Battery Life: Unimpressive

The iPhone doesn't have a very long lasting battery. Before my iPhone I was a Blackberry user; my battery lasted for days. With the iPhone, especially while I'm traveling, I have to keep charging it throughout the day or risk a completely dead phone by 6PM. The Nexus One is worse.

To test battery life I ran the same suite of battery life tests I have been using in our smartphone reviews for the past couple of years:

The wireless web browsing test uses the 3G or WiFi connection to browse a series of 20 web pages varying in size, spending 20 seconds on each page (I timed how long it takes me to read a page on Digg and came up with 36 seconds; I standardized on 20 seconds for the test to make things a little more stressful). The test continues to loop until the phone dies. This test is designed to simulate a relatively heavy, but realistic data load on the phone. We're stressing the modem/WiFi radio, SoC, memory and display subsystems here. This should also be the sort of battery life you get when you are using any apps that use data (but not 3D acceleration). The display brightness was set to roughly 30% on the Nexus One and 50% on the iPhone.

The H.264 movie playback test loops a 480 x 208 632Kbps re-encode of Slumdog Millionaire until the phone dies. The majority of the device is idle during this test stressing the memory subsystem, video decoder, audio decoder and display more than anything else. The display brightness was set to roughly 30% on the Nexus One and 50% on the iPhone.

The talk time test measures battery life over the course of a conversation between the phone being tested and another phone. The conversation is actually an MP3 playlist on repeat played into the microphone of the phone being tested. The display was disabled.

Battery Life
 
Apple iPhone 3G
Apple iPhone 3GS
Google Nexus One
Wireless Web Browsing (3G) 4.50 hours 4.82 hours 3.77 hours
Wireless Web Browsing (WiFi) 6.67 hours 8.83 hours 5.62 hours
H.264 Movie Playback 4.70 hours 9.65 hours 6.67 hours
3G Talk Time 4.82 hours 4.82 hours 4.67 hours

 

Despite having a larger 1400 mAh battery, the Nexus one proved to have worse battery life across the board than the iPhone 3GS both in my tests and in my day to day usage. The only redeeming quality here is that you can easily swap out spare batteries, while the iPhone requires a 3rd party external battery if you need more juice on the go.

Talk time is lower than on the iPhone 3GS. Using the 3G data or WiFi connections both result in the phone dying faster than the 3GS. Even H.264 video playback discharges the Nexus One's battery faster.

I'm not sure if it's the AMOLED display, the Snapdragon SoC or just inefficiencies in Android but the battery life story isn't a good one.

Android does have a power consumption page that shows what percentage of battery drain can be attributed to various components in the phone (e.g. display, OS, specific apps, idle time). It’s not granular enough for my needs but it’s a great way of showing users, at a high level, what’s killing the battery.

Barcodes & Goggles - Making Science Fiction Reality Final Words
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  • KaarlisK - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    ´´The graph below shows the rough costs of simply keeping up with fab technology every two years:´´
    Can´t seem to find it.
    Reply
  • deputc26 - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    Thanks Anand, Great Review! Reply
  • windywoo - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    Taken out of context like that, the quote sounds like it is describing a graph of smartphone prices, laptops, e-readers :) Fab tech. Reply
  • Nihility - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    I just know that after experiencing any responsiveness issues, that within a few months I'll get really frustrated with the device.
    I still have an iPhone 2G and I hate it. Takes forever to launch apps, browsing the web is a miserable experience and the battery life sucks. I'm definitely in the market for a better phone but I think I'll just wait for something smoother.

    One of my main gripes is that my navigation app for the iPhone takes ages to load and if I get a call mid-work I'll have to restart it. Hate that.

    Like Anand said, on paper the N1 is perferct but I'll let them smooth out the rough parts before I get one.
    Reply
  • Exelius - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    I had the same complaint of my iPhone 3G. I bought a 3GS the day it came out and it is a huge improvement over both the 2G and 3G in responsiveness. My girlfriend has a regular 3G and much prefers using my 3GS over her own phone when browsing the web or using the Maps application.

    If responsiveness is a problem on the iPhone platform, get a 3GS before ditching the iPhone completely. The hardware on the 3GS is roughly equivalent to the Nexus One.
    Reply
  • Nihility - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    No way. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...
    No more iPhones for me.

    My main concern was all my apps, but most of them are available for the Android so there's nothing holding me back. I'll be glad to get rid of iTunes.
    Reply
  • solipsism - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    You're comparing a phone from 2007 with an ARMv6 @400MHz w/ 128MB RAM and discounting the model that came two years later with ARMv7 @ 600MHz w/ 256MB RAM. Makes perfect sense¡ Reply
  • KaarlisK - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    I love both the attention to detail and depth you have :)

    And I have to say that Android, not WinMo7, is the replacement for Windows Mobile 6.5 in my eyes. WinMo7 just isn´t WinMo :D
    Reply
  • LuxZg - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    I agree, great review, I think I've never read anything that long about a phone :)
    And I agree with Android being a true Windows Mobile successor.. I don't have money for stuff like this, but if I did - I'd want all the freedom of my PC on my mobile as well. In that regard, Android seems to be the only option at the moment.

    There is one thing that will clearly make lives of some people miserable.. Data rates in some countries are horrible, and smartphones all rely on mobile data connection heavily, but Nexus One is a data-hog champion by the looks of it. Hopefully, by the time I'll be able to afford phones like this one, this will be solved :)
    Reply
  • macs - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    Thank you Anand, the review is great and as an owner of the Nexus One I agree with your thoughts.

    Android world is so wide that it's really hard to have a complete review and I think what is really missing here is something about the community around Android, XDA forum, CyanogenMOD , USB Tethering, WIFI Tethering,...
    Reply

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