/ Technology

Do you get stressed out by battery-sapping smartphones?

Smartphone battery

Nine in 10 people would feel stressed if their phone’s battery ran out. And yet most smartphones can’t last a day without charge. Should the next smartphone marketing battle be about battery life?

Ready for your random stat of the day? Seven in 10 smartphone users would give up puddings for a month in exchange for a fully charged smartphone, according to a survey by Mophie. I presume they’re talking about Apple and Blackberry pudding (*boom, boom!*)

And running out of juice doesn’t just cause stress – six in 10 get frustrated and one in four even feel panicked.

Part of this panic comes from not being able to make or receive calls. But our reliance on smartphones has another downfall – nearly half of Brits can only remember three phone numbers. I think it might just be two for me – my own, and my mum’s.

My Google Nexus 4 won’t get through a day without needing a charge, so if I forget to plug him in at night, I’ll suffer a day of carefully limiting my phone usage to save the last dregs of juice.

House parties have a new tradition too – iPhone users share time with a charger to pump their phone back up to full strength. The only reason I pick out iPhone users is because no-one ever asks to use my mini-USB cable for my Android phone (woe is me!).

Protection from bad batteries

So what are we doing to protect ourselves from dead phones? Our Twitter follower Amraze carries portable chargers:

And Which? Convo regular Wavechange told us last week that he keeps two phones handy. One reason is to give him a better chance of good coverage by having them on different networks. And the other is to protect himself from a flat phone.

With so many of us being frustrated with bad battery life, it raises the question of when smartphone makers will start competing on it, rather than just on speed or pixels. Of course, some smartphones are better than others for longevity – as you can find out on our sister site Which? Tech Daily – but are they breaking any new ground?

Our Tech team has tested the ‘ultra’ and ‘extreme’ power saving modes on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 respectively. See how they perform.

Are you peeved by poor smartphone battery life? Has running out of juice ever messed up your day? Or did you feel slightly liberated?


I have an additional iPhone charger for Continental Europe, which is much smaller and less bulky than a UK iPhone charger. Therefore when I travel there, it is small enough to carry around with me in my pocket.

I also carry a small battery pack which holds enough power to charge three iPhone consecutively, as I never want to run out of power. I find that it is more often friends I’m with who need it more than me though. However, it is a pain to carry in the summer when I have fewer pockets.

All these problems might be solved by Israeli start-up StoreDot’s invention: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26934932

NFH – The only problem I can see in having a high capacity battery in a smartphone or a case incorporating a battery is that it adds weight, which makes damage more likely if the phone is dropped.

Perhaps your solution of a separate battery pack is the ideal solution.

Katharine says:
12 May 2014

I have an iPhone 5S (recently upgraded from a 4S).

The 4S didn’t get through the day without a charge once it was about a year old. The 5S is better but still needs charging every night.

However I turn off ‘location services’ unless I really need it because – despite what Apple say – it EATS batteries. I also tidy up my apps often to stop them running in the background. (double click the home key then flick up any apps you’re not using).

I’d much rather have a slightly bigger phone that had a better battery….

I almost always have a charger with me, just in case.

chris lick says:
12 May 2014

I have a Samsung Note 3 with 2 additional batteries =3. I rarely plug the phone in. Interestingly I read LG may be following Samsung in offering replaceable batteries. Even if they come up with a battery that lasts 2 or 3 days, carrying a spare for peace of mind remains my goal. Oh and I have a 64 gig card in it too. 2000 songs and 250 videos!!

In an earlier Conversation, I wrote: ‘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).’ At the time I had a PAYG Nokia 3510i that I charged each weekend and only used for an occasional phone call. Rather embarrassingly, I bought an iPhone three years later. 🙂

One of my first tasks was to explore how to extend battery life and most of this was straightforward. There is plenty of advice online, but I have yet to explore this. At present I am having to charge the phone daily, or every two days if I am making little use of it. My life revolves round a laptop and not a mobile phone and it is the laptop that gets charged two or three times a day.

I still cannot believe the arrogance of Apple for making laptops and phones without exchangeable batteries. Hopefully they will wake up to the needs of their customers. In the meantime I still have a PAYG Nokia handy in case I’m caught out with an iPhone with a flat battery.

ND says:
13 May 2014

It’s much less of a problem for non-iphone users (and yet another of the many reasons I avoid iphones) because you can simply carry a spare charged battery around with you and switch batteries over whenever needed. It’s hassle to charge to 2 batteries but means you never run out of charge and only have something really tiny extra to carry around with you. I also turn off wifi/gps/bluetooth/data unless required and that preserves my battery life dramatically.

I agree. This is one of the drawbacks of an iPhone and one I was unhappy about when I switched to an iPhone four years ago. I always used to carry a spare battery with previous phones, but I’m amazed at how few non-iPhone users don’t bother to do this and still complain about running out of power.

My HTC has a battery charger which charges both phone and spare battery at the same time. I have also bought a higher capacity battery which lasts just a bit longer. Bluetooth is what saps my phone the most, since it is connected, every time I use the car. I also have a car charger but don’t use that very often. I don’t use the phone for video or music and so can get away with a night charge and have an active phone during the day. Heavy internet use quickly depletes the battery. For me, the real keyboard is the star feature of my phone and I can live with its battery limitations. I have no doubt that when the long life battery becomes available, its manufacturer will make a handsome profit from it. I also believe that there’s a great deal of R&D quietly going on….electricity is notoriously difficult to store.

There are a number of cases offered for iphones that include a rechargeable back-up battery. These seem an effective solution in extending the phone’s operating life between charges. There are a number of sites that offer to replace iphone batteries – around £25-£30. Are these no good?

£25 to £30 is way too much to replace an iPhone battery. You can order genuine replacement batteries on eBay for around £5 and replace them yourself. There are plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating how to do it, which should take between 2 and 20 minutes depending on your speed.

Thankfully it is easy to replace iPhone batteries even though Apple have not had the courtesy to allow users just to slot in a replacement.

I cannot imagine that genuine Apple batteries are available for £5, and when I asked a friend who works for an authorised Apple repair centre he told me that genuine Apple parts are not available online.

Apple use batteries from third party manufacturers. The replacement batteries on eBay are from those same manufacturers, so they are the same as replacement batteries supplied by Apple.

A lot of the electrical goods sold on eBay are counterfeit and Apple is a particular target because of the high cost of their goods. I have seen quite a few examples and read about many more. A smartphone battery stores a lot of power and anyone contemplating buying cheap replacements should read about the dangers. An iPhone battery sold for £5 probably comes with a guarantee that it is counterfeit. 🙂

I don’t know why, but I must have extended endurance. I seem to be able to go for several days without making or receiving a phone call and for two or three weeks when on holiday. A good tip is to go out without the phone, this usually works; Another one is not to give your number to anyone else; saves a lot of time. I reckon I’ve prolonged my functional capacity life by about a year already by cutting out the time wasted using a phone. When I finally expire I expect some clever-clogs will say “He was very quiet and kept himself to himself”.

John – I don’t like being pestered, so I give people my home phone number and tell them there is an answering machine if they want to leave a message. If I am out I listen to my messages periodically and call back only if the message is urgent, otherwise it can wait until the evening. The reason I somewhat reluctantly moved into the modern world and bought a smartphone was not to make or receive phone calls, which my basic phone did fine.

I suppose that as a regular contributor you are engaging in a form of social networking. Perhaps you and Malcolm might be interested in a smartphone as a way of following Which? Conversation when you are away from home. 🙂

I’m with John (I think). I use my mobile phone for what it says – phone calls away from home. It makes and receives calls, texts and takes photos (3 so far, used for wallpaper). It sits in the car in a hands-free cradle so is kept charged. It’s an 8 year old Nokia with the original battery. At home we use a landline. No phubbing for us – I wonder at people when they are out with eyes focussed on the screen in the hand – what has changed in the world that makes it so necessary see it instantly and deal with it? I suppose I’m a dinosaur, but that’s my view (at the moment, anyway – wait till the Nokia dies and my true colours will no doubt show).

Maybe those who are looking at the phones find it interesting to keep in touch with friends and family. We were promised picture phones on our landline, but it never really happened. In contrast, anyone with a smartphone can see pictures of the grandchildren or whatever. Though I haven’t used it on a smartphone, I marvel at the fact that you can make free video calls via Skype, remembering back to the days when I used video conferencing at work and it was extremely expensive to communicate with other countries.

But watch the battery does not run down. 🙁

Hi Wavechange. Absorbing though it is occasionally, I don’t feel the need to keep up-to-date with Which? Conversation and certainly wouldn’t bother with it when away from home even if I had the technology to enable me to do so. Like Malcolm, I am bemused by the modern compulsion to be constantly on the alert for a message. My preference is to remain in stand-by mode. I feel I see more of the world that way.

Thanks to both of you. For years I ran web-based discussion forums to provide support for students and to promote peer support. One of the aims was to cut down on the number of emails asking similar questions. I enjoyed the interaction and being able to achieve a lot through little effort.

As I see it, there is an important distinction between communication that can be attended to when it is convenient and that which demands urgent attention. I am comfortable with email, voicemail and discussion forums, but am not keen on phone calls and messaging, both of which I see as intrusive. Though I am only a recent convert, a smartphone helps me use my preferred form of communication.

Being a shade more serious for a moment, although I suspect there was a hint of humour in the headline to this Conversation, it is worrying that people actually are becoming stressed out over the performance and capabilities of their devices, and the extra money they are having to spend to stay connected. The object of many of these goods was to make life less of a pain, bring us closer together with our firends and families, and do useful things at times when we might otherwise be unoccupied or doing something robotic. Is it going too far to say that the technology has turned against us, and given us more problems than we ever had? Are we creating new generations who cannot remember more than three numbers because all their contacts are de-numerated [if there is such a word]? I hardly ever look in the directory on my mobile phone because I can remember the numbers of most of my usual contacts, three taxi firms, and several other local numbers and it’s my habit to key in the numbers each time in order to retain the functionality and keep the little grey cells up to speed.

I remember the days when business used the post, wired telephones (with operator-connected overseas calls) and telex. These communication methods were relatively slow and gave you chance to gather your thoughts and collect information before composing a considered response. But then we entered the instant world – texts, emails and web information that responsible individuals felt they had to respond to quickly – 24 hour business. It cannot be avoided if you are to be competitive in business, but it does have a significantly harmful effect on many peoples’ social lives. Once you could leave work behind in the evening, weekends and on holiday; not now. But there is no turning back. The pity is, public bodies do not seem to recognise this required immediacy – as illustrated in the current government complaints conversation. The other shame is, many seem to have to run their private affairs in the same way. Switching off to read a good book, get stuck into the garden, make something in the garage, seem to be losing out to a virtual world. As we are in these conversations…………………..

Patrick, tongue in cheek. As soon as my trusty old Nokia fails I will no doubt join the phubbing world. This is all really no different I suppose to having a chat to put the world to rights in the pub. Except there is lack of human contact – something that is missed. For all I know you may be a virtual employee.

That’s a very deep philosophical question. I don’t know – do any of us? Back to topic – how many would choose to be buried with a mobile phone (when the time comes) and what can you do about battery life?

I agree with Malcolm R. A watching brief on replacement batteries, and devices that can actually use them, would be useful. I am not totally convinced that all batteries that are on the market are necessarily the equal of the original batteries – perhaps in some cases they are better!!!

However Which? is the only organisation with the money to commission the research and hearsay alone is not sufficient. But if cost is a problem why not use the reviews area and allow clearly identified products to be placed by subscribers with a template of information to accompany the initial posting?

I have bought 4 replacement batteries for camera, hand phones, and mobile, That they have all worked satisfactorily may be a comfort for other subscribers who do not necessarily feel other on-line review sites are trustworthy.

Several years ago I bought an Olympus camera and accessories from Pixmania, a company which I will never use again. I assumed wrongly that both batteries would be the same, but one was an unbranded replacement. The Olympus battery is still working after 5 or 6 years but the unbranded one died after little more than a year.

Anthony says:
16 May 2014

1) There will never be agreement, so how about CHOICE? Encourage all the makers to give us a choice between phones with more features/less battery life and phones with more battery (and are maybe heavier / bulkier but are actually available to make and receive calls).
2) Make manufacturers quote “at least” for phone battery life, not “up to”. I want to leave my phone on in an area of poor or no reception so that if I do pass through a patch with better signal I will know about it / receive messages.

Robert C says:
16 May 2014

I have a simple mobile phone and it will easily last all week when away on holiday (charging is less of an issue when at home) but by contrast my work smart-phone does much less than 2 days – so that is another bit of kit to carry. I consider smart phones over-rated (as a must have) even for business, as I have my laptop with me and can collect emails in the evening when I am not doing whatever work it was I went overseas to do. If I am to carry a smart phone I want it to be working when I have yet to get back to the hotel.
A particular case is when on long haul flights with poor connections to the far east – you really do need a phone that will work in case a connection is delayed or missed. A long battery life is essential

SFU says:
17 May 2014

My Blackberry Q10 lasts up to 2 days without a charge then fully recharges in around an hour. My Z10 is not so good – always needs charging at the end of the day. It does have a removable battery, however, so I have a spare in my laptop case for just in case.

The ubiquitous USB to Micro USB cable means that I’m never really that far from a recharge or top-up anyway.

John Humr says:
20 May 2014

You can buy battery cases for most phones now. They act just as a case for your phone would,with the addition of an extra battery charge in the actual case.just charge up your phone at night as normal and the case will charge too,giving you an additional charge when your battery is about to die.they can be got quite cheaply on a well known auction site.I managed to get one for £10 for my iphone 5s,and it works great.

I’ll try to avoid having a rant about smartphones and the way we have allowed them and other technology to increasingly take over our lives with questionable benefit. Thats probably one of the reasons the batteries do not last as long, more use? Mine is one of the cheapest and smallest available and after a year the battery seems to be deteriorating, needing a charge up every 2 days if lucky. I probably get away with that time because I’m not constantly using it as a smartphone so apps are not continually updating themselves as I believe they do if not switched off which mine are inc GPS, WiFi etc. Additionally I have turned screen brightness down which also seems to help. You could argue, why have one then? Thats a very good question.

Paul Greenwood says:
20 May 2014

HTC lost my smartphone business top Samsung when they moved to non replaceable batterries aka Iphone. I currently have a Samsung S4 with an Anker extended battery of about twice the Samsung standard capacity. This will end a full days use with at least 30 % left. Hence I just recharge every night. If Samsung also moved to fixed batteries I would be lost as to what to do or endup carrying a back up charger battery around.