/ Technology

I charge you with overusing your battery

The words ‘battery life’ are usually followed by a groan as people become more and more annoyed by their gadgets grinding to a halt, but I think we’re being too harsh on our tech.

I understand the frustration; if you need to make a phone call the worst thing to see is your battery on empty.

But don’t blame the battery – blame your expectations.

Battery and power management technology is constantly improving and the newest models are producing pretty amazing results, as our latest tablet battery life tests have shown.

The new iPad was able to browse the web using wi-fi for 12 and a half hours – that’s over 12 hours of solid work without a break, which is definitely something the iPad does better than me.

Yes, some other models didn’t perform nearly as well as Apple’s tablet, but even the average tablet managed six and a half hours of web browsing. And that’s more than most people will do when they’re out and about away from a power socket.

Stop moaning about tablet and smartphone battery life

Which? Convo’s Patrick Steen has moaned about battery life on smartphones before, but we’ve found in our test labs that batteries are actually getting much better.

The only thing that is causing these batteries to run out is guess what… you. You’re using your phone too much, you’re now calling, texting, web browsing, playing games and watching videos – sometimes all at the same time!

Yes, your old Nokia might have lasted a week without charging, but your old Nokia only had to make five short calls and send 20 text messages a week. Not to mention the fact that it only had a tiny screen to keep powered.

If you want to make your new smartphone last as long as your old phone, you can. Simply turn off your power-hungry 3G, wi-fi and Bluetooth. Don’t browse the web, don’t take pictures with your gazillion-pixel camera, and don’t play games.

This might take the fun out of smartphones, but there’s a better way too – be realistic about how long your battery will last. If you’re going to be away from a plug for a long time, set the screen brightness lower, don’t tweet about everything you’re doing, and (shock horror) why not turn your phone off for a bit so you know it’ll have power when you do need it?

Smartphones and tablets now have the power and capability of laptops from only a few years ago – the fact they can last a day without recharging is incredibly impressive.

FC360 says:
8 August 2012

A few years ago I owned a smartphone from nokia that would last several days, I used to browse the web now and then but mostly I gamed on it, in fact I played on it more then I play on my current smartphone. I also listened to music on it everyday on way to college and would last about 3 days before needing to recharge, I couldn’t do that on my current phone. I have a lg p920 before I had a htc desire both had/have terrible battery life. My tablet lasts surprisingly long, 2-3 days most of the time. They make these power hungry devices but don’t include the batteries to power them.

Yes, it can be a bit odd when older devices last longer. I had sat nav on my Windows Mobile 6 device (so only 3 years old) and it worked fine and the car charged it no problem.

Then I bought a sat nav app for my new Motorola Android phone and it is so hungry that it drains the battery faster than the car charges it, meaning I have to ration its use and plan not to have too low a battery before going on a journey. Even turning down screen brightness, Bluetooth etc doesn’t help.

I am very impressed by the battery life of iPads but not with any smartphone I’ve seen. It’s one reason I bought an iPad and the main reason that I don’t have a smartphone.

It is good to hear that the battery life of smartphones is improving. Wake me up when they last for a week and I might be interested.

Battery technology might be improving, but the demands on them seem to have outstripped the benefits – with my smart phones battery now needing a recharge twice a day for example. I also find that some devices have batteries so heavily integrated that it’s not easy to replace them when their natural life has been exhausted. The expectation seems to be that mobile devices will be replaced every few years so the longevity of the battery and hence replacement doesn’t seem to matter (not a very friendly eco. approach).

The life of my smartphone battery is not a problem unless I use the phone as a sat-nav when out walking. Then the GPS drains the battery in an afternoon and in good summer weather you certainly cannot turn the screen brightness down. (And I can read a map but they do not always show the latest changes to hedges and fencing on cultivated land.)

TWeaK says:
10 August 2012

How much power does turning your phone off actually save? Sure, turning it off all day would save a huge chunk, but I think if you’re only turning it off for a short while I think this can actually end up using more battery than it saves..

When you turn your phone on it has to go through the boot process, which can mean that it’s processors are clocked up and draining more battery. It also has to search around for network connections to towers/wifi access points, which means it’ll be powering up its radio to full.

When I’m running low and worried about not having enough I tend not to switch it off; I stick it on flight mode instead. Coming out of flight mode might have the same reconnection power draw, but at least I don’t have the boot up problems. With the screen off and a phone with a good sleep mode (and no apps blocking it) you can eek out that little bit more.

To prolong active life Apple suggests deep cycling to less than 10% charge at least once per month. If you already marginalise your battery charge routinely also consider not deep cycling it too often, as this can be detrimental to battery life also, so they suggest.

anon the mouse says:
15 August 2012

Yes batteries are improving, But companies are reducing the size and power of them, so the improvements are being effectively taken away again.

Phone’s and tablets are getting more power efficient software which is where the gains are also made back by having a smaller battery, so manufacturers reduce the batterys size and power even more.

If the phones of today had the same power batteries as the old mobiles (DynaTAC’s etc) we would be measuring the battery life in days and weeks not hours and minutes.