Battery Life

I published some initial results about the iPhone 3G’s battery life here, but now it’s time for a full analysis of what the phone can do.

Initial tear-down reports show that Apple switched to a removable battery with the iPhone 3G, removable in the sense that it isn’t soldered to anything inside the case, but still requires that you take apart your iPhone to get to it. Not having a removable battery wasn’t really an issue for me with the first iPhone since I tend to go through phones quicker than their batteries stop holding a charge. Granted even if you don’t keep your phones for that long, it would be nice to be able to swap in a new battery if you’re running low - especially with how much power the 3G modem gobbles up.

The first question about the iPhone 3G is its talk time when 3G is enabled. Most users won’t want to keep switching 3G on and off and I suspect that many will just leave it enabled, so what will that do to talk time? To test this I played music back on a notebook through some headphones placed right at the mic on the iPhone 3G. The phone was flipped over on a table to trigger its sensor and shut off the display, thus simulating a real call. I called my Vonage deskline from the iPhone and got to listen to 50 Cent play over and over again for hours, a homage to what I did last year with the first iPhone.

Battery Life Test - Talk Time

Battery life with 3G enabled was 4 hours and 44 minutes, down from nearly 6 hours when I tested the original iPhone. Turning off the 3G modem and switching to Edge, my call time went up to 6 hours and 4 minutes, about where it should be based on my original iPhone test results. With less than 5 hours of talk time, if you plan on doing a lot of talking you had better shut off 3G mode on the iPhone.

Unfortunately Apple doesn’t make turning 3G on/off as easy as silencing your phone. It takes three taps to get to the menu where you can enable/disable 3G from the home screen, another tap to change the setting and one more tap to get back home. It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely not the most easily accessible thing in the world.

Note that this is far less than the 10 hours of talk time that Apple claims on the iPhone 3G’s spec sheet, and also keep in mind that this is the best case scenario. My voice test just involves the phone sitting in one location with music playing through the mic. Battery life could go down significantly if you were using the phone in an area with lower signal strength or if you were constantly hopping between cell towers.

To test web browsing I ran the same script I did for the iPhone follow-up article I wrote last year: (note that you shouldn't compare results between the original iPhone review and today's, it looks like changes AT&T has made in my area have changed signal strength considerably).

Our web browsing test is slightly different from what we ran in the iPhone review. We used a total of 7 web pages, but of much larger sizes than our first test. The first page was simply a counter page, the second was our review of the Core 2 Duo E6750, followed by our article on AMD's Phenom introduction, an excerpt from our Quad FX article, our entire iPhone review, an article on Intel's Turbo Memory and our entire AMD Radeon 2900 XT review.

Each page was loaded by the browser and was set to forward to the next page (in the above order) after 10 seconds; the iPhone’s brightness was set to approximately 50%. All backlight timers were disabled. Bluetooth was enabled but not paired to any devices.

Battery Life Test - Web Browsing

WiFi continues to take the cake at 6 hours and 40 minutes of total usage, which as we found out last year is what we should expect. Next up is performance on Edge, with the new iPhone lasting just over 4 hours. And finally we have 3G browsing performance: our battery was dead in 3 hours and 17 minutes.

Combine web browsing, email and voice and you’ll find that the iPhone 3G, in 3G mode, will burn through your battery in a matter of a few hours. The speed of 3G is nice, but the battery life suffers tremendously - pack an extra charger.

3G Performance GPS.........kinda
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  • cleviticus - Saturday, July 19, 2008 - link

    A basic one-line plan with Cingular (I know they go by AT&T now)without ANY extra features runs you $45/month and that is with just enough minutes to tell people that you'll call them back after nine. Unlimited internet and data runs $45, last I checked, and that somehow doesn't cover much texting, something I do a lot of. Texting is another $10. So to get service and data BEFORE tax you spend $90. My provider offers unlimited voice/data/text/GPS/e-mail for $100 with coverage that exceeds AT&T's.
    That fact alone is enough to keep me away from the iphone for good. I admit that the interface is unbeatable but the functionality of the phone is not. That being said I don't think it deserves as much attention as it receives. Also coverage varies drastically from city to city. In NY my phone works great but in Vegas it blows. In Chicago I'm golden but anywhere between Arkansas and Virginia- forget about it. I used cingular for two years and their coverage was only good in large metropolitan areas. As soon as I got out of the inner city my reception was weak and I couldn't even text. I think they are a horrible company but since they bought up most of the old bell empire- they're here to stay.
    Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    Wow I wish I had first comment here so I could get a response.

    In Anand's otherwise near-perfect review, he talked about Exchange support but didn't cover my #1 iPhone question: does Exchange support work without the $45 Enterprise Data plan? I can't for the life of my get a conclusive answer if the Enterprise plan is required for exchange, or just required if the iPhone is going to be purchased or paid for through a business.
    Reply
  • araczynski - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    i'm still holding out for the day the iphone comes with some real screen resolution.

    if the N810 can do much better than this, why can't the almighty apple?
    Reply
  • sleepr0 - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    Lets see:

    - The 3G doesn't fit the old cradle and the cradle is not included - $15.
    - Old cover doesn't fit - $20.
    - Unlimited data up $10/month.
    - Text up $5/month.
    - Cellular triangulation works nearly as well as GPS.
    - 3G not significantly faster than Edge and all the new users will take a load off of the Edge network, freeing up bandwidth and making Edge a bit faster.
    - Battery life worse.

    I'll wait for Version 3, thanks.
    Reply
  • wvh - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Why do you buy a new phone when you are happy with your old one – it has pretty much the same functionality anyway? What is wrong with all those people who buy something just because Apple (or whoever) releases it? All these morons queueing up, did they all accidentally happen to break their phone the day before?

    It's a nice in-depth article, no remarks there, I've just heard enough already about this consumer hype. It's just talking people into fake needs.

    Blast me for being negative, but you know I'm right.
    Reply
  • michael2k - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    The problem is that people aren't happy with their old one, and it doesn't have the same functionality, so that is why they queue for the iPhone. So essentially all your base assumptions are wrong.

    There is nothing wrong with these people; there is something wrong with the RZRS et al they already own, because they were broken the minute they bought them. No accident, they were just made that way.
    Reply
  • Giacomo - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    No, actually you aren't right. You could be, if we were here to make free-philosophy, but that's not the case, we're here to talk about hardware (and related).

    So then, you are accusing the mass of an excess of "hype" around the iPhone, and well, while it's definitely true that many of those people will buy it for "trendy" purposes, there are surely others (like me) who are about to buy it because they just like it and could benefit from it. In my particular case, I have lost my iPod Mini (...) and my cellphone is at its 4th year of life, with the keyboard almost died (intense 20.000+ sms usage in these years). The iPhone, by simply being, to me, an iPod which calls and writes sms, is great to have both the devices in the "main" pocket.

    Full comfort over the whole year (no matter what clothes I'm wearing, the front/right pocket does ALWAYS have my cellphone inside, and thanks to the iPhone, the iPod as well), a brilliant keyboard for my heavy SMS usage, and I could be happy without anything else. Plus, there's something else actually, and I'll surely enjoy.

    If we had to think like you in your post, we should all tell you: Why do you read Anandtech? You can live with a 5 years old PC without problems nor upgrades, if you just use some Office, browse the web and check your mail. If you game, well, that's energy consuming, money-wasting, time-wasting, and you should quit. But, of course, none in here would say that to you, neither would I.

    Regards

    Giacomo
    Reply
  • scottwilkins - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    First, I've had AT&T for years. Never stepped in a store, and never talked with them about a purchase. They were very helpful and darn quick about replacing my wife's phone when it died. AT&T is the easiest to work with (and I work with most of them because I support a lot of folks on different networks) Plus, the AT&T signal in the places I go beats out all others hands down. So for you to say their signal is bad is very objective and quite stupid, since you did it only probably in one room and not overall.

    Also, your indications that other phones can't do what the iPhone can do are all false. One thing the iPhone CAN'T do that many many other phones can do is change. It can't change it's interface to suit other purposes, it can't change it's battery, and it can't change carriers. The 3G's only add over the old iPhone is 3G and GPS. All other features are software, and now available on the original iPhone. So an upgrade is useless until you contract is up.

    Apple is a closed box. I prefer freedom.
    Reply
  • michael2k - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Uh, with a soft interface and touchscreen, the iPhone is just about the only device where it's interface can change as needed; you get two buttons when in Camera mode, 20+ in Calculator mode, 26+ in note-taking mode, etc. Reply
  • Ryl3x - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    I will buy at lunch. I read alot of reviews over the web including sites that dedicate themselves to phones. I found this to be one that i could relate to. Thanks. Reply

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