/ Technology

Don’t talk to me about smartphone battery life

Now would you look at that; you can now talk non-stop on a smartphone for a good 12 hours. It’s an impressive feat for a technology that’s usually known for switching off prematurely. But is it good enough?

Our lab testers have been busy looking at smartphone battery life, and Samsung’s Galaxy S3 has taken the crown for stamina when it comes to making calls on 3G.

With a longevity that would make even my old brick mobile phone shake in its well-worn boots, the Samsung Galaxy S3 kept going for 726 minutes. It only just pipped the also recently released HTC One X to pole position, which kept it up for 635 minutes before passing out. And both beat the iPhone 4S, which huffed and puffed in at 467 minutes.

You’ll find all the details on how we test smartphone battery life over on our Which? Tech Daily blog, and they’ve also put together a nifty infographic on how the phones performed.

Battery life on call, on apps and on the internet

I’d love say how impressed I am, but am I really? I’ve moaned about smartphone battery life before and although my HTC Incredible S wouldn’t be able to keep up with the iPhone, I’m still not convinced that I’d be shouting about the stamina of my new Samsung Galaxy S3. More often than not I bet I’d be plugging it in once a night.

Why? Because, unlike my chatty mum, I’m rarely a caller. It’s rare I’ll get on the blower to chat to someone over the phone. And it’s not because I’m afraid of my HTC dying, it’s because I use my smartphone for texting, apps and web browsing. It’s the latter two that zap my battery life.

This is where my previous moan about smartphone battery life on Which? Conversation falls down. I had championed the week-long battery life of my Nokia, but that phone didn’t have apps or let me browse the net. It’s something commenter Rene called me out on at the time:

‘Stop moaning, if you want your battery to last for a week, switch off all the cool features that were unavailable years ago. Do not surf the internet, don’t listen to music, do not read books, no trawling through the apps store or iTunes. Talk and text, that’s it. Your battery will last.’

Fair point Rene, you’ve got me there. But isn’t there an option for both? The Samsung Galaxy S3 is so thin, you’d probably find it slipping down the back of your sofa. Why can’t we have something chunkier that packs a beefier battery? It’s what Tony Crackett called for:

‘Why oh why can’t we have a choice between slim phones with limited battery and fatter phones with longer battery life?’

And why not have a smaller screen than the S3’s 4.8-inches. Perhaps it’s my girly hands, but I find it a challenge to hold it comfortably.

Do you want better smartphone battery life?

By now, manufacturers should know battery life is something we care about (89% of you voted that you’re fed up with short battery life in our poll last year), so if they could crack that chestnut and give us something that lasts like a trooper, even if it makes concessions in other areas, they could be on to a winner.

Motoroloa’s Razr Maxx is said to have the going power we’re after, with a reported 21.5 hours of talk time. It’s only just arrived in the UK, so its claims are still to be put to the test in our labs. Until then, Samsung can call someone else about its 12 hours talk time.


Think back to your old Nokia 3510i and how long the battery lasted, Patrick.

Obviously battery life will depend on use, but any phone that cannot last a week on standby is a bit of a joke, in my view. The other major problem is that these expensive phones are usually very easily damaged by water.

Please wake me up when these problems have been resolved. I don’t want my life ruled by badly designed technology.

Oh, dear. Are we ever going to get an editing facility to help us correct our gibberish? 🙁

Wow. Thanks for correcting my gibberish, Patrick. Something to do while waiting for your phone to charge. 🙂

Totally agree with all the above!

When will manufacturers realise that we don’t really care how micro thin a device is? Far better to be robust and have a decent battery life, and be chunky enough so you can’t forget it’s in your pocket!

It has got to be fit for the purpose, and for many of us that means chunky phones with decent batteries.

Last year I took delivery of an iPad 2. For ten minutes I marvelled at how shiny and thin it was, before ordering a leather case to protect it. That makes it about three times as thick, but it means that I don’t need to worry about it being damaged.

For me battery life seems to nose dive very quickly for my phone (HTC Desire). The original (HTC Genuine) started out OK – lasting about a day, but then it deteriorated rapidly to the point where it would only last about half a day. I then purchased an extended life battery which was great to begin with (1 1/2 days), but then nose-dived in exactly the same fashion as the HTC original (3/4 day). My initial thoughts are that it could be to do with the charger I’ve been using (3rd party), but it also strikes me that there might be thermal issues impacting on the life span of these batteries (and that through heavy cyclic use the capacity becomes quickly eroded). I’ve now also got an external battery that plugs in through the usb connection and the performance of that seems better (and it also runs cooler) – but it’s all added cost and faff.

Hopefully new battery technologies will be coming along to improve matters, but currently it seems to be a case of always keeping adaptors/extra batteries on me just in case.

Rene’s right though, batteries don’t last long because you’re not using it as a phone, you’re using it as a computer. Since I bought my “new” Blackberry Pearl 9105, I realised that the tiny screen and keypad meant that the battery lasts so much longer than my previous HTC Desire, which always has to power a shiny touchscreen.

And, most importantly, I realised that most of the time, I don’t need the internet on the move. It doesn’t work on the train, mobile networks are extremely unreliable and I’m not a twitterer.

At home, I now use an ipad to browse the web, the Pearl’s browser is absolutely fine if I need to use it on the move, but the battery lasts so much longer in general it’s quite alarming.

hoppingpinkrabbit says:
11 July 2012

Its not just the battery life when first used, its the fact that all batteries worsen with time and use. What was about a day when you first purchased it becomes half a day and then maybe a few hours by the time you have come to the end of your 24 month sentence -sorry, ‘contract’. I could understand this if all contracts were around the 12-18 month time line but infact its rare you can find a contract below 2 years these days.

You combine this with the fact that many mobiles now (HTC and Apple are two major offenders in this category) do not have interchangeable batteries -meaning you either would need to send it back and pay for an exchange at a possible higher fee -if not only due to excessive postage and insurance either way, or your pushed to give up your handset early but going without a mobile or just giving up the chance to use any data you’ve signed up and paid for.

The fact this has gone on and seems to be going on is the biggest joke, the fact that a contract is based around a mobile being able to go online, a smartphone is priced higher then many other devices- laptops, TVs and desktops included in some cases makes this almost unbelievable. Is this an oversight or are they just trying to enforce the idea that you need a new mobile every 1-2 years? I’m beyond being amazed at the lack of thought within the battery issue problem and now thinking its more of a conspiracy to make sure you keep on spending.

Bob says:
2 August 2012

Like others, I’m disappointed that the market for smartphones seems to have settled on charging at least once a day. The next logical point is every other day. I accept the phone would have to be thicker and heavier. My ways of coping are:

* Have multiple means of charging:
** charger at home
** charger at work
** charger in your car
** charger via laptop/pc lead
* Reduce usage when in car or on train. Connections when moving between cells use more energy than stationary connections.
* Don’t leave applications running, particularly those that use the network
* Reduce screen brightness
* Use the Opera browser – I believe it’s more efficient in terms of data transmission

What’s wrong with it being thicker and heavier? At least let us have this as an option.

I have just watched ” Click ” Batteries included.
” Greenify ” ” Battery Doctor ” and ” Du Battery Saver ” were mentioned as Apps to prolong your batteries daily performance.
I am an admitted technological fossil, still mesmerised by the capabilities of the old fax machine, so I don’t know what I am talking about, I am just passing on info that may or may not be useful.
I have googled the above for a very brief read and see that they are for android phones.
I am the proud owner of an iphone 4s, given to me by my 10 year old grandson, who in turn had been given it by his mother when she renewed her contract and received an upgraded phone, so the info isn’t any use to me.
If you don’t want to watch all the programme, the info is about 16 minutes after the start.

Battery technology has not kept up with the things that are powered by battery . Those “improving” tech . all the time selling things with small “improvements” should be spending their large profits on battery improvements not on silly useless so called “improvements”