Got Battery? Lots of Low Battery Hacks, No Quick Fix

At a cozy watering hole in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, bartender Kathy Conway counted four different phone chargers behind the bar. Call it the scourge of the red zone, call it battery anxiety. Smartphone users are tired of begging to charge devices behind bars or hunting for hidden electrical outlets in airports and train stations. Where, oh where, is a better battery?

The common lithium-ion battery that's used to power laptops, cellphones and tablet computers has improved in recent years. Battery capacity has tripled since 1990, says K. M. Abraham, a professor at Northeastern University who researches batteries. But it's not nearly enough to keep up with the demand we gadget addicts have for constant use of skinny, light mobile devices, which limits battery size.

Two billion mobile phones were shipped worldwide in 2014, 75 percent of which were smartphones, says longtime technology analyst and president of Creative Strategies, Tim Bajarin. Demand is growing by 10 to 12 percent each year. And we want to send email, play games, stream music and videos, get step-by-step directions -- all battery hogs.

"We are reaching the limit of what a good battery material can do," says Abraham. "Going beyond what we have now is taking a new understanding of chemistry, material science...People are working all over the world on it, but there is nothing on the horizon."

Still, there are some options.

Companies recently showed off battery chargers and smartphone extenders at the annual gadget show known as CES. One that seems particularly convenient is the 911 Boost, developed by Florida entrepreneur Bernard Emano and his two firefighter sons. The small black square weighs only 2.3 ounces and is designed to be carried on a key chain. It's versatile, with three different retractable jacks so it can plug into new and old model iPhones, and any other phone...

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