We take our cell phones for granted. We plug them in before bed, then wake with the expectation of having a fully charged phone ready to go. It's all made possible by lithium-ion technology. Believe it or not, there was a time when you could buy a cell phone powered by a disposable alkaline battery.
That doesn't make sense to our modern brains. After all, alkaline batteries are discarded after discharge. Having a phone powered by alkaline batteries would require buying a ton of them and always carrying one or two spares. Thank goodness phone manufacturers found a way to utilize lithium-ion rechargeable in their devices.
The SpareOne GSM Phone
GSM Arena published a compelling piece on old cell phones earlier in 2021. At the top of the list was the SpareOne phone powered with a single AA battery.
This was a GSM phone that ran on a 2G network. It offered absolutely no smart features. If phone calls are all you needed, the SpareOne would do the trick. The phone's best feature was its genuinely waterproof case. You could drop it in a lake, retrieve it, and call your brother-in-law to tell him all about it.
GSM Arena says the battery life was about 10 hours of talk time. Way back then, you could get months out of a single battery simply because people didn't use their cell phones all that much. Not so today. Most of us would blow through an AA alkaline battery in a day or two – perhaps even less.
You can apparently buy used SpareOne phones at online auction sites for next to nothing. They still work just fine for making calls. However, 2G networks are being phased out. Owning one of these phones probably won't be practical by the end of the year.
Swapping Alkaline for Lithium-Ion
Despite the limited success of cell phones powered by alkaline batteries, manufacturers knew they needed something better. Some of the earliest models relied on NiCad and NiHM batteries instead of alkalines. But even those two technologies were not sufficient. It wasn't until the lithium-ion battery came to phone manufacturing that cell phones became smartphones.
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are superior in a number of ways. First, a good lithium-ion cell can be charged a thousand times or more. That's exactly what you need for a cell phone. Second, the fact that they can be recharged so many times makes them cheaper in the long run. And third, you can charge a lithium-ion battery in just a couple of hours or less.
The only downside is that lithium-ion cells self-discharge at a faster rate. You can leave an alkaline battery on the shelf for years and still use it. A Li-Ion battery will self-discharge after a few months of no use. But when you can recharge it again in under three hours, that's no big deal.
Batteries for All Your Devices
Here at Pale Blue Earth, we do not make lithium-ion batteries for smartphones. Most phone manufacturers hard-wire their batteries anyway. But we do have all of the other popular form factors. You could say we have USB rechargeable batteries for many of your devices.
Our batteries are smart batteries. This is to say that they have charging and safety technology built in. All you need is the USB cable that comes with your purchase. You can plug it into your laptop, your desktop computer, or any other USB port.
Yes, cell phones powered by alkaline batteries were real. They are hard to find these days, but they are out there. Thank goodness lithium-ion technology has replaced them.