too good to refuse.

Throwing gear into the car for a long weekend in a festival field was part of the story, but then there were communication, entertainment and work devices to think about. Neither of us could be without a phone so these had to be packed -- all three of them (long story), complete with wall and USB chargers. I needed to be able to work whilst away -- yes, even when at a festival -- so I added my Surface Pro to the bag, again, complete with charger.

This didn’t seem like quite enough, so a Nexus 7 was thrown into the mix as well. Campsites can be noisy places, you end up getting woken up at strange hours and never know when a little music or video entertainment might be needed! At home I’ve become used to using a Poetic StrapBack case and this seemed to lend itself well to getting thrown in a bag and offering a decent viewing experience with its multi-angle options.

Power Up

The two year old battery in my HTC Sensation has seen better days -- I’m lucky if it gets me through the day. It’s well overdue a replacement, but it’s just one of those things I never get round to. Because of this, charging facilities were needed. Festivals often have charging stations, but these tend to be extortionately priced. So I armed myself with a cigarette lighter USB adaptor and a selection of USB cables.

An inverter could have been used to power the Surface Pro, but I’m always worried about draining the car battery -- especially when stuck in a muddy field four hours from home -- so I was relying on the device’s battery life to hold up. Wi-Fi connections tend not to be particularly prevalent at festivals, and Leeds was no different. This left me reliant on my phone’s data connection for web access. This could be shared to my other devices using tethering but this meant additional battery drain.

To help with charging up whilst walking around the festival and watching bands, I popped an emergency USB charger in my bag. This was a great way to ensure that I didn’t run out of charge whilst out and about, but with the Surface Pro’s battery life hovering around the four hour mark, something was going to have to give.

What ended up giving was our will. Rather than risk running out of battery on site, we decided to drive away from the festival during the day at times when there was little happening. This served a dual purpose. Firstly we could escape to a pleasant bathroom with porcelain toilets! But it also meant that we would run off to Starbucks (yes, I know, I’m sorry) to take advantage of free Wi-Fi and power points.

In Need of a Boost

But what this highlighted for me is that battery life is what mobile device manufacturers need to address next. Speed is great -- no one wants a sluggish phone, tablet or computer. Likewise, it’s lovely to have a super high resolution display. Having used my Surface Pro with its 1920 x 1080 resolution, switching back to a netbook with the same sized screen but a resolution of 1024 x 764 made for an unbelievably blocky experience. The Nexus 7 has the same massive resolution, but crammed into a 7 inch screen.

At some point there needs to be a shift in attitude. Are we more interested in displays that are made up of invisible pixels, or do we want devices that can be used for longer? Of course, there will be advances made in battery technology that will mean devices can be powered for greater periods of time, but I think it’s likely that this will just lead to bigger screens, higher resolution displays, and faster devices making greater demands of them.

If battery life is to improve we need to be realistic about what we want from a device. Is a screen that includes more pixels than your eye can detect really necessary? Do you need a screen so bright that watching a movie gives you a sun tan? Or would you prefer to go back to the good old days when a phone could last several days without a charge.

I don’t want to have to carry around extra battery packs, endless cables and secondary devices to act as a backup. I don’t think I’m asking too much -- just to be able to go away for a couple of days without having to panic about where I’m going to get power from. Who’s with me?

Image Credit: Sealstep/Shutterstock

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