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Look up almost any survey of mobile phone users today and you’ll find that battery life is the biggest concern. It’s the only real limitation of the modern smartphone. How you use your handset often depends on how much juice you have left in the tank.
Engineers are tackling the battery problem on two fronts. First, they designed quick chargers to speed up battery charging. Second, they are making the cells themselves larger.
If you understand how a battery works, you’ll know to look for the milliampere-hour (mAh) rating. The higher the number, the larger the battery’s capacity. That’s the most important figure. But other factors also affect a phone’s battery life, like the hardware, the screen’s size and resolution, the antenna’s signal strength, the temperature of the device, and so on. On top of that, the battery’s age leads to reduced capacity — which is why you need to make your battery last longer.
After putting it all together, it’s difficult to say objectively one phone’s battery life is better than another’s. The best we can do is make educated guesses based on core battery specifications, phone hardware, and expert and user reviews. With that in mind, these are the phones with the best battery life today.
Longest Battery Life: Asus Zenfone Max ZC550KL
- Capacity: 5,000 mAh
- Talk time: 38 hours
- Standby time: 914 hours
GSM Arena has one of the most comprehensive battery life tests for phones, and it is carried out in every model they review. Their numbers are trustworthy and reliable. From the models available in the U.S., the Asus Zenfone Max ZC550KL topped their battery test.
It’s not that surprising, considering the large size of the Zenfone Max and its 5,000 mAh lithium-polymer battery. Although the screen is 5.5 inches, its resolution is High Definition (HD is 1280×720 pixels) instead of Full HD (1920×1080 pixels). Since the screen pushes fewer pixels, it conserves power.
The Zenfone Max ZC550KL is ideal for anyone who needs a big screen, large icons, lots of talk-time and Internet-surfing, rather than playing games or watching movies. Outside of battery life, the Max’s anemic hardware isn’t ideal for power users.
At the same price tier, you can also consider the Lenovo Vibe P1, which is a better overall phone and still has a similar 5,000 mAh battery. The Vibe P1 has a much better screen, processor, and camera. While the battery life won’t be as long, it’s still better than most other phones and will last you longer than a day easily.
Best Battery Under $100: Blu Energy X2
- Capacity: 4,000 mAh
- Talk time: 38 hours
- Standby time: 875 hours
If you’re on a budget, the Blu Energy X2 does a good job of balancing long battery life with the base hygiene features required of a modern Android smartphone. Apart from the stellar battery, everything about it is “decent” or “good enough”.
The 5-inch HD screen and the Mediatek quad-core processor will ensure that the phone never draws too much power, so you can expect the battery to last a long time. In fact, Phone Arena estimates that it will last almost 15 hours, which is as good as it gets. It’s the successor to our beloved battery king the Blu Studio Energy — so you’re buying a line with an established reputation for battery life.
The Energy X2 also incorporates a quick charge feature that will give you about an hour’s worth of usage if you charge it for 10 minutes. All for one Benjamin Franklin note.
Best Compact Battery: Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
- Capacity: 2,700 mAh
- Talk time: 15 hours
- Standby time: 520 hours
Big battery life almost always means a big-sized phone, with the screen measuring 5.5 inches or more. The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact is the exception to this rule. It’s a smaller phone — much smaller than the iPhone 6s, even though it has a similar 4.6-inch screen. And the battery life is impressive.
GSM Arena gave it a high rating on its endurance battery testing, particularly noting that it excels in talk time. The Z5 Compact can manage 28 hours of phone calls on a single charge, so it’s one of the ideal handsets if you speak on the phone a lot throughout the day.
Most importantly, the rest of the hardware in the Z5 Compact is top-notch. You get one of the best cameras on the market, a snappy Snapdragon 810 processor, and all the bells and whistles you are used to. We loved the Sony Xperia Z5 and we’re sure you’ll love the Z5 Compact. It’s no wonder this made it to our list of the best smartphones for students in 2016.
Since this article was published, Sony has released a new version of the smartphone, the Sony Xperia X Compact.
Best Phone With Stellar Battery: Samsung Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge
- Capacity: 3,000 mAh (S7) / 3,600 mAh (S7 Edge)
- Talk time: 22 hours (S7) / 27 hours (S7 Edge)
- Standby time: N/A
There’s no beating around the bush here. Samsung has outdone itself with the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge — arguably two of the finest Android phones ever made. Consumer Reports rates them in the top five for battery life.
When Riley reviewed the 5.5-inch Galaxy S7 Edge, she was ready to make a long-term commitment to that phone. The 5-inch Galaxy S7 also has some amazing features that aren’t well known. Both the phones come with state-of-the-art hardware and will safely get you through the next few generations of smartphones.
Picking between the two is a matter of subjective preference. The Edge looks sexier but ask yourself if you need curved glass or if it’s just a gimmick. The base S7 is more traditional but lacks the oomph of the Edge. And let’s face it, the Galaxy S7 Edge topped our list of the best Android phones of 2016.
Best Non-Android Battery: Microsoft Lumia 1520
- Capacity: 3,400 mAh
- Talk time: 25 hours
- Standby time: 768 hours
If Android isn’t your thing, then the Nokia/Microsoft Lumia 1520 is the best you can get. On GSM Arena’s endurance test, it scored 107h and ranked at number 5 overall, while the iPhone 6s Plus was only at 85h and not worth ranking.
Of course, the Lumia 1520 is a pretty old model at this point, having first released in 2013. But it’s among the few Lumias that you can upgrade to Windows 10 mobile and take advantage of all the new cross-platform features like Continuum (check out the new Windows 10 features).
That said, the gargantuan 6-inch screen and the limited 2 GB RAM might make it unwieldy as a phone, and not that powerful as a mobile computer.
Outside the U.S.
Step outside the U.S. and you can get some incredible phones for a low price. Don’t knock those Chinese brands — they make reliable and brilliant handsets these days. In fact, cheap Androids often beat flagships in battery life, as the ones below will show.
Gionee M6 Plus
The Gionee Marathon M6 Plus is set to be the king of battery life. It’s a huge 6-inch phone, and it has an incredible 6,000 mAh battery that will keep it ticking long after every other phone has died. The previous model, the Marathon M5, is GSM Arena’s current battery topper. The new model, releasing soon, should be a doozy.
Xiaomi Redmi 3 series
With a 4,100 mAh battery packed with a 5-inch HD screen and a low-power processor, the Xiaomi Redmi 3s Prime has been wowing reviewers with its incredible battery life. The Redmi 3 series, which also includes the Redmi 3, Redmi 3s, and Redmi 3 Pro, have similar specifications with an odd change here or there. This Redmi 3 series has again ranked high on GSM Arena’s battery endurance test and is a solid 4G-ready smartphone for India and China.
It can be a little tricky to get your hands on the original Motorola Droid Turbo in the U.S. now, but the Moto Turbo is still available in other markets. With its 3,900 mAh battery, reinforced high-resolution glass screen, waterproof body, and powerful hardware, this is one of the best phones money can buy.
How Long Does Your Phone Last?
Before you make a buying decision based on this article, remember, the battery is just one aspect of your overall smartphone experience. Having fantastic battery life but substandard performance isn’t worth it. Similarly, it’s frustrating to have great hardware but see the battery dying quickly. Balance out the features that matter to you, that’s always the key.
With that in mind, which smartphone are you thinking of buying? What are you using right now, and how often do you recharge it? And do you prefer Quick Charge or larger batteries?