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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  • Antioch18x - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    Not only that but I didn't see mention of using a background task killer with "auto kill." (But, granted, I didn't *read* the whole article as I already own a N1 and didn't need to see your impressions of it). Due to the Android's method of multitasking, many times you don't actually exit an app when you think you do - it continues running in the background. You really do need a background task auto-killer to get the best battery life. This is one flaw, I think, in Android.

    Anyways, keeping this in mind I find that your battery life tests may be off. I get better battery life on my N1 than the old iPhone 3G.
    Reply
  • spideryk - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    There are alternative keyboards available for the android. as of right now swype keyboard is the best available means of entering text on a smart phone. once you get used to swype, you only need one hand to type and most of the time do not need to look at the keyboard to type. a must have on android. Reply
  • bob1939 - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    Great review as usual but you missed something I consider critical. The lack of support for hands free bluetooth dialing.
    Where I live it can cost $180 if you are caught using a handheld phone while driving, so Hands Free dialing is a must.
    Worse Google insists in calling his shortcoming an enhancement and shows no sign of fixing it in the near term.
    For me this is a showstopper.

    Bob Benedetti
    Reply
  • dvinnen - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    Not sure what you mean by blue tooth dialing but there is certainly voice dialing. The whole voice integration in Android is really fantastic as Anand said in his review. Reply
  • bob1939 - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    I mean leave the phone in your pocket and press the button on the steering wheel, on the bluetooth speaker or bluetooth earpiece and say call whoever and the phone dials the number.
    My understanding of the N1 and other Android 2.1 devices is that you have to press something at least twice on the phone to operate the voice dial. Where I live that will cost $180 if you are seen by a cop fiddling with the phone while driving.

    Bob Benedetti
    Reply
  • LongTimePCUser - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    I have a Motorola Droid and a 2006 Toyota Prius.
    The Droid connects via BlueTooth with the Prius.
    I can dial a phone number on the Droid from the Prius touch screen.
    Reply
  • joe6 - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    1) Good: Nexus One has a microSD card slot. Big advantage in my book.
    2) Bad: Nexus One doesn't support Exchange/Outlook calendar sync without going through the Google cloud services. This is just silly and frankly, kills the deal for me. I think most Nexus One RMAs come from this bullet alone.
    Reply
  • Pitne - Monday, April 05, 2010 - link

    There an app for this. How do you people miss the point that is android? Android is all about being open and not LOCKED DOWN like apple. So go download the more functional exchange apps and STFU Reply
  • Cali3350 - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    Not sure if you posted it and I missed it or if you simply don't want to say in a public forum (which is understandable) but which do you , Anand, see yourself using in the future - the Nexus One or the iPhone 3GS? That sort of message says a lot about the current state of the platforms. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I'm torn.

    After the review I switched back to the 3GS because of the simplicity and the keyboard (I type a *lot*). In doing so, I miss the screen, form factor (ugh it was painful holding the iPhone to my head for an hour long phonecall vs. the Nexus One), some of the apps/features and the speed of the Nexus One. Today my answer would be the 3GS, but after using the Nexus One so much over the past few weeks I have to say that some aspects of the iPhone really do feel archaic.

    What I may do going forward is continue to alternate between the two to get a better feel for their respective strengths and weaknesses.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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