A Better Battery Experience

27 Nov 2020, by Aadi

battery icon with sun instead of lightning

Some nice weather, for a change.

The Kindle provides a better battery experience than any other device I have used. Let me explain.

Of all portable devices, suppose we focus on just the battery-related functions – how it charges, how fast it recharges, how it indicates its charge level, and so on. This facet of every device is what I’ll refer to as its battery experience.

I have not put a lot of effort into an objective definition, because that is not the point. This is only an (arguably pointless) idea so that I can use to better express my appreciation about a tiny aspect of the Kindle.
Although this opinion is based on my use of an 8th-gen Paperwhite, it applies to any Kindle1, assuming the battery experience has largely stayed the same over multiple generations.

Not just battery life

Battery life is not the only factor. The battery experience is certainly improved when the battery life is longer, all else being equal. Wall clocks and TV remotes last for up to a year without needing new cells. But when the clock stops, it’s sudden and without warning.2 In spite of having less than 1/12th the battery life, the Kindle has a better battery experience. Why? Because it is never causes a nuisance by becoming unexpectedly unusable. I see when it is running low and plug it in before it completely runs out.

The Kindle has an indicator that provides a precise percentage value, almost as good as battery indicators can get. I say almost, because the number is replaced by an exclamation mark at low levels, adding a bit of ambiguity. Despite that small kink, having a superior indicator is enough for the Kindle to outrank most other devices that might contest for the title.

What makes the Kindle the best?

Unsurprisingly, that comes down to how it handles low-battery situations.

The Kindle displays a warning if it is below 10%. The warning doesn’t come with a depressing sound, nor does it make any time-sensitive threats (“plug in now or I’ll go to sleep soon”). It does not cause me to panic. In fact it raises no emotion at all! I just make a mental note to plug it in after I’m done using it. So easy, peaceful and non-disruptive.

I hardly find myself in a race against the percentage, because it always lasts longer than I have needed it to. Even when I might have been worried, a discharged Kindle isn’t a huge disaster – I can use another device, or read an actual book. At the end of the day, it just isn’t as essential as a phone or laptop might be.

The Kindle does not offer a way to reduce functionality to reduce battery drain when it is low on power. Perhaps because it is always as efficient as possible, or perhaps an even longer battery life isn’t one of their most-requested features. Of course, phones and cars have no choice but to have some kind of limp mode. Not having (or needing) one makes the Kindle simpler to use and also shows how satisfactory its battery life is.

Isn’t the iPad better?

The iPad actually comes quite close – with no Low Power Mode and an indicator that reaches all the way down to 1%. It even has better and fewer warning messages.3 Yet, I shall argue that the Kindle’s battery experience is better. Ignoring all the tiny reasons – charging time, battery life, or how warm it gets when plugged in. I’ll even overlook the indicator turning into an attention-grabbing red colour. What still makes it significantly worse in terms of the battery experience is that when I pick up the iPad, it is not charged enough to last as long I need it. This happens so often that I now have the habit of plugging it in a few hours earlier, if possible. Your experience may be better, but I don’t think it will be that far from mine and certainly not as good as the Kindle. With the Kindle, I can forget about the existence of a battery and it won’t matter.

Isn’t it the ideal battery experience when you can avoid having one altogether?

  1. Not including the Android tablets that share the Kindle brand, I mean any Kindle with an e-ink display↩︎

  2. Some clocks do slow down, but if it can’t keep time, then it isn’t doing its job, is it? ↩︎

  3. While the Kindle warns me every time it is unlocked below 10%, the iPad interrupts only twice, and sticks to the facts (“Low Battery”) without issuing commands like “Please recharge”↩︎