The behavioral impact of low battery

10 October 2019

Do you get anxious when your phone battery is very low? It turns out you are not alone. A new study from the Cass Business School at City University in London was performed on commuters in the London subway system and revealed that battery levels impact subjects in two ways:

1) The decrease in battery level caused increase anxiety. One subject described it as follows:

Full would be ‘Yeah, ok great, good to go for the day’; 50% I’d be a bit: ‘Oh God, I had better stop it from updating itself all the time in the background. Turn it on low battery life, turn off Instagram, e-mail or it would literally die’. Then it would be at thirty percent and I would be like: ‘Now I’m not having fun anymore’. And then I’d get a bit ‘AHHHH’.

2) Perhaps more surprising, lower battery levels caused subjects out of home to change their destinations to locations where they assumed they could charge their phones. For instance, one subject in the study said:

So I said, where are we going next? You know what, let’s go to Westfield instead. And she was like ‘why?’, because I can charge my phone in Westfield the shopping centre […] But the fact that my phone was going to die freaked me out, so we had a detour, because we were going to Stratford in the first place at the other end of the tube line.

The dependence on energy also caused behavioral changes designed to recharge mobile devices.  One subject reports:

I would wake up at 8AM and I would charge my phone straight away, then get a shower, get ready. I’d get to my dad’s house and the first thing I would do would be: plug it in saying ‘hold on a second’, sit down and then say ‘how are you?’.

At some level, these results are not surprising. Our dependence on mobile and smart devices has increased. Some say that the famous Maslow hierarchy of needs should be amended to include WiFi and battery as basic needs:




What’s the cure for low battery? Long-range wireless charging, which would allow phones to be continuously topped off without requiring plugging them in, carefully aligning them on chargers or otherwise paying attention to battery life.

Maybe the FDA approved Wi-Charge devices because we are the cure for battery anxiety?

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