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


View All Comments

  • Thud2 - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    In the interest of full disclosure I do have to say that I am a fan of great industrial design and precision machining. I was enamored with the CNC work described in this article. I am on Sprint but before I went in order to the phone I went to AT&T to get a look at it and found that the speaker cover had a sharp overhang and was not smooth to the body. I looked at many phones and the "GAP" described in some comments was nowhere to be found but I guess early production models were not smooth from body to speaker cover. Knowing this, when I went to the store to pick up my phone I noticed the rough edge. the store rep noticed to and said he was sending the phone back. I went to another Sprint store and their phones had no ridge, smooth as ... I don't know, but pretty smooth, so I bought it and it's really really nice. Enough said. Reply
  • Pazz - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    I picked up a HTC One at the weekend over here in the UK. The build quality was terrible, the top front aluminium section was too wide for the housing and left a lip on one side. There was also a gap between the middle plastic housing and the aluminium on the top face, so big I could fit a finger nail almost down it. This gap flexed and closed up with pressure. Was this sample provides to Anandtech by HTC? Reply
  • Thud2 - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    Mine has no gap and I looked at at least 6 of them at AT&T and Sprint stores and never saw a gap. An overhang yes but mine is smooth as silk. Reply
  • Bhairav Pardiwala - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    Apparently the microsphone test would have to be redone as the HTC one microphone will now be using a diffrent part Reply
  • KarlSmith432 - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    The one-piece aluminum case is amazing but the other specs are also unique, like: the fastest OS and the built-in amplifiers. I saw a list of them @ but I would like to read a review on these specs Reply
  • m0nz - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    As always, an amazing review from Anandtech. That is why I try to find a review from you guys before anyone else. It's just sad to see such crap around the net, but such a breath of fresh air from here. Good job. Reply
  • ELPCU - Wednesday, May 08, 2013 - link

    It is quite surprising anandtech says its finish is excellent.

    I just bought HTC One yesterday, and I found it frontal aluminum(top and bottom portion of front) aligned improperly.

    This issue seems pretty pandemic.

    Yes, all product might have few defective products, but disappointing part is I can see same issue at Anandtech's photoshot as well, and anandtech said its finish is excellent, so not even have to read about it.

    Closely look (zoom if you do not see)
    at photoshot of bottom side of phone and top side of phone.
    Seam between frontal aluminum and plastic portion is bigger compared to that of back aluminum and plastic portion.
  • Montago - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - link

    First world problems much ?

    its not by Apple standards, that's for sure...

    it rings, it plays games, aren't you happy ?
  • Montago - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - link

    BTW... the biggest problem with the HTC One is not the build quality of the phone... but the software... Android still needs a lot of work :-(

    it's insane that the OS can't handle power usage and CPU/GPU usage better...
  • Montago - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - link

    I just got my HTC One yesterday... i used it all day and installed a lot of apps and configured what antennas to be turned ON...

    I charged the phone 100% and put it on power-saver ... but overnight i lost 30% battery !

    jebus !

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