The Long and the Short of Smartphone Battery Life

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    One of the more interesting issues to follow during the past decade or so has been the way in which mobile devices are powered.

    On one level, users seem to habitually complain about battery life whenever there is a high-profile introduction. It seems, however, that while short battery life is still an issue, it isn’t quite as serious as it was a few years ago. A few things have happened on the battery front.

    At one point, short battery life was seen as something of an existential threat by the mobile industry. At that point – before a lot of research was done and video exploded – the thinking was that all the great but energy-hungry apps wouldn’t be worth much if phones died quickly and subscribers got upset.

    So engineers went to work on extending battery life, looking for alternative sources and figuring out ways to cut down on the amount of energy used by a specific app. Companies also worked to train users to cut back on use. The worse days were when phones were getting smaller and smaller, meaning batteries had to be smaller.

    The industry got a break, however: The advent of mobile video created a desire for bigger screens. Bigger screens meant bigger phones and more room for batteries. The battle never officially ended, however, because energy demands continued to grow.

    The trend toward bigger phones shows no sign of abating. The first line of a story at ZDNet today reporting on leaked information about the Galaxy A9 suggests where we are: “Want an Android smartphone that has a giant display and a huge battery?” The story says that the battery is rumored to be 4,000 mAh, which is big indeed.

    Another phone with a big battery is the OUKITEL K10000, which is being released in late January. Android Headlines says that the phone will offer a “massive” 10,000 mAh battery and operate under normal use for 10 to 15 days between charges.

    Screens, the devices to which they are attached and batteries are all getting bigger. That doesn’t mean that the challenge has been met, however. If it was, Apple wouldn’t have introduced the iPhone 6S Smart Battery Case. Fortune says that Apple claims that the power pack will almost double talk time (from 10 to 18 hours) on an iPhone 6 or 6S.

    Battery life is a source of fascination to a certain type of geek. Expert Reviews, a site in the UK, took it upon themselves to test the battery life of 60 phones. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge was the winner, at 15 hours, 33 minutes. It edged out the Samsung Galaxy A5 by 15 minutes. At the other extreme, two Huawei phones – the Honor 7 and the P8 – had shortest battery life. The P8 conked out at the 7:26 mark. The Honor 7 was almost a full hour worse. It logged only 6:28 of operational life.

    All considered, battery life isn’t the issue it was just a few short years ago.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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