Cell phone battery life
March 3, 2004 10:33 PM   Subscribe

I've got batteries on the brain today (slightly-earlier post about aftermarket laptop batteries), but this thread and my growing frustration with my increasingly-relied-upon cell phone brought to mind another question: how much battery life does your cell phone really get? No matter where I am, how much I use it, or even if it's on or off, my Samsung SPH-N400 gets 24-36 hours per charge, at best, compared to the advertised "Talk Time: Up to 2.9 Hours, Stand-by Time: Up to 7 Days." (more inside...)
posted by Sinner to Technology (11 answers total)
 
I'm guessing "Up to" is brochurese for "In theory, battery works for up to 7 days. In theory. In theory, Communism works. In theory."

That said, if you're really only getting 24-36 hours per charge, that sounds a little light. I get maybe three days per charge on my Motorola C350, but I use it very sparingly. I wonder if it's an analog vs. digital thing? Mine only does GSM/GPRS, not CDMA or analog.
posted by arto at 10:55 PM on March 3, 2004


[...more] The N400 is always set to digital-only, and I use it exclusively for phone calls. Its battery life has also always been this way, since the day I got it, just like its predecessor (another N400).

What's more, none of this differs from my previous-generation Samsung phones (individual links to phones aren't working, but this list shows all of Samsung's phones and lists my old SCH-3500 with a talk time of 168 min and standby of 150 hrs, while my old SPH-N200 clocks in at 228 min (Talk) and 130 hrs (standby).

Just Samsung, you say? I had about the same luck (though slightly better) with my Motorola Timeport P8167 ("up to 250 minutes digital talk time and and 170 hours digital standby time") and a similar Motorola (Walkabout? Talkabout?)

So what's going on here? It could definitely be Sprint, in which case I'm curious to hear from Sprint users in particular... But the real question is am I crazy, or are these specs as far from reality for others as they seem to be for me?
posted by Sinner at 10:55 PM on March 3, 2004


Specs are generally based on perfect signal and usage conditions - ie, phone sitting untouched in a lab, with a transmitter a few feet away. Obviously, real life usage is nowhere near as ideal.

If I understand the technology correctly, the CDMA standard will adjust the amount of signal the phone is putting out as necessary. If you happen to use your phone mainly in an area where the signal is not all that strong, it's working harder than it might if you lived/worked next door to a transmitter.

You could also be stuck in a weaker signal area, which will cause the phone to try to find a better signal all the time. More on this here.

Other things to check would be whether you drop into analog on a regular basis, as AMPS requires about 60% more battery life than digital, and whether your screen settings are particularly taxing - ie, how long is that backlight staying on when you use that full-color screen. Is it always on? Always on when the flip is open? Adjusting this to the minimum setting may help.

One more: how long have you had the phone? Lithium ion batteries require several charges before they reach their true capacity, so if it's been anything less than a month, I'd keep at it. The improvement over time won't be huge, but it's important to give the battery a chance to condition itself.
posted by danwalker at 4:44 AM on March 4, 2004


I get nearly half of the 14 days of standby time that S/E claims my my T616, a GSM/GPRS device, should give me: it goes about 6 days until exhaustion if I'm using it lightly, a few minutes a day. Compensating for the fact that all manufacturers of all electronics lie in specifications about battery life, and that the battery in the T616 is surprisingly puny, that's about right.

If I'm on the horn much more than a few minutes a day -- conference call here, chat with mom there, send an email with crappy grainy phonecam, and 10 or 15 of those "hey, quick question" calls -- my battery's life heads down towards 3 to 4 days. Actually using your phone is what puts the biggest dent in the standby time, followed by being in a location that requires you to transmit at high power.

Also, thanks for reminding me! I need to go plug my phone in, it's been discharging since Saturday!
posted by majick at 5:23 AM on March 4, 2004


My Sprint phone, a Sanyo 8100, gets at best, maybe 1.5 hours of talk time. And that's just phone call usage, not data, because the data service is terrible, and my phone doesn't even do text messaging properly.

I'm currently in processing of switching carriers, my new carrier will be GSM, so it will be an interesting change, I think.
posted by benjh at 5:35 AM on March 4, 2004


danwalker said:

If you happen to use your phone mainly in an area where the signal is not all that strong, it's working harder than it might if you lived/worked next door to a transmitter. ou could also be stuck in a weaker signal area, which will cause the phone to try to find a better signal all the time.


I live in Midtown Manhattan, so while this is certainly possible, it seems at least unlikely.

how long is that backlight staying on when you use that full-color screen. Is it always on? Always on when the flip is open? Adjusting this to the minimum setting may help.

Another "possibly-but-unlikely" - it does have a color screen but I almost never use it (no games, no real fiddling). And, come to think of it, the amount of time it's in use is unrelated to the duration of charge.

One more: how long have you had the phone? Lithium ion batteries require several charges before they reach their true capacity, so if it's been anything less than a month, I'd keep at it.

Nah, if anything the battery is starting to die: I've had the phone for at least six months, closer to a year.
posted by Sinner at 8:52 AM on March 4, 2004


benjh said -
My Sprint phone, a Sanyo 8100, gets at best, maybe 1.5 hours of talk time. And that's just phone call usage, not data, because the data service is terrible, and my phone doesn't even do text messaging properly.


That's interesting. Is it mostly a Sprint thing, then?

I'm currently in processing of switching carriers, my new carrier will be GSM, so it will be an interesting change, I think.

I had been considering the same - if the battery thing proves to be carrier-related, that will clinch it. Verizon here I come!
posted by Sinner at 8:55 AM on March 4, 2004


"I've had the phone for at least six months, closer to a year."

I've generally had to replace any cell phone battery after a year. Most phones are pretty bad about guarding against overcharging; over the course of a year or so, if you're not very careful about how you recharge, the battery will eventually succumb and fail to keep a charge. After a couple of years with my old Nokia, the battery reached the point where it would be completely discharged within 24 hours.
posted by majick at 10:06 AM on March 4, 2004


majick said

I've generally had to replace any cell phone battery after a year. Most phones are pretty bad about guarding against overcharging; over the course of a year or so, if you're not very careful about how you recharge, the battery will eventually succumb and fail to keep a charge.


True indeed... however, my point was more that I've had the phone for that long (close to a year) and the battery behavior has been effectively the same throughout.
posted by Sinner at 11:52 AM on March 4, 2004


Perrhaps it shipped with an already-bunk battery, or was a refurb? 24 to 36 hours seems pretty low for a current-generation phone under a year old, but then I've never used a CDMA phone for any great length of time; I can't say if expectations are rightfully lower with them.

Was your phone part of a package deal? Package phones aren't necessarily new units, and might have some mileage on them.

Given that you're phone's creeping up on its anniversary, you might want to invest in a replacement battery anyways. It might cure the problem, but even if it doesn't, you'll have a spare for when this one starts to fade.
posted by majick at 2:00 PM on March 4, 2004


majick -

Perrhaps it shipped with an already-bunk battery, or was a refurb? 24 to 36 hours seems pretty low for a current-generation phone under a year old


Pretty sure it's mostly the Sprint service's fault, with some of the blame to be passed on to the hardware itself. I asked a friend of mine who has the same phone and he responded that he gets about 1-2 day's worth of charge with light usage.

Given that you're phone's creeping up on its anniversary, you might want to invest in a replacement battery anyways.

I think that the real solution will be door number 2: Switching to Verizon. A lot of my family and friends use vzw and with the lots of extra minutes for in-network calls, their new "In" plan, while annoyingly advertised, is pretty appealling.
posted by Sinner at 2:40 PM on March 4, 2004


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