Do you often see your phone declare that you are under the sacred 15% of battery life? I see it too often for my liking and it annoys me no end. I use my phone for everything, but mostly for the Internet. I am constantly hammering the network with Twitter, GMail, G+, Google Calendar and so on. As you would expect, the battery doesn’t last long. But why not? My phone was advertised as a social-networking and web-based phone, so why doesn’t it live past a day?
One of the biggest selling points of modern smartphones is their multiprocessing abilities. Whether some platforms operate ‘true’ multitasking is debateable, but what is certain is that all these constant processor cycles require power. Even when you aren’t using your phone, it is regularly polling Twitter and Facebook to check for updates, or running small self-checkups and diagnostics. It also uses additional energy to keep everything on its toes for when you do start using it again.
One of the reasons that battery life is so short these days is found in the changing ratio of battery size to phone power requirements. My ancient phone had a battery size about half of my current phone’s, however it did nothing but make calls and send texts. As a result it lasted me two days or more on a single charge. My Wildfire is lucky to survive a day. If I go to a party or spend the night somewhere I am forced to take my wall adapter and USB lead with me in my backpack as a precaution. My phone can not do my amount of web usage with a single charge and last 24 hours! It is awful, and I wished it had been designed to hold a bigger battery.
This is a message which I see far too often.
Make a Sacrifice?
I was googling about extending the life of my phone and found that some eBay sellers offer bigger batteries with extended rear covers. Some of them went up to 3500mAh, and though this should theoretically double my phone’s battery lifetime from a day to about two, for £8.50 you have to wonder how good these batteries really are. These batteries are also so big that a replacement rear cover comes as part of the package — and it’s hardly aesthetically pleasing.
I do think that trading out visual appeal for a longer battery life should be considered by manufacturers. Have you looked at your phone lately? Does it really need to be any thinner? Let’s be honest and say, not really. It is time for designers to switch from making phones smaller and more compact, to bloating them out with bigger batteries.
Another factor that doesn’t help battery size is squeezing all this new tech into such small phones; room has to be made for it and so the battery becomes smaller still. Take two HTC models as examples. I own the Wildfire with a 1300mAh battery, the Desire HD has a far bigger housing and better tech, but a 1230mAh battery. With a CPU that has a top speed of nearly double the Wildfire’s, surely the Desire HD should have a larger battery to compensate?
I personally would happily live with my phone being a centimetre thicker and 2 centimetres longer if it meant it lasted two days instead of just one.
Programs Attempt to Help, But…
Some developers make applications which try to help save on your battery life, an example of which is ‘Juice Defender’. It tries to save battery life most significantly by cutting off Internet and related data requests. I’ve been trying it out, and my battery lasts longer, but I have to keep turning on my phone and leaving it for about a minute to sync up all of my data. Not really ideal when I use Google Talk, as Juice Defender keeps signing me out. I could stop Juice Defender from cutting off the Internet, but then it does next to no good at all and is itself another process which steals energy as it ticks over.
[Editor's note: For a different view on JuiceDefender, check out James Cull's review, published later today.]
Common battery tips are to keep tabs on your screen brightness, GPS usage and Internet connection. This is fine for the people who don’t need these features on their phone all the time. However what are the people who do need them supposed to do? It seems the best option available to me is to buy a small external charging pack. Some can hold two and a half days of battery life in them, but it still involves carrying extra stuff around.
The ideal situation is not to have to worry about my battery life at all. Of course there are folks who want to have a super-slim phone, and so designers work to fit more stuff into less space. The other half of phone users want a phone with a long lasting battery and to not have to keep a charger at hand. It would be nice to see a phone come out where all the modern luxuries and conveniences are included, but with a big battery to support it all. Okay, it may not be the thinnest and most attractive phone you’d ever see, but it would be practical.
How does your phone’s battery life fair in comparison to your usage level? The comments section is below!