Battery Life: It’s Holding Your Android Back

With CES behind us and CTIA fast approaching, one begins to think about the laundry list of impressive features being added to Android handsets and tablets. Dual-core, HD display, HDMI, WiFi hotspot, 3D, Near Field Communication, ‘4G’…the list goes on and on. All features you definitely want on your new Android. Mobile technology and the Android operating system have been growing at an amazing pace – think of how far we’ve come from October 2008. From Cupcake to Gingerbread: 5 different versions of android in just over two years – a new version every 5.4 months. What’s left to improve upon, you might ask? The mobile battery – it’s not holding up its end of the deal.

How many times have you found yourself turning off the GPS and other features on your handset in order to keep it from dying? There are countless apps devoted simply to killing other apps that suck the charge from your phone. One could even argue that one of the big drivers behind Android rooting and custom ROMs is the pursuit of longer battery life. Cell manufacturers are even designing displays, processors, and other components specifically to ‘sip’ energy in order to prolong time between charges. But what if they didn’t have to? Could the processors be faster? Could the screens be clearer and brighter? What other sensors could be utilized? I’m hoping that 2011 will find the wireless industry focusing on dramatically bettering my time between charges. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to spend more time enjoying my Android’s features  and less time carrying around a pocket full of extra batteries.

Having said all of this, I’m optimistic about what the future holds.  The improvements in Android and its battery consumption and task handling get better with each release.  Handsets like the Atrix 4G and its 1930mAh battery prove that Motorola and other companies can up the life while still preserving a thin form factor.  We’re on the right track, but the train is not moving fast enough.

Have you resorted to an extended battery just to get your phone through the day?  Ever need to uninstall apps or turn them off because of battery life?  How many times a day do you charge your phone?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

  • Derrick

    I charged my Droid 2 at least once a day, if not twice. I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying around my charger so I can plug it in while at my desk or watching television. I’ve also gotten into the habit of religiously checking the battery life before going out for any extended period of time for fear the phone would die while I was on the road. I should get a car charger, but haven’t had the time to do so yet.

    • Corry Robb

      Derrick – I feel you buddy. I am in a constant state of checking the battery on my Vibrant, and planning for a plug-in or battery swap. A few months ago I took a trip up to NYC. I knew I was going to be out in the city the entire day, so I took along two extra batteries AND my old G1 (with extended battery) so that I knew I’d be connected the entire time!

  • Rob

    Suprisingly with GPS and Wifi On I can still go a day or two depending on use without charging my phone (Galaxy S i9000). Of course this is with a custom ROM and kernel which definitely prolongs the life of my battery compared to Offical Samsung ROMs.

    I would hate to carry my phone charger around with me all day… I would invest in a larger battery if that happens to me.

  • Chahk


    Turning off Bluetooth, GPS and WiFi when not in use, lowering screen brightness, shortening screen timeout, disabling auto-updating of any apps that allow it, going to airplane mode w/WiFi when in the office with horrible cell coverage (to avoid the phone hunting for the signal and draining the battery).

    Our cell phones aren’t really wireless until this last wire is cut.

  • Vuyisile

    I’m constantly charging my Galaxy S, whenever I’m near a power socket I connect it to the charger that I keep with me. I’m not sure how I’d have survived without a car charger. I’m stubborn however so I use features like live wallpapers and apps that drain my battery because I refuse to be held back from enjoying the glory of my phone due to battery life. I will admit though that I generally keep the brightness on is lowest setting

  • Kanaga Deepan N

    My EPIC’s battery lasts exactly for a day… But I always keep screen brightness low, Switch on BT/WiFi/Data/GPS ONLY WHEN NEEDED, wont run an app unnecessarily in background.. If NOT, I dont think it will last a day as I ALSO use my EPIC to talk for minimum 2 hours a day…

  • Battery life is definitely a pain to work with when using an Android phone, but it’s also a pain with the iPhone, too, as far as I know. I have started using Juice Defender on my Vibrant, and it has helped a ton.

    For what the future holds, remember that battery technology is also improving. My guess is that our future phones will do more while keeping battery life at current rates.

  • Mike

    I plug my Droid 2 in when I get home from work, then I plug it in again at the office in the morning. I also plug it in in the car if I am going anywhere longer than an hour. Originally I bought the Seidio Innocell 2800 Extended Life Battery to combat this, but that was HUGE! Then I went to the Motorola 1820mAh BP7X extended battery. Better than the stock battery, but still not great. 8 hours if the phone isn’t in use… forget it if Bluetooth, GPS and WiFi are running or there is heavy call or data usage. I also bought a New Trent Super-pack IMP500 5000mAh External Battery pack that I keep in my brief case (or backpack or gym bag when not in business mode). That works for a recharge when not near a wall socket. I go nuts when my phone doesn’t have a charge (if you can’t tell). I even have a little Energizer XP1000 that I keep in my jacket pocket. It only holds 1000mAh, but even that helps out in a bind.

  • jamerson90

    Weird to see all the droid 2 owners with bad battery. I get up at 7am, unplug, go my whole day (including using twitter all day, a 45 min call on lunch, and web browsing) then come home at 5 and I’m usually still at 40%. The lowest I’ve gotten by 5 was 20% after using gps, and streaming videos on my lunch. I’ve been pretty satisfied with my d2 battery life.

  • miska

    I’ve got one USB cable at home, one at work and one in my bag. So my Nexus has to last only while I’m traveling somewhere, but it is definitely holding me back whenever I go somewhere far. Had troubles during vacation to make it last whole day to be able to use it instead of camera.

  • I’m rocking a Droid Eris with a Custom ROM (they stopped updating at 2.1). I deliver pizzas, and whenever I’m in the car on deliveries my phone is plugged in. Of course I listen to podcasts nearly the whole time while delivering, so thats a big drain. I also use a BlueAnt T1 headset and it has the capability of listening to media audio. It too runs out of battery all too fast.

    I really would rather have a slightly larger phone with more battery life than a teeny slim phone that only runs for 3 hours. There isn’t an extended battery available for my model either. With cell phones becoming more like personal mobile computers, they really need to be designed as such: plan on having all the features on most of the time, and design the phone to last a day (12 hours) between charges. Alas people like pretty phones too much.

    • Corry Robb

      I feel the same way – right now, I’d rather have a slightly larger phone with better battery life. Hopefully sometime soon we won’t have to choose one over the other.

  • Victor

    I charge mine at least one during the day. My battery is usually shot by 4pm even when I havent really used my phone.

  • Al Balboa

    I would gladly give up on super thin designs for a larger battery and longer life.
    Thinness as a feature is Apples form over function and adds nothing to the usefulness of the phone. My vibrant could easily be 30% thicker and give 2 more hours of life.

  • droiddo

    I have the original motorola droid and have removed many apps to extend battery life and storage shortfalls. I still charge at least twice a day.

  • silo

    i use overclock app to reduce my cpu usage (when on and off), then there is autokiller to specify a 150mb free RAM so if there’s an app stuck or working w/ extra memory usage the android system will shut it down. i don’t use task killers not reliable and not necessary on android specially on froyo. auto brightness off, wifi gps 3G ON when needed. “Lock” widget to turn screen off and lock !! samsung galaxy s on froyo, rooted and lag fixed. currently i charge once a day on 25% not less to prolong my battery life (chemically), before it was twice a day. i use my phone in home and work wifi, music and work usage

  • Jay Dub

    Juice Defender (even the free one) does a pretty decent job. It almost completely shuts down the mobile data while the display is screen locked (bringing it up every 15 minutes or so to check for emails). It turns out that mobile data was really where my phone was leaking energy (I had already tuned just about every other possible setting).

    These “standby life” figures that companies quote must not include having a data connection active!

    • The_Omega_Man

      Adjust the sync intervals in ALL your background applications. Most things do not need to be updated more often than hourly or every 2 hours. (e.g. Weather or news, facebook & twitter, personal e-mail, during the work day) Also you can set some apps that download large chunks of data to do so only over wifi, which will save a bunch of power if you are on 3G or 4G.

  • rarestock

    I’ve been saying this for a long time. Manufacturers of mobile devices need to stop improving functionality until they can include a battery to support it. I hate going out at night without a full charge because I know that the battery will be completely drained before I get back home. I miss 4sq check-ins when I’m out late either because the battery is already in red or I know I need to abstain from checking in if I want to keep up with my twitter feed.

    I’ve been contemplating something like a zaggsparq because I know I would use it at sxsw, lollapalooza, pitchfork fest, and an upcoming trip to Vegas.

    The only recent advancement in battery is Qi standardization. I poop on Qi because unless the battery life between charges improves to closer to my consumption, it isn’t going to matter how I charge the battery.

  • Tansen

    My battery on the captivate usually goes about 16 hours unplugged with about 2 hours of screen time. I use it quite a bit, And while it can be frustrating to see it drain quickly while using it, it really is doing quite a lot. I think battery life will increase slightly over time, whereas the capabilities will increase dramatically.

  • Buckgeis

    I got a extended battery but also have two thin ones, one I got thanks to a warranty replacement. Only once have I had to switch and but usually plug it in to a wall outlet or the car charger at least once a day, usually twice. Early on I was in a constant state of anxiety over battery life, but no longer. I just try to be sensible.

  • rags711

    I’m usually out of the house by 7:30-8:00, and with light use will be about 60-70% by 3:30 or 4:00p.m. and with moderate at45-55% about the same time. Will charge on the way home. And that on my vibrant with custom rom and I never turn my live wallpapers off. Charger in car and pocket ac hookup. Been useing smart phones for a couple of years and as long as can get thru an 8 hr day i am fine.

  • Todd

    You know what I would think would be a cool idea? An app that could display only part of the screen. That way if I wanted to monitor only part of the screen (or parts of the screen) I could without using as much power. Is there an app that already does this? If not maybe someone could make an app that lets me pinch zoom little rectangles on the screen. The rectangles will be the only thing displayed and the rest of the screen will be shut off. Something like that might help save battery power in some situations right?

    • Chahk

      That’s not going to save you any battery power on most screens since they are “all-or-nothing” type of a deal. Samsung’s Super AMOLED (and newer SAMOLED Plus) are a rare exception, where only pixels that are displayer are actually powered on.

  • Riddlin

    I charge my phone over night, get to work and I plug it back in because when I leave work I am worried my phone might be at 50% if I dont plug it in. Pretty much I plug my DX in all the time. I have a car charger too.

    I will say this. The DINC is the worst offender when it comes to Battery life. My DX is much better, but the DINC sucks up the juice like no other.

  • Barkleyfan

    My droid lasted 24 hours with moderate use on custom kernel. My X can’t use a custom kernel. 12 hours is stretching it’s abilities. Pisses me off. No #Atrix for me. Extended battery for x is only 1850, stock is 1500. Negligible gain.

  • I have an HTC EVO. My original battery was very bad. I had to charge the phone at least twice a day. Finally I bought 2 extended 3500 mAh batteries from Ebay for $10. They come with a charger. They are awesome. My phone has been unlugged for 30 hours now with moderate use and still have 53% charge. I recomend it

    • I also have an EVO and bought the extended battery. Monica is right it last around 30 hours gets me through those long days, and wild nights. Its great. If you have an EVO I highly recommend it.

    • Dan

      who was the seller?

  • Sascha

    I get up to 70 hours on my Hero. How? With an app called Juice Defender. Turns off Data / Wifi and syncs every 15min, WIFI is location based, so if i leave the office or home WIFI gets turned off, etc etc

  • The_Omega_Man

    My Droid 2 goes from Night Stand Dock to the Bathroom Dock, to the Car Dock, to Office Dock and the reverse every day…. AND I still carry a spare battery with me when I am in between Docks! A Pocket Computer this powerful needs a lot of juice. My largest consumer is the screen so setting a power profile for screen usage is mandatory for me. 15-30 Sec. Screen time out an set to manual <20% Brightness when not in direct sunlight.

  • The HTC Touch Pro 2 battery is the same type of battery that my Incredible came with except its 1500mah instead of 1300mah. I found it on Amazon for $3.99. Win!

  • JPB

    Extended battery on DInc. I don’t know how I ever used my Incredible without it. The extra bulk is not so bad and actually makes the phone easier to hold up to your ear during a phone conversation.

  • B-Rose

    Gingerbread has done a lot for extending battery life, I’m happy to say, but yes, I agree with this premise. I dream of getting two days of heavy use out of a single charge.

  • l. angel

    Well i have the samsung captivate and i carry my charger around all the time. I think i charge it about 2~3 times a day. I do alot on my phone so even with app killers, i still found myself pluging it in every where i go from the car to anywhere i am station for a long period of time. Its crazy but i do love my phone, i just wish th i didnt have to remember to bring my charger eberywhere i go.

  • Great article. Highlights how much of the industry’s research and development is focused on advancing the component’s performance but not the energy issue. I think a fuel cell kind of power source could be key in the coming years for portable devices like androids. But then again, I thought nuclear power was a no brainer too and then people get in the way and it still isn’t used as much as it could/should be.

  • CJ

    I bought the HTC 2150 Extended Battery for my Incredible and I couldn’t believe how long the battery lasted. I can go a day and a half with out charging with constant use , texting all day, internet, gps, wifi etc. Before I went from fully charged at 6am to almost dead by 12pm. Now I go 6am-6am the next morning and still have 30%

  • Mark

    Battery life was the reason I had to go back to the dreaded ibore 4 unfortunately. The thing at least works for the full day without dying even if i play games on it. Nothing like leaving it accidentally without being plugged in at 5% at night and wake up in the morning to see it still at 4%. I wish there was one android phone that could do that. I would jump to it in a heartbeat. I hate Apple’s lock but that charging wire is not something I am looking forward to see when i do switch again 🙁

    Hopefully manufacturers will focus on battery life as well in the near future.

  • I couldnt agree more.. as I test new devices the number one issue that makes me sad is that no matter how great a device is.. its only great for a short number of hours. DUAL CORE/QUAD CORE and 1980’s battery tech?! shouldnt have to use a 3500mah battery so you can enable all the features your device comes with for a full day..

  • Christakeizer

    I’m an Evo 4G owner and I have a charger with me 24/7. I also usually keep two batteries on me, but sometimes that doesn’t even get me through the whole day without a charge.

  • Tennysor

    I have a Galaxy S (or the Epic 4G as it was called when I purchased it from Sprint).  I really love the phone’s display and features. But.  The battery life is atrocious.  I have downloaded several different task killers and battery life optimization apps.  But my battery life has continued to deteriorate.  At first I could leave it uncharged for almost 2 days.  Over time that has decreased (as expected.  But now I am charging my phone over night, again at work, and sometimes again when I get home from my commute (I use the phone for navigation and pandora).  I barely use the phone while at work.  But the battery completely drains just sitting undisturbed, so I have resorted to charging it while I work.  And now I literally can’t make phone calls with anything less than full battery.  The phone also doesn’t charge unless it is turned off, not airplane mode but completely turned off.  I can’t afford another phone and this battery is only 6 months old, very disappointed.

  • ghostobzen

    after some disappointing events with my Nexus S stock battery i have switched to this 3900mAh [HLI-NexusSXL] battery –
    so now i recharge twice a week in general, fortunately!!!  lasts me solid 3-4 days with moderate use!!! if i am very hard on the phone 24/7 then lasts me approximately 2 days!!
    i really do not understand stock batteries, what are the manufacturers thinking?? the phone shall be operational, its not a slimmer device competition.