Despite newer and bigger batteries, the latest smartphones’ lithium-ion batteries are currently unable to keep up with the increasing power needs of new technologies.
A new report from the Washington Post has run tests on a number of smartphone models from the past few years, setting their displays at the same brightness and forced to reload the same sites in an attempt to learn more about various phones’ battery life. Overall, newer smartphones were not able to last as long as older devices.
According to the test results, newer smartphone models were, for a large portion of devices tested, seen as unable to compete with the older variants in terms of battery life. To begin with, this year’s iPhone XS could not last as long as the previous year’s iPhone X and died 21 minutes earlier. But the starkest difference may have been between the Google Pixel 2 and its newest iteration the Google Pixel 3, which lasted an hour and a half less.
One of the exceptions to the trend discovered by the Washington Post seems to be Apple’s newly-released iPhone XR, which makes use of an LCD display instead of OLED, which the majority of newer flagship phones use. The iPhone XR has the longest battery run time among all iPhones with 25 hours of talk time, 15 hours of internet use, 16 hours of video playback, and 65 hours of audio playback.
“Apple’s iPhone XR, the new phone I recommend to most people, has a different approach,” reads the report. “It scales back on the screen tech — lower resolution, less bright and lower-quality color — in ways that benefit battery life tremendously: The XR lasted 3 hours longer than the top iPhone XS, even though the its screen is actually a smidge larger. (Bonus: It also costs $250 less.)”
Among the OLED phones, Samsung Galaxy Note 9 lasted 12 hours, and the reason is that Samsung increased the battery capacity significantly — 3,300mAh to 4,000mAh — to offset the extra power drain from the high-resolution OLED panel.
Nadim Maluf, CEO of battery optimization firm Qnovo, spoke to the Washington Post, saying that battery technology is being improved at a rate of almost five percent every year, but new technologies and their requirements for power is growing faster than that.
The report concludes that OLED displays and cellular connectivity are the two biggest problems faced by smartphone batteries today, draining the batteries faster than any other new feature.
Our smartphone demands are what is driving the industry, from actively listening for keywords to the top-of-the-line OLED displays. But because we do not prioritize battery life in our purchases and app usage, there is little reason to believe the battery life situation will get better anytime soon.