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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  • DeesTroy - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    My younger brother works for Garmin. You almost certainly won't get voice directions, at least not for free. The licensing agreements with the few companies that make the maps used in mapping software (e.g. Navteq) are very specific about what you can and can't do with the maps they provide. The mapping companies currently charge significantly more if you want to do voice directions. Nokia's purchase of Navteq makes a huge lot of sense given what one can do with maps, a GPS, and Internet all in one package. All of this is probably part of the reason that Garmin is getting into the phone business with the nuvifone. Reply
  • cocoviper - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Well I think it depends on how we define free. Since you're paying so much for the iPhone's plan one would think they could (or should) include it at some point.

    The Instinct does turn-by-turn voice GPS and it's included in the phone's plan.
    Reply
  • jcal710 - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Anand,

    You talked about the problems with contact syncing on Exchange. How configurable is it? Does it automatically default to your top level 'Contacts' folder in your Exchange mailbox, or can your point it somewhere else? Do you have the option of choosing whether or not to sync subfolders?
    Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    I'm glad I didnt go for the first iphone, that way I can appreciate my 3G more(besides the fact that it wasnt sold until the 11th of july in this country and I would have been forced to import one and jailbreak it).

    Anand, your friend with the huge lips doesnt listen to the name of S.Tyler by chance? :P
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Anand, do you know if Apple's A-GPS implementation requires cellular network access? Some do, others can revert to traditional GPS operation if there's no cellular network to offer location assistance. I'm curious which of this it is Reply
  • Obrut - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    So how is it even remotely possible that there hasn’t been a real iPhone competitor in the year since the original’s release?

    Nokia N95 8GB is far superior to iPhone and it was released even before the first iPhone.
    It's right to say there's no competition here. Apple need at least 3-4 more years to be truly competitive to Nokia. I think iPhone is better solution for americans. In Europe you need 3.5G or 4G phone to be truly connected.
    Reply
  • michael2k - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    You're serious aren't you?

    Let us count the ways then:
    iPhone screen resolution is 2x the Nokia screen resolution
    iPhone is nearly half as thick as the Nokia
    CPU of nearly twice the speed

    The Nokia's one physical advantage is the 5MP cammera (which is only possible because the Nokia is twice as thick).
    Reply
  • Obrut - Friday, July 18, 2008 - link

    OK, let's count, Michael...

    1. Screen resolution is bigger and it should be simply because the display is much bigger. The display is much bigger because it's a touchscreen, though not big enough for my fingers.
    2. iPhone is thin and that's because it has merely 4 buttons and a low profile, low-end camera. By the way how do you play games without buttons?
    3. Speaking of games how do you play OpenGL games? I play Quake 2 with full lighting effects and FSAA at 40 FPS. What about the JAVA games?
    4. N95 8GB is a dual CPU solution (2 x ARM 11 @ 332MHz) hence no lower performance here.
    5. The 5MP camera of N95 8GB is more that just megapixels - it has Carl Zeiss optics, decent flashlight and can capture movies at 640x480@30FPS. In addition - correct me if I'm wrong but I don't see the front camera which every decent 3G phone has. How can I make a video call with iPhone? After all this is one of the best 3G features.

    I can continue counting the battery, office productivity and so on, but this is not the place. I don't want to engage in a Nokia vs. Apple or N9x vs. iPhone battle here. I just don't like statements like "there's no competition", "best phone ever" etc. The most accurate thing to say is that iPhone is the best touchphone to date.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Why talk if you dont know what you're talking about? 3.5G is called HSDPA (an extension to UMTS) in europe, which is supported by the iphone 3G. 4G isnt even available yet, think 2010 for commercial use, so why mention it?

    Why is there no competition? Because none of the competition has a smartphone that comes with this usability. All the other phones can do the same or more, yes. But all of them feel clumsy like a brick when using them. That is why there is no competition. And this comes from somebody who truly doesnt like apple and its godfather jobs...

    Reply
  • cocoviper - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Speaking of not knowing what you're talking about...

    HSDPA isn't 3.5G, it's definitely AT&T's 3G and that is what the iPhone 3G supports. That's the 3G that Anand complained is not really that much faster.

    If there were a "3.5G" in AT&T's portfolio it would be HUPSA (the one that they just upped the offered speeds on.) However AT&T currently doesn't offer any phones that are HUPSA capable. They only have a couple of Aircards for laptops.

    And yes, 4G is available in many parts of the world besides the US my friend. WiMax alone is deployed 119 countries currently. LTE is the only 4G that's "not even available yet," and that's because it's yet to be developed. (LTE isn't even into the whitepaper stage yet.)

    So don't slam other people especially since there's always someone that will know more than you.

    sources -> http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Tech.Q1.07/93...">http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Te...A0BF6-62...
    http://www.ctia.org/consumer_info/wow/index.cfm/20...">http://www.ctia.org/consumer_info/wow/index.cfm/20...
    Reply

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