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Sony experiments with ‘soft charging’ to keep batteries alive longer

Sony is introducing a new feature that helps extend the long-term usability of your battery, but there's something of a trade-off.

Published onJune 24, 2016

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The big problem that the mobile industry at large is butting its head up against these days is the problem of battery life. These things just aren’t getting better at the rate that processors and other components are, and the more powerful our devices, the more they they demand of their batteries. To make matters worse, batteries tend to lose capacity over time such that after a few years, a full charge may only last a handful of hours. Sony is aiming to tackle this latter problem.

They’re calling it “soft charging,” and it’s a feature we’re seeing on the Beta Marshmallow firmware for the Xperia Z2, Z3, and Z3 Compact. By turning on “Charging optimization” in the settings, your device will deliberately nerf the speed at which it charges. This gentler charging strategy extend your battery’s lifetime.

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It’s something of an unusual tradeoff, however. Sure, your battery will retain its capacity for a longer time, but your phone will also take longer to charge. What’s more is that individual charges won’t last as long as a more aggressively charged battery. Essentially, you’re volunteering for minor everyday inconveniences in order to forestall larger, future inconveniences.

While this is a cool feature and it’s interesting to see innovation in the realm of batteries, we’re not quite sold on this concept. Since most users swap out devices every couple of years, if not more frequently, there’s not really time for your battery to completely limp. The frustration most people have with their battery is it giving out at the end of the day, not at the end of the year, a frustration that this feature would seem to exacerbate.

But hey, maybe we’re wrong. We haven’t had a chance to give it extensive testing yet. If you’ve got an Xperia Z2, Z3, or Z3 Compact running the Beta version of Marshmallow, give soft charging a whirl and let us know what your experience is like in the comments.