Apple's new Smart Battery Case reveals a disappointing truth about smartphones

No one has fixed smartphone batteries, so even Apple has to issue a patchwork solution.

Apple iPhone 6s review Smart Battery Case review
Credit: Apple

Apple has been taking a lot of flack on the internet over its new Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 6s. Most of the comments have been around the case's odd "hump" that holds the extra battery. Others have derided the device's $99 price and relatively low power compared to similar devices from third parties.

Those are fair criticisms, but they're not my issue with the thing. As far as I'm concerned, the Smart Battery Case could be practically free and look like the hard-plastic equivalent of a Ferrari Berlinetta, and it would still ruin my day. The Smart Battery Case makes me sad just by its very existence.

Apple acknowledges an issue

The fact that Apple deemed it necessary—or worse, profitable—to create and sell a separate device that allows its flagship phone to function all day without a recharge is a technology tragedy for the 21st Century.

Sure, there have always been external batteries and powered cases for smartphones. But by putting Apple's brand on such a device, the company makes it hard for us to ignore the elephant in the smartphone room: the batteries on these things still pretty much stink. Worse, battery technology is not getting better fast enough to cope with the increasing demands users are putting on their phones.

As faithful TechWatch readers may recall, I carry an iPhone 6+, at least partially because its jumbo size makes room for a bigger battery. But the iPhone 6s is hardly the only smartphone with battery-life issues. The problem is endemic to the industry. I'd call it a dirty little secret, except it's hardly a secret. Everyone who uses a smartphone knows it. And this Apple-approved case makes it that much harder to forget it. 

The big disappointment

Battery life has been an issue for smartphones since the very beginning. At first I wasn't worried, though, because I assumed that the problem would soon be overcome. The value of an all-day smartphone was so high, I thought, that someone would figure out a solution.

Nope. Hasn't happened yet. Smartphone makers have done a great job with power management and other tricks to wring the most power possible out of their batteries, but the essential battery technology hasn't advanced at the same rate.

Mobile devices work great, as long as you're not really mobile. Find yourself away from a power source for more than few hours of heavy usage and your smartphone suddenly isn't so smart anymore. Sure, Apple and Samsung and their competitors could simply build phones with bigger batteries, but apparently they believe that's not what consumers really want. They seem to be right. Battery life limits haven't stopped more than a billion people—including me and probably you—from buying smartphones. But just imagine how awesome your smartphone would be if you didn't have to charge it all the time.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10