Care to admit it or not, smartphones are the most important devices in our lives. They contain everything: our calls, our messages, our photos, our location, our very electronic essence. It would make sense that these vital instruments are robust, but they often are not. Perform a casual search for “smartphone battery life,” for example, and the results will vary from how-tos to detailed lists explaining which ones are best and which ones suck.
The last few years has seen a seismic shift in how top-tier manufacturers develop devices. Often there’s a flagship, such as the Pixel 4, and a larger variant, such as the Pixel 4 XL. Almost invariably, battery life of the smaller phone is, shall we say, sub-par. The XL variants often have much larger batteries that last the day. Moreover, mega-flagships, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus, or dedicated gaming rigs, such as the Asus ROG Phone II, deliver battery life in spades thanks to their huge power cells.
There is, however, no shortage of complaints regarding battery life of smaller flagships and Apple was, year after year, one of the biggest offenders. The company trotted out iPhone after iPhone that was thinner and faster than the prior model, yet no better with respect to battery life.
With the iPhone 11 family, Apple changed everything. The impact will be widespread. Here’s why.
Kill me now
Samsung used to poke fun of the Apple iPhone and its miserable battery life. The Korean company created more than one commercial that referenced iPhone owners’ propensity for hugging the wall outlets in airports.
While Apple’s larger Plus-sized models have largely been able to hold a charge through the day, the smaller iPhone 6, 7, and 8 phones were routinely trashed for losing their charge prematurely. Apple is not alone.
Google, too, has faced similar criticism of its Pixel phones. The smaller Pixel 3 and Pixel 4, for example, have terrible battery life. Seriously, the battery life is bad enough that most reviews of the 2019 Pixel phones told consumers to stay away.
Thicker? Heavier? We’ll take it.
When Apple introduced the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max, perhaps the most striking point was battery life. Sure, there’s the triple-camera system, the A13 Bionic chip, and the amazing screen, but nothing surprised more than Apple’s change of heart with respect to the battery.
The company made its 2019 iPhones a little bit thicker and a little bit heavier than previous models in order to cram larger batteries inside. The result? Huge strides in battery life. Reviews of the phones boldly claim the iPhone 11 family, even the small one, are a good bet for battery life.
This is good news for Android lovers.
As noted above, the extra big Android flagships generally do well. Even so, Google is taking it on the chin for the crummy battery life of the smaller Pixel 4 and the larger Pixel 4 XL. It’s too late for Google to do anything this year, but the company’s hardware team had better right the ship before the 2020 Pixels mark their debut.
Samsung certainly has a window to respond. And, based on recent reports, it will. All the latest rumors regarding Samsung’s 2020 flagship, the Galaxy S11, suggest it will offer the best battery life yet of a Galaxy S phone. It had better, or the S11 will suffer when compared to Apple’s iPhone 11 family.
Samsung won’t be the only Android phone maker to respond. LG will need to, also, if it wants its G series to remain competitive.
Like it or not, Apple often sets the stage for what’s acceptable across the industry — even where small flagships are concerned. Now that Apple has focused on providing killer battery life across its line, Android phone makers have no choice: improve or die.
Bottom line, if the 2020 crop of smaller Android flagships from the likes of Google, LG, and Samsung have a noticeable improvement in battery life, we may have to extend credit to the fruit company from Cupertino.