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Most people use their smartphones all day. However, even with light use, there are very few phones that can take you from morning to midnight on a single charge.
With current flagships being priced at a thousand dollars and beyond, you’d think that manufacturers would find ways to make your smartphone last throughout the day. However, most phones have the same battery lives as their previous iterations.
Here’s why your phone’s battery can’t last the whole day without needing a recharge.
1. More Power, More Power Consumption
You may already know how batteries work. But why isn’t battery life improving?
The clearest reason is simply that they consume more power. Take, for example, the Samsung Note series. These phones are normally noted for their exceptional battery life. However, very little has actually changed since the first Galaxy Note was released.
In 2011, Samsung released the original Galaxy Note with a 2500mAh battery. It could last roughly a day depending on usage. The most recent version of the phone, the Galaxy Note 9, is equipped with a 4000mAh battery. While theoretically, that means it can store 60% more juice, that’s not true in practice.
The Galaxy Note 9 is equipped with a much larger, brighter, higher-resolution AMOLED screen. It also has a much faster processor, more powerful graphics, and more RAM. The larger screen on its own takes a big toll on potential battery life.
In addition, our phones run more apps than ever in the background. While this means that we get our notifications on time and our photos automatically sync to the cloud, it also means that our devices are continuously consuming power.
Add to that all the additional forms of connection that might be running on a phone at any given time. 3G, LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC all precipitously consume battery throughout the day.
Manufacturers have been adding power-saving features on phones. Some devices have adjustable screen resolutions that dip the number of pixels being displayed. However, there is no doubt that the more powerful a device, the more power it uses up.
2. Thinner and Thinner Phones
Phones have also been getting thinner and thinner over time. The original iPhone released in 2007 was 0.46 inches thick. On the other hand, Apple’s latest flagship, the iPhone XS, shaves off about 40% of that, at 0.30 inches thick.
While the thinner form factor makes modern phones sleeker, easier to hold, and more pocketable, they also leave less room for the internals of a phone. To compensate, manufacturers include smaller-sized batteries.
Even if battery technology is getting slightly more compact, that means little if companies are committed to slimming down their devices.
Most flagships have battery lives from 2800mAh to 4000mAh. The flagship smartphone with the largest battery cell to come out in 2018 was the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, with its 4200mAh battery. However, it’s important to note that the Mate 20 Pro was a 6.5-inch device.
There are still phones with battery lives over 5000mAh. However, they are all generally thicker and bigger than a typical flagship. In a space where aesthetics can be really important to consumers, major smartphone manufacturers likely aren’t eager to introduce thicker phones into the mix.
3. Power Packs and Charging Speeds
Another reason your phone has a short battery life is that smartphone makers have no incentive to increase it.
Many devices nowadays tout their charging speeds and wireless charging functionality instead of battery capacity. Phones charge much faster now than they did before, with several flagship devices having the ability to finish charging in under an hour. In addition, wireless charging is also becoming faster and more ubiquitous in the market.
Therefore, instead of including larger batteries, companies can instead push additional devices that improve the charging experience. For example, Apple’s fast-charging power brick does not come out of the box and has to be purchased separately. They also sell battery cases that extend the iPhone’s battery life.
Samsung, on the other hand, sells wireless charging packs that are intended to work with their device lineup.
4. Deteriorating Over Time
If you’ve owned a smartphone for more than two years, you probably already know that lithium-ion batteries eventually deteriorate. Although they are rechargeable, they only retain their max capacity for a limited number of cycles. Smartphone batteries stay “fresh” anywhere from one to three years depending on use.
This tended to be less of a problem in early Android devices. In older phones, users could easily take off the back panel and purchase a replacement battery from the manufacturer or from a third party. Now, users have to go straight to the manufacturer to get a battery replacement.
This process can be time-consuming and expensive.
5. Battery Development Has Fallen Behind
Battery technology is a slow process. The lithium-ion technology that has been used for decades is improving, but it’s not quite as fast as you’d want. That is why their current iterations still have a tendency to wear out over time. They are also just as size dependent as their predecessors.
With the ubiquity of smartphones, as well as electric cars and wearable devices, there’s a push to improve battery technology as soon as possible. Researchers have been working on improvements and potential replacements for years, while companies have poured millions into trying to fix this problem.
In Search of Better Battery Life on Phones
It’s not too unrealistic to think that a radical improvement will come to battery technology in the near future. For now, before buying a device, you should always take into consideration its battery life. You can do this by checking the battery capacity or by viewing battery tests that pit a device’s usage against other batteries.
To recap, here are the five reasons why your smartphone can’t last the entire day:
- Modern devices consume energy faster
- Phones are getting slimmer and have less space for batteries
- Manufacturers have no incentive to add bigger batteries
- Lithium-ion batteries deteriorate over time
- Battery technology isn’t keeping up
Of course, there are things you can do to get more use out of your devices. If you feel that you aren’t getting enough battery out of your smartphone, here are some ways to improve your Android device’s battery life and ways to improve your iPhone’s battery life.