Soon after Apple rolled out its new iPhone 4S, complaints began to appear about battery life. Consumers who bought the device reported the battery ran down quickly, requiring charging more than once a day, in some cases.
Apple suggested the problem would be fixed in an upgrade of the operating software, but some users complained the upgrade just made the problem worse.
It turns out that the iPhone 4S isn't the only smartphone producing battery life complaints. A number of other phones, from other manufacturers and running on other platforms, display similar behavior.
Take the Motorola's new Droid Razr, using Google's Android operating system. The phone is viewed as a challenger to the iPhone 4S but also seems to have the 4S' battery life problem.
In the over 100 reviews of the phone posted on VerizonWireless' website, many of consumers list battery life as a “con,” despite finding many “pros” with the device.
“My battery seems to die just from me staring at the screen,” a reviewer going by the screen name “Mobeda” said.
“Battery life is less than a working day with apps killed,” another reviewer named Eezak said.
In addition to having lots of energy-eating features, the Razr runs on Verizon's faster 4G network, which the iPhone 4S does not. Another Android phone, the HTC Rezound, earned a four-star ratting from a reviewer named Wilsoncraft, who labeled his review “Fast and Beautiful,” giving the device five stars for every feature except one.
“Very short battery life even with 4g off and brightness turned down,” Wilsoncraft wrote.
The HTC Evo, which operates on Sprint's 4G network, is a very popular phone but, like many other 4G devices, produces complaints about the battery.
“The only bad thing is the battery, it doesn't last too long,” wrote a reviewer going by Shenam80.
The problem, experts say, is that today's crop of sophisticated smartphones do more than their batteries can support – or drain our batteries faster than our older phones that didn't do as much. Speed and features require energy and the batteries that power the phones just haven't kept up.
A super battery?
If battery life is a major concern, it might pay to stick with your old phone for a while longer. Researchers at Northwestern University say they have figured out how to dramatically expand the life of a smartphone battery.
A team of engineers has created an electrode for lithium-ion batteries -- rechargeable batteries such as those found in cellphones and iPods -- that allows the batteries to hold a charge up to 10 times greater than current technology. Batteries with the new electrode also can charge 10 times faster than current batteries.
That means you could charge your battery in about 15 minutes and have it last all week.
“We have found a way to extend a new lithium-ion battery’s charge life by 10 times,” said Harold H. Kung, lead author of the paper. “Even after 150 charges, which would be one year or more of operation, the battery is still five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today.”
When can consumers expect to see such a battery? The technology could be in the marketplace in the next three to five years, they say. Please hold.