Where are the long battery life superphones?

by: Gary SimsJuly 7, 2012

There are some people who don’t like smart phones. It isn’t because they don’t like the touch sensitive screen, it’s not an ease of use issue, but rather they don’t like the battery life. In the good old days of feature phones, you could charge up your phone once a week, you could talk for hours, and, if you battery showed only one bar left, you knew it would work for the rest of the day. But not so with smartphones. With a nice bright display to power, plus Wi-Fi, plus GPS, and of course 3G or even 4G, a smart phone battery might last a day, maybe two.

A typical feature phone might use a 1100mAh battery, where as a smart phone could have a 1650mAh battery. Sure, the smartphone has a bigger battery but it isn’t proportionally larger compared to the juice needed to power it. That is with the exception of the Motorola RAZR MAXX that is. The RAZR MAXX sports a high capacity 3300mAh giving 21.5 hours of talk time, 2.5 days of listening to music, and 12 hours of Internet over Wi-Fi use. These numbers seem better suited to a tablet than a phone!


But is that it? Surely, with every forum and smartphone related website carrying articles and tutorials about battery life and how to extend it, more manufacturers would be selling phones with bigger batteries. The answer seems to be no. There are just one or two companies selling phone with better batteries. The Galaxy S3 has a pretty good, 2000mAh+ battery, but they still only last about a day with full usage.

Huawei is touting its Ascend D quad as the world’s fastest smartphone, but it is also looking at the battery aspect. Alongside the Ascend D quad, Huawei will launch the Ascend D quad XL. It has exactly the same specifications as the Ascend D quad but with a 2500mAh battery, which Huawei reckons will last for two or three days with normal usage.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note also has a 2500mAh battery but this only gives it a battery life comparable to the S3 or the HTC One X. The reason its battery life isn’t better than the S3 is because of its huge 5.3 inch display. The display is the most power hungry component in any smart phone. It doesn’t matter if you are using Wi-Fi or not, if Bluetooth is on or off, or if you have the GPS enabled, whatever you do on your phone (other than listen to music) you need to use the display, and that takes power. The rumors are that Samsung is preparing the Galaxy Note 2 with a even bigger display (possibly 5.5 inches) and it is hoped that Samsung will include a bigger battery, maybe even a 3000mAh one.

So what is the problem? It really is a bit of a mystery. The phone manufacturers are busy adding more features to phones, quad core CPUs, better cameras, larger screens, higher resolutions, but where is the push to add more battery life? The problem shouldn’t be cost related as a 1600mAh battery costs around $5 where as a 4000mAh battery costs $10. So adding $5 to the bill of materials for a bigger battery isn’t a problem, especially when compared to the cost of the display or flash memory. Could weight be a problem? Since phones are designed to be mobile it is conceivable that some manufacturers are concerned about overall weight. But even adding a battery with an extra 500mAh shouldn’t make the device unreasonably heavy.

Is Android to blame?

Leaving the RAZR MAXX to the side, battery tests show that the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S have quite reasonable battery lives. In the same test that showed the RAZR MAXX supporting 12 hours of  Internet over Wi-Fi usage, the iPhone 4S managed 11 hours. But here is the startling thing – the iPhone 4S only has a 1432 mAh battery. That is smaller than the average Android smartphone and more than half the size of the RAZR MAXX’s battery. Could it be that Apple have been able to tweak iOS to consume less power than Android? Is it because Apple own their own ARM chip design team and the chips are made exactly as they want them, rather than having to use off the shelf parts form the likes of Qualcomm or NVIDA?


Or could it just be screen size? As mentioned above, bigger screens require more power. Most of the devices listed in the graphic above have 4 or 4.3 inch displays, except for the iPhone. Apple has stuck rigidly to its 3.5 inch form factor. Instead it has chosen to increase the pixel density and improve the screen resolution. But this is likely to be a huge factor in terms of battery life. Powering a 3.5 inch display for 11 hours of Internet usage requires a lot less juice than powering a 4.3 inch display for the same about of time. Is this why Apple hasn’t released a 4.3 inch phone yet?

What about sealed batteries?

One thing the RAZR MAXX and the iPhone have in common is that the battery isn’t user replacable. It is built into the device and is formed and molded to occupy the entire space available. That is how Motorola managed to keep the RAZR MAXX so thin. But many phone use more traditional batteries that can be quickly popped out by the user. Is this fear of the sealed battery stopping manufactueres from squeezing the most out of the space available?

Let me know your thoughts? Happy with your battery life or do you desperately need something better? What about sealed batteries? Do you think Android is to blame? Are Apple better at getting more from their devices? Please leave a comment below.

  • Mak D’Uniq

    You didnt read whta HTC said? In their poll users choose ”
    thin phones over better battery life”

    That’s why they are loosing market share.

    see the post here -> http://goo.gl/CMTgE

    • *untface

      Htc ain’t “loosing” anything are they?

    • EddieT

      there was an article about majority Apple Users wanting thinner Mac Book Pro’s over lifespan of the device (not caring so much for how long it lasts, since upgrading to newest one every 1-2 years is the trend)

  • Tylers

    I think it’s mainly because the stats are for Internet over Wifi, the browsing experience is not the same on IOS with a lot of content not displaying like Flash and not as much flexibility as with Android browsers.
    If you have other stats I’ll be interested to see because I know a lot of Iphone users who are not happy with their battery life.

  • I don’t even care if my smartphone ever lasts a week like my old flip-phone did. I’ve got no problem charging it up every night while I sleep. I just want it to last all day even with fairly heavy use. So the target for me isn’t 10x-15x the current battery life – its only about double. I think I could get along with the Maxx very well if it wasn’t for the locked bootloader.

  • Rav

    Chargers everywhere (living room, bedroom, car, work table) plus battery packs are a must for this droid geek.

  • DefaultUser

    Yes, it is partly Android’s “fault” However, it is a tradeoff situation. Android runs more tasks in the background when you’re not actively using your phone, like app syncing. This may cost battery life, but it also has benefits that I personally wouldn’t want to trade for more battery life. I hate it when I open an app on my iPad or iPod and it only then starts to update, making me wait. I don’t like waiting.
    Android is just still way more multitasking oriented. That comes at a price, but also with benefits.
    Still, there should be more phones like the RAZR MAXX. I would buy one because of the better battery life if it wasn’t so ugly.

  • Rob

    2 things everyone needs multiple batteries and a desktop charger. I dont like being tethered to a charging cable. I wont even look at a phone if it doesnt have a user replacable battery and expandable (read micro sd card slot) storrage. Apple likes to tout their battery life well guess what you’re still tethered to a charging cable. Me I come home swap batteries and I am out the door. It’s sad to see some Android manufacturers subscribing to apples limited thinking

  • Alexander Garcia

    Wow. I just dropped by to applaud you on a great GREAT article. It was an awesome read! Thank you.

    • Earl

      yes great article… substance

  • EddieT

    battery life on the SGS2 T989 stock GB is pretty good for me since I tweaked it a little for energy efficiency.. i get on average 40-56 hrs on OEM and China batteries with internet, calls, texting, gaming, and i’m on wifi 80% of the time. Plus, the fact that I have 2 extra China batteries to swap out has increased the original lithium ion battery life as well. I think it really depends on what is running on your device, in the background that you don’t see from apps you’ve downloaded for free.. and if anything is clashing with similar apps on your phone.. like most Android 2.2 and higher devices already have a built in Task Manager in the OS, and if you installed another Task Killer it will clash with the built in one. Same thing with bloat ware.. make sure you don’t install apps that are similar to the ones already on the device, if you want to save battery life. Also, the International SGS3 will have different results then the US variant.

  • Screen size, that plays a Hugh part.

  • Milind

    I think it’s probably a bit of everything. I think Apple pays attention to
    battery life and they may have designed the hardware to work better
    together. The smaller display and the background multi-threading takes a
    toll as well. And I’m okay with it. I see a lot of iPhone users and
    many Android phone users also disable everything. If you are going to
    disable everything, it’s not much of a smartphone. I set my display to
    max brightness, everything is enabled. My battery lasts for a few hours. I wish it would take me to 16 hours
    or so with heavy usage. But it doesn’t. So I have a charger in the
    car, at home and at work. Plus I have two extra batteries and a charger
    I picked up from e-bay for $10. The only time I’m careful with what I
    run, is when I’m flying overseas. One battery is reserved for when I
    land at the destination. Two, I manage on the trip. All 3 are fully charged before I leave home.

    I have a friend who is researching battery technology where the battery
    can be fully charged from empty to full in a couple of minutes. The
    problem is that it doesn’t retain the charge for as long as traditional
    batteries do. For my usage pattern, I’d prefer the other way around, I
    don’t mind if it takes 4-5 hours to charge if it lasts for 24+ hours.
    But I can see how the other way would work for many people as well.

    It’s just unfortunate that battery technology is not advancing at the same pace as the other components in the phone.

    • tom

      Enjoy replacing you battery every month or so. Unless he is looking at altering the chemical make up of the battery the law is higher the amp charge the shorter the battery life. There is no other “method” to fast charge than ramping the amps. In general I would put no more than 1.3 amp (1300mah) into a cel battery. Try putting a higher amp rate into any battery and you will have some
      spectacular results. Nicad NIMH will heat and vent all over, lipo will
      puff and heat to ignition or pop the cel bag (just as bad since hot poly
      flying all over is not fun) Li-ion will crack vent and spew hot
      chemical (remember dellfires) Life I think will vent hot powder all
      over. (Never used the things since what is commercially available until
      recently are HUGE round cels)
      I have noticed over the years the wall wart chargers have gone from 500mah in to 1amp in (S3) Most apple toys come with a 1amp wart. Verify your wart and aftermarket warts as well youll see a difference in charge times. Often those cheap ones cut back on the output mah (amps) or use lower quality parts resulting in “dirtry” power IE mah that can jump from 300mah to 2000mah (2amps) The output on those vary based on the voltage of the car system
      9~18volts, high quality units have better internals but still vary on
      output. This is a reason I use a quality inverter in my car over those lighter socket chargers.

      In sort if anyone has any inkling to ply with battery cycling etc PLEASE find a forum based around bleeding edge battery use such as a R/C forum or a battery hobbiest forum and read up before tinkering.

  • tBs_Battousai

    Current Apple batteries would have to call it a day at about six hours if they had to run anything over 3.5″ screen…

  • The real problem is our expectations, we expect the same life while getting dozens more features. Well, get used to it, we’re using battery sucking phones. If you can embrace Apple’s walled garden and controlled use, you get better battery life, if you want the freedom and flexibility of Android, you burn more juice. The Razr Maxx has given me the best of both worlds and I am in the habit of charging daily. One time I can remember neglecting to do so and I simply turned on Juice Defender and I was able to make it through the next day without a problem.

  • Cole Raney

    None of my phones lasted any more than a day or 2. I managed to get a day out of my iphone and a day out of my galaxy s3.

  • Lord Vader

    Why doesnt other company do what Motorola did
    get a 3500mAh battery in there phones ?

    Motorola Rocks :)

  • jane


  • i know this article is old and i applaud you.
    please manufacturers listen to Gary . he is asking you including thousands of people to build bigger batteries . 3300 mAh is a good starting point

  • Grizmark

    My S2 has gotten worse and worse over two years of use. Upgraded the operating system once and actually found a replacement battery for it $23C but all without any major increase in life. I get some times FIVE, read 5!!! hours with I would say moderate use. The new battery was a stab in the dark but I felt after two years maybe it was time. Dont bother. In the market and enjoyed your article.