Battery vs. thinness: The choice is clear

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.

TOPICS: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad
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, iPhone, iPad

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  • wait ...

    Instead of going to the offensive on a RUMOR and other than getting ad impressions due to visitors, why does this article exist? I love reading opinions if they are on things that are confirmed FACTS, but you might as well be writing about Zeus' fifth nipple excreting pot liquor. What?
    • It could just be a copy paste job from last year.

      This time of year, as we approach an iphone announcement come September, they all get a bit excited. It's the great irony of modern tech journalism - they simply cAn't stop talking about the iphone, but they also can't like it.

      I actually agree that the iPhone's battery life is laughable, but so is this article. They aren't going to change anything, you had to charge a 3GS every day just like you charge a 5s every day. It isn't apple's focus. And here's the thing: people moan about it, but it's not their main focus when buying phones.

      Take for example the S5 - google samsung S5 battery life. See what I mean? It was a poor choice of device to compare - for one it has that massive battery because it has that massive screen and a power hungry processor. Most users still charge it every day, and samsung definitely didn't put battery (usage) over design (looks) for the same reason as apple.

      What would have made sense to reference would have been my late motorola maxx. Genuine 2.5-3 days of normal usage (my personal experience). But it also answers why apple and samsung don't focus on it - there was the maxx, the maxx be, the it was gone for ever, bog all software updates to match. People simy didn't buy it. I got it as soon as it came out, when people heard how long the battery life was, they'd all look envious, yet still none of my colleagues of friends got one when they replaced their devices.
      • Well ...

        it sounds like people are buying popular brands out of loyalty only because it's the latest version, regardless of the features or lack of them.
  • One figurative second...

    Many people buy and use external batteries, extended batteries with case modification or multiple chargers so this does certainly count as a pertinent article. Dead devices do nothing but beg to be replaced. My Galaxy S3 with a 7000mah battery agrees. Its already at 32 hours without charge.
    • The s3 had a 2100 battery?

      I take it the 7000mAh battery is a case/mod?
      • Really? I get 72 hours on a single charge....

        One evening while surfing Amazon, fuelled up with a bottle of wine, Drunk Me bought a present for Sober Me: a ZeroLemon 7k mAh battery & case (in oh so attractive pink & purple, but yeah....)

        The first discharge cycle took three days of pretty solid use.
        • here's a screeny!

  • Hillarious..

    So there is speculation based off of a individual persons bias. I love the title without much to back it up. Show sales of phones with long battery life beating phones with shorter battery life with a thinner case.

    Anyway, my original thought was that you don't think that Apple get's it?? I mean look at the battery life of the Air, or the MBProRetina. Yes they get it, and I'm sure they are working hard at battery life being better. So since we are talking about vaporware. I'll bet we will see in addition to the battery management of ios8. More power saving features in the next gen of CPU. Probably a better power utilization gpu. And who knows maybe a more efficient screen. You don't need a huge battery for long life.
    • No you don't...

      But it sure does help.
  • SO True - I'd wager most people want better battery over a thinner phone!

    If only we were given the option because frankly no one "really" cares there phone is as thin as a credit card. We do care our phones dies on us when after 7 years of proper smartphones they still routinely last no longer than a day!

    • Actually I'd say it was the opposite from personal experience

      Mine lives on power saving mode, I charge it every 2 or 3 days depending on usage obviously. However around our office no one moans about battery life of any phone. Partly because many people don't actually live on their phone and partly because we're rarely away from a power source. On a recent trip to china, I took a replaceable battery but didn't actually need it. In the airport I topped up from the laptop and when visiting factories the hotel top-up negated carrying a convertor as I always had a usb port as a backup.
      Little Old Man
  • Swapable wins

    Swappable batteries blow them all away. I'm not sure why people want to schedule their life around a charger, but I'd rather just swap and go whenever it gets low or put a couple in my bag when doing a lot of traveling. The phone itself is never on a charger.
    Buster Friendly
    • Charger? Don't carry one.

      I usually survive on 1 charge/battery with my iPhone 5.

      If I'm at home I get 3 days out of 1 charge.

      If I'm out then yes it can be a lot lot less.

      I carry extra battery power - like the equivalent of 4 batteries worth. This I charge every so often.

      Mainly if I shoot a few thousand images whilst I'm out. Which I do from time to time.

      Sometimes I actually use the extra power.

      I don't carry a charger.

      I remember the old days of my Sony-Ericsson K750 and swappable batteries and no that is not a world I want to go back to.

      I don't schedule my life round my iPhone at all.
  • Or you could have a Nokia 1520....

    3200 MA battery goes 72 hrs on a charge. 6" screen is a joy...
    Woned B. Fooldagan