The Problem Of Wireless-ing Everything

Batteries are an unsolved problem that’s now invading my desktop.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Batteries are an unsolved problem that’s now invading my desktop. The problem of wireless-ing everything By Ng Chong Seng

Technology is increasingly getting mobile, and it’s no secret that batteries are the Achilles’ heel of today’s mobile devices.

For smartphones, it’s easy to understand why battery life matters: people don’t want their phone to die in the middle of the day. Not when they’re in the midst of typing an email, and especially not on a bus with no power outlet in sight. For mobile devices, a long battery life is both an anxiety-reducing feature (you don’t need to keep glancing at the battery status) and a convenience feature (you don’t need to lug a power bank everywhere you go).

But technology is also getting more portable. And by that, I’m referring to typically desktop-bound devices that are now dropping their cord so that we can more easily bring them on the road. Things like keyboards, speakers, printers, and scanners. The key difference between smartphones and these other ‘cable-less’ gadgets is that wireless operation is a must-have in the former but entirely a nice-to-have in the latter.

I just did a quick audit of my desk and found that I’ve over the last few years snipped the cord of many of my office/work-related gear. At the moment, I’m staring at two Bluetooth keyboards, two wireless mice, a pair of Bluetooth headphones, and a mini Bluetooth speaker. And somewhere in my drawer sit a couple of portable printers, voice recorders, and of course, numerous power banks.

Like phones, wireless peripherals with the longest battery life aren’t usually the highest-end or most expensive offering in their respective category. For example, I’ve flirted briefly with Logitech’s MX Master mouse, but gave up because I didn’t like the idea of charging it every two to three weeks. My solution was to return to the company’s Marathon Mouse M705, which currently is still going strong with the two AA batteries I put in it two years ago.

Same goes for my keyboard. I started with the Logitech K811 Bluetooth keyboard, but soon switched it out for the K760. The latter is also a Bluetooth keyboard but I’ve not once in the last four years needed to worry about it running low on power when I’m out working in a coffeeshop. Why? Because the K760 is a solar-powered keyboard. And for what it’s worth, I use the Beats Solo 3 not because I love its sound (it’s okay), but because I love its 40 hours of battery life, which isn’t common in the realm of wireless headphones.

Am I relating a first world problem? Maybe. But it’s undeniable that mobility is a workforce trend and that more and more traditional devices are now battery-powered so that you can bring them around. Whether you like it or not, the wireless revolution is invading into more spaces, and we’re powerless (pun fully intended) to stop it.