Ever since the first Android phone appeared, we've been developing a battery test that would accurately gauge their endurance, and lend some objective data to our anecdotal tests.Finally, we've come up with one, and, after testing it on a number of phones, now feel confident in the results to share it with you.
The results, shown in complete form below, may surprise you. Motorola's two flagship phones, the Droid 2 and the Droid X, ruled the roost, but phones with attractive AMOLED screens clearly fell behind the pack. The worst phone for battery life that we tested was the HTC Droid Incredible, which managed an average of only 4 hours and 33 minutes, compared to the Droid X's 7 hours and 42 minutes of endurance.
How We Tested
The test itself is fairly simple. Avram, our tireless Web director, modified the LAPTOP Battery Test we use for notebooks, and created an Android App that does much the same thing: It opens the phone's Web browser to one of 60 popular Web sites, remains there for 60 seconds, closes the browser, then reopens the browser to next Web site on the list. It does so until the phone's battery dies, all while recording the time elapsed.
Here's how we set up the phones before we tested them:
- First, we download My Settings and Advanced Task Killer, two free apps that are useful regardless.
- Then, we open My Settings, and do the following:
- Turn screen brightness to 40%, and turn off auto brightness.
- Turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS location, cell location, and auto sync.
- Deactivate screen timeout; that is, make sure the screen stays on indefinitely.
- In the Web browser, we turn off Flash support and plug-ins.
- We placed the phone in an area that was receiving at least 4 bars of service.
To the right is a screenshot of the app on the Droid X, after it completed the test once. Since it's a new test, we ran it at least twice on each phone and took the average. We know this doesn't take into account things such as texting, making phone calls, and using multimedia apps, but we feel it gives a fair indication of how long one phone will last compared to another under similar settings.
Motorola's doing something right: Both the Droid 2 and the Droid X lasted much longer than competing devices from Samsung and HTC. Even with its larger screen, the Dell Streak lasted longer than most smart phones. Considering the Samsung Captivate and Vibrant are essentially the same phone, it's no surprise that their battery life was nearly identical. However, their AMOLED displays, coupled with a smaller form factor, seem to have negatively impacted their endurance. The Samsung Epic 4G and HTC Evo 4G (running Android 2.2) came in just under the average, and the Incredible, as suspected, fared the worst.
So should you steer clear of AMOLED phones if you care about endurance? Not necessarily. OLED technology uses the most power when displaying white, which is why Samsung chose a black background for the app menus on its Galaxy S phones. Since our battery test surfs web pages, most of which have a white background, both the Galaxy devices and the Incredible were at a disadvantage. It really comes down to what you view most often on your phone.