Thursday, October 16, 2014


So you decided to buy a new mobile smartphone. You researched the internet; you looked at the web reviews; you have decided on what OS you prefer, iOS, Android or even Windows; you looked at the quality of the built-in cameras and you know how many megapixels you want....and then, you quickly come to a HALT! You are now asking about the battery: "Is it going to last me?"... but you can't seem to get a straight answer. Instead, you see different claims from different handset makers, and you can't even begin to compare the claims. This post is intended to shed more light on your decision.

First, most claims by handset makers are only a general guideline. They are careful for not saying too much for fear of not meeting the expectation they are about to set; then they are careful for saying too little for it means nothing to the consumer. So their claims wind up in the middle with enough language to give them plenty of outs but be no more than a vague guideline to you.  For example, Apple claims "up to 11 hours on WiFi" with the operative disclaimer being "up to." Motorola claims its Moto X will last "up to 24 hours of mixed usage" where the fine print at the bottom describes it as based on an average user for both use and standby. What is an average user? Are you an average user? and what is the mix of standby time and use time? So these numbers are not terribly useful for you in your purchasing decision. In fairness to the device manufacturers, the task of giving an accurate battery time is not easy because of the diversity of user behavior, but solutions do exist...I wish they were more proactive in implementing them!

Here are some points you may want to consider as you identify a battery that matches your personal needs:

1. Capacity: First, forget about claims of time. Focus primarily on capacity in mAh. For Apple phones, the iPhone 6 has a capacity of about 1,800 mAh whereas the iPhone 6 Plus has a capacity of nearly 2,900 mAh. In the Android universe, a Moto X has a capacity of 2,300 mAh whereas a Sony Xperia Z3v has approximately 3,100 mAh. More is better! More mAh is more hours of use. It is simple.

2. Compare capacities only within the same class of devices: This is not as complicated as it sounds. First, compare only a battery from an Android phone vs. another Android phone. Comparing the battery capacity of an iPhone to another Android phone will not be very reliable. Second, compare batteries across devices with similar screen dimensions. So compare a 5-in screen device vs. another 5-in screen devices (or within a ¼-in in either direction). But be careful to not compare a 4-in screen with a 6-in screen device. The larger the screen, the more power it needs, and the bigger the battery requirement. Third, compare devices with similar processor speed. Within the Qualcomm family of processors, smartphones that use the Snapdragon™8xx architecture require a bigger battery than smartphones that use the less capable Snapdragon™4xx architecture. For example, a Moto X has a more capable processor than the Moto G; hence the Moto X requires a larger battery to achieve the same battery life as the Moto G. Similarly, a larger screen requires a bigger battery than a smaller screen.

3. Understand your own usage pattern: Some of us are casual users who use their mobile device for occasional e-mails, texting and phone calls; others are traveling business executives constantly on their devices; of course, the younger generation who may be glued to their favorite social networking app will have yet a different usage profile. If you are a casual user, you will most likely be plenty served with a battery capacity in the range of 1,800 to 2,300 mAh. If your phone capacity dips a little in the day, plug it are probably close to an outlet most of the time. If you are an executive who needs the smartphone (and especially the screen) on constantly, then go for the largest capacity you can find. Right now, 3,000 to 3,200 mAh are available across a class of Android smartphones. The iPhone 6 Plus is at 2,900 mAh. Batteries at such capacities seem to be capable of lasting at least one day of heavy use. My Sony Xperia Z2 (3,200 mAh) lasts me comfortably through an entire day, from early morning to late in the evening. A teenager who likes their social networking apps will also require a battery with a capacity preferably above 2,500 mAh (or they will have to charge more than once a day). Think of it this way, if you have a fast processor +  your screen is on most of the time + you are downloading/uploading data constantly, then you most likely need a battery with the largest possible capacity.

4. Not all smartphones are created equally: So let's say you find two smartphones with similar processors, similar screen dimensions, and similar battery capacity. Which one do you pick? Some manufacturers are better in power management than others. This is where you want to look at standardized tests from various websites that will indicate how a Sony for example compares relative to a Samsung or HTC or LG. Generally speaking, Apple, Sony and to a lesser extent Samsung have shown better power savings in their designs than other manufacturers.

5. Ask for the charge time: Manufacturers tend to be shy about disclosing their battery charge time. If and when they do, the claims are a little murky. That's because charge time is tricky: some manufacturers slow down the charge time to extend cycle life (i.e., the longevity of your battery). Other manufacturers will light up the green (battery full) light at or near 90% not 100%. The fastest phones today charge in the neighborhood of 2 to 2.5 hours. Others can take as long as 4 hours to charge. Visit AnandTech reviews...they are one of few internet sites that publish measured charge times.

6. Ask, if you can, about cycle life: I say, if you can, because manufacturers will go out of their way to hide their cycle life performance. For some of them, it's nothing to write home about. If you are in the US and use the Verizon network, chances are your phone is specified to last 800 cycles (or about 2 years if you charge once daily)....but it's difficult to verify. If you are on AT&T or other North American networks, your phone will most likely be specified to meet only 500 cycles. A cycle life specification of less than 800 cycles means, especially for the power users among us, that in less than 6 months of usage, you are likely to notice a significant drop in battery life. In other words, you will likely wake up after a few months of use and realize that your smartphone is no longer lasting you a full day. Worse yet, if you find yourself charging more than once a day, then even 800 cycles are not enough -- you will suffer serious loss of capacity within a few months or less. Don't make a mistake and buy a phone that you will regret after a few months of usage.

© Qnovo, Inc. 2014 / @QNOVOcorp @nadimmaluf #QNOVOCorp