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Once upon a time, consumers faced a dire choice. On the one hand, we'd use our phones for a full day with no Internet access and no need to charge them for days on end. If Internet connectivity was a must, we'd lug around briefcases for laptops to connect remotely. Fast forward ten years and we've consolidated our approach to one unit: the smartphone. The phone has taken on such a paramount role in daily life that we're at the mercy of our short memory.

In short, wake up and smell the lithium; decent battery life hasn't died of natural causes, consumer expectations murdered it.

At the turn of Google's Android, we saw handsets like the HTC EVO 4G which pushed screen size to the limit at the expense of battery life. Just a few short years later and the 4.3 inch panel pales in comparison to the 5 inch 1080p monstrosities of 2013.

The year thus far has brought many pro's and con's of new smartphones, with each OEM seeking our dollar because of their handset's features. For the most part, manufacturers have done a great job answering consumers. Among the Galaxy S 4's 5 inch Full HD Super AMOLED 1080p display and HTC One's BlinkFeed, manufacturers have even managed to bump up battery capacities to boot. In exchange, they've standardized software and hardware features along the way.

But between streaming the Miami Heat's Harlem Shake video and creating Vines, it seems we've lost sight of what we're getting in exchange for a solid day of battery life.

It's easy to write off 3G, LTE, and standby times of a smartphone because they're generally far from the truth. In day to day use, a smartphone's ability to connect to a network and the temperature of the external environment negatively affect battery life. The tests OEM's conduct are no doubt strenuous, but they're not indicative of daily usage. In other words, I have faith in the testing environments these tests are conducted in, but there's no better way to measure it than to see how it fares under your usage.

But connectivity isn't the only true battery drainer. Quad-core GPU's, and Full HD 1080p screen resolution aren't helping the cause either.

Sometimes smartphone batteries last long enough for their user to forgo criticism of a device. For others, not so much.

In the oh-so-common instance when you don't have the option to charge your phone up, why is it immediately the manufacturer's fault? To those who have said any of the following: "Non-removable batteries are the worst," or "I shouldn't have to charge my phone every night," I say to you: get real. The real issue negatively impacting battery life is consumer expectations.

A few weeks ago, I tampered with the clock speed and voltage of my smartphone. The end result was immeasurable in difference from stock clock speed and voltage settings. But that's not to say it wasn't worth it. I've kept the custom settings because it has helped me get through my work day with around 20% remaining after being off the charger for 9 hours. The problem is I am no longer in a position to criticize my smartphone for a few reasons.

The first reason is how often I use it. I abuse it. At any given moment, I am syncing two Gmail accounts, two Twitter handles, Facebook, Google+, Dropbox, Drive documents, texting around 200 messages a day, and surfing the Interwebs. In short, I'm a power user. Thankfully, my daily dose of connectivity is fueled by my position here at PhoneDog. Otherwise, I'd consider myself addicted to technology. (Clearly, I'm not addicted.) For those who think my usage is normal, I don't think you compute the argument. I don't expect all day battery life because I use my smartphone. 

The point is, at all hours of the day, I'm limited by the 2,100mAH extended battery in my smartphone, and no matter how you slice it, it's probably never going to be enough. But the tradeoff is so much win. I'd take remote access to my entire digital footprint over having to connect to a mobile network on a laptop any day of the week. And when strictly comparing to laptops, my 9 hours of battery life is far from terrible. I fail to understand how battery life can be so harshly judged when there's so much you get in return.

If I had a smartphone like the HTC One with a non-removable 2,300mAH battery, I'd consider getting a Mophie Juice Pack, or mobile battery pack before I complained about battery life. The tradeoff for 12 hours of battery life with 20-30% life remaining as per our Aaron Baker's testing is worth all of the One's features and gripes of a non-removable battery. 

But I'm most interested to hear your take on the matter, reader. Am I completely off the mark by saying consumer expectations of battery life predispose us to disappointment? Or are our devices truly underpowered and require better battery life? What would you trade for two, three, or four days of battery life?

Image via Laptopmag


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107 Reactions to this post

"What do you consider "decent" battery life for a smartphone?"


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Thomas Boehnlein If I don't have to freak out about not having access to charger if I'm doing something after work, than it has good enough battery life for me.
Travis St John My Galaxy S2 usually last me 12-14 hours of moderate/heavy use with 2-4 hours of screen on time.
Rich Field Needs to last me at least 12 hours. If its a day or more that's perfect.
Dimanche Watson My EVO 4G LTE last 15-30 Hrs based on how use it. Of course I don't have LTE but my battery life is pretty impressive, especially when I turn on the power saver feature on
John H. Foote a day would be excellent with data usage.
Trinity Kolarova Hoodrich 12 to 24hrs a full day
Alistair Lowe With average use Galaxy S III lasts me 2.X days, with minimal use I get 3-4 easy. That's more than enough chance to charge, even if I forget. It's looking as though this'll improve on the S IV as well.
Jose Pablo Islas I should be able to make it through the day and put it on the charger at night before bed
Ian Walker My iPhone 5 battery is very decent with little tweaks and I'm pretty happy with it.
Elijah David Kleehammer I would just like for my battery to make it through a full day, meaning about eighteen hours.
Facebook user One full day. Does not matter how much is left at night at recharge
Miguel Hernandez 10-12 hours of moderate to heavy use...
Krishna Karthik 3 hours of charging n should last for a full day :-D
Wayne Hansen If you want me to read your ad please don't put a pop-up in the article...
Itzel Jeronimo The razr maxx is great and so is the iphone 5:D
Chris Graham There is no excuse in this era of smart phone tech for a phone to last less than 12 hours. If my phone is dying every 6 hours it is inexcusable in my book.
Nick Meza zerolemon 7,000 mAh battery for galaxy s3. nuff said.
Huey Liggins 12hrs of moderate use. If they can push that to 16 that would great. They way I see it you only need 16 hrs since it's best to get 8 hours of sleep. 12 is exceptional though.
Tito Cruz My Note II battery :)
Brent Stiner Four hours haha sucker
Paolo Zorilla Z10 = 4hrs of heavy usage . :p
Ruben Alicea Feliciano 10-12 hours moderate use
Mick Jetten I always upgrade my battery to a Mugen Battery! I can go almost 36 hours of moderate use and almost 24 hours of heavy use. That works for me.
Nathan Parks Decent: almost gets me to the end of my day. Good: gets me to the end of my day. Great: "i forget to plug my phone in over night but it'll be fine."
Curtis Owens I still carry around a phone from Cingular era. it can last me 2 at least 2-3 days.
Curtis Owens assume 24 hours per day.
Anthony Tat as long as it lasts till the next charge, it's enough. I charge before going bed, so it needs to last till then. charging mid-day is too short, and theres no need for it to last 2 days. its your fault if you forget to charge it
Curtis Owens best advice for battery life is 1.5 days of moderate to heavy use, that will eventually dwindle down with cycle life to 1 full day near the end of its useful life. 2 days would be better, but I can understand that market forces will cut that down. minimum is 1.5 days.
AK Sc 20 hours non-stop use
Scott Ritchey All Day...
Marshal Brown Note 2 moderate use I average 18 hrs.
Nichson Tiang Note 2. I am willing to sacrifice size, weight and bulk for a battery that last me whole day without even have to think abt where is my charger. If Samsung and Motorola can do it, there is no excuses for the rest to put the blame on consumers and keep churning out nice slim aluminium phones that we don't need.
Jesse Ling 1800mah is medium decent
Tyler Saddington 10 hours medium use
Daniel Schmitt I use the htc one x and im happy when I get about 12 hours or more. That usually will last me from when I went up till late at night at home
Brent Stiner On my 1st full charge on my Note 2 I got 40hours of battery life with 6 hours of screen time. That's double what I get out of my iPad
Virg Prekazis like 30 mins
Jeremy Carter Note 2 lol I wish the galaxy nexus had a better battery. Thats my most absolute favorite phone. Note 2 has a crappy text messaging app
Teron Facey RAZR MAXX HD any other doesn't even come close to.
Shawn Gergler Note 2 has the right battery life.
Chase Ros The answer is iPhone 5. /s
Randy Kightlinger For my style, I like at least 18 hours. I want my phone to last from early morning until I go to bed. I shut it off and charge overnight.
Frank F. Bona 6 hrs n my iphone is the best.
Binaya Khatri Since UK has 4g now the battery has max 2300mh battery so I was thinking of 5000mh for max performance on s4 etc
Nick Koval 12 hrs of nonestop use
Randy Walker Sr. I have a Note 2. I am able to get about 10 hours with moderate use and about 8 hours with heavy use. If you compare that to my 2 hour battery life of my laptop, I'd have to say it's pretty damn good. I also carry an external battery so that I'm never left in the dark. I'm not sure that I actually can fairly gripe about battery life.
Samantha Brown Mugen Power Batteries
Micca Koster I can get 18 hours of use with almost 6 hours of on screen time and still have juice before I have to plug it in. Droid incredible 4G
David Lukens 16 hours is good for me. Nexus 4.
Abram Wenevermet Dennis The only thing iv ever owned that actually gets 10 hours plus of battery life..is my iPad.
Gary Brown 26 hours but I have the droid RAZR MAXX . That's what I'm use to .
benrjohansen Depends on how we use them. I kill mine in about 9 hours and I'd say that's pretty good. I use mine a lot, and for everything.
Abram Wenevermet Dennis Lol..people will claim 2 get so many hours off a single charge.. but what they won't tell you is they either they don't use their phones much or they're rooted..
Samantha Brown Extended batteries do the same job for less Money
Hans Kwazneski Rooted RAZR Max, 3 days easy with 4g turned on
Antonio Horn Note 2 a day and a few hours
Rick Sievers Razr maxx #1 I've gone over 3 days many times. Average 2 days mostly.
Gary Bowling I have a Note 2, I love the 3100 MAH.
Luis Olivar Razr M has a pretty good battery life. I can get 2 full days with moderate/heavy use
Jonathan Kalm Havnt had decent battery life until the Note 2.
Brett Embury 12+ hours miss when I had a Razr Maxx took two whole days to kill the battery
Rick Horwat At the bare minimum at least as long as the Maxx I am posting this from.
Denver Garkie http://heyyeyaaeyaaaeyaeyaa.com
Jorge Lopez Decent? No less than 2500mah,great? At least 3000mah
Denver Garkie up vote for the heman HEYEAYEA as the background HEYEAYEA
Julian Scott Atleast 12 hours
Samantha Brown I have a 3,500mAh battery in my HTC Wildfire S :D
Henry L. Engvall 8 hours of straight use on about 66% brightness
Alfonso Manuel Avalos 21 hours with 7 on screen note 2 ftw
Edvis Mazeika Razr Maxx is good. I bought it cause of the battery. 1 day for that battery is easy and I use it a lot. The most I squeezed out of a charge was two days and couple hours. Next phone I buy has to be as good or at least close to this. Charging a phone couple times a day is ridiculous.
Judi Bryan Galaxy Note 2 rocks!!!! All day and night....
Porscha Allen I have the note 2 and the battery life is just amazing! There's times my note 2 battery lasts for atleast 3 days and thats with me texting, using apps and drawing. ( I'm not much of a caller)
French Twist Galaxy Note 2 nailed it.
Jeffrey Hanes Just get a Note 2. It lasts for daaaaays!
Andrew Lai 12 hours
Michael Brangwynne 1 day. I charge my phone next to my bed every night. Last me the day and I am pleased.
Michael K. Spears My Galaxy Nexus gets 24+ hours easily, with moderate use.
John Resch One full day of heavy use..
Michael Chapman I've never had a problem with charging my phone at night before I go to bed. But my iphone last all day and evening.
Brent Stiner The iphone 5 battery is poop. I have never seen a battery like the one in the Note 2! Apple needs to step up there game because they're falling way behind
Robert Futty We'll for one a battery life that doesn't start going to 98% the minute you take it off the charger. That wasn't a stock rom so my new rom I flashed 2 days ago has amazing battery life. Been off the charger all day with moderate to heavy use and it's at 5 percent. My last rom it'd be dead by now
Joey Drew Bucek My atrix sucks, battery lasts 14 hours with no screen time and 9 with 1 hour, all services off,although tasked is helping it
Tyler Frodl My iPhone 5 lasts all day 15 hours with 5 1/2-6 hours of use:)
Carlo Amboy Nokia 5110
Joel Diaz Note 2 battery is enough id say
Simon EK Also got a Note 2, the battery is incredible! I have a spare battery which i only ever use when flying long distances. Its the best phone i have ever owned!
Jesus E. Garcia Motorola and Samsung devices by far have the best battery life, especially the RAZR :)
Stef Tan Note 2 = whole day of heavy use = perfect
Anthony Bailey Well, I can easily go at least 24 hours with 4+ hours of screen-on time with my Samsung Galaxy Note II... and that's with moderate to heavy usage. I typically go 36+ hours using my phone, as I'm not a real extreme user. The most I've gotten on my Note II was 86 hours without a charge and 5.5 hours of screen-on time. This is the only phone that can do this, apparently. It's not at all impossible. It's cheap and tacky cell phone makers who don't want to equip phones with adequate batteries. Samsung seems to be trying to break that mold. They hit a home run in battery life with the Note II.
Brent Stiner Initial charge not additional charge
Luisito Mercado 15 hours unplugged with around 4 hours of screen-on time.... and most of it with either lte or wifi on! I'm lucky if i get 12 hours and 2 screen-on with my one xl rarely connecting to wifi or lte........
Stephen Bauer My note2 getting almost 28 hours of battery
Dietrich Brown RAZR maxx
Tabib Rehman my note 2
Brent Stiner I just got a note 2 and I still have 11% let on my battery and I have 39 hours on my additional charge. I took it off the charger at 4:30am on Thursday. I think Samsung raised the bar with this 1
Rose Voluntaryist something comparable to the razr maxx
Steve Bachman I have no expectations anymore. Batteries just suck!
Aaron Cantu galaxy note 2...




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