/ Technology

Why I’m sick of rubbish battery life

Battery icons running down

Do you remember when your mobile’s battery lasted more than a couple of days? Great big screens and skinny bodies soon put an end to that. Poor battery life is the bane of modern technology – will it ever get better?

I’m trying to hold myself back from moaning about modern tech, but bring up glossy screens or bad battery life and my mouth will give the Duracell bunny a run for its money.

Both of these issues provided inspiration for our campaign to bring viewfinders back to digital cameras.

You’ll find a chorus of commenters bemoaning poor battery life on our viewfinder Conversation: Doug Berry wants a viewfinder as LCD screens ‘gobble up battery power’, and Pedro Stephano agrees, ‘if you turn off the display you get significantly longer battery life’.

So, what has happened to battery life in modern gadgets? It’s not just digital cameras that are plagued by the problem – you can add smartphones, laptops or any other piece of portable tech to the list.

Smartphones come with poor battery life

It seems rare to get more than two days out of a smartphone before you need to recharge it. And you might be lucky to get three hours out of your 17 inch laptop.

When I finally said farewell to my Nokia brick mobile phone, there was one thing I knew I would miss most of all: ‘your robust lithium-ion cell would last 12.5 days, enough to prompt a huge cackle when compared to the smartphones of today.’

Convo commenter Wavechange attended my Nokia 3510i’s funeral and left this fine warning to modern mobiles: ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with smartphones until they last at least a week between charges and the battery can be exchanged (Apple please take note).’

Ah yes, Apple. By introducing a huge touchscreen, this company changed the game for mobile phones. The rest of the market was very aware of the possibility, but didn’t take the jump for fear that consumers wouldn’t want to put up with such poor battery life.

In the end, Apple got it right and led the march of the smartphones. And I’d be an idiot to criticise this, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be peeved by their battery life. Sadly, for every advancement in phone technology, their stamina hasn’t really improved. Bigger faces, thinner bodies; batteries can barely keep up.

What’s the future of batteries?

Of course, there are exceptions. Without a screen, the iPod Shuffle lasts much longer than you’d expect from its diminutive size. And then there are e-readers, like the Kindle, which can stretch out for as long as a month from just one charge.

Is there a silver lining for the rest of our portable tech? Well, scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have been busy working on a tiny chip that can be charged by small movements, such as walking or even a human heartbeat. The chips work by using zinc oxide nanowires, which generate electricity when flexed.

Although it’ll be some time before these nanowires make it to market, we could soon see a day when we won’t ever need to plug our smartphones in to charge. For me, that day can’t come too soon.

Are you fed up with short battery life?

Yes - gadgets should last longer (89%, 901 Votes)

No - I'm content with what I get out of them (7%, 76 Votes)

I don't really care (4%, 37 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,014

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Moan moan moan.

Smartphone manufacturers bring you screens that would have rivalled the quality of your TV not so long ago, touchscreens that look miraculous compared with what we had five years ago – think train station ticket machines – and have the power of a laptop. All this and they still fit in your pocket and don’t get so hot they set your trousers on fire.

And all you can say is that the battery life isn’t good enough.

I don’t think it’s too much of a hardship to have to fit a daily charging of your phone into your routine, like many I use my phone as an alarm clock so plugging it in at night is part of my daily ritual.


So Tim is happy to charge his smartphone every day. Not all of us want to be servants to poorly designed equipment. The screen may be fantastic, the processing ability may be magnificent, but if the battery needs to be charged every day the product is a load of rubbish, in my opinion.

Would you be happy if you had to fill the car with petrol every day or go to Tesco for a teabag?

Any phone that needs to be charged more than once a week is little more than a children’s toy. Some of us would like the option of a phone with a decent battery. Look at the results of the survey. Please don’t regard us as moaners just because you are happy with mediocre products.


Although I’m on your side Wavechange, I do think it’s simply a limitation of the technology – not necessarily the designers. A smartphone with a big screen simply can’t get enough juice out of today’s batteries (especially when they have to be so slim). But, in general, I agree.


Well my new Samsung lasts a week, my ancient Samsung lasted a week – so new tech, touch screens and other useless extras (its just a phone fools) and the battery lasts about the same.

Now if they used the new tech in a simple reliable phone – it’d last a month or two!

That would be brilliant for people who want phones, not toys.

Damien says:
6 April 2011

The ultimate phone-not-toy device: http://www.johnsphones.com/photo-gallery/item26

Three week standy time.

Has on/off switch, loud/silent, number pad, micro lcd shows incoming number + battery life and has 10 speed dial number storage…

Added bonus: Notepad in the back of it for your contacts etc. Games you say? Naughts and crosses on the notepad.


My mobile phone battery lasts around six weeks.- It is used for emergencies only. (Early tests showed the battery would retain its charge for around eight weeks while being switched off). I have a reminder scheduled on my computer to remind me to recharge it. I have to wonder if constant charging is detremental to the battery’s life.

I am really not interested in using my mobile whilst walking – riding or driving. In fact I have too much consideration for other people to use on a train either. Strangely my alarm clock is by my bed and connected to the mains – so no battery worries.

Every call apart from emergencies can just as easily be conducted in the privacy of my home. or at work.


My prevalent complaint is against so called “rechargeble batteries”, particularly of the AA, AAA &c.type.
They seem to give up the ghost after the first two or three “recharges”. Are rechargeable batteries, in the long run, any advantage over the traditional “use once” batteries – economically or ecologically?


I’m not too sure about this – My rechargeable batteries last well over a year often two years – But I have found some rechargeables far better than the other Brands – I generally use GP.

They are usually more economical – but not if you only get say three charges out of them – As one would normally throw more “use once” types away then they should be better ecologically too.

I also have a battery charger that charges “use once” batteries a few times too


You may have something to say about our Conversation on the possibility of discarding disposable batteries then O.A.P. https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/why-dont-we-phase-out-disposable-batteries/

Though they should last up to about 100 recharges… so I’m not sure what’s wrong with your ones.


I too am surprised at having to renew my AA batteries in my Apple iMac keyboard and Magic Mouse. I keep thinking the computer has a problem but now am getting used to it being poor battery life – either Duracell Plus, Duracell Ultra, or Panasonic. At least it is always a relief to find the Mac is OK after all but getting expensive on AA’s.


Unless you need a wireless keyboard, it would have been better to choose the option of a wired keyboard, which also has the advantage of a numeric keypad. A wireless mouse has definite advantages and I am very happy with the battery life of the Apple Magic Mouse. I expect the Magic Mouse will work on rechargeable batteries since the previous models did.


They should last around a month Peter, what are you getting out of your iMac keyboard?

Thought you might also be interested in this new Logitech mouse – its battery is said to last 18 months: http://www.geek.com/articles/gadgets/logitech-m325-mouse-has-18-month-battery-life-2011044/

Now, that’s more like it!


I’ve seen this problem discussed a while ago, sorry don’t have a link and can’t remember the exact details, but I think the suggestion was that when you have both a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse, they compete with each other to get the Mac’s attention and quickly run down their batteries as a result. If you have a wired keyboard and a wireless mouse, then the mouse isn’t constantly trying to override the keyboard for attention, and thus its batteries last a lot longer.
Sorry I don’t know if this has been proved to be the case, or whether a fix has been made available.

Chris Foxx says:
5 April 2011

Clearly not a BlackBerry owner. They’re renowned for their excellent battery life, in Smartphone terms anyway, you still only get 2-3 days max without stopping to charge up.