Benjamin Robbins, an EMF member, is spending the next year working solely from a single mobile device. Each week he shares his thoughts and experience with us on what it means to be mobile-only.
Battery life, juice, charge, power, electricity, plug-in. There are many names for it, but keeping the battery on my phone charged has been the big issue this past week. I have been travelling for work. This takes me out of my normal routines and puts me into unknown circles – more specifically, unknown power outlet circles. Before trips, I become paranoid as I try to get every last ounce of charge out of every plug-in opportunity. I’ll wait to unplug my phone until the very last minute of walking out my door. I am constantly aware that this could be my last charge for a long time. For most people, a dead phone is an inconvenience. But for me, it means the end of work, a major hard stop. If I want to work then I need to be charged.
I live in Seattle but frequently work on the east coast. This means a 5 hour plane ride across the country. The first time I made the trip across working mobile-only, the phone didn’t make it all the way with me. It died about an hour before landing. Luckily, I brought a good-old-fashioned book along to help pass the time (you remember, one of those things with pages that you don’t have to power off 20 minutes before landing). The next few trips I actually brought an old laptop along as a power source. I plugged into the USB ports of the laptop to charge the phone. However, there isn’t enough room for my phone, keyboard, and laptop on the tray. So I ended up putting the laptop on the floor and running the USB cable down to it. Trouble is, the laptop would keep going to sleep which means it would stop charging. So I had to keep my foot, sans shoes, on the keyboard and would occasionally press a key to keep it from falling asleep. Talk about kludgey, but it kept the phone powered all the way across the country so I could keep working.
I knew there had to be a way better way to do this. I didn’t want to get the super-size battery for my phone. The Galaxy Note (Phablet) is big enough as is. A quick search on Amazon showed that there are scads of mini portable power supplies specifically designed for mobile devices. As luck would have it, at the MobileConnect conference in Boston last month, Box was handing some out at SWAG. A little bigger than a deck of cards, these power supplies offered 57,000mAh of outlet-less freedom. Best of all it has a solar cell on the back side so it can charge itself in the sun!
This week I got my first chance to try it out. I had a flight from Seattle to Newark. Normally, if I am trying to make a charge last, I don’t listen to music, turn the brightness to the lowest setting, and turn off everything that I can. Not this time. I had my headphones plugged in, music at full volume, the brightness set to full, all the while gaining charge while pluged-in to the power supply. I was eschewing power savings and living large. I started the trip at 82% and arrive in Newark at 100. I absolutely loved the power supply – it gives me that little bit more when I most need it – this one goes to 11!
For those of you who haven’t been to Newark, specifically the A terminal, let’s just say it is not the halls of paradise, but rather the greyhound bus terminal of the friendly skies. It’s 90+ outside, hot, humid, and jam-packed with people. Whereas on previous trips, just after de-planeing, I would make a mad dash to the next gate and perform a frantic search for an outlet to get as much charge as possible. This time I find that I am leisurely strolling down the concourse noticing the hot, huddled masses clumped around the few outlets that exist. I am feeling rather smug thinking poor, poor silly creatures, how desperate for power they look. I had all the power I needed. It was amazing how quickly I turned into a power snob.
My mom always said if you laughing in the morning, you’ll be crying by the evening. Boy was she right. So here is where the universe got me back for all my haughty power superiority. Not sure how, but somehow in the shuffle of getting off the plane I lost my USB cable. I realized this when I got to the hotel, to my own private outlet, and went to plug in. I dumped out my entire bag and gave it three complete pat-downs that even the TSA would have been proud of; nothing, zero, zilch, gone! It’s Monday night at 6:45 PM. I have to be at the client at 8AM the next morning. If I don’t have a charge, I don’t have a computer. And my nifty neat new power supply isn’t going to do me any good if I don’t have a cable to plug into it. As the lyrics say, It’s getin, it’s gettin, it’s getting kinda hectic.
But here is where the power of mobile saved the day. I quickly do a search for AT&T and get three results. I open the map app and find out there is a store three blocks away from the hotel that closes in 15 minutes. I jet on out and get there in the nick of time. $29.99 later (really AT&T, for a cable – sort of taking advantage don’t you think?) and I am back in business. I’ve got the power!
As we move more and more into mobile computing as the paradigm for work, battery life will need to reach the point where it is possible to hold a full-day charge. Users shouldn’t have to think about it. I know I am a bit paranoid about charging, but the average user probably doesn’t, and shouldn’t, obsess that much about it. Until we only need to charge our devices once a day, it will continue to be a limiting factor of enterprise mobility.
Benjamin Robbins is currently a Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at http://www.remotelymobileblog.com