Battery life continues to impress me

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| December 20, 2013

In the past here at PhoneDog, we've had articles and videos that have asked you, the reader, what you would like to see improved in future smartphones. Amongst various answers that included ideas such as bigger screens, smaller screens, and increased memory allotment (or maybe just a microSD card slot) the most overwhelming answer usually came down to this: better battery life. Not so long ago, I would have had to agree. At the time I wrote the article, I was using my iPhone 4S, which was a phone released two years ago in 2011. Although I thought the battery life was better than my EVO 3D, which was the device I carried just before the 4S, it became quickly evident that "better" didn't necessarily mean "good", especially when you still had to charge your phone twice a day.

But that was a phone from 2011, and this is 2013. Looking back, it was pretty obvious that battery life would eventually get better as time went on - what doesn't in this industy? We have better resolution, bigger memory allotments (although maybe not as big as we would like them to be, manufacturers are still getting more generous with the amount of internal memory included in devices) faster software... just about everything is improving. I have to admit, though, that battery life was just one of those things that seemed to be creeping along when it came to how much attention manufacturers would give it. Smartphones have been around since 2007, and four years later we were still dealing with batteries that didn't last all day long with "normal" use. At least it wasn't as bad as my HTC EVO 4G, which might as well have been soldered to its charger, but still. Having to charge your phone in the middle of the day as well as again at night isn't something I would say that I miss.

But now it's 2013, almost 2014, and I feel like the most important step when it comes to battery life has been made. Most flagship phones made this year last all day with normal use. Now, "normal use" is a term that means something different to everybody, but as somebody whose phone is on quite a bit of the day (whether I'm using it or my son is playing with it) I have to admit that I am rather impressed with the battery life that these phones manage to give. Although the new light of my life, the HTC One, is the first modern phone to wow me with its battery life, every phone that I've done a written review on this year has also managed to last through an entire day of usage. This tells me that the One isn't some magical phone that has battery-saving powers; it's a universal things. Smartphones in general have gotten to a good place regarding battery life.

There are two contributing factors to thank when it comes to increased battery life, and those are bigger batteries and optimized software. As somebody who was (and still sort of is) against gigantic phones, there is a huge advantage that they generally have over smaller phones, and that's a bigger battery. However, a bigger battery alone doesn't guarantee that a phone is going to be smooth sailing through the entire day - the phone's software needs to be optimized for good battery life as well. For example, the Nokia Lumia 1020, a phone with a 4.5-inch screen and a 2,000 mAh battery, lasted just 460 minutes on a call before the battery died. The iPhone 5s, a much smaller phone with a 4-inch screen and a 1560 mAh battery, lasted 651 minutes on a call before it died. Software is definitely a contributing factor here.

I'm not saying that I think batteries shouldn't improve. I would be ecstatic if my phone lasted days at a time without a charge. That would be fantastic. What I am saying is that I think smartphones have at least gotten to a point where battery life is acceptable for daily use. I don't mind leaving my phone to charge while I sleep, because I'm sleeping. It still works while it's on the charger, and it's not going anywhere anyway, so I'm perfectly fine with a single nightly charge. I look forward to the day that we can treat our smartphones like we did our old flip phones and forget to charge them for a few days before it makes the "Yo dawg, I need charged" noise. But until then, this whole lasting an entire day without dying thing is just fine by me.

Readers, what are your thoughts on your current smartphone's battery life? Are you happy with it, or do you think that battery life is still something that needs a strong focus in the industry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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