One of the biggest challenges that phone makers face in trying to make their smartphones thinner and lighter every year is downsizing without affecting battery life. While companies can do things that reduce battery consumption (more efficient chips, adaptive refresh rates, etc.), there really is no substitute for a larger capacity battery – although it does make the larger phone.
Since smartphones have been around, phone makers have largely clustered around lithium-ion batteries, with some recently switched to lithium-polymer. But for its upcoming Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, Chinese giant Xiaomi is taking a new approach. It will be the first smartphone powered by silicon-oxygen anode batteries.
“This is similar to electric vehicles, adding nanoscale silicon materials to the negative electrode to increase the theoretical capacity in grams 10x over graphite.”
# Mi11Ultra has a new ultra-fast charging silicon-oxygen anode battery. Basic advantages, finer and faster charge. This is similar to electric vehicles, adding nanoscale silicon materials to the negative electrode to increase the theoretical capacity in grams 10x compared to graphite. pic.twitter.com/tydYYXjaX526 mars 2021
It’s a curious time to switch to battery technology based on what is typically found in electric vehicles, as this week it was revealed that Xiaomi may be working on its first electric car.
While this all looks very promising on paper, we’ll have to wait and see how it performs in real-world benchmarks compared to other smartphones. After all, the word “theoretical” is in Desjarlais’ tweet, and it’s entirely possible that the real-world performance benefits will be minimal on a first iteration.
But if the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra combines an incredibly small and light frame with exceptional battery performance and fast charging, it’s hard to believe that other manufacturers will not seek to emulate this success.
Xiaomi is of course not the only company re-evaluating phone batteries. With the iPhone 13, Apple is expected to tackle the disappointing endurance of the iPhone 12 family with a few changes. including flexible battery board technology and “space-saving many-component design”. Together, that should mean that the company can either increase capacity in the same frame as the iPhone 12, or reduce the size further and keep battery life at the same level.
The Mi 11 Ultra, meanwhile, is expected to launch tomorrow. In addition to the new and exciting battery technology, the phone will come with mind-blowing specs. The camera will apparently include a 50MP main sensor, a 48MP ultra-wide lens, and a 48MP phone camera. The camera bump will also feature a secondary display on the back to facilitate selfies, if the 20MP front lens is not adequate.