Battery life is key, but is often overlooked

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| March 7, 2013


Battery life is among the top complaints from smartphone users, including myself. When I first started using Androids my battery would last maybe 5-6 hours, and that was tough coming from a clamshell phone that could easily last a day and a half to two days before losing all battery – even after being in use for two years or so. When I switched to my iPhone 4S, I deemed it king of all smartphones at one point because the battery actually lasted a little more than a day – at least it did at first. To be perfectly honest that’s really all I needed it to last for. Just one day. What am I going to be doing with my phone while I’m sleeping? Nothing, so there’s no issues plugging it in to let it charge. But now I'm not plugging it in just once at night. I have to plug it in at least twice during a given day, and that's not with heavy use.

The problem that manufacturers don’t seem to take into consideration is that consumers need battery life that can last an entire day through its expected lifetime – which typically means two years. My iPhone 4S no longer lasts an entire day because of software upgrades and naturally time and daily use also makes the battery weaker. Had Apple included a battery that lasted two days instead of one from the start I more than likely wouldn’t have to worry about keeping travel charger with me at all times. Was it even possible to create a battery like that at the time? Yes, but the problem is we are cramming so many features into a device that the battery can’t possibly last as long as it has the potential to.

It’s like we’re so focused on pushing the ‘features’ aspect that we lose sight of the fact that our phones are worthless if they don’t last. Dual-core, quad-core, Super AMOLED HD Retina Crazy Amazing Make-You-Slap-Your-Mama Ultra display – all these things just scream abysmal battery life within a few months. I don’t care if the device can make you eggs and bacon with groundbreaking breakfast-making technology backed by Rachael Ray and can walk your dog with Smart Legs, the features will be worthless once your battery dies within a few short hours and there’s no outlet to be found. I mean yeah, at first the battery life is probably going to be decent at around a day; but inevitably you download more apps, get software upgrades with even more features, and you’re back at square one again.

Figuratively we need to be two or three steps ahead from the start when it comes to battery life.

Companies need to stop focusing on how thin they can make the device, not to mention just how many things they can cram into said device. That stuff can come later, after they figure out how to make the battery life better. I mean yeah, you’re going to have the people that would rather choose a cosmetically convenient device over a clunker that lasts three to four days, but there is also a market for people who would sacrifice vanity for a functional and reliable device.

Somebody should step up and make battery the key feature in a smartphone.  Not to say you should throw any interesting side features out the window as a smartphone would need more than just battery to sell, but I’d be interested to see how well a phone would sell if it’s main feature was a fantastic battery.

I don’t feel like it’s asking for too much. I’m not saying the entire industry has to change, but if just two or three companies could throw us a bone and make a clunker that lasts for a couple of days while running on decent specs then people who would rather have better battery life have options. Or, in the very least, make extended batteries available for these devices – kind of like what HTC did for the EVO 4G. The battery life was horrendous, but if you were willing to fork over an extra $55 you could get an extended battery from Sprint which included two extended back covers.  It might have looked kind of ugly but the phone did last through until the next afternoon for me once, after taking it off the charger at 9:30 the previous morning. The problem with that solution is that not a lot of people had cases that would fit it since it was primarily an aftermarket item, and cases are very important when dealing with just how expensive and fragile these phones can be.

Battery life shouldn’t always be an afterthought for manufacturers, coming second only to the features they can play up. With so much focus on features, even when a company includes a battery that would otherwise hold up okay for the day can be significantly reduced. We need more companies to focus on the longevity of the device. If a device can hold up well over two years, that’s what will bring customers back.

Readers, how important is battery life longevity to you? Has your device kept the same charging capacity since you've had the device, or has it changed for the worse? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Products mentioned