As I pack for my much-needed vacation, I’m reminded of an issue I have with so many of the Android phones I test for TechRadar.
I’m kind of afraid of having to take my OnePlus 10T with me. This thought occurred to me while trying to fit into my Amazon Kindle Oasis, and honestly, it makes sense.
That’s because I can easily slip my Kindle into the side pocket of my backpack without worrying about keeping it charged or having to find a last-minute spot for the charger. I trust my Kindle’s battery life, which makes the decision to take the tablet with me easy and effortless.
However, I can’t say that about my phone, nor about most of the phones I’ve recently reviewed.
I, like a lot of people I know, get battery scared. This is the worry that your device’s battery won’t last until the next time you can power it, and the worry often manifests itself in drastically changing your usage patterns to ensure it lasts. This can mean not listening to music if you want, or ignoring messages so you don’t have to turn on the screen.
Battery anxiety isn’t just a by-product of tech-obsessed teenagers, however. Our lives revolve around our phones — we use them instead of credit cards for payments, instead of maps for navigation, and sometimes instead of keys to access where you live or the vehicle you drive. Battery leakage could be catastrophic.
And if you’re, say, on vacation in a foreign country, with no knowledge of geography beyond what your maps app tells you and no understanding of the language beyond what translation apps offer, then again the battery fear is a very real one and legitimate concern you’ve received when your phone doesn’t last long.
And these days, most phones are basic Not take a long time.
The problem with modern phones
Mobile phones are constantly coming out with worse and worse battery life.
To a degree, that’s obvious: your old ’00s feature phone, with its tiny screen and limited functionality, is clearly not going to last as long as a modern phone. But there are also changes that do more damage than they’re worth.
New smartphone features like 5G connectivity, high refresh rate screens, top-of-the-line processors, and always-on displays are all terrible for your battery life. They make your phone burn through more data, display more items at once, consume more power just to do basic tasks, and all of these negatively affect your battery life.
Some of the problems can be mitigated with power saving modes, but these are often only a partial measure to reduce battery drain for everyday functions.
And with the twin trend of increasing screen size but decreasing body size, phone companies are sacrificing big batteries in favor of flashier specs and internals.
What makes it appealing is that many of these features do very, very little. I’ve rarely found that 5G actually offers noticeably faster speeds than 4G, and the only real effect of a top-end chipset over a mid-range chipset is that the phone gets hotter.
This is mainly an issue with top-end phones, as some budget phones have fewer features, so they last a lot longer between charges. The best last two days of use before you need to turn them on, but these devices are few and far between.
Kindle and smartphones
For all its bells and whistles, the OnePlus 10T doesn’t have great battery life – it loses power surprisingly quickly when I’m using it. It’s not the only phone I’ve used with poor sustained performance: the two phones I’ve tested previously, the Google Pixel 6a and the Asus Zenfone 9, were the same (the Pixel in particular).
It’s usually annoying, but as I said, I’m going on vacation. I’m supposed to rely on this device 24 hours a day, but I already know it won’t last that long.
I worry that even if I turn on battery saver and moderate my behavior, I still won’t be able to rely on the phone in an emergency.
It’s the complete opposite of the Kindle – I don’t have to worry about that at all. I can throw it in a bag and forget about it.
Now I know what you’re thinking: one is an e-reader and the other is a smartphone. They shouldn’t be comparable, they’re different things.
But at the same time, they are both personal gadgets that we carry around with us. And both are gadgets that I take with me on vacation, so of course I’ll use both.
Considering how long something like a Kindle, running watch, or even headphones lasts, it just doesn’t make sense that smartphone manufacturers should be content to offer us devices that won’t even last a day.
In fact, I miss feature phones or flip phones – they would last forever on a single charge, so you can easily count on them. And sure, we’ve gained a lot of useful features like maps, cameras and a fast internet connection since they’ve been popular, but so many of the new features are actually pretty much useless in situations where you actually need a reliable device.