On June 1, Google sent out its latest "Feature Drop" update to Pixels with a few notable additions — but for Pixel owners, nothing was as important as a promise of improved battery life. Several days later, we got the Android 11 Beta as well — and while it doesn't have any explicit battery life improvements, it presumably at least has the Feature Drop changes and whatever small efficiency improvements that have been added to the Android 11 code base up to this point. Between both updates, I was cautiously optimistic that my Pixel 4 XL's battery life would be at least somewhat improved.
Sadly, it's not. It's still bad.
I was using my Pixel 4 XL for a few months straight before getting the June update, which gave me a great baseline of what I could expect from its battery. I then, of course, continued to use it for the 10 days between the Feature Drop and the Android 11 Beta arriving. Both with the June update, and now with the Beta, I have seen roughly zero change in the battery performance of my phone. And right now, it's actually pretty easy to compare: my routine is effectively the same every day, and I spend a lot of time indoors on Wi-Fi, especially during the workweek.
The battery life improvements from this new software were supposed to come via changes to the Adaptive Battery feature, which is a system-level tool that follows your usage and makes tweaks to extend the battery. Its explicit function is noticing when there are apps you don't use often but are still running in the background, and then restricting them. But with its vague wording and marketing message, Google has made it sound as though Adaptive Battery is doing at least something beyond that — presumably in little areas that are supposed to add up to save precious power.
The system makes sense, even at its most basic level of just restricting some apps from running in the background, and is something that isn't unique to Pixels — companies with customized Android builds have been doing this for years. The problem with Adaptive Battery is that it just doesn't seem to make a difference — not before, and still not now.
Even with the latest software, the Pixel 4 XL is still a consistently poor battery performer. I have always had my phone set to turn on Battery Saver automatically at 20%, and even now when I'm mostly on Wi-Fi, and at home, I still hit Battery Saver nearly every day. That's with around 3 hours of "screen on" time and no significant usage like gaming — just my usual reading, notifications, messaging, and social media. On days where I go out for long runs playing music over Bluetooth, or I'm using more mobile data than usual, I can count on pushing the phone down into the single digits before bed. If I want to put in a little Call of Duty session, or use the hotspot, I will have to charge before the end of the day.
Despite Google's AI prowess and full control over the Android software stack, it still doesn't seem to be able to manage battery drain — even including the latest changes that explicitly focus on it. The Pixel 4 XL's battery drops at effectively a flat rate ... lengthy bouts of inactivity, or lighter use, don't seem to help at all. Turning off Motion Sense gestures (which is no significant loss) doesn't noticeably help. Anything outside of just using Battery Saver mode more feels like a lost cause.
Google just hasn't been able to strike that balance between making the phone perform well, and conserving power wherever possible. Having only 3700mAh to work with puts the Pixel 4 XL at a disadvantage, but apparently software tweaks aren't enough to make up the gap, though, of course, the OnePlus 7T does dramatically better with just 100mAh more.
For all of Google's strengths in software on the Pixel series, and with how far it's come in general performance and stability, battery life remains a major issue. Clearly more than just tweaks to Adaptive Battery are required to get battery performance where it needs to be.
To Android 11 and beyond
Still the best Google software experience, and an incredible camera
The Pixel 4 XL's shortcomings in specs and battery life haven't changed with time, but the price has come down. And this is still an excellent experience, with a fantastic camera and the latest Android 11 software.
Have you listened to this week's Android Central Podcast?
Every week, the Android Central Podcast brings you the latest tech news, analysis and hot takes, with familiar co-hosts and special guests.
Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.
I thought I'd had some kind of brain fart, after looking at the images. 3hrs SOT, for the XL is just embarrassing. Still amazes me that a company that bought Motorola, and part of HTC, seem jus incapable of producing a "complete" phone. Seriously, it's an ad agency, and not a lot more.
Wow. I remember SOT times like that back with my Galaxy S3.
P4XL owner here. There's clearly something not right with your device. As I am typing this I am on 51%, 3:34 SOT and last charged 24h ago. For me the "Android system" consumed only 6%, "Phone idle" is on 4% for a much longer period and the Ambient display is not even showing up in the top 10. Is that for the always on display? I have that turned off as I hate it :) The rest about matches with what I see. I am doing the same "usual reading, notifications, messaging, and social media" Not saying it's great but I constantly get between 5-6h SOT which is enough for me. Dark theme everywhere, ambient display, soli, smooth display etc on (only AOD off)
Yes I agree, after the June update I noticed a dramatic difference with my 4XL battery, honestly it feels like almost double in my case. I tested this that same day I got the update I was at 80% and I went to 60% in about 2 hours or so but charged it back up after the update and it took almost 4 hours the next time around to go from 80% to 60%. Even now way later I charge it to about 90% and I can be on and off it all day and by nightfall it's still around 50% give or take when it used to be closer to 20
I was going to reply the same. I am a P4XL owner as well and do not have the battery life issues that you are dealing with. It is just after 6 pm and I took my phone off the charger this morning a bit before 7 am. After a bit over 11 hours, I am at 70% battery and have been using the phone regularly for reading, calls, messaging, watching YouTube, and playing games. I am currently at 2:57 SOT. I do use dark theme everywhere as well.
I consistently get between 5-6 hours of SOT during a typical 18ish hour day and I'm not doing anything special to manage battery life. This is when I was traveling too and on cellular. Now that I'm on wifi all the time, it really doesn't use hardly any battery idling.
Software can't fix a small battery.
Not sure what your doing with the P4XL as I'm consistently getting 5hrs SOT and battery drain isn't much off from my iPhone 11 Pro Max. I turned Soli off and that made a huge difference for my P4XL. I take my unit off charge at 7am and do not charge up again until 11pm and at that time battery is around 35-42%. So plenty left in the tank and I am a heavy user of my device.
The funny thing is that the battery life is extremely good on the pixel 3A series. Let's hope that the Pixel 4A when it comes out doesn't have the same problems with battery life as the Pixel 4.
Well this is amusing. I'm at 27 hours of runtime with 24 hours of battery left, and most of my use has been gaming and YouTube. Heavy games too, ones that my iPhones struggle with. But then, I don't have a Pixel...
Get the best of Android Central in in your inbox, every day!
Thank you for signing up to Android Central. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.