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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  • Gorgenapper - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - link

    Step 1: Buy a metal phone because it looks and feels premium
    Step 2: Cover the phone in a matte black plastic case

    This is why the materials used to make a phone are largely irrelevant to me. I always put a case on my phone for extra protection in case of a drop.
    Reply
  • TEJASH - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link


    I actually did quite a bit of research on these cell phone trade in programs, and www.smartphonecashin.com is definitely the highest paying site. They are also very straightforward and easy to use.
    Reply
  • batongxue - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    Hope Brian will update some parts of this awesome review according to latest software update for the ONE.
    I really hope that HTC could make better use of OIS with further updates.
    Reply
  • matthewls - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - link

    I ordered the HTC One after liking a nexus 7 tablet. After getting the HTC One I spent a few days frustrated with the phone because I couldn't mod the launcher to my liking--couldn't increase the icon spacing enough, couldn't change the dock settings, all this annoying crap on the "sense 5" and "blinkfeed." Then I discovered launcherpro, and now the phone is a delight. I would like to get the 3 bottom "buttons" working to have separate, single tap "home" and "running app list" control, but I'm sure that will get here soon enough. Reply
  • vipuls1979 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    there are certain cons compared to Samsung Galaxy S4 , 1st , battery is not removable secondly storage cannot be increased , for more comparision you can visit http://mobiknowhow.blogspot.com Reply
  • htj - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Great detailed review. Very refreshing compared to other sites.

    I picked up an HTC One on Sprint... the quality control seems really bad. The buttons were recessed and difficult to press. I swapped it out for another one with better buttons, and that one had 2 stuck pixels out of the box. Returned that one and will get an S4 eventually.
    Reply
  • getoliverleon - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    Thank you so much for the long, detailed and absolutely fun to read review! I've been reading for years, but this review made me register to comment.

    One thing I sorely miss from your review: The Sense UI used to have very enticing features in the contacts app for power users. You could have something like a unified messaging view for your contacts. I would love to read about this, the good contacts widgets and the other changes HTC made to the stock Android experience. Sadly the review falls short of this. But the rest is great!!
    Reply
  • arunbala - Thursday, June 06, 2013 - link

    Why I'm Going Back to my 18-month old iPhone 4s...

    I've been on iOS since the smartphone revolution. I use my iPhone a lot for browsing the web (on the chrome app), corporate email (stock iOS mail client), Gmail, Whatsapp, paid navigation (Navigon), Netflix, Lots of music, Facebook, following sports scores through built in apps, shopping apps (Amazon, Red Laser, BestBuy) some games and financial management apps.

    I'm clearly a techie and not averse to tweaking my phone. I've been a serial jailbreaker on both my old iPhone 3GS and my current iPhone 4S. I mostly jailbreak for the all the efficiency tweaks and customizations. When my iOS 6 jailbreak crashed I was forced to restore to the stock iOS experience.

    Right around this time the HTC One rumors started pouring in. I was growing sick of all the customizations I lost as I followed the HTC One's launch very closely and waited with bated breath for Brian's full review after the teaser mini-review from Anand. I got the black HTC One 32GB from Costco online for $129.99. I thought this was an awesome deal. Here are some of my thoughts and observations after a week with the phone and why I returned it.

    What I LIKE about the HTC One:
    32GB, 129.99 on contract, LTE, Ultrapixel Camera, Awesome 4.7” screen, great Industrial design and iconic look

    I really loved the industrial design of the black HTC One, except for one glaring aspect that has been oft repeated in other reviews. The speaker grill assembly has very poor quality. The bottom speaker grill was not sitting flush with the screen and formed a small ridge under the screen. This ridge acted as a convenient platform for dust and grime to collect on. This was just from 2 days of use.

    What I HATE about the HTC One:
    Battery life, Battery recharge time, Android app quality, Blinkfeed, Facebook shares showing up in Gallery

    The battery on the HTC One lasted way less than the iPhone as mentioned on the Anandtech detailed review. This was something I expected. How long it takes to charge up was also mentioned on the detailed review but I was shocked by what this meant in real time use. The painfully slow recharge time in combination with the low charge retention made for an awful real world experience. Coming from an iPhone I found myself really paranoid about even using my phone for basic stuff worrying if I was going to drain the battery.

    I've been reading over the last couple of years about how the Android app marketplace has now completely caught up with iOS. I found this to be grossly mis-representative. I went hunting for an exchange email client app for my corporate email not realizing at the time that this was one of Android's weakest links. After trying the stock HTC mail app, K-9 and a free version of Toucdown I was left very disappointed about the quality of these apps. I tried the built in browser, Firefox and Opera browsers for kicks and found them seriously lacking in the polish that I observed on the chrome app. There were a couple of similar examples but the end result of all these app hunting exercises left me seriously missing the app experience I had on my iOS device.

    I came to Android thinking I would be getting the added benefit of customizations and widget screens without losing out on app quality. I found out how big of a compromise I would be making in giving up great iOS apps for not so great equivalents on Android. I was left feeling that most app makers did not care about creating great experiences on Android or that the severe fragmentation significantly hampers their ability to translate their vision into reality on a consistent basis. This seems to me like a disadvantage Android will always have over iOS that I am personally surprised by this having misled by the generous amount of press Android's emergence seems to receive.

    This combination of crappy real life battery usage and the Android app experience has me running back to my iPhone despite an otherwise lovable HTC One for all the things they did right - Ultrapixel Camera, Top notch design (even though manufacturing quality control doesn’t come close to Apple's), gorgeous screen etc.

    I've still not given up on the HTC One. I read rumors about a 4.3 inch HTC One mini with a 720p screen. Maybe the HTC One mini will have better battery life? I want to see if HTC will release the stock Nexus ROM for folks that buy the HTC One on contract.

    Having said all this if I do decide to try a HTC One again, I will do so with the full realization that I will be compromising significantly on App quality. I will have to plan better to use specific apps on my iPad to make up for crappy ones on Android and prepare myself for a less compromising transition from iPhone to HTC One. At the end of the day I'm not sure if the compromises will be worth it if the next iPhone manages to meet or exceed the current expectations set by HTC One hardware and iOS 7 brings some degree of compromise in terms of efficiency focused features and customizations.

    For now, I'm going to wait till fall.....
    Reply
  • npnpatidar - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

    I really like this mobile. My only concern is battery longevity that it will become "use and throw" after 2 years. As I am spending 40K Rs., I want to hold it for long time. Could HTC Service Center replace the battery ?
    By the way great review Brian !!!
    Reply
  • erickr.cr - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    I was told HTC that the EMEA WCDMA Bands do not use the 850mhz frequency, do you check that? Reply

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