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The Best of Android: Mid-2020 — Which phone has the best battery life?
Battery life is integral to a smartphone’s user experience. Devices in 2020 are coming with big, high-resolution displays, many cameras, and high-powered processors. There are more features to power than ever before. You can’t play with all the cool stuff if the battery dies early!
As part of our Best of Android: Mid-2020 awards, today we’re analyzing the smartphones with the best battery life according to our objective testing. We’ll compare and analyze the finalists and announce the battery life king!
Editor’s note: If you’re wondering why your favorite phone isn’t on this list, keep in mind only phones released in the first half of 2020 are here. 2019 phones and phones released after H1 2020 are not eligible.
What and why we test
We’re always testing battery life for our reviews, and so we have a large database of battery life test results. This helps us objectively evaluate and compare smartphones’ battery experiences for you. To do this, one needs to have a fair and repeatable way of testing battery life. Here’s ours:
- Charge the phone to 100%
- Set the display to 200cd/m2 brightness (simulating normal indoor use)
- Open our custom battery app
- Let it run a test until exhaustion
It’s a fairly simple yet effective test that simulates performance-heavy applications like photo-processing and gaming. The myriad of tests run in a loop until the phone runs out of juice. It’s a pretty brutal test and serves as a good worst-case scenario for battery life. The longer a phone can run the tests for, the better the real-world battery life will be.
The final test results are interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, out of the three devices with 5,000mAh batteries, only one of them made it into the top five. Even then, it was extremely close between it and the runners up. This shows that battery size alone does not mean everything. Hardware combinations and software optimizations play a huge part in the overall picture. Motorola’s Edge Plus, for example, finishes tenth despite its large 5,000mAh battery. This is likely down to its 90Hz display, Snapdragon 865 chipset, and perhaps less-optimized software.
There are a few general trends worth noting. The first is that Chinese brands tend to do very well, due in part to their take on Android. HUAWEI and Xiaomi, for example, are known for aggressive software optimizations to prolong battery life. So it’s not surprising to see all three of this year’s P40 flagships in our top 10. Secondly, the very best smartphones now offer over five hours of screen-on time even under heavy use, which is very impressive. All but the OnePlus 8 Pro, with its 120Hz display, break the four-hour mark.
The best 2020 handsets offer more than five hours of very heavy use.
With that in mind, none of the top five phones in our results sport 120Hz displays — only 60Hz or 90Hz. Those very high refresh rate displays consume a lot of juice. However, all of the devices in the top six come with flagship processors. The LG Velvet, which came seventh, has a mid-range Snapdragon 765G chip and a 60Hz display. Both of these use less power than its competitors, suggesting that it should have placed higher. In the end though, the Velvet finishes lower than the V60 ThinQ, which shares the same software but packs in a bigger battery. Ultimately, it’s pretty tough to say which phones last the longest by simply looking at a spec sheet.
Continue reading: Snapdragon 865 vs Snapdragon 765G
Charging speed is the other half of the battery equation. Smartphone charging speeds have significantly improved over the past five years and companies advertise quick charging tech as much as battery size these days. We test charging speed with every review we publish, and so we’ve seen the progression first-hand. The graphs below show the phones with the fastest charging speeds by time and also ranked in mAh per minute. In other words, this reflects how fast the charging technology fills up a battery.
Realme’s X50 Pro 5G handily takes the win here with the only result over 100mAh/min, clocking in at 127mAh/min. Even though the HUAWEI P40 Pro Plus has the same size battery, the realme charges its cell in under half the time with its SuperDart Flash Charge tech. This is made more impressive by the fact that the X50 Pro 5G is the third cheapest smartphone on this list.
Fully charged in less than an hour is becoming the new norm.
The next fastest charging phone is the OPPO Find X2 Pro. BBK’s tech is hard at work here, enabling a 43-minute charge time thanks to its 99mAh/min speed. However, results start to trail off by the fourth result. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is significantly slower to charge than the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, at a rate of 78mAh/min versus 98mAh/min. Generally speaking though, many of these smartphones fully charge in around or less than an hour. Perfect if you need a quick top-up.
Best of Android: Mid-2020 battery winner — Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro
And the winner is… the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro! It took the lead by a healthy margin over the runners up. However, the Mi 10 Pro only features a 4,500mAh cell. This is significantly smaller than the V60 ThinQ, Galaxy S20 Ultra, and others that the Mi 10 Pro beat out. This great battery life is thanks to Xiaomi’s software optimization which is working in the background to keep the phone on for longer. This involves closing apps that aren’t in use (a controversial practice), tweaking CPU speeds to match the workload, and turning off features when they aren’t needed.
The Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro's software optimizations make for great battery life.
There are hardware traits that play a part in this, too. The FHD 90Hz display draws less power than the QHD and 120Hz panels of its competitors. Furthermore, the device ships in 60Hz mode out of the box and it’s up to the user to set the device to 90Hz in the settings menu. This lower refresh rate significantly improves its battery life as it’s consuming less power. If you’re interested, the Mi 10 Pro ran for almost exactly 6 hours (2nd place) with 90Hz enabled. The Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro doesn’t come with face-unlock sensors upfront that are constantly running either. Again, this hardware choice saves on power versus some of its competitors. Given a 5,000mAh cell, the Mi 10 Pro could possibly hit the 500-minute mark — something that no phone has hit to date.
Continue reading: Anxiety over smartphone battery life is a real thing
However, this great battery life comes at a cost. We noticed that the Mi 10 Pro takes a slightly more conservative approach to peak performance compared with the similarly-specced POCO F2 Pro. This could explain its long battery life, with the added upside of more sustainable performance. On a similar note, Xiaomi seems to push its app-culling a bit too far at times — closing background music and podcast apps that you are, in fact, using. Xiaomi devices have also been known for slow notifications as a result of cutting network connectivity in order to preserve the battery.
Not only does the Mi 10 Pro easily last all day, it charges blazingly fast too.
The numbers don’t lie. The Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro dished out over seven hours of screen-on time in our review. Our time in the lab confirms that this is really what you can expect from the handset. We are impressed with just how much you could push the Mi 10 Pro before having to top it up. The device came third in our battery charging tests, too, making not only for great battery life but a great overall battery experience.
Runners-up and worthy mentions
We have a joint second place for Best of Android Mid-2020 Battery – the HUAWEI P40 Pro Plus and HUAWEI P40 Pro. Both share the same processing hardware and 4,200mAh battery, and clock in over 6 hours of grueling test time. HUAWEI is notorious for a heavy-handed approach to app culling and RAM optimization, which definitely helps these phones pull ahead of the pack. The phones’ 7nm Kirin 990 processor is pretty efficient too.
However, these two handsets are two of the more inconsistent we’ve tested, owing to their smart resolution and refresh rate settings. When rendering 3D content, the display sometimes switches to 90Hz but most often stays locked at 60Hz. Likewise, 3D display resolution is often set at 1,760 x 800 rather than 2,640 x 1,200. This gave us test result times ranging from 5.5 to nearly 7 hours, with just over 6 as the average. You certainly don’t need to worry about these handset’s battery life, but results do definitely vary.
Third place is a hotly contested position, with the LG V60 ThinQ 5G nudging just minutes ahead of the POCO F2 Pro, HUAWEI P40, and the LG Velvet. All of these handsets clocked in more than 5 hours of test time looping Speed Test G, ensuring they easily last a full day or more. But the LG V60 just goes to show that a colossal 5,000mAh battery can still brute force its way into a top spot. As we noted during our review, “daily screen-on time easily surpassed five hours across a week, and even reached eight hours over two full days … the battery may be the V60’s best feature.”
And that’s a wrap. Check out our other Best of Android: Mid-2020 content and come back tomorrow for our look at the best performing phones of the first half of 2020.
More from The Best of Android: Mid-2020
Revisit the Best of Android: Mid-2020 awards for each category: