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

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

Summary: Do you seriously expect me to go all day with a battery that can realistically keep a 4G phone powered for four hours using default presets?

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Yesterday, I took the plunge and used up one of my line upgrades on my Verizon Wireless account on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. My wife, who dutifully went to the store yesterday to pick it up for me when I was away on a business trip got my current Droid Bionic in trade.

I've only been playing with the Nexus for a few hours, and I happen to think it is a great phone, but it is yet again another of the latest crop of smartphones that all have the same exact problem: an anemic battery, with a whole 1850 milliampere-hours (mAh) to keep this hungry 4G phone with a super-bright AMOLED HD display running all day.

This has been going on for years, ever since I started using smartphones with my original Blackberry Bold 9000. If you want a whole day of uninterrupted use without having to top off your charge, you need to go buy an extended battery instead.

The ones that come with the phones just aren't good enough, and I'm including Apple with their ridiculous sealed battery compartments in this complaint too. A whole 1400 mAh to run the iPhone 4S for a full day of use? Seriously?

And Motorola, just what the hell were you thinking when you designed an ultra-thin 4G Android phone with a sealed battery compartment with the Droid Razr? That's like building a Lamborghini with a 4 gallon gas tank. It's not going to go very far.

A whole industry of smartphone accessories from 3rd party battery manufacturers has cropped up in order to deal with this problem. SEIDIO Innocell is one of the more well-known companies and they produce huge Lithium Ions for most of the major brands and carriers .

For example, the ones that they produce for the newer 4G phones are in the 2800-3500 mAh range. These are all pretty much guaranteed to keep a phone running in 4G mode running for an entire 8 hour business day with moderate usage.

And if you drop your phone down to 3G and only turn the GPS services and the email sync on when you need them, you can keep it running around 16 to 20 hours with one of these batteries.

Still, I don't understand why we need to have default anemic batteries in the first place. I understand the desire for manufacturers to keep handsets thin, but let's face it, this is getting ridiculous.

A lot of this has to do with Apple driving the industrial design ethos that everyone is now competing with, but I find that Apple-envy ideology in order to attract customers when it comes to phones a bit nuts.

I mean, the entire auto industry doesn't try to make all cars look like Ferraris. So why should every smartphone strive to be ultra-thin? How can you reasonably expect a day of life out of a 4G, let alone a 3G phone with heavy usage with a battery with less than say, 2500 mAh?

This is doubly infuriating because the first thing that I do when I buy a new phone is want to put in a bigger battery. In the case of the Galaxy Nexus, Verizon offers a Samsung OEM 2100 mAh battery to replace the default 1850 mAh one.

That's what, a whole 250 mAh improvement? Why isn't that the default battery in the first place?

After you've bought your extended battery, you now have to figure out how to get it into a protective case. This is even more of a problem, because companies like OtterBox (my case vendor of choice) only design their cases for the default battery, not for 3rd-party batteries, or even the extended OEM batteries offered from the carrier.

I also went through this issue on my Droid Bionic -- Motorola offers its own extended battery, the 2760 mAh BW8X. But good luck finding any 3rd-party case that fits it.

Until battery chemistry improves to allow thinner batteries to hold a much larger charge, the only solution to battery anemia is for the handset OEMs and the carriers to finally face up to the facts that trying to sell a thin phone with a battery that isn't up to the task is doing a huge disservice to the customer.

And that may very well mean sacrificing the "I want to be like Apple" ethos and giving us bigger batteries and somewhat thicker phones by default.

Has your phone's default anemic battery driven you into extended 3rd-party battery products? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, Mobility, Verizon

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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62 comments
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  • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

    Interesting how you blamed your Android handset battery woes on Apple. Wasn't Motorola's initial Razor cell phone the genesis for your thin industrial design ethos?
    kenosha77a
    • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

      @kenosha7777 We're talking about smartphones here which have much higher power requirements than a simple dumb phone.
      jperlow
      • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

        @jperlow

        Are you calling my trusty old phone "dumb"? Grin.

        I anticipated and understood your points, Jason, even before I posted my initial comment. But my point is still valid in that the modern industrial cell phone design, which places an emphasis on thinness, began with the initial Moto Razor.

        By the way, Apple has taken a lot of press flack over their decision to eschew incorporating 4G technology into their iPhone 4 and 4s models citing battery charge duration issues using current 4G chip sets.<br><br>However, using current technology, I have read that handset manufactures were more or less forced to create a larger handset in order to incorporate a larger battery that would supply minimal accepted 4G duration times. The larger display screens used in these handsets were not a response by primary end users requesting a larger viewing area but rather a design consequence resulting from a case designed to incorporate the larger battery.

        Personally, you may have been better off choosing the 4S (or any 3G handset) rather than a 4G enabled phone until the technology catches up to the dream, so to speak. (In much the same way that your fellow ZDNet bloggers, AKH, James and David have chosen to do.)
        kenosha77a
      • More to the point, the Razr held a charge

        @jperlow

        Yes, the Razr set the stage for devices that targeted form instead of function, but even so, it had several days of standby time with the battery it had.

        My single biggest question that tangentially targets battery life is this: Why do apps start by themselves in Android? Yes, running some sort of system service is a requirement for certain things (push e-mail, the BBM clone apps, alarm clocks, etc.), but why is there no facility that prevents apps from starting by themeselves? Certainly bundling something like msconfig into Android would help, right?

        Joey
        voyager529
      • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

        @jperlow problem is Apple batteries does not even last that long. Not to mention Apple does not have 4G too... For God's sake, please stop binding everything to Apple-envy because there is none...
        AmediaN
      • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

        @voyager529
        I have a rooted Nook Color and I noticed this problem of apps Opening by themselves. It comes down to the App Creator they make it so it will do this when it's installed (For all kinds of things most harmless some not so harmless) I hope Google will add an option to have an app auto start or not, Until they do that I will just use the System Tune app to disable the auto start of apps or just uninstall the apps completely.
        nickitnite
      • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

        @AmediaN [b]problem is Apple batteries does not even last that long. Not to mention Apple does not have 4G too... For God's sake, please stop binding everything to Apple-envy because there is none...
        [/b]

        Really? I must have somehow gotten a supercharged iPhone 4 because my battery lasts 2 days before I need to charge it - and that's with phone calls, emails, texts, foursquare check-ins, Facebook, and playing solitare or scrabble while waiting on the slow elevator. In comparison my Samsung Fascinate lasts less than a day. And YES there is a lot of Apple envy - it sucks but it's there nonetheless.
        athynz
      • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

        @Pete "athynz" Athens

        2days? You must have the compacto super duper battery maxx model!

        Dude, you need to stop looking at it and use it.
        Moderate use never had any iPhone last 2 days.
        Now my i4 on iOS 5 won't last over night unless plugged in.

        2 days..... Wow
        rhonin
      • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

        @Pete "athynz" Athens seriously mate? Galaxy S II runs over 3 days straight with your usage. You must be halucinating about iPhone 4S, cos I also have one there...
        AmediaN
    • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

      "If you drop your phone down to 3G and only turn the GPS services and the email sync on when you need them, you can keep it running around 16 to 20 hours with one of these batteries."

      You can anyway or there about. An Android phone should last about 12-15 hours with moderate use (the so called "day's use"). We've not got 4G here and it sounds like America shouldn't really have it either, batteries cannot cope.

      I 100% agree they need to stop with this obsession on making phones slimmer and slimmer. Many extended batteries aren't much thicker and I know most people would prefer a battery that truly lasted a day (24 hours).

      It won't happen though. The public now expects slim phones.

      p.s - I've never used a phone case. I prefer to look after my phone.
      bradavon
    • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

      @Joey: I don't really buy it but Android is supposed to self-manage and dormant apps aren't supposed to use any battery power at all.
      bradavon
      • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

        @bradavon

        My HTC HD2 running Windows Mobile 6.5 will get me through a day on a standard capacity battery. My other HTC HD2 running Android with similar usage patterns will get me through most of the day on a high capacity battery.

        I'm open to alternative explanations.

        Joey
        voyager529
  • Yes and No

    So far I have been really pleased with my SG Skyrocket.
    A good power management system seems to really help.
    After using an iPhone for a while, I have unfortunately, become very adept at "sipping" from notebooks etc... to allow full day use.

    For phones I have put an extended battery into, due o the case issue (as in lack of) I find if I wrap it in a Gelaskin it does really well. (Note:textured backs may have issues with these)
    rhonin
  • File this rant in the same file as your post on checking bags...

    Jason, it is not all about you. Smaller batteries are used because most consumers don't need anything bigger, and they are cheaper. Case manufactures produce for the rule and not the exception. As for the sealed battery, I have come to the conclusion I would rather use a battery case rather opening up my phone every time I wanted to change batteries. Much less ware and tare on the phone that way as the battery doors are not really designed to be opened and shut on a daily basis.
    I am sorry to be one the one that has to tell you that the world does not revolve around you. Decisions are made every day with no thought of how Jason would like the world to be.
    jhuddle
    • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

      @jhuddle Really I was under the impression that EVERYTHING was about me. I guess you learn something new every day. Thanks man!
      jperlow
      • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

        @jperlow No worries I'm here to help. In all seriousness its about the economics. There are alot more batterry/accessory options for iPhones simply because there are more of them with fewer form factors. Makes life much easier for third party manufactures to realize enough market to make the stuff you are looking for. Maybe that should enter into your decision making. It did for me.
        jhuddle
      • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

        @jperlow


        I suggest you get over your Windows blindness and try WP7. Yet to find one that didn't last 2-3 days. But then that's what I'd expect of a software developer, rather than your favourite advertising and packaging companies ;-)
        tonymcs@...
      • its these moments that have pushed science forward, keep blogging jason

        Its not about replies its about opinion
        BTW Nokia Lumina 800 runs 2 days all turned on
        Admittedly its not 4g...
        @jperlow
        Dum0nt
    • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

      @jhuddle BS most consumers don't need anything bigger. The biggest complaint I ever hear with any phone usually boils down to "God, I just charged this thing and it's already dead".
      Aerowind
      • RE: Handset Manufacturers: Who are we kidding with the anemic smartphone batteries?

        @Aerowind That might be the most complaints you hear, but you only hear that from the power users, who end up being a relatively small group. Hence most users don't need the bigger battery. Most people can plug thier phone when they go to bed and they are fine for the next day, some might charge in their car on the way home or on their way out for the evening, but that gets them through.
        If most people needed the larger battery, then most would want a case to accommodate the larger battery, and we would see more cases for larger batteries than for the stock battery. That is just not the case. Look don't bite my head off I'm only telling what the market has said.
        Out of the 150 phones I support, only three have extra batteries. Why because they are the only ones who need it.
        jhuddle