Power Anxiety: when your phone dies before you arrive

I’m just going to throw this out there… I bought my phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4, about two and a half years ago. Before going into the contract with Telstra, I did a bit of research. I knew the battery was only supposed to last 6 hours. I rationalised I could offset this by being able to have more than one battery that I could alternate when one was exhausted. (This plan was flawed in that I could only charge whatever battery was in the phone because I stupidly tried to save $10 and passed on the charging dock + battery deal.) This was supposed to be a good alternative to my then-dying iPhone 4 and its famously impenetrable case.

Why are you talking about your phone? you may be wondering.

There’s a good reason, I promise. It’s called power anxiety.

Do you ever get that feeling of a fist around your heart when you look at the battery life on your phone and see 7%?

My Samsung beeps at me incessantly when it knows the end is coming. This behaviour does not help with the squeezed heart feeling. Aside from adding to the anxiety, it’s a bit annoying because I’m usually painfully aware of what status my phone’s battery life is at. I may go so far as to say I plan my days around it. 6 hours should give me enough time to get through my day-to-day activities and get home and charge it over again. I mean, I’m not constantly using the thing so it should last.

Anyway, the other weekend I offered to give a friend a lift to what I thought was a midpoint in my trip to visit my father at his new house. My friend has been having ongoing phone troubles and we had to employ the use of my Samsung’s GPS to get to this midpoint. What I didn’t realise was my battery life went from 40% to 15% over a matter of 30 minutes.

By the time I was on my way to my father’s, a place I’d only been once before and driven from a completely different location, my phone was sure to die before I arrived. I set the GPS and tried to memorise the instructions before turning off all the extra settings to conserve power. Going from the M5 to the M7 was supposed to be easy. I didn’t realise I was almost back where I started until it was too late. My phone was on 3% and the only decision I had was to abandon visiting my father because I simply could not remember how to get there. The road directory in my car was from the early 2000s and well out of date and anyway I was driving on a motorway so I couldn’t be reading it anyway.

My phone has become so much more than a phone; it’s a resource with multiple uses. GPS unfortunately sucks the life out of it faster than a vampire in a CW television show. To conserve power, you have to go into the settings and strip back the bells and whistles. No more wifi, mobile data, Bluetooth, auto-sync… I wasn’t really running that much in the first place but to have my phone die on this trip had very real consequences.

When you have plans with someone and your phone is going to die, you’ve got approximately 20 seconds to call them and explain. It’s made much worse when you’ve been driving for double the time you planned without any breaks. (Stop. Revive. Survive.)

I don’t have a solution. I like my bells and whistles. I just don’t like this mobile device’s dependency on a power outlet. Isn’t it supposed to be mobile by definition?


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