Battery Life and Charging

Battery life is one of those things that consistently ranks among the highest in consideration for a mobile device. At the same time, OEMs still seem largely unwilling to double or triple battery capacities between generations, or go the Motorola route and offer two different models with double capacity. The story of smartphones is again this continual competition between everything and the industrial design.

With the One, HTC has gone again to its pyramidal stack of display, then battery, then PCB. The result is the familiar curved backside from where the PCB sits, and a large, thin battery sandwiched between the display and PCB.

The HTC One moves to a 2300 mAh, 3.8V (the higher nominal chemistry that everyone has moved to) lithium-ion polymer battery, giving it a capacity of 8.74 watt-hours. It’s obviously internal and not easily user-replaceable. Of course, battery size doesn’t entirely dictate battery life, it’s just a larger electron tank to draw from. What ultimately is a more interesting is how efficient the platform is which draws from it.

The thing about HTC and battery life specifically is that as of late they’ve been penalizing themselves on the display side of things, which is the single largest consumer of power in a device. A number of other OEMs artificially clamp display brightness just to set a better higher bound for battery life, and for example HTC’s display auto brightness function doesn’t have as much dynamic range as the slider being actuated manually. The result is a phone that’s brighter than it needs to be a lot of the time. On the software side HTC does have system optimizations that do things like batch up network traffic so that the phone isn’t going into a constant cellular connected state and burning power for an app written by a developer who doesn’t know anything about cellular connection state tables, and strategies like suspending the cellular data connection when on WiFi or when the phone is in standby for long periods.

To find out where the HTC One sits in the battery life spectrum, we turn to the newest version of our battery life test. This is now our sixth revision of the battery life test, and we feel is the optimal balance between challenging workloads and idle time. The basic overview is the same as the previous test — we load webpages at a fixed interval until the handset dies, with display set at exactly 200 nits as always. Power saving features (in this case the HTC Power Saver) are disabled if they turn on automatically, and background account sync is disabled. The test is performed over both cellular data on all available air interfaces and over WiFi in an environment with good signal levels. The new test has decreased pause time between web page loads and added a number of JavaScript-heavy pages. I sat down with some UMTS RRC (Radio Resource Control) emulator tools and also made sure we had a good balance of all the RRC states (DCH, PCH if possible, FACH, IDLE) so we weren’t heavily biased towards one mode or the other.

I’ve included the HTC DNA in the fray as well since I’ve had those numbers for a while. Let’s start with the WiFi test, where we attach the device to a dedicated WiFi network with no other clients.

AT Smartphone Bench 2013: Web Browsing Battery Life (WiFi)

The One includes the newest BCM4335 WiFi/BT/FM combo from Broadcom, which is still built on a 40nm process. For the purpose of the battery life test I attached the One to the same AP as I’ve always used, however I will repeat with my 802.11ac AP in due time to see whether the shorter duty cycle afforded by a much higher PHY rate makes any difference.

AT Smartphone Bench 2013: Web Browsing Battery Life (3G/4G LTE)

On cellular data the One isn’t bad at all, looking at the 3G result from final hardware and final software. I consider this pretty good all things considered for the HTC One, and mirrors my experience.

Cellular Talk Time

On cellular talk time the One really shines, coming in well ahead of almost everything else. This is an impressive result.

WiFi Hotspot Battery Life Time

As a hotspot once again we have great battery performance. This test consists of four of the page loading tabs running on an attached notebook in addition to 128kbps streaming MP3 audio being played on the device. This is a challenging test that results in the cellular connection being lit up almost constantly, and isolates out display.

My subjective impressions using the HTC One as my personal device are that battery life is quite good, and moreover that the DNA battery life also was better than some other phones people had no problems with in 2012. I have yet to have an issue making it through an entire day on the HTC One, even when aggressively using the camera. If I knew I was going to be away from the charger for a long time, I did enable the power saver, which sets max CPU clock on the Snapdragon 600 to around 1.3 GHz in addition to lowering brightness a little bit, and a few other things as shown in the previous screenshot. In practice I really don’t notice much of a performance difference with the power saver box checked unless I’m really looking for it, but this probably dumps the SoC into a better voltage state to say nothing of how much lower active power is.

Charging on the HTC One takes a little while longer than I’m used to for other devices. I get lots of requests to do charging tests and have been running them on everything I can lately, but anything power related remains an involved process. To test the best case charge time, I have a dedicated power supply voltage limited to 5V and capable of supplying a lot of current. I emulate the USB BC1.2 charging spec on a breadboard and connect USB to the device, then time how long it takes to charge devices completely. I plug the phone in after it dies running our battery life test, and time the amount of time from that fully dead, won’t-turn-on state to fully charged, either with a green LED or when charge current goes to zero for devices without a charge status LED.

Device Charge Time - 0 to 100 Percent

The HTC One definitely takes a while to charge. What’s interesting however is that the charge curve gets the One to 85–90 percent under the normal 3 or so hours, it’s that last ten percent that takes forever. I also have confirmed that Qualcomm’s Quick Charge is not being used on the HTC One, for whatever reason, possibly to maximize compatibility with the portable USB battery chargers that are now proliferating. The PMIC is there, it just isn’t enabled. My guess would be that HTC wants to prioritize battery longevity and minimize any even potential extra wear since the battery on the One is sealed inside.

Hardware (Continued) and Cases HTC's Ultrapixels - Bucking The Trend
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  • funnyhog - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    Sigh .... you seems to have a misconception that Aluminium is a better material than Plastic composites? You do know that Aluminium is one of the softer and weaker and cheapest metal around? Unless they start using stainless steel, please tone down the exuberant over what is essential a very cheap and basic material in the engineering world.

    While I do not think Samsung uses top range composites (that are expensive AND can rival the properties of top range metals, although not usually all at the same time), from the reviews, it seems that the plastics used are consistently more scratch proof AND tougher than the aluminium used, which is so prone to dent and scuffing that you need to a cover over it at all times.
    Reply
  • Thud2 - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    Sigh ....

    Harrumph...
    Reply
  • funnyhog - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    As for the camera, you are right in saying that it is a compromise and trade off instead of a glowing fanboyish review like so many other reviewers. And in terms of trade off, it works if the person only wants to share over the web (and not to large screen format either, else it really really look horrible) or view their photos over small format viewers.

    But for most consumers who wants to print their photos, view it on their 17 inch HD laptop display or otherwise needs large format printout, it is a no go as the lack of details really really show, especially when the composition have lots of details or words/numbers. It is so bad that it can really detract from the overall quality of the photo, if it is enlarged and viewed over a large display or printed out onto just an A4 size paper. ( I tried both using the review images that claims to be the actual full size).
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Monday, April 15, 2013 - link

    You do realize there are no 17-inch laptops in existence with displays that have more pixels than this camera sensor? The only laptop with a screen resolution greater than 4 megapixels is the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. Also, prints up to 5"x9" could still be output at 150 LPI from a 300 DPI source.

    So yeah, the camera in this phone isn't exactly the same quality as a DSLR, but it is very well suited for "most consumers".
    Reply
  • peter123 - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    You people need to calm down with the bashing of this review. Anandtech also reviewed SGS2 and it was highly praised, REMEMBER? If you don't accept that a company other than samsung can produce an excellent device than I'm sorry but you are a fanboy. HTC is an excellent device. Period. Reply
  • praftman - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    17 Pages and only one on UI? How can I have just read every comment and yet nobody speaks with surprise about this amazing lack in an otherwise exceptional review?

    I'm purchasing this phone, and I like it for many of the same reasons Brian gives. I respect this review and yet…

    The UI is probably more important to the experience than all of the hardware; It's at least as important. Yet we receive one of the slimmest run-throughs of Sense 5.0 I've come across. I was hoping this indicated a companion review…but weeks in and there remains no Sense 5.0 review. What sacrifices are made by the lack of Jellybean 4.2.2? How do the quick-access functions differ from main competitors (silence, notifications, etc.)? How does the browser stack-up (it's an internet device after-all)? There is not even a quick breakdown or reminder of the main bullet-points for any of these significant topics, though apparently we need a refresher on all sorts of other things, hardware based of course.

    Moreover, the obvious competitor to this phone [GS4] has built its efforts with a particularly strong focus on software tweaks. But evaluating the phone's hardware with such heavy emphasis…the very battleground most-contended is largely ignored, making the real-world use of this review questionable. Did anyone really wonder if the HTC ONE was going for build-quality? Did we need this review to figure that out? It seems two-thirds of the review speaks the language of the obvious, the fact obfuscated in magnificent detail...Detail that almost no bearing on purchase-decision. I love that kind of detail, but I certainly wouldn't want in to substitute the meat of what determines a review's real-world value: Should I buy this?

    As a doc on technology, and to learn about the development of hardware, this is a fantastic piece. But in that sense [pun!] it is like a case-subject for technological education in general, industry education or even archiving. It's akin to the [deservedly beloved] engineerguyvideo series. That isn't for purchase decision, unless the reader is swayed by being lost in the brilliant and impressive information-overload, information that ultimately…isn't the right context.

    Context…that fails to address the blogosphere. We see no redress to the rumors of QC issues with gaps, no mentioning of availability or carrier-exclusivity. No discussion of carrier-comparison at all. No setting-the-record-straight with regard to inaccuracies in well-published reviews. No discussion on sticking points for many reviewers (such as the difficulty in customizing the home-screen with an awkward increase in dragging, pausing, dropping). …Part of the advantage to such a late review is to address all the other reviews and opinions now out there--but this one seems largely in a vaccum. Those concerns floated to the top, virally, for good reason. With each further review the gaps [pun!] they all share become more apparent. Here we have the best review to-date, but it's merely rehashing what we've already seen, just at a finer level. The community is asking questions this review still does not begin to address.

    Then there are the sort of flaws we'd expect when one reviewer attempts to 'do it all'. No single person designed this phone, and a single reviewer expecting to be minute in detail and *definitive* in their review is not likely to succeed. So we see the claim:

    …that softer metals are easier to machine; False in most situations.

    …of performance based on benchmarks Anand.com itself refutes with newer, better methodology. Odd that.

    ...that larger photosites are best to fight noise; Despite his expertise in this specific area Brian continues this simplistic and ultimately false refrain. Technology does not develop uniformly, and the nature of noise is multi-faceted. All things being equal bigger photosites are best. But…all things are not equal. Increasingly the best real-world strategy for fighting noise has been an *increase* in pixel count up to our current limits. This is from page 46 of the comment section, and many here would do well to read it:

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    sigsegv0x0b - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    There is only one problem with HTC's ultra pixels. DXO Mark seems to disagree

    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Publications/DxOM...
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    People have said the HTC ONE is just flash and form over function. Another iDevice [if you believe the common anti-fanperson's refrain]. I think it has stellar function, and again--this will be my next phone--but admittedly it does trade some real-world practicality for that build 'quality' [and here I thought quality was something built right, not something built to give the appearance of right]. The phone has a smaller screen [but I think that bezel will protect against errant contact] and they could have used that extra wiggle-room to protect the glass from all sides…instead they used the same glass expanse as the GS4, just with a large able unused portion. That's form over function...and over build-quality. No SD-card and the poor excuse they couldn't fit it in. The GS4 does. The Sony Xperia Z does, even though it's water-proof. The metal will not be comfortable in the sun (glare, hot to the touch) so when you place it on your accessory car-dock…make certain it isn't catching rays the whole time across its various edges. The metal will not be comfortable in the cold (now we have a reason not to wear gloves with this phone…and to wear gloves with this phone). The battery…ugh. I replace my phone every year and I still think this is an obvious misstep. Even the iPhone, while not user-replaceable, has a battery that a service technician can remove. It's clear that with the ONE many more phones will need to be fully replaced over otherwise minor fixes. I'd pay money to have this phone *not* constructed in this manner. I'll take a subtly rubberized exterior, please.

    This review is being celebrated as some sort of benchmark. It is…with regards to hardware. I'd hate to see the ball dropped so heavily on the software side by its blogger-imitators. This review, with its undue focus on the physical object, and its stark glossing over of the actual battlefield this phone faces, shares the same superficiality. Well made [review/phone]? Yep. Like an Armani Jacket. Functional [review/phone]? Not as much as it might have been…had the focus been on wearability.
    Reply
  • dyc4ha - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    ill be honest i didnt read the whole thing, but just a quick comment: I believe the black version is the polycarbonate version, similar to the one x (someone correct me if im wrong) Reply
  • nerdstalker - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    See my reply two posts below... :) Reply
  • Thud2 - Monday, April 15, 2013 - link

    I HAVE USED THE PHONE. It is extremely solid, really nice looking, VERY fast, Browser is very fast. Apps open instantly, screen is bright and sharp, it's very thin and fits the pocket well. Sound is better than any phone I've heard. Camera is fast and gets great shots that you would not be able to get with other phones. Stop fanboy trashing to start rumours. Nobody wants to hear your biased bull****. Reply
  • praftman - Monday, April 15, 2013 - link

    Maybe the comment system is messing up, or maybe you are responding to the wrong comment by accident, or maybe you just didn't read my [admittedly] lengthy comment...but I'm no fanboy. Not biased. Not much anything like what you're saying. Reply

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