I carry around, in various combinations, two cameras, one computer, and two or more Android devices. They have some important things in common.

Storage · They all have enough. Both my Pentax SLR and my Canon point-&-shoot have SD cards that are, uh, I forget, a few gig, which is to say, I unload them before leaving on a major trip or once a month whether they need it or not. My MacBook has a hundred-and-something-gig SSD and I just drop whatever on it without thinking. My Android devices have various combinations of SD cards and internal storage and I install whatever comes across the radar, plus I load up endless hours of music, no problem.

Storage, on consumer electronics, is for all practical purposes now infinite.

Battery · The cameras have cracked this nut. I charge ’em up before I leave on a major trip, that’s it. I don’t even take the charging gear along if the trip’s less than a couple weeks in length.

The MacBook is pretty good, I can get 3+ hours out of it, which is plenty for café visits or round-a-table meetings. There are a very few plane flights that are longer, and I’m planning to work rather than sleep, and don’t have some sort of power; but we’re talking once or twice a year.

The phones are more of a problem. The Nexus S lasts longer than the Nexus One, and both will get me through a sane day’s work, but the only device that I can pound on away as hard as I want for as long as I want and just not worry that it’ll last till bedtime is the Galaxy Tab. But still, we’re making progress.

Battery life, on high-end laptops and cameras, is for all practical purposes now infinite.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Hub (Dec 17 2010, at 11:13)

I have to disagree with that.

Camera batteries:

- my Olympus, because it use a LCD instead of an optical viewfinder, does not last that long. I think the 4GB SD card last longer than the battery, or marginally.

- my Canon 5DMkII: while I can shoot for sometime, I'm sure that a 4 day trip with usual shooting rate would require the battery charger.

Laptop storage:

- I have 320GB and I have been fighting a lot to keep it empty enough to continue to ingest my pictures. It is a good thing I don't do software development on it.

In all practical purpose, I guess my usage is not the regular one and therefor neither batteries nor storage are infinite.


From: Norman Walsh (Dec 17 2010, at 11:16)

Battery life on laptops is no where near infinite. It isn't even nearly sufficient. Even with the ostensibly bigger (but now sealed so I can't carry extras) battery in my MacBookPro 17", I can't get across the country on a single charge, nevermind through a whole day.


From: Chris Swan (Dec 17 2010, at 11:22)

I'm guessing that you don't take large media collections on your travels.

I find myself having to curate a subset of my music so that it fits onto a 16GB Micro-SD in my phone (and yes a 32GB card would solve that, but my next phone will have better video playback...).

On my laptop the video and various other things seem to have taken almost 400GB, making SSD an expensive upgrade.


From: stephen o'grady (Dec 17 2010, at 11:32)

I'm less sanguine.

My laptop, with a 128 GB SSD, has been mostly enough storage for its existence. Over the past twelve months, however, I've begun adding video in the form of TVs and movies. The net of this has been that I'm currently at less than 2 GB available.

I treated my Nexus One, meanwhile, as you did, carelessly installing applications as they came along. Until I started getting that little exclamation point telling me space was low. Granted, I haven't expanded from the stock 4 GB SD card, but even at 32 GB I can't use it to house, for example, my music collection, let alone have room for a large app catalog.

Battery life, meanwhile, seems to me more or less permanently plateaued. Apple seems to be doing an excellent job - the iPad battery life, in particular - was quite impressive, and I'll take your word for it about the Tab. I cannot, however, get through a day using a single battery in the Nexus One which is why I now carry two. Great that I can, unfortunate that I have to. My 2 yr old Thinkpad - with a second battery in place of an optical drive - gets maybe three and a half hours of battery life unless I dim the screen to unreadability. Even the Cr-48 reportedly gets close to 8, and it's doing essentially nothing from a processor standpoint.

I concur that we're close in storage, but I think we've got a ways to go in the battery realm. Which is but one of the reasons I'm bullish on ARM.


From: Tom (Dec 17 2010, at 11:52)

There is a finite limit for both. Should manufacturers just stop advancing battery and storage levels now that you are satisfied?

It seems a big extrapolation - that your needs = the needs of all others, now and in upcoming future.

It's a tautology, but things are sufficient, till they're insufficient.

If you've bought an SSD, you'll know you can buy finite SSD storage, for a buyable price.

If you've used a camera with screen on, and flash going, taking photos at an event, that you can burn through a battery pretty quick (requiring battery changes/battery packs).

It's a hugely sweeping statement, with little evidence to say

Storage, on consumer electronics, is for all practical purposes now infinite.

Battery life, on high-end laptops and cameras, is for all practical purposes now infinite.

What is more accurate, and what you described, is that they're, for all purposes, now infinite *for you, and your usages currently of them*.


From: Steve (Dec 17 2010, at 12:10)

I disagree with the 'practically infinite' assessment regarding storage. If you take a few movies with you on a trip, or take raw photos it is actually very easy to run out of space before you're ready. Storage is still something I actively have to consider, especially with photography. The pain of not being able to take a picture when you're halfway around the world because you ran out of space on all your memory cards is real. Deleting photos in the field is a poor option; you can't trust the LCD on a camera to let you know if a shot is the one you want, that has to wait until you're back at a computer.

Regarding battery life on cameras, I agree. I charge my SLR before a trip, turn off the LCD (including auto-preview) and I'm good for about a week's normal shooting. For weekend trips and the like I don't bother with the charger.

Laptops on the other hand have useless battery life, even the ones that are decent. 'Practically infinite' is still a joke there. 3 hours is simply never enough, and until we're at 10 hours or more that statement won't be close to true.


From: davide (Dec 17 2010, at 12:44)

For storage, I might agree, but it depends on usage.

For battery, well, no. Your experience is that because you hammer your phones and use very casually the cameras. I am a very light user of the phone, and I charge it once a week. I am a heavy user of my cameras, and sometimes I need a second battery within the same hike!


From: Fabian Ritzmann (Dec 17 2010, at 14:10)

I wish I could say the same about my MacBook Pro. I constantly battle for space because all those virtual machines, code, vids and music have long ago filled up the 120 GB on that machine. Same for the battery, 2+ hours and that thing is flat and that's a one year old battery.

And I won't relinquish my 3 year old Nokia unless they pry it out of my cold dead fingers. Try finding a feature phone these days that goes five days of moderate use without recharging.


From: jhgf (Dec 17 2010, at 14:50)

I don't know, I would weigh car batteries, or toasters, as being infinite. None of these technologies come close to that.

Cameras and phones would be similar to gas for cars; sufficient but recharging is still a significant event. The only reason it's not such a big deal compared to refueling is that we have the infrastructure for cheap/free electric energy. If you had to pay to recharge your phone, as in many countries, I think you'd have a slightly different feeling.

I think it would be better to say that you've lucked into a work flow/lifestyle that works for you. Or perhaps that you've finally settled down to this level technology, like a wizend professor and his slide-rule :)


From: Ovi Demetrian Jr (Dec 17 2010, at 15:27)

There are also more backup options available: you can download to your laptop if you run out of space and/or upload to the web. And there are more places starting to provide outlets for charging.


From: Mike (Dec 17 2010, at 16:12)

Almost. The one consumer area where storage isn't yet effectively infinite is video; a medium-sized library of DVD rips is up in the multi-terabyte range, which still means external HDDs and worrying about filesystem limits and other things we'd like to have forgotten by now.


From: We've spoken before (Dec 17 2010, at 17:59)

Dear Tim,

Battery life certainly isn't infinite, not for mere mortals at least, yet 20 years of engineering research has yet to commodify what could be in your hands..


From: Bill de hÓra (Dec 18 2010, at 04:16)

> Storage, on consumer electronics,

> is for all practical purposes

> now infinite.

Not my experience when it comes to video, music and games.

> Battery life, on high-end

> laptops and cameras, is

> for all practical purposes

> now infinite.

Not my experience for anything, really. Always watching those bars.

And not my experience at the day job. I've had to design a protocol specifically to deal with battery life on phones, also to get bandwidth consumption down, but battery is very very important here. Android perhaps could be a bit more efficient. But most "Web 2.0" APIs are very inefficient.


From: Nathan (Dec 19 2010, at 15:14)

Your view is far too insular.

My phone is a Samsung Intercept, the only Android phone provided by my carrier. It's still on 2.1, and after owning it for only about a month, I started getting messages that incoming text messages were being rejected (!!!!!) due to lack of internal storage space. This is after installing a decent but by no means excessive number of apps, which cannot be moved to external storage thanks to Virgin Mobile being parsimonious about Froyo.

I tend to agree with you more about computer storage, though with the average consumer I worry quite a bit that most of this effectively infinite storage is not in any way backed up.

Regarding batteries, I think what will eventually make them truly infinite will not be an improvement in the cells themselves but an improvement in recharging technology. If my phone charges itself whenever I set it on the desk, for example, it stops mattering whether I played Angry Birds during the all hands in the morning and drained half my battery or whether turning on my car stereo launched Pandora in the background, which then proceeded to suck down all my charge.


From: Paul Downey (Dec 21 2010, at 03:11)

I want you to be right, and I believe you are right for your day, but sadly I'm not quite there yet:

Storage: I switched from a 500Gig MacBook to a 128Gig Air 20 odd months ago at which point I was ruthless about not having local mail, music or video collection, using Webmail, last.fm/blip.fm and Spotify, iPlayer and other cloudy things. Sadly it's now high tide; full of lots of small files, mostly half-baked hacks, downloaded databases and local music for when offline. Periodic slash and burn is on order, I guess.

Battery: It's true about cameras, other devices require more thought/habit. I can trickle charge a dying phone or MiFi from the laptop so long as I've plugged it in overnight and during the day at the office to ensure I can hack on my train commute and when out and about in meetings and cafes. Almost free.

I guess 250Gig SSD and a reliable 8+ hours laptop battery would be my sufficiency. Nearly there.


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