Smartphones improve every year. Faster processors, less lag, bigger and brighter screens, innovative features that promise to smooth our interactions with them and solve problems we didn’t know existed.
And yet no company has really gotten behind solving the most serious problem facing phones today. Why has the hell no one solved battery life?
Seriously. It is an outrage that smartphones in 2014 cannot make it through the day if they’re under 5 inches and not from Apple. What is the point of having all those neat features if I can’t use them? Dead phones are useless.
Let’s chart the state of smartphone batteries in 2014, shall we? I’ve picked out a few good and bad trends in the industry.
Good – Size Means Battery
Ask any Galaxy Note owner what kind of time they get with Samsung’s monstrous phone-but-not-quite-a-tablet. Those things can go for two days without a charge.
I noticed the same thing when I moved up to a 5-inch Galaxy S4. The Larger frame means larger battery means longer life.
As the high-end smartphone market slowly transforms into small tablets, their batteries have followed the same trend. Megaphones get that extra capacity that makes all the difference.
I like the increased battery life. It’s definitely a good thing when most major Android flagships can produce an all-day performance.
Bad – People Use Bigger Batteries to Compensate for Poor Software
Android, as implemented by OEMs, is not terribly efficient. It’s the same problem as Windows. Google has to write generic software for a variety of hardware models and can’t do low-level optimizations.
The impression this outsider gets is that Google and OEMs would rather inflate screen sizes and batteries than solve the underlying hardware issues.
This is bad practice. I’d rather see them focus on making Android run as sleekly as possible so that everyone can benefit (and not be forced into a phablet to get good battery).
Good – OEMs Are Finally Paying Attention to Battery
Check out the latest flagships from Samsung and HTC. The Galaxy S5 ships with a nifty black-and-white mode for the whole OS to help users save battery. It disables everything but texting, calling, web browsing, and using a few apps.
HTC added a similar feature that blocks off everything except the basic system functions. Both modes can produce hours of battery even on low power charges.
These modes are good starts. Phones should definitely have this capacity. However, I’d love more to see these features rolled out across more phones and implemented into the basic OS. Fine-grained control of what gets turned off would be excellent.
Bad – Nobody Makes Battery Life Their Top Priority
Motorola announced the Droid Maxx a while back, a phone built around a massive battery. It used a special body to accommodate the charging unit.
It sounded cool. But, it was only on Verizon and never earned “flagship” status and the constant updates that accompany that title.
We need to see a new smartphone that takes battery life as seriously as Motorola did back in the day. We need something that can actually last all day. Ignore useless features and other stuff that Samsung likes. Just add more battery.
The trends today are positive. Samsung and HTC are recognizing users’ need to, you know, use their phones. This is difficult when your phone runs out of battery quickly. Hopefully, they’ll keep working on that.