Battery vs. thinness: The choice is clear

Summary:When it comes down to it, battery life outweighs all other design considerations in a smartphone — bar none.

The iPhone 5s 1560 mAh battery - Jason O'Grady

Recent rumblings from the Apple supply chain suggest that the iPhone 6 will see only a modestly larger battery than the iPhone 5s and that the new device will have "minimal" battery improvements over the previous model. 

According to Chinese media reports (via GforGames, MacRumors),

"Chinese media sources claim the 4.7-inch version of the iPhone 6 will ship with a battery between 1,800 and 1,900 [milliAmp hours] mAh, while the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 will include a 2,500 mAh battery. Though larger than the 1,560 mAh battery in the iPhone 5s, these modest capacity increases place Apple behind competitors with similar sized handsets, and leave some wondering if Apple is keeping the battery too small in order to design an ultra-slim device."

If these new iPhone battery rumors pan out it could be bad news for Cupertino. Apple's had a lifelong obsession with design, which has earned it healthy sales and profits as a result, but if it doesn't make some significant gains in the battery department it will fall further behind Android and it'll lose market share among traveling professionals. 

Samsung has been capitalizing on positive reviews of the Galaxy S5's 2800-mAh battery and using it to portray the iPhone 5s' 1560 mAh battery in a poor light. Samsung produced a video calling iPhone users "wall huggers" to highlight the issue: 

The iPhone was once the envy of the smartphone market, with a battery that could last a full day of intense activity without requiring a charge, but now it's being lapped by larger Android devices with proportionally larger batteries and runtimes.

Apple used to be able to make up the gap in software, but iOS 8's "battery shaming" features looks relatively anemic when compared with Android L's Project Volta which takes battery management to a new level.

What's worse is that Apple finally has the chance to bring back the "day long" battery in its upcoming 4.7 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 — which will have room for a larger lithium polymer battery — but it might have given up the opportunity to add more battery capacity so that it can claim that the new hotness is "thinner" than the competition. It would be a shame if Apple sacrificed an extra hour or two of battery capacity for an extra millimeter of thinness.

Recent mockups, alleged schematics, and part leaks have suggested the iPhone 6 will be considerably thinner than the current iPhone 5s (between 6mm and 7mm) while the current iPhone 5s is 7.6mm thick.

I would happily choose another millimeter (or two) of additional thickness on my iPhone in exchange for more milliAmp hours of battery capacity. It would allow me to get more done on my iPhone — especially while traveling — instead of having to hunt for an outlet or suffering the inevitable panic of "Did I remember to bring a Lightning cable with me?"

That old chestnut "you can't be too rich, or too thin" needs to be updated to "you can't have too much screen or battery" for the smartphone era. 

Where do you stand on the "battery vs. thinness" debate?

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPad, iPhone

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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