Cure your cell phone addiction with this new battery-less “capacitor” cell phone that only operates for 5 minutes at a time!


It is common for people to be glued to their cell phones for nearly 100% of their waking hours.

This is especially true now that phone batteries last for hours even under heavy use and fast video-capable cellular data is available in most populated areas.

The issue:

It is commonly suggested that people should not use their cell phones all the time, and should “unplug” occasionally, but it’s rare that a person actually has the self-control to actually do so.

Some people intentionally buy non-smartphones to combat their inclination to constantly use a phone, but this also locks the user out of genuinely useful apps like maps, “ride-sharing” (the 2015 word for “taxi”), detailed weather forecasts, and….. actually that might be a complete list.


In order to help people have more non-phone-using self control, yet not require them to commit to fully commit to the austere lifestyle of the “feature-phone” hermit, we simply create a smartphone as follows:

  • It’s a regular smartphone…
  • With an integrated charging cord that automatically rolls up (like a tape measure)…
  • And instead of having a battery, it has a capacitor that stores about 5 minutes of charge.

See Figure 1 for a mockup.

Fig. 1: This “battery-less” cell phone operates exactly like a normal one, except that whenever it’s unplugged, a huge flashing 5-minute countdown timer displays at the top.


Not only would this allow people to unplug from their cell phones for a while, it also has an eco-friendly benefit: a capacitor should (in theory) be operational for far longer than an equivalently-sized battery, so fewer batteries will need to be disposed of.

Alternative Software-only Version:

A compatible idea could actually be implemented entirely in software in a current smartphone: the phone would pretend that it only had 5 minutes of charge left, even though the battery would remain approximately 97% full. So from the end user’s perspective, it’s the same general idea (can’t use the phone for more than 5 minutes without plugging it in), but it doesn’t incur any hardware design cost.

PROS: The software-only version of this proposal could work; someone should implement it as an alternative Android home screen!

CONS: In a genuine emergency, it might be extremely troublesome to have only 5 minutes of cell phone charge. This 5-minute-only phone wouldn’t even work as a flashlight!