Android batteries

In the news business, it's what we call a "no shit" headline.

  • Samsung aims for better smartphone battery life in 2012
  • Samsung promises better battery life in 2012
  • Samsung aiming for extended battery life in 2012
  • Samsung pledges a full day of life on single charge for 2012
  • Samsung aims for all-day smartphone batteries in 2012
  • Samsung looks to beef up batteries and tweak radios in 2012 for extended life
  • Samsung joins the fight against short battery life, promises 2012 phone will be all-day strong for most users
  • Samsung promises full day of battery life for 2012 smartphones
  • Samsung commits to increasing smartphone battery life in 2012, hopes for all-day use

Every one of those headlines comes today from rereporting a CNET story  -- a story from Jan. 12 at that -- with a single direct quote from Samsung VP of product innovation, Kevin Packingham. (Note to self: Maybe pare down your Google Reader feeds a tad. Things are looking a wee bit similar.) Packingham said "When you wake up to when you go to bed, we don't want you feeling anxiety about your battery life." The transition to the quote says Samsung's goal for smartphones coming out this year is all-day use under average to moderately heavy use. It's a great line. And it's hardly new. And I still have no idea what average to moderately heavy use is. It's different for all of us.

From the beginning of smartphone time, manufacturers have sought better battery life. Carriers have sought better battery life. Customers have sought better battery life. Hell, from the first moment humans harnessed fire and started carrying it around with torches (early experiments with fire in a cup ended pretty horribly), we've wanted more bang for our buck. So what, exactly, in that one line quote from Samsung has changed in the 17 days since 2011?

We suppose it could be argued that nobody cared about battery life last year. Just look at the initial crop of 4G LTE phones for that statement to be relatively true. Except it's not true. Not in the least. We're not engineers (as anyone who managed to pass high-school algebra will tell you). But we're willing to bet that power consumption is among the top three factors that go into smartphone design. And while battery life certainly was traded for data speeds (more accurately, radio power consumption, we reckon) of the early 4G LTE devices, to suggest that the likes of Samsung, Motorola, LG and HTC didn't care about battery life for the entire year and will just now pay attention to it is ridiculous. Besides, think back to all of the updates your phone's gotten. How many of them included lines about "Improved battery life" in the changelog?

That's not to say that some sort of paradigm shift in mobile battery technology isn't sorely needed. It's great that manufacturers are cramming more cells into smaller spaces -- like what Motorola's doing with the Droid RAZR MAXX, and what we presume we'll see the other manufacturers do as well. But that's just moving the wall a little farther away, not finding away up and over it, which is what really needs to be done. Some of that will be done on the software side, with improvements to the operating systems and well-coded applications. But most of the innovation will be done on the hardware side. If Intel can do what it's promising with its Atom processor in phones, we might finally see some movement. Dual- and quad-core processors are steps in the right direction. But what we really need is some sort of Mr. Fusion for smartphones. Something to really change the way we power our phones.  

Anyhoo, yes. Samsung's working on better battery life in 2012. So is Motorola. So is HTC. So is LG. So is Lenovo. So is ASUS. So is Toshiba. So is NVIDIA. So is Qualcomm. So is Intel. Everybody is working on better battery life, every day of the week. Right now we just have to be content with baby steps. 


Reader comments

Editorial: Everybody always is working on better battery life


Working on it? funny ... Battery life is just fine as long as these manufacturers would stop cheaping out and include a larger battery. Selling small batteries with the option of extended batteries is a profit model just like gaming accessories. It's shady, and luckily for us, Motorola may have just ended it by releasing the MAXX. I am pretty sure the MAXX will set a new standard for battery size. Samsung and HTC have no other option but to match it now. Work on that.

the iphones batteries are 1400mah, while most android phones come with at least 1500mah.

extended batteries are not normal sized, they obviously jut out from the back and require the use of an adapter backing to use.

the problem is not the battery size.

They don't jut out the back or need an adapter backing. Or they wouldn't if the phone was designed to have that as the standard battery. The problem is that as they succeed at needing less space to provide the same amount of power they decrease the size and keep the power the same as opposed to leaving the size as it is and increasing the amount of power they have. Just look at how often advertisements for phones show of how thin the new phone is compared to how often they say the battery life is longer.

Exactly ... my reasoning for using the MAXX as an example ... it is using a 3000+ battery and it is still a slim phone. If Moto can do it, everyone can too.

I have to agree with most of what you have said regarding battery life. I have one question.. I have a HTC Desire HD personal phone and a Work provided HTC HD 7 phone. Both phones have very similar hardware specifications and form factor. However the Windows Phone 7 HD7 phone tends to get at least 1/2 a day better battery life when compared to my Desire HD. I use my work phone all day and my android phone on the way to and from work on the bus/train.. so the number of "on hours" for each device is about the same.

I've tried several different android custom roms and all of them improve the battery life over the standard HTC provided firmware.. Yet it is still nothing compared to the HD7 running Windows Phone 7.5.

So the comparison is fair I only run a clock widget with no facebook sync or anything like that. I know i've read that people claim it's because android doesn't offload to the GPU but I can't really believe that the difference is that much for a GPU.

I've spent the last month diagnosing what actually uses processing power on the device and it really seems like the garbage collection takes the bulk of "idle cpu" when the screen is not on.. I am wondering if Google made the right choice going with a Java like system from a power perspective? Both WP7 and IOS have "native code" apps which generally don't do garbage collection.

IOS and WP7's major advantage in terms of battery life comes not from a specific aspect of their software design, but the fact that they both exert a lot of control over the hardware the device is offered on. IOS obviously has 100% control over the hardware and Windows Phones have a very specific list of specs and limited hardware support that the manufactures must comply with to release a windows phone, that's why each generation of windows phones all seem relatively the same spec wise.
With tighter control over the hardware it becomes much easier to optimize the limited hardware variations.
Also windows phones don't have skins, their isn't an additional layer of customization's added to the phone that may or may not be well optimized, in my experience AOSP android tends to have much better battery life compared to skinned versions from the OEM's

I always complain that my HTC Evo battery life sucks... It's good to know that it's really always being worked on, but I also think that battery life needs a major improvement cuz lil baby steps will be out run by all the extra stuff taking away battery life that's put on new devices.

I don't even go to CNET anymore, it seems when they write articles,they take out any intelligent parts, and put in a dumb infograph.
EDIT: Looking at you, author who's name is similar to Hollywood.

I want a battery life of 0 minuets! Fuel cell with a fill via cheap butane lighter fuel. 1 week of power for a 10 second fill for $0.50!

/until then I'll keep my 3500mah Evo batt.

Battery life is a technology pipe-dream, it's not up to these phone manufacturers, but to the people that actually make the batteries. Everyone in the industry that uses a battery wants more, but the actual manufactures know where the limits are and we'll get it when they do.

No, it's up to the phone manufacturers/designers and not the battery designers. Was it the battery manufacturer who decided how large of a screen or what types of antennas to put in the phone? No. It is the phone manufacturers that choose what goes into the phone (and how much power that is going to drain), and which battery to use. Look at how many android phones have the option to buy an extended battery for them. Why didn't the phone manufacturers choose to have that as the standard battery? Because they decided having a thinner phone was better then having a longer lasting battery.

Does a radio transmitting data fast use more battery than a radio transmitting data slow? Not a radio engineer, so just asking...

The carrier is on for the full duration, a fast transmission uses less duration, so it should all balance out even if it Did require more power to modulate the carrier more rapidly. Seems to me it should be a wash.

No car analogy is pertinent to radios, so maybe we need a water pipe analogy?

It's more about the age of the radio tech I think, they've been making 3G radio's for years and battery life has gradually improved, if you look back several years people were complaining about horrible battery life when 3G phones came out, because 2G phones lasted so much longer, eventually they will produce more and more efficient LTE chips

Vacuum tubes are to microchips what Li-ion batteries are to what's really needed in modern electronic devices. Hopefully we will see a game-changing revolution in battery technology in the next few years...

I remember how Apply owners used to tout their battery life. Then iOS 5 came along. Suddenly, we have a battery crisis on our hands.

I don't know about you, but years of gadget ethusiasm has left me swimming in USB chargers and cables. I have to imagine many people out there are the same way. I'd rather have a thin phone that needs a midafternoon boost than a brick with a 4000 mah battery.

"I remember how Apple owners used to tout their battery life. Then iOS 5 came along. Suddenly, we have a battery crisis on our hands."

Software plays a HUGE role in battery life. With light to medium usage, my Captivate will end the day with 65-85% (samsung-based gingerbread ROM), 40-60% (CM7.1), or 50-70% (teamhacksung ICS/CM9).
That's with a 1500mAh battery.

Every version of android brings significant improvements in battery life, but with the way US carriers handle updates (I'm looking at you, AT&T), combined with the customizations of the manufacturers, most phones aren't running the latest version of android, and they have all sorts of stuff added to slow things down.

The battery life "problem" isn't the fault of android, it's the fault of the software developers at the manufacturers.

Not necessarily the Manufacturers fault , I mean from what I reed , Motorola Smart Actions does wonders with the RAZR

Plus , It depends on what kind of battery the OEM stuffed in the phone , i.e. HTC had 1230 on the Desire HD\Inspire 4G & add to it Sense (I never had an HTC phone , but from what I reed) it kills the battery quickly . In the other hand I've an ATRIX & I can last about 3 days in one charge (Wi-Fi 18 hours a day , plus some gaming , THD to be exact)

I think the Battery issue is depending on how the OS is made , i.e.

My brother & my Sister both have BlackBerry Torches (BB OS 6.1)& they charge it Twice a day

My Father have an iPhone 3G (iOS 3.3.4) & he is a heavy user (The phone is always on 3G or Wi-Fi , but neither is off) , with phone calls & Emails through the day , he only charges it at night (But NOT over Night)

I've a nokia E75 (Symbian OS) as second phone (Which comes with a 950Mah battery) barely lasts 2 days on Battery saver without Wi-Fi

My Atrix (2.3.4) can last up to 3 days on a single charge with the stock battery

I'd rather the 4000 mah battery came standard. If I'm capable of having it sit in a charger for an hour or so in the afternoon it's because I'm either at the office or at home. If I'm at the office or at home I can browse the internet, check email, chat and everything else off of a real computer and I have little use for my phone. I need to use my phone mostly when I'm not somewhere with a computer (and as such without access to charging). I can't imagine BestBuy employees looking to kindly at anyone who has been sitting in the computer department for an hour and charging their phone off of one of the display computers.

Specifically, I use my phone when I'm out shopping, driving long distance, camping, running errands and traveling. These are all the times my battery takes significant hits and also when I can't charge my phone (driving long distance is normally to places I rarely go and I need my GPS plugged in since it is better at giving me directions before I need to turn and not 3 seconds too late).

I think they just need more options, create more razr maxx type phones and still create the ultra thin phones for people who don't mind charging constantly, that way everyone is happy.

Isn't the point of a smartphone that it is wireless and portable? Having to charge it constantly means you are tied to one spot (granted that spot can move from home to car to office), at which point isn't a landline and a desktop the same thing except more powerful?

I have USB cords at the office, in the vehicle, at home and usually something is charging on one of the cords. Bluetooth headphone, bluetooth stereo headphones, Droid X, Nook. All I can say is I'm glad they all use the same micro USB plugs.

Yea , Car chargers can become real handy , I've one , I charge my Atrix , my sister's Torch & used to charge my old iPod touch in it , Anyhing goes ... expect my stupid Nokia E75 , it won't charge via Micro USB

Pledging a full day of use? I already get that on my Fascinate.

Sometimes don't charge til the next day, even. Good stuff.

Better battery life also depends on improved battery technology. What battery manufacturers are working towards this? Have they said anything about this? Until then...I don't expect much.

I'm thinking better battery life is a technology that must and has to improve with any electric(car,phone,Carma ect.)that's rans off of Li-ion battery. Who every comes up with that break though will be a "RICH" man.

I disagree with this article. In my opinion battery will not get marginally improved by better code or more efficient hardware, but by cramming more cells into smaller spaces. A 3000 ma/h battery on an Galaxy S2 type smartphone would be suffiecent for most of us, given us more than enough juice to get throught the day regardless what u are doing.

Of cause being more efficient can help too! But all to often that just actually makes the wall just a little lower, but not low enough the pass over it.

One big exception is 4G. We really need more efficient 4G chips in the near future.

That is the reason I left Android to go back to blackberry. The battery life was bad. I would only get a day or a day and half from my phone. I was waiting for gingerbread for my phone but I could not get the update in time. I finally got the updated over wifi when I stopped using the phone. I even bought a bigger battery that. I miss flash content, now I just wait till I go home and use a PC. I just mostly use my phone for social networking and light web browsing.

honestly , I can't complain about the battery life in my Atrix

I get up to 3 days sometimes with Heavy Wi-Fi & some THD gaming on a Stock Battery on a single charge

Using a UK GSM Samsung Galaxy S2 with the slightly bigger 2000mAh battery (it adds about 2mm to the phone) I get nearly 48 hours on a full charge.

Today, after 37 hours (at 28% remaining) I charged my phone. That is from a well conditioned cell. With a slight modification I can also use my original 1650mAh cell with the same back.

I applaud motorola for releasing the razr max and in the short term that's what manufacturers have to do with android phone's simply provide larger battery by default, motorola has definitely proven with it's razr maxx that you can add a huge battery without making the phone look like some monster, like my tbolt when I put in my extended battery, optimization is possible on the software side, updates to my tbolt have made it possible to get through an entire day on a resound battery with light to moderate usage.
but until vastly better lte chips come out, they all need to just give in an include very large batteries, as well as not rushing products to market and spending more time testing and optimizing battery life, before releasing what in many cases, like my tbolt, a phone with beta quality software. Which surprisingly is now the best android phone I've owned once 5 months past and they got all of the bugs out of it, well to be fair HTC fixed part of their problems with the software and XDA custom rom's fixed the rest lol.

I have at my desk a ton of stuff I am also working on. But most of it I haven't looked at in weeks or even months. So saying they are working on it is pretty vague and useless.

How are they working on it?
What priority does it have?
What are they willing to give up to give us better battery life?

I am guessing it was just a slow news day and you had to throw up something on the site.