Are features leaving our batteries behind?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: July 15, 2012

As we start adopting new features into our lives, whether it’s brought on by new software or a new device in general (with new software, usually), the one thing that some people don’t seem to take into account is battery life. For example, when a new device is announced, we wait on pins and needles to hear how big the battery is, and if we hear what seems like an acceptable number, we’re content. But that battery’s size is all well and good for the average user, the person who may not use all the new features or even use their phone all that often.

What about the people who want to use all the cool new features, and the things that make the phone truly unique? After all, those bullet points are meant to sell the phone, so why wouldn’t the owner want to use them?

Batteries seem to be the one part of our smartphones that just don’t seem to be going anywhere. What’s worse is that manufacturers seem perfectly content on putting the smallest battery they can into a phone and calling it good. Sure, it will get you through a day if you don’t use it, but I would have imagined manufacturers would have liked for us to use the things we buy. Call me crazy, I guess.

The exception, as it stands right now, would be the DROID RAZR MAXX by Motorola. The device’s sole differentiating feature from the original DROID RAZR is its battery, and that’s more than enough for Verizon to keep it at its $300 price point for those willing to sign a new, two-year contract. It should also be the benchmark for other manufacturers to go on.

Because the features we’re putting into our phones seem to be outpacing our batteries, more so than ever before. We have features that keep our phones awake in some fashion or another, even if the display is off. We have phones that are thinking ahead, even without our direct input. With software like Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and Google Now, the phone is always trying to stay one step ahead of you, and that means it has to be working to do that.

Or the Galaxy S III. When I first turned on the phone I made sure that I could speak to the device even if the display was off, so I could either unlock the handset or just start talking directly to S-Voice. I noticed I wasn’t getting that great of battery life (even after I had to work to get 4G LTE deactivated), so I turned that particular feature off. Imagine that: battery life was extended just a bit. I shut off all motion controls, too, and that managed to get me a bit more time with my battery life as well.

The Galaxy S III comes with a 2100mAh battery. For the average user, the person who doesn’t use their phone all that often, that will be more than enough power to get them through the day. So the argument would be: But the average user doesn’t need all that power, so why should the manufacturer care about putting a larger battery in their phone?

Well, as Verizon and Motorola have shown, a larger battery calls out to the consumer. Verizon is still selling DROID RAZR MAXXs, and they are doing so with the highest price point attached to it, even as newer phones launch for a lesser price. People want bigger batteries, and it has nothing to do with just the number attached to it. Because you can see the difference between a Galaxy S III with its 2100mAh battery, and the DROID RAZR MAXX’s 3300mAh battery.

The difference in longevity is obvious, you can see it. And for those with the DROID RAZR MAXX, they can keep playing with their phone while the rest of us are left to stare at a blank screen, or hustle to find a way to charge our devices.

This is obviously a moot subject when we talk about phones that get upgraded software, because it isn’t like Verizon is going to send you a new, larger battery for your Galaxy Nexus if you upgrade to 4.1 Jelly Bean. But this should be the precedent for any new phones coming down the pipe that have features that consume battery life. Everything we do on our phones consumes battery, whether it’s a small percentage or a big one, it all whittles down the life of our phone one percentage at a time. So while these new features are great (because they truly are), please give us a larger battery in our devices so we can experience them more often, and for longer periods of time.