Will other Android OEMs follow in Motorola's footsteps with large capacity batteries?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| February 2, 2012

One of the largest complaints with Android phones continues to be battery life. Despite dual-core processors being more efficient, AMOLED panels consuming less juice and the Android system itself being better optimized for power conservation, it's still pretty tough to make it through an entire day with an Android phone without making a half dozen tweaks and mods first or plugging up on your lunch break.

Even after flashing a custom ROM and applying the typical battery-saving mods, I still can't manage an entire day with my phone unless the display stays off the majority of the time. I usually have to use battery packs to help me through the day.

I think most of us were expecting things to be at least a little better by now. But truth be told, there have been no breakthroughs in this area – none that have made it to fruition at least – and OEMs continue to pack their phones with bigger, faster, more advanced parts without giving much thought to the relatively low-capacity battery.

In recent memory, there have been quite a few Android phones with flat out embarrassing and pitiful battery life. The ThunderBolt, for instance, was the first phone to grace Verizon's LTE network. When I had the ThunderBolt, I could only get, at most, six hours out of it, whether I was using it or not. Even after finding a workaround to switch LTE off, the phone would only last eight to nine hours, in use or on standby. The HTC Rezound has been hit or miss on battery life as well as a few LG devices and even the DROID RAZR and DROID BIONIC (remember that phone?) have been reported to have questionable stamina. Samsung is guilty, too. Every Android OEM has at least a couple (or more) devices that can't manage a full day of battery life.

It defeats the purpose of a wireless device to always be tethered to an outlet or USB port several times throughout the day. What more can you expect out of such powerful devices with battery capacities ranging from 1,400 to 1,900mAh?

There are, however, two recent devices that have broken the 2,000mAh threshold. First was the Galaxy Note, which required a large 2,500mAh cell to compensate for the giant 5.3-inch high-res display. The other launched just last week. The DROID RAZR MAXX ships with an astounding 3,300mAh battery.

Our own Aaron Baker took the RAZR MAXX and put it to the test, charging it at the end of every day. The idea was not to see how long it would take him to completely drain the battery, but to prove that it would last him a full day through abnormally heavy use. In his video review of the RAZR MAXX, Aaron reported that he has hit the 17 and 18 hour marks without killing the battery. In fact, he said he has yet to be able to kill the battery within a single day, despite heavy usage.

Hearing that immediately takes me back to the good ol' BlackBerry days where I could charge my phone on Monday and I wouldn't have to charge it again until Wednesday night, no matter how much I had used it. While I'm sure three full days might be out of reach for even the DROID RAZR MAXX, the thought of owning an Android device that doesn't have to be charged twice per day is drool-worthy.

The amazing part is that at only 9mm (8.99mm, really) thick, the RAZR MAXX is still slimmer than most other LTE devices on Verizon's network. Motorola nearly doubled the capacity of the battery while only adding 2mm of thickness to the device. That alone is impressive. Most extended battery packs that you see will turn a relatively thin device into a brick while only adding a little extra juice. As an example, the HTC Rezound is normally 0.54 inches (13.7mm) thick and comes with a 1,620mAh battery. The extended battery for the Rezound is 2750mAh but will make the device nearly three-quarters of an inch (roughly 19.05mm) thick. Yikes.

The real question, though, is: will other OEMs jump on the large-capacity battery bandwagon? Better yet, should they?

We've seen manufacturers sort of follow each other's paths for the past three years in almost every other aspect of their phones (i.e.: the transition from single-core to dual-core processors, 5- to 8-megapixel cameras and beyond, 3.8- to 4.3-inch displays and beyond, 256MB to 1GB RAM, etc.). Who's to say we won't see the same trend in battery life?

To be honest, I wouldn't hold my breath. There are some ... quirks to the way Motorola has engineered the RAZR and RAZR MAXX, sacrifices that I'm not sure other OEMs are willing to make. Unlike most Android smartphones, neither of Motorola's RAZR devices have removable batteries. They have litterally used every square millimeter of space inside the devices, and I imagine the battery packs are a little more form-fitting than your typical battery pack. HTC has a long way to go before they can even think about a comparable device at 9mm – they would have to shave nearly 5mm off of the Rezound and add nearly 1,700mAh to the battery. Samsung has thickness down to an art, but only offers about half the battery capacity, unless you jump from a 4.3- or 4.5-inch device to a monstrous 5.3-inches. Even the gigantic Note has 800mAh less than the RAZR MAXX.

All of this is certainly possible, and I would love nothing more than an Android phone that lasts a full day (or more), regardless of use. If OEMs like HTC begin focusing on quality over quantity, there's a chance that battery life could get a little more attention than it has been getting as of late. Will fewer devices and loads of pressure caused by the RAZR MAXX's stamina cause other OEMs to hop on the bandwagon? We can only hope.

What say you, folks? Has the RAZR MAXX's enormous battery and mind-blowing stamina piqued your interests at all? Do you think other manufacturers will follow suit? Would you trade the ability to swap batteries for a large, non-removable cell that would last all day? Give us your thoughts below.