LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

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.

SHARE:

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, Wi-Fi

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

15 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

    I don't disagree with your perspective, but I am getting a little tired of all the press given to LTE and battery life, especially when comparisons are attempted between say an iPhone 4s and the Galaxy Nexus. My mobile internet connection can never be too fast, and I am willing to buy extra/extended batteries and call it a day. Just not a real issue to me...
    robroy90
    • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

      @robroy90 Yep, anything to make their advertisers look good!

      I have used LTE and the only time my battery sucked is when it was going in between 3G and 4G... If I was firmly in an area where LTE was solid it was marginally worse than 3G.

      Crud, I want to see somebody perform the same tasks of surfing for 4 hours on the LTE device and the 3G Device! My money says the 3G gets maybe 6 hours of straight surfing but doesn't get anywhere near the same amount done.

      Oh and this is likely just another way for JK to help minimize Apple's Angst! I mean, after all Android is now on 40% of the Tablets (that they told us weren't selling) and Honeycomb wasn't even as full featured as Ice Cream Sandwich so that will only grow. On top of this, the Galaxy Nexus is rated higher than the iPhone 4s and that has to hurt as well.
      slickjim
      • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

        @Peter Perry You are getting really paranoid to turn everything I write into a slam of some sort. This article is just about LTE, cross-platform, and yes the battery life using LTE on ANY device is terrible.
        JamesKendrick
      • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

        @JamesKendrick James you're the one who put the "Prime" in your title and every article you write about Android is how it just isn't good enough... <br><br>Worst case for all the reviews on the net is that the Nexus Prime and ICS make for the best phone on the market but everything you post puts it below the 4s. <br><br>Show me the last article you wrote about Android that was overwhelmingly positive and then show me the last article you wrote about the iPhone 4s that was overwhelmingly Negative? <br><br>There's no paranoia here man, just speaking the truth.<br><br>And you know what else, if you can shut the LTE off, then you're not losing anything by having a phone with it built in.<br><br>For the record, I have been using a 4s for more than a month now and it is okay but nowhere near the phone you make it out to be.
        slickjim
      • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

        @James Kendrick
        It was only a matter of time until someone would take your post and turn it into an Android is better than iOS flame war.
        @Peter Perry
        I went back and re-read James' blog. Nowhere in it did he mention Android, iPhone, tablets, ice cream sandwich or honeycomb. Yet you somehow read between the lines and extracted all that information from it.
        MG537-23482538203179240121698430309828
    • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

      @robroy90 I didn't make comparisons of any kind, just talked about LTE. This is not just my view, either. You're willing to live with second batteries, and that's fine. I still wish they could make LTE connecivity better on the battery, as I said.
      JamesKendrick
  • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

    Here's a suggestion James, since you're carrying a mobile hotspot and smartphone already. Dump that hotspot and get an Energizer XP8000 battery pack. Carry that and use your smartphone for LTE tethering. You'll keep both your phone charged for calls and have plenty of juice left for data.

    I've found I get 20+ hours of performance (4-5 full charges) by plugging in to my XP8000 whenever by batteries are running low. The assortment of tips will charge any device (microUSB, miniUSB, Apple) and the pack is as small and light as a smartphone. I have a belt case for it so I can carry it with my TP2 effortlessly.

    My beef with LTE is that Verizon continues to gouge consumers with their pricing, alongside refusing to provide an unlimited data plan for serious business users. Mobile professionals simply have no time to count geebees every month, and I certainly don't need exorbitant, recurring overage charges cutting into my bottom line.
    lgpOnTheMove
    • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

      @lgpOnTheMove

      Those are good tips to give.

      BTW, I was unaware of this product before but I have used an external battery pack "long ago" to help power other electronic gadgets.

      But .. looking up the specs on this product, I saw how much it weighed. I'm not sure if the average person wishes to carry along a extra two pound weight in his pocket - even if he had a nifty "Batman" belt strapped around his waist supporting this brick. (don't take the belt comment personally, the point is the extra two pound of daily luggage.)
      kenosha77a
  • LTE needs at least 12 months...

    ...for battery efficient implementation. In the mean time, carriers and phone manufactures should invest in HSPA+ which can reach a theoretical maximum of 42Mbps. This is available in Australia where i live and i regularly get over 20Mbps down using my USB dongle on my Asus Eee Slate EP121.
    alamfour
    • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

      Just a postscript to alamfour's post. The company selling HSPA+ (Telstra) said at the start of 2011 that their system would be getting a speed boost to 84Mb/s by the end of the year.

      (They'll have to get their skates on to meet the deadline!)
      StandardPerson
  • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

    I'm anxious to see a windows phone w/ LTE to see how much more awesome it is on a phone w/ good battery management already
    bc3tech
  • I get 6 hours...

    ... But for me what makes LTE basicly useless is the lack of an unlimited plan. I use mine for streaming video and can blow through my monthly data cap in less than six hours.

    In the mean time, AT&T's 3G HSPA network is getting fast enough for video and I still have an unlimited plan from them for my iPhone. So I use that even though it still won't let me download over 20 MB from the store without being on wifi.
    ShockMe
  • Hello, Larry?

    Isn't Larry Dignan always arguing that Windows Phones don't stand a chance unless they can advertise LTE? Not quite convinced it's entirely necessary, or the best ad you can have. Now, I suppose if Nokia could figure out how to serve LTE without the battery drain...
    WebSiteManager
  • RE: LTE: Not ready for battery-driven prime time

    I think in the short term, 4G manufacturers need to abandon the fight with apple to be thinner, make thicker 4G phones with stock batteries the size of extended batteries, I'm sure if you gave in and made thicker phones you could make something much more attractive than my thunderbolt with the huge humpback lol.<br>That said, I can get through a day with a stock battery even on the thunderbolt simply by charging whenever I can, in the car, when I'm sitting at my desk<br>So the battery life isn't a deal breaker for me and I have the worst case phone the thunderbolt , which I usaully run with a slightly larger than stock resound 1620 mah battery, it fits perfectly in the thunderbolt without any issues.

    Also android manufacturers need to stop bundling all of their crap skins, I easily get an hour or more battery running AOSP on my thunderbolt because it doesn't contains all the crap services and software htc includes.
    movielover76
  • LTE no better for me with extended battery!

    I decided that if it took an extended battery to live well with LTE, so be it. However, I found that it didn't last any longer! I complained to Verizon but got the "your mileage may vary" spin back from them. I am not a heavy user of my Droid Bionic for either telephone or data. I gave up and went back to the standard battery with LTE disabled. I now only use about 40% of the battery on an average day. I think that the industry is going to have real problems with LTE of users are going to have to wear a "Bat Belt" with multiple batteries in it to make it through a day of average to heavy usage. The current crop of phones are not up to the task.
    nobrien1@...