What if you could charge your smartphone with a battery you rented from Redbox?

Idea#9 Rechargeable Battery Rental Kiosks

My girlfriend and I had just arrived in New York City on an overnight Greyhound bus, when our dear iPhones ran out of juice. We stopped in a Starbucks to get a cup of coffee and charge our phones.

After taking our time drinking coffees and awkwardly sitting on the floor, our smartphones were not even above 10%. This was the first time I had ever been to the Big Apple, and I was sitting on a Starbucks floor.

While some people would have just gone without it, I rely on my trusty device for everything.

At the time I wanted to use Google maps to find my way around the city. Looking at a travel brochure’s guide map just made me want to pinch-to-zoom even more. We also wanted to take a couple of pictures. If they still sold disposable cameras, I didn’t know where to find one. Even our hotel reservations were on my iPhone.

Me on the Empire State Building

At the time, I considered buying a rechargeable battery pack, but I didn’t want to overpay for some crappy battery that wouldn’t work. In the past, I considered buying a high quality battery pack from a company like Anker, but I never actually bought one. The price was too high for something I would only use occasionally.

In the end, we just waited for our phones to charge.

Today 64% of Americans use smartphones for everything from quick entertainment such as Candy Crush, to getting important work updates through email. Smartphones are a connection to everything anywhere.

This is so obvious that everyone takes it for granted, but consider this–What happens when you cut that link people have now become dependent upon?

In fact a new psychological fear, Nomophobia, sprouted from this separation. Nomophobia is that feeling you get when you lose your phone or its battery dies.

“no–mo(bilephone)phobia”

While Nomophobia isn’t officially recognized as a psychological disorder, there have been many proposals to include it in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the manual psychologists use to diagnose and treat mental disorders.

To make matters worse, batteries are draining faster than ever before because of the ever-increasing energy demand from high-powered microchips inside smartphones. Microprocessors have experienced doubling speeds every two years for the last 50 years, while battery capacity technology has only doubled 8 times in the last 150 years.

This phenomenon of rapid increase in microprocessor speed is known as Moore’s Law, and we’re still experiencing it today. If it continues, battery capacity will never catch up to the always rising need of power-hungry microprocessors.

Microchip speed overtime

While some smartphone manufacturers have countered this problem by installing huge batteries inside of their devices, many others continue designing thinner and lighter smartphones with every new generation.

All of this creates a huge problem for everyone who uses a smartphone.

Currently the Worlds Thinnest Smartphone

The Idea: A kiosk that rents rechargeable batteries for your smartphone.

Concept image of Kiosk

Imagine a Redbox style kiosk that rented rechargeable batteries for smartphones, giving a small boost through the day. Using a touch screen customers would select the between type of charging connection, iPhone or Android, and pay using a credit card. Then the customer would attach the small battery to the bottom of their phone to charge it.

Once the battery dies, customers would return the battery back in the kiosk for it to begin charging for the next customer.

Rendering of Battery

The best place for these Kiosks would be in areas where people are coming and going, such as inside of the New York City subway system. On their way back, people could drop off the battery at a kiosk.

If someone forgot to return the battery, they could do one of three options:

  1. Return it the next time they are near a kiosk with a fee for everyday
  2. Go online and buy the device outright
  3. Go online and print a shipping label from our website (for a fee) to ship it back

The hardest thing about this idea is figuring our how much to charge. The cost of the running the kiosks couldn’t exceed the money earned from the rentals, but you’d have to keep prices low enough to increase demand.

How much do you charge for a charge?

It depends. Some people may grudgingly give $5 to write important emails. It’s more likely most people wouldn’t pay much more than 99¢. When I was in New York, I probably would have paid in the $5 range. That’s because I was traveling. Any other day, I’d pay at most $2.50.

If consumer demand was high enough, this idea could be scaled to a level which would cut costs all around and increase its viability.

Hopefully the next time I’m in New York, I can rent a battery so I don’t have to admire New York from a Starbucks window.

Note: When I was doing research on this idea, I found a company doing something that was very similar. Bettery offers different subscription plans that enable customers to trade rechargeable AA or AAA batteries at convenient locations such as grocery stores.

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Originally published at www.3thousandideas.com on May 4, 2015.