Ina Fried

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Coming Soon: Phones That Learn to Rest When You Do

Even though many of us feel as though we are on our phones 24 hours a day, the fact is we aren’t.

Yet, in many cases, our phones keep working even when they’re sitting in a pocket, stuffed in a bag or resting on a table.

With battery life increasingly precious, phone and device makers are taking a number of steps to reduce the waste.

Qualcomm has an initiative, dubbed Consia, that monitors a user’s activities and learns when and where Wi-Fi is available, when the busy times are and when it’s bedtime. After a couple of weeks, the phone can decide when to connect and disconnect and when to fetch information in the background.

“People’s patterns are very different, but individually our behaviors are very predictable,” Qualcomm’s Rob Chandhok said in an interview at Mobile World Congress on Tuesday.

To protect privacy, the information is stored securely on the device and all the calculations are done locally.

Qualcomm is not alone in looking to find ways to help smartphone owners go longer between charges.

Chip companies such as Nvidia and ARM are switching from multiple fast cores to fewer or lower-power engines. Motorola’s phones suggest “smart actions” to reduce battery use, and more power-saving techniques are on their way.

ARM has an initiative called “Big, Little” that encourages its chipmaker licensees to pair a low-power A7 core with a high-power A15 engine, allowing the mobile operating system to shuttle between them as needed.

“The concept really is getting the right size processor to do the right job,” ARM’s Jeff Chu told AllThingsD. “Most of the time you are doing things that don’t need all that performance.”

Switching to the “little” core can reduce energy use as much as 70 percent, Chu said.

Phones with ARM’s new design, though, aren’t expected to start showing up until next year at the earliest.

Nvidia is taking a somewhat similar approach with its quad-core Tegra 3 processor. The chip actually has five cores — the four main ones and a fifth that can be used in place of the other four when less horsepower is needed.

Here’s Qualcomm’s video about Consia:


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