Nexus 5 camera

Battery life is one of those areas of smartphone performance that’s difficult to quantify. Synthetic tests rarely reflect real-world performance, and it takes time to get a feel for how a new phone stands up.

We’ve been using the Nexus 5 as our daily driver for the past few days — just about long enough to get a good idea of how the battery performs in regular day-to-day use. In a word — or two —  it’s good enough. Acceptable. OK, but not great. And certain tasks in particular seem to draw an inordinately large amount of juice from the phone’s 2300mAh reserves.

We’ll take a closer look after the break.

During our first full day of testing the Nexus 5, we managed just over 12 hours of moderate-to-heavy use before hitting the 19 percent warning level. That’s with mixed use consisting of browsing and social app use over Wifi and HSPA+, heavy use of the camera, a little music streaming over Google Play Music and a couple of brief phone calls. We had Google+ Photo Backup and Dropbox auto-upload enabled during our testing, but only set to kick in when connected to Wifi. By the early evening — around 9 hours in — we were approaching 35 percent charge remaining. With more conservative use in the evening we managed to push it to 12 hours before connecting the charger. That’s about average for an Android smartphone. Good enough, but some way off being great.

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Battery lifeBattery life

Subsequent days have reinforced our findings — the Nexus 5 has great idle performance, but guzzles down juice with the screen on. It’s not surprising that using your phone takes more power than not using it, but that effect seems to be amplified on the Nexus 5. Today we’re at 45 percent remaining with nine hours of mixed use, and you can clearly see the fast drop-off in charge while the screen was on and the CPU was churning for long periods of time.

The Nexus 5’s camera in particular seems to be a massive battery sink. Around an hour of snapping photos on-and-off was enough to consume a quarter of our device’s charge. Same deal with heavy web browsing and app use over HSPA+. Android’s built-in battery monitor calls out the display as the biggest battery hog and that’s not surprising. The Nexus 5 (and KitKat in general, it seems) ramps up its brightness more aggressively than previous versions when set to “auto” — which is a good thing for visibility and display quality, but not so great for longevity.

Nexus 5 wireless charging

The phone’s built-in wireless charging capabilities are also worth mentioning, especially if you’re working at a desk for long periods. The Nexus 5 works with Qi-compatible chargers, so plopping the phone down on a wireless charging pad while you’re not using it is a great way to make sure you’re always topped up while indoors. What it’s absolutely not, however, is a substitute for a larger-capacity battery.

We’ll continue to test out the Nexus 5 this week, as we prepare our full review, and we’ll have more to say on battery life in the days ahead. For now we can safely say the phone’s longevity is comparable to the Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus, but certainly no better. And we can’t help being just a little disappointed by that.

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