LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

Summary:Phones with LTE can be impressive performers, but not for very long given the hit on the battery.

I love LTE. I have been using the high-speed mobile connectivity since even before Verizon turned on the tap in my area. (Verizon let me in a little early). Having no-compromise broadband speeds no matter where you are is liberating, and game-changing. I have used LTE on at least a dozen phones and a couple of mobile hotspot gadgets. It's all been wonderful, except for one thing. No one has figured out how to make LTE connectivity possible that doesn't drain phone batteries at an alarming rate.

With all the many LTE devices I have used, I haven't seen one that could drive the connections for more than a few hours without draining the phone battery dry. It's surely my imagination but I swear I have heard a slurping sound when activating a connection on LTE, on more than one device.

See also: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

LTE is so hard on phone batteries that I have gotten in the habit of turning 4G/LTE off on those phones that let you do that (most don't). Having super high speeds doesn't do you much good if your device goes dead after just a few hours, turning it into a brick that doesn't do anything in the middle of the day. I suspect many LTE phone owners bring a second battery each day to swap when the first goes dead.

I have a mobile hotspot device with Verizon LTE due to the battery issue on phones. I can only get 5 hours of LTE goodness using it, but it saves my all-important phone battery for things like phone calls.

Some folks I have spoken with about this issue admit they only use their LTE phone as a hotspot when the phone is plugged into the wall. It's good for this in a hotel room on trips, as a lousy LTE connection can easily be better than the poor Wi-Fi found in most hotels.

My LTE hotspot is great for redundancy when my home office connectivity is down. It's saved my bacon quite a few times filling in. But what makes that work is the presence of a power outlet where I can plug it in to keep it running all day.

Hopefully hardware folks will figure out how to make the LTE radios work better on battery power. The thought of having an LTE phone that works all day is quite heady, but not something I think we'll see for a good while.

Topics: Telcos, Hardware, Mobility, Networking


James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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