Does the PlayStation Vita's terrible battery life spell doom for mobile phones in the future?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| September 17, 2011

When we’ve talked about gaming in the past, it’s been mostly about the hardware, or more often than not about the software. Or where companies like Nintendo stand in the light of Apple’s dominance in the app situation. But, Sony recently broke the news regarding their upcoming portable gaming device’s battery life, and the news isn’t good. Actually, considering that the device is set to launch in 2012 here in the States, I can honestly say that the battery life situation for Sony’s next-gen portable are downright abysmal.

First, a little background. What I’m talking about, for those of you who’ve been out of the loop of the mobile gaming market, is Sony’s PlayStation Vita. It’s all “next-gen” and what not because of the specifications that Sony’s shoved into this thing: a 5-inch OLED touchscreen display; an ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core processor; 512MB of RAM and 128MB of video RAM; a touchable back panel; microphone; rear and front-facing camera; gyroscope; and accelerometer. Basically, if it sounds like a future phone to you, then you’re not that far off. A lot of the specifications our phones have are shared with the next portable gaming console from Sony, and that’s actually the focus of this article.

Why? Because yesterday Sony revealed that the PlayStation Vita’s battery life can have only 3 hours of playtime, even after a full charge. And yes, you read that right. Three hours. Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself that that’s with everything turned on, the brightness of that five-inch display turned all the way up, and every other feature you can possibly think of running in the background. Nope. This three hour battery life is with the display’s brightness turned about half-way (or as Sony put it, default settings), Bluetooth turned off, and Wi-Fi turned off. So, basically, you’re not actually using the Vita to any part of its potential – you’re just playing a game on it.

The Vita is powered by a 2,200mAh battery, which for our phones would be a dream come true right now. But, if you were lucky enough to read Alex’s report on rumors regarding the Samsung Galaxy S III, then you know powerful batteries like that are going to be part of the norm, and not the exception (we can hope, at least). In fact, the Galaxy S III’s battery is rumored to be 2,250mAh. Not a huge jump from what Sony’s Vita will have under the hood.

So, Samsung’s next Galaxy S device will have a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED III display, and a quad-core processor. It will also have WiFi, Bluetooth, an accelerometer, and probably a gyroscope (I don’t know why it wouldn’t?). It’ll also have a rear and front-facing camera. So, other than the back touch-panel on the Vita, we’re looking at pretty similar, if not exactly the same specifications. Should we really start considering that the Galaxy S III, and other phones like it that launch next year, are going to have battery lives like this? Three hours, after a full charge? That’s not okay. That’s not okay at all.

That’s three hours of playtime, 5 hours of video playback, and 9 hours of music playback. Oh, but let’s be clear: that’s 9 hours of music playback in standby mode. So, you can’t actually use your Vita while you’re listening to music and expect to get nine hours. Nope, that’d be ridiculous. Is Sony actually proud of this battery life? And, should we as consumers actually be excited about the fact that we’re bringing these portable devices around with us, but actually not being able to use them, to the fullest extent that we’d like? Or, that the manufacturer would probably like? I can’t see why we would be.

So, I’m going to go ahead and say that the PlayStation Vita, despite having some of the most gorgeous specification lists out there, will more than likely not go over too well. Especially not when we’ve got our mobile phones, which last longer, but are already doing more, right out of the box. I’m actually scared to see if the 3G-connected version of the Vita is any worse for battery life. And what happens when you do have WiFi on? Do you just get to play the thing for like 30 minutes? Ooh, that sounds like fun.