Smartphones Could Use Half the Power with New Technology Breakthrough

© Jake Devincenzi / iFixit

A new technology promises to double the battery life of smartphones and dramatically cut the power use of cellular base stations. This new breakthrough improves a specific component, the power amplifier, which turns electricity into radio signals.. It's a grossly inefficiency piece of hardware.

MIT Tech Review reports,"The versions of amplifiers within smartphones suffer similar problems. If you’ve noticed your phone getting warm and rapidly draining the battery when streaming video or sending large files, blame the power amplifiers. As with the versions in base stations, these chips waste more than 65 percent of their energy—and that’s why you sometimes need to charge your phone twice a day."

A company called Eta Devices has come up with a new power amplifier design that can double their efficiency. The company will be targeting LTE base stations first, but it's also a developing a chip-level version for use within smartphones. In the photo above, you can see the five amplifier chips in the iPhone five marked with red dots.

MIT Tech Review explains how it works, "Power amplifiers use transistors that consume power in two basic modes: standby mode and output signal mode when sending out pulses of digital data. The only way to improve their efficiency is to use the lowest amount of standby power possible. But making sudden jumps from low-power standby mode to high-power output mode tends to distort signals, so existing technologies keep standby power levels high, wasting electricity.

The new advance is essentially a blazingly fast electronic gearbox. It chooses among different voltages that can be sent across the transistor, and selects the one that minimizes power consumption, and it does this as many as 20 million times per second. The company calls the technology asymmetric multilevel outphasing."

Eta will launch it's product in February. It's first customers will be in developing nations where diesel generators are used to power cellular base stations which burns $15 billion worth of fuel per year. Then the company hopes to design a single power amplifier chip for smartphones that works with all modes and frequencies like CDMA, GSM, and 4G/LTE.

Tags: Cell Phones | Energy Efficiency | Gadgets | Technology