Dismissing Products Based on Battery Life: Justified or Are We Asking Too Much?


So todays portable electronic products are failing to impress us in battery longevity today and Sony’s Playstation Vita and the Nintendo 3DS are no exception to this rule. I’ve read time and time again about how people want to cancel their pre-orders due to the battery life. Are these people justified or are they living with unrealistic expectations? I wasn’t too sure myself so I decided to do a little research.

We find ourselves asking why battery technology is so far behind other electronic technologies and the real answer to this is kind of interesting. To the contrary, Lithium-Ion battery technology has far surpassed that of other technologies. In fact the chemistry and tech of the Lithium-Ion batteries have been tweaked so much, and so much ground has been gained that there really isn’t much room for improvement with the current chemistry we use today without sacrificing the current safety and pricing models.

That’s not to say that break-throughs for this technology don’t and won’t still occur. I mean our products have certainly evolved to possess quad core processors/GPU’s, large HD screens, multitasking while running apps in the background, etc and the batteries still give us an acceptable amount of use for the most part.

We are essentially constrained by the chemistry of Lithium-Ion batteries. In the end, for us to see vast improvements in our gadgetry battery life, we will need a new technology using a new chemistry. It will take some time finding a new tech that is no more dangerous to use then Lithium-Ion batteries already are now and are also reasonably priced.

Currently there are studies and breakthroughs for solid-state Lithium-Ion batteries. Basically they have found a way to remove the electrolyte solution almost completely from Lithium-Ion batteries and essentially build a bridge for them to carry the power between the anode and cathode. This allows them to increase the batteries output by 200-300%, shrink the battery as a whole and keep temperatures down. The problem with this technology is that it is 20-30% more expensive than the current batteries we use today.

In the end, the more bells and whistles we add to our electronics will result in poorer battery life. There is no way around this until the solid-state Lithium-Ion batteries become cheaper to produce or a new technology rears its head. Dismissing a product based only on its battery life is in fact setting an unrealistic expectation at least for now. Many devices are often built from the ground up based on their batteries and that’s one limitation I can’t wait to have removed.

In the case of the Vita, it will come packaged with a built in 2200 mAh or milliampere-hours battery while the 3DS sports a 1300 mAh battery. The Vita will also have an external battery option that is 5000 mAh. You can expect 3-5 hours of gameplay on the Vita which is in the same ballpark as the 3DS even though it runs a much smaller battery and this is due to the power needs of the Vita.


Written by: Eddie - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by EdEN on September 22nd, 2011 [ 142681 Points ]

    Well, when a LOT of people decided it was time to complain about the battery life of the 3DS and say crazy things like “the Vita will have waaay more battery life than that” without any hard specs… yes, it DOES need to be brought up.

    The external battery for a portable has been done before and if the price is right it could be something VITA owners should consider for loooong trips (when they’re not the ones at the wheel, of course).

    I do 90% of my gaming on my DSi and my PSP and of that only 10% is done while out of the house so it’s not like it affects me at all since there’s always a power outlet around.

  2. #2 by Eddie on September 22nd, 2011 [ 44542 Points ]

    Your difference in opinion with fanboys or fan conversations really plays no part in the technical debate/discussion.

    The same people that complained about the 3DS battery life (myself included) were not well informed on the battery technology.

    The Vita (based on specs alone) does have WAY more battery life than the 3DS. The amount of consumption however is vastly different.

    The question really is, could the 3DS have included a larger battery? I believe there is a good chance they could have and based on the estimated cost of manufacturing, I’d be willing to wager they did it to save money.

    As far as the Vita’s 3-5 hour battery life goes, that is under prime conditions, middle screen brightness, no wifi. Playing graphic intensive games with online multiplayer will kill the batter life within an hour or two.

  3. #3 by Isli on September 22nd, 2011 [ 45935 Points ]

    It makes sense about having high expectations for battery life, but I do think it’s justified. When something is marketed as portable, people expect it to last longer. Five hours isn’t horrible, but three hours for a portable device is pretty low.

  4. #4 by Jay on September 22nd, 2011 [ 83111 Points ]

    I want the batteries in my high end super devices to last as long as the ones in the remote I use for my TV dammit!

  5. #5 by premiersoupir on September 22nd, 2011 [ 17020 Points ]

    Just want to point out the obvious that people can still be miffed about battery life regardless of whether battery tech has little room for improvement. I’m not sure that the “justified” is really the antithesis of “unrealistic expectation,” as the titular dichotomy suggests.

    If your device does not last as long as the average consumer would wish, then:

    1. plenty buy it anyway, so the company doesn’t care
    2. too few buy it, so it’s time to:
    a. scrap the product.
    b. reevaluate what components might be cut.
    c. find ways of making components more energy-efficient.
    d. develop better battery tech

    I’m no electrical engineer, but it seems to be that there are plenty of points of entry into the problem besides developing sci-fi cold fusion batteries.

  6. #6 by dragon290513 on September 22nd, 2011 [ 7218 Points ]

    well its the internet, what do you expect?

  7. #7 by Eddie on September 22nd, 2011 [ 44542 Points ]

    @premiersoupir I swear i will beat you with a dictionary…

    I agree with many of your points. I can’t name one product without a downfall where corners were cut for various reasons. Battery tech being one of the most annoying even in cell phones.

    Notice this product is NOT called the Playstation Portable 2? I think they understand the irony of making it into the ultimate portable with such a battery restriction.

    In the end…I’ll personally take a cut in battery life over losing any of the Vita’s known specs.

  8. #8 by premiersoupir on September 22nd, 2011 [ 17020 Points ]

    I swear i will beat you with a dictionary…

    lol! nooooo, don’t hurt me! :)

    But yeah, I’m with you: I’m not into portable gaming, but when it comes to laptops, for instance, I don’t care much about battery life (as long as it’s within reason). Give me the power! I can be plugged in most of the time, anyway. I live in SoCal, where we don’t believe in public transportation, so it’s not like I’ll be working on the train, for example.

  9. #9 by Pedro on September 22nd, 2011 [ 39949 Points ]

    Interesting post Eddie, I had no idea about those things.

    Personally while I appreciate products with longer battery life, I utterly don’t give it too much thought. In this day and age we’re always close to a power outlet, be that in your house, public places, planes, cars and other places. There are very few moments I find myself in need of a power source.

    Most places where that would be difficult are usually places I wouldn’t usually be gaming (or doing whatever) at all, at least for longer than one hour or so.

  10. #11 by Isli on September 22nd, 2011 [ 45935 Points ]

    @Jason
    Dude, you should never have found that site.

  11. #12 by Pedro on September 22nd, 2011 [ 39949 Points ]

    @Jason lol dude you’re out of control!

  12. #13 by Jason on September 22nd, 2011 [ 26201 Points ]

    I love the vita. the vita can cure cancer. I love the vita

  13. #14 by Eddie on September 22nd, 2011 [ 44542 Points ]

    Jasons comment response tree

    Is post about monster hunter >>>>>Yes?>>>>>>>splooge

    Is post about monster hunter>>>>>>No?>>>>>>>derail conversation>>>>>>was derailment successful?>>>>>>Yes?>>>>>>Play monster hunter

    Was derailment successful?>>>>>>>No?>>>>>>splooge anyway then play monster hunter.

  14. #15 by Nikazio on September 23rd, 2011 [ 69 Points ]

    I think people asks too much.. i mean the Vita has almost the procesing power of a PS3 that battery just can’t handle it :P

  15. #16 by myk26 on September 23rd, 2011 [ 1325 Points ]

    Just another justified reason to hate on handheld gaming genre as a whole.

    For one reason or another, Gaming Device developers felt it necessary to compete with the Smart Phone market….thereby creating a downward spiral filled with disappointingly high expectations of a wallet sized, ALL-IN-ONE device, that couldn’t possibly meet the expectations of BOTH markets (mobil wifi/app + mobil gaming).

    It’s like watching Teenage girls get upset that Hollister hoodies don’t come in their favorite color.

  16. #17 by Eddie on September 23rd, 2011 [ 44542 Points ]

    @Myk will you still feel the same when the next gen of smart phones launch with nearly the exact same specs as the Vita and a similar battery life? It’s going to happen and soon.

    I can tell you now that I’m very unhappy with my smartphone battery life. I have the HTC Evo and situationally I can get 2-6 hours out of it and thats with modifications.

  17. #18 by Markus on September 23rd, 2011 [ 4322 Points ]

    Nice read and funny comments lol

  18. #19 by myk26 on September 23rd, 2011 [ 1325 Points ]

    Eddie, you’re seriously underestimating my hatred for mobile gaming. Basically if it doesn’t involve a comfy seat and a screen bigger then 12″, I seriously want no part of it.

    I play the top 10 Smart Phone games maybe once or twice, just to make sure I’m not missing anything Fantabolous. Beyond that, I don’t touch ‘em….only reason they exist on my phone is for when I hand my phone to my son when he needs to be occupied (even then is pretty rare)

  19. #20 by Oly on September 23rd, 2011 [ 132360 Points ]

    premiersoupir:
    lol! nooooo, don’t hurt me!:) But yeah, I’m with you: I’m not into portable gaming, but when it comes to laptops, for instance, I don’t care much about battery life (as long as it’s within reason). Give me the power! I can be plugged in most of the time, anyway. I live in SoCal, where we don’t believe in public transportation, so it’s not like I’ll be working on the train, for example.  

    I agree, my laptop has the worst battery life ever, but it’s also the biggest/best gaming machine Asus makes..
    For me, the only time battery life is an issue, is if I was camping without a car nearby, etc..
    or when all 4 of my kids DS’s die at the same time lol

  20. #21 by Isli on September 23rd, 2011 [ 45935 Points ]

    Or when 3 of their DS’s die and they all maul the 4th one to steal it? :/

  21. #22 by Jason on September 23rd, 2011 [ 26201 Points ]

    Eddie: Jasons comment response treeIs post about monster hunter >>>>>Yes?>>>>>>>sploogeIs post about monster hunter>>>>>>No?>>>>>>>derail conversation>>>>>>was derailment successful?>>>>>>Yes?>>>>>>Play monster hunterWas derailment successful?>>>>>>>No?>>>>>>splooge anyway then play monster hunter.  

    http://goanimate.com/movie/0CD8c-FWC5WU?utm_source=linkshare&uid=0h05lnauuDNA

  22. #23 by wolfkin on September 23rd, 2011 [ 6633 Points ]

    battery power is a balancing act.

    you either have battery power or processing power. I think the game companies are pushing too much processing power at the expense of battery power. So yeah i think we are fully justified in complaining about battery life (in both cases because while I am a Nintendo fan i’m not ok with the 3DS battery life) If you can’t support your device with an appropriate battery life then you shouldn’t be pushing it.

    More realistically (since I don’t expect companies to hold thephone at that) youshould fully expect a degree of backlash from your consumers. It’s like that monologue from Fight Club
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIdmkETuWeM
    Basically a company will factor in the amount of money lost on the bad press vs the amount lost on waiting to release.

    Nintendo used to be able to wait for good life. Heck good battery life is what made them the king of handhelds when the GameGear and the Lynx were superiour systems. For whatever reason they deemed that the boastful battery life of the DS (which will forever be sweet) was just not as needed as much as getting out first and considering the way everything has played out. (3ds is mostly appreciated by people who have them/their primary competition the Vita will miss the holiday) it’s entirely possible they banked right on giving up battery life.

    All that said I will still complain about it. it sucks and that blows.


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