York Company Develops App to Extend Your Laptop Battery Life
YORK, Maine — The founders of Battery Project LLC have no ambitions to reinvent the proverbial mousetrap. They have targeted something as fundamental as it is mysterious — maximizing the health and capacity of Apple notebook batteries with a unique application.
Jeff Lynch and Steve Steiner are computer savvy and veteran application and server developers for the Apple market. But even they admit to being baffled by the best practices to keep their Apple laptop batteries in prime working shape. "If you've ever run out of battery power while sitting on an airplane, you know how frustrating it can be," said Steiner, who joined forces with Lynch a few years ago to create an app to help users get the most out of the laptop batteries.
Most consumers have no idea that laptop batteries have to be "exercised" or calibrated regularly to help the battery retain as much factory capacity as possible. Lynch said that when most users see the battery power reading on their computer they have no idea the 40 percent, 60 percent, or 80 percent remaining reading isn't the actual power but a measurement in the context of battery capacity that degrades over time. "This is why many people who think they have 30 minutes of battery power run out in 10 or 15 minutes," he said.
As many Apple laptops have replaced larger desktop computers, they are just plugged in and rarely used on battery power. If a laptop battery is not used and rarely if ever calibrated, it becomes flabby — the equivalent of a "couch potato," Lynch said. And a flabby battery is just the type to run quickly out of power at the wrong time. "If you don't calibrate your batteries, they lie to you," Steiner said. On the other hand, a laptop that is used frequently on battery power retains more of its natural capacity and it works longer between charges.
Lynch and Steiner became a good match because Lynch has experience in creating applications — including two photography apps for the iPhone — but knows little about the server side of the process, which is Steiner's area of expertise. "I think it's a good thing we don't know what the other does," Steiner said. Lynch said they were motivated to do something because Apple offered calibration suggestions and instructions that were "torturous" and error prone. Even they were left dazed and confused and learned it was close to impossible to calibrate their batteries correctly. This flaw was a major disconnect between technological specifications and actual practice.
Lynch and Steiner figured they were not alone among the millions of consumers who purchase Apple laptops each year. They were different in that they decided to tackle the problem head on and launched Battery Project LLC. They conducted almost 2½ years of research, development and collaboration with Apple, making evolutionary steps, but they recently released a subscription-based application called FruitJuice. The goal is clear — empower users to get as much battery juice as they can from their Apple A1175 notebook battery. There is a flat fee of $9.99 a year for the first machine and $4.99 a year for each additional machine. (Alas, for Windows-based laptops users, there is no FruitJuice equivalent due to many different computer makers and batteries.)v "There is no other tool that does this," Lynch said. Educating consumers about their A1280 Apple laptop batteries and their capabilities is a crucial aspect of the FruitJuice launch, Lynch said. What FruitJuice does is clarify and standardize the steps needed to conduct a proper calibration cycle as part of a healthy maintenance approach. The subscription keeps track of completed cycles, sends e-mails and text messages to prompt users to the next calibration, and, when connected, can tell the user the capacity level of a laptop battery.
FruitJuice automates the calibration system for so-called "user-swappable" batteries in older Apple notebooks and as a conditioning system for newer built-in battery models that don't require battery calibration. Battery Project decided to opt for a subscription-based fee service with free updates (there have already been four since its launch). This was in part because the product was more than a one-shot purchase but also because of the operational cost of maintaining servers on the Internet.
They are targeting Apple user groups with discount subscriptions not only to drum up more business but also to spread the word as quickly as possible. Lynch said FruitJuice is an insurance policy that pays off before trouble is encountered and provides users with the best and most complete information available about their Apple A1008 battery. "Nobody has targeted this consumer part of the market. Apple sells between three to four million notebooks every quarter, so there's a huge upside to this," Lynch said.
Steiner, a former Seacoast region resident and entrepreneur, works in Virginia, and Lynch works in Maine. The pair concede that Battery Project and FruitJuice may be a one-shot deal. But that could change significantly if they can secure large corporate customers who see the benefits of an automated system to enhance battery predictability and long-term effectiveness.
Find out more about the FruitJuice application at fruitjuiceapp.com.