As a longtime laptop/portable computing devotee and advocate, one of the marquee advantages of portable machines as computing platforms I’ve always touted is their relative energy consumption parsimony. By comparison, desktop computers have always been energy hogs, although improved considerably with flatscreen displays having displaced the CRTs of yore. However, laptops (especially newer ones with SSD storage and low power consumption CPU silicon and integrated graphics) are still way more economical with energy, and tablets and smartphones better yet.
Opower’s Barry Fischer says the popularity of the new iPhone 5 begged the question of how much juice it takes each year to charge a next-generation smartphone. And how does the energy consumption of smartphones compare to that of other consumer electronics?
To find out, Opower got their hands on a New iPhone 5 and also a Samsung Galaxy S III – currently the hottest Android handset – then headed into the Opower Lab for some testing.
The resulting estimate: charging an iPhone 5 will cost roughly $0.41 per year, while the Galaxy costs 12 cents more to charge annually than the iPhone 5, primarily because of its larger battery.
That sounds trivial, but Fischer notes that the growing scale of smartphone use (i.e. a projected soon-to-be 1 billion smartphone users, putting pressure on millions of data centers worldwide) will have a substantial cumulative effect on global power consumption.
On the other hand, however, due to smartphones are displacing use of clunkier, more energy-intensive devices such as computers, televisions, and gaming consoles, an increase in smartphone usage is likely to cause lower overall energy consumption.
Smartphones and tablets use much less energy than the larger devices (e.g. PCs) that they are displacing, and the energy savings are substantial, for example about 20x less than a laptop and 68x less than a desktop.
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