Editor's Note: Amy Gahran writes about mobile tech for CNN.com. She is a San Francisco Bay Area writer and media consultant whose blog, Contentious.com, explores how people communicate in the online age.
(CNN) -- More cell phones have more features and capabilities than ever -- but often the tradeoff is shorter battery life. This is especially true of smartphones. I know many, many users of all kinds of smartphones, and it's rare that they get a full day of use out of a full charge.
So it's been interesting to watch how phone manufacturers have been adapting the design of handsets to extend battery life. A couple of particularly intriguing recent examples come from Samsung.
Most smartphones feature bright, crisp, full touchscreen displays -- which look really nice, and perform pretty well, but require a lot of power. It seems like overkill, from a usability and energy perspective, to have to turn on your smartphone's full screen merely to check the time or see if you have any new messages.
That's why the Samsung Continuum -- the latest addition to the Galaxy S series of Android phones -- features a small, dedicated, customizable "ticker display."
According to YallStore's review of the Continuum, this ticker is a "customizable 1.8-inch Super AMOLED dedicated secondary ticker display that offers shortcuts and media playback controls, as well as alerts, RSS feeds and notifications. If you want to light up the ticker, you just need touch the bottom sides of the phone with the help of Grip sensor.
"Both of the two displays are at 480x96 resolution. Samsung Continuum cell phone is the first phone with a dedicated ticker display. And the secondary display is just an extra screen for more usability and to maximize multitasks of the device."
So if you often just want to check something quickly, you can configure your ticker display to show just that content, without having to activate your whole screen. Laptop Mag reports that there are pros and cons to this design approach. Undoubtedly it'll work better for some mobile users than others.
And for feature phone users, the new Samsung Zeal phone offers ample messaging and social media capabilities through a secondary control display that uses low-power e-ink technology (the same technology behind Kindle's e-reader screen).
Basically, the keypad dynamically changes depending on what functions you're using on the phone. E-ink is just about the most energy-efficient display technology available.
The Zeal is also a dual-hinge flip phone, so you can easily use the keypad and main display in either portrait or landscape mode. (See CNET review.)
Yes, both of these design approaches may seem a little weird -- but they should both help phones run longer on a battery charge. Unless there are significant improvements in battery technology at a reasonable price, cell phone manufacturers are going to have to get more creative about the marriage between form and functionality in order to meet consumer expectations.