Do you favor a phone's thinness over battery life?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: April 25, 2012

Late last week, HTC held their Frequencies conference in Seattle and our fearless leader, Aaron Baker, made the trek to the Emerald City. There, he learned that the Taiwanese company will finally be moving away from physical keyboards. Oddly enough, there were more people upset to see horizontal QWERTYs than one might think.

After writing about the death of the (mobile) keyboard and asking if anyone was upset to see them go, I received quite a few comments and Twitter replies from readers saying they would be upset if there were no more physical keyboards. One commenter said, "This guy [himself] likes the keyboard and will probably never buy a phone without one."

It's worth noting that HTC recognizes there is still die-hard support for physical QWERTYs, and it's safe to say horizontal sliders aren't completely dead ... yet.

During Frequencies, though, yet another interesting tidbit came up. Bjorn Kilburn, HTC VP of product strategy, said that HTC has been doing some research, specifically in the battery life department. HTC found that consumers prefer thinner devices over thicker phones with better battery life; thus, they have decided to shelve their plans for phones with cells in the 3,000mAh range.

Initially, I just brushed this off. More or less, it's exactly what you would expect to hear from a company that recently decided to dedicate a little more time and effort to their hardware design, materials and quality. It's also worth mentioning that HTC did say they were still focusing on improving battery life. But as I've explained before, simply cramming more milliamperes in a phone can cause as many problems as it solves. Instead, HTC will be focusing on using a new battery technology and "improving the way software uses battery power," says our own Alex Wagner.

After the Huawei Ascend P1 announcement at CES, which ousted the DROID RAZR as the thinnest smartphone on the market, I can definitively say that I am not at all worried about having the thinnest phone on the market. It was that moment while sitting in that conference room in the Venetian Hotel that I realized exactly where the next arms race would be: who can make the thinnest phone with the best specs.

Don't get me wrong. Thin is good. And chunky phones are something that simply should not happen anymore, no matter what.

Nearly a week later, after yet another super thin phone has slipped security and landed on the Internet, I've had a very slight change of heart about larger batteries. Early this morning, Engadget's Chinese site stumbled upon a picture of the latest phone by OPPO, a Chinese-based electronics manufacturer. The phone, which closely resembles a larger, squished iPhone, measures only 6.65mm thick. For those keeping count, that's 0.03mm thinner than the Ascend P1 S.

Honestly, it's silly. Why would anyone care that this phone – or any other phone, for that matter – is negligibly thinner than its counterparts. Where other spec races have benefited the industry in one way or another, the race for the thinnest phone is superfluous. Most smartphones are thin enough as it is – 7mm to 10mm should be plenty thin. Any thinner and fragility and comfort in the hand become a concern.

I'm not sure where or how HTC conducted their study and came to the conclusion that consumers prefer thinner phones over those with larger batteries, especially considering there are only two phones on the market with larger batteries – DROID RAZR MAXX and Galaxy Note (which I don't really count because of its physical size). Aside from those two, the only "larger batteries" in the industry are removable, extended batteries, which are almost always an eyesore. It's definitely possible that a large number of the consumers who were part of HTC's research misunderstood "larger batteries" for those unsightly, chunky extended batteries rather than thinner, built-in, non-removable batteries.

I know there were quite a few who were upset to learn that the HTC EVO 4G LTE will actually come with a 2,000mAh battery instead of the rumored 2,600mAh. And to be completely honest, I would rather all of HTC's One devices have at least 2,000mAh batteries, if not larger. When you consider the DROID RAZR MAXX (9mm), which nearly doubles the battery capacity of its next of kin, the DROID RAZR (7.1mm), while only adding a mere 2mm to its thickness, the extra juice is definitely worth the only slightly noticeable extra thickness. I'm sure few would disagree or complain about one or two extra millimeters that nearly double the battery life.

What say you, folks? Is utter thinness what's most important to you? Or would you trade a few millimeters for a full day of battery life? Likewise, is the added charge time that's associated with larger batteries an issue for you?