Why doesn’t a large battery determine the battery life of a smartphone?

Tram Ho

If you think that to know the battery life of a device, simply look at the specs sheet, find the battery section, see the “mAh” number, and draw conclusions, it seems that everything is too easy. easy. This habit will sometimes make us feel like we were fooled by the device’s battery life is too poor, even though it is equipped with a 4,000mAh battery; or if you’re lucky, you will be surprised by the pretty good battery life that a tiny battery inside phones like Pixel 3a or iPhone SE brings.

The battery capacity – or “mAh” – of a phone is really meaningless if left alone. Battery life is a very complex picture, with a range of hardware and software variables.

What does the “mAh” indicator on a battery mean?

“mAh” stands for “milliampere-hour” (milli ampere-hour). This is a unit that demonstrates the ability to store electricity, equivalent to providing a current of 1 milli amp continuous for 1 hour. That is, a 1mAh battery can provide 1mA current for 1 hour; a 1,000mAh battery can provide 1mA of current for 1,000 hours. However, a 1,000mAh battery with 2mAh would only last for 500 hours. Of course, smartphones can not sustain hundreds or thousands of hours, because they consume much higher current than 1mA from the internal battery. The bigger the current your phone uses, the shorter the battery life will be.

If everything is balanced, then a phone with a large battery will last longer than a phone with a smaller battery. However, this case rarely happens, because the hardware inside the devices is different, and therefore their power consumption is also different. A phone can consume 10% more current than a B phone, or even 30%.

Because each device’s hardware and software are unique, no two smartphones are exactly the same. That’s why knowing the battery’s mAh capacity doesn’t really give you useful information about the expected battery life of the device.

Battery life vs mAh

Before explaining why, let’s look at a few tests. AndroidAuthority has launched the Speed ​​Test G benchmark app on a range of phones with different battery configurations and capacities, and recorded the time it takes the app to drain each phone’s battery. Speed ​​Test G is an application with quite harsh tests, so its results will show you the minimum possible use time of a smartphone. In the table below, the results are ordered in order of increasing phone battery capacity.

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As can be seen, the results are quite random, with no obvious and obvious trends. Testers had expected to see the battery life of each phone increasing in proportion to their battery capacity, but it turned out not to be.

If phones with “terrible” batteries of 5,000mAh and 6,000mAh for the longest battery life in the test, the Google Pixel 3a XL with only 3,700mAh battery will win the first position of “long life”. All because its configuration is lower than the rest of the models, so do not think the battery is small! Similarly, the Pixel 4 XL and Asus Zenfone 6 have battery capacity quite far apart (3,700mAh and 5,000mAh respectively), but the time difference between them is only a few minutes, indicating the battery capacity alone. is not enough to guarantee a short or long battery life.

Perhaps the most noticeable trend from the test results is that many phones have battery life ranging from 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours when operating at full capacity. This seems to be the goal most manufacturers aim to, except that they only take much softer handling tasks. The Google Pixel 4 with 2,800mAh battery, Galaxy S20 (Exynos version) with 4,000mAh battery, and OnePlus 8 Pro with 4,510mAh battery all have battery life spaced just a few minutes apart.

Clearly, differences in hardware configuration and software features will deplete battery life in very different ways. But what exactly are these differences?

Battery life depends on hardware and software

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The battery is the one that takes care of all the hardware inside your smartphone, from the processor to the screen and any other features that come with the device. That’s obvious, but different hardware will “eat” the battery more or less differently. For example, low- and mid-range processors will consume less power than high-end processors. In general, the higher the performance, the more power is required. This is why it is common for well-priced devices to have longer battery life than high-end phones, no matter how powered.

But as seen above, even high-end flagship phones can have very different power consumption levels. Clear examples here are the Exynos and Snapdragon versions of the Samsung Galaxy S20. Manufacturers can also overclock or overclock the chipset, and even change the CPU scheduler to achieve the performance and power consumption they want.

Additional hardware also reduces battery life. The Google Pixel 4 and its Soli radar system are a prime example of a feature that makes the device drain more without it. ToF camera focus systems, powerful stereo speakers, or 4K screens … all impact battery life in a negative direction. Even small things like charging the S-Pen stylus on recent Galaxy Note models drain the battery. These features make the devices unique, but come with them is a small price.

The trend of faster refreshing frequency screens also plays a big role in making modern phones consume a lot of power. And that seems to be the reason why the Galaxy S20 series phones default to 60Hz refresh rates, although technically, they all support 120Hz. The Pixel 4’s 90Hz mode is also linked to the screen brightness to save more battery. The reason is that the faster the display content refreshes, the more screen and processor the phone consumes.

Still want a few more examples? Did you know the OnePlus 8 with a 4,300mAh battery and a 90Hz screen have a longer battery life than the OnePlus 8 Pro with a 4,510mAh battery and a 120Hz screen? These two phones have almost similar configurations, showing how big the screen and refresh rate have on battery life.

Battery life does not depend only on hardware. Smartphone software can also impact battery life through shutting down background apps to reduce CPU load and device wakeups. For example, Huawei’s EMUI interface is known to do this more rigorously than Samsung’s One UI interface.

5G also drains the battery

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A recent trend that has made the issue of “mAh” and battery life more complicated is the advent of 5G. 5G modems and radio components require more power than previous 4G components, meaning your battery won’t last as long as it used to. And yet, different 5G modems and chipsets eat at different levels.

Mid-range chipsets with integrated 5G modems, like the Exynos 980 and Snapdragon 765G, will consume a little less power than high-end external modems on high-end smartphones. This is probably part of the reason why phones like LG Velvet and Google Pixel 5 are more likely not to use high-end chipsets that require a lot of Qualcomm power – the Snapdragon 865 chip. poorer, but in return you will have a higher battery life.

Equipping 5G hardware for smartphones will undoubtedly be the engine for manufacturers to integrate larger capacity batteries. However, whether or not it matters depends on whether you actually use 5G or 4G. If you use a device that supports 5G on 4G networks, the power consumption of the above components will not be high, and the battery life will be equivalent to the previous generations. Again, everything depends on other hardware. According to Redmi CEO Lu Weibing, switching from 4G to 5G will often result in smartphones consuming at least 20% more power. Therefore, you will need a battery that is 20% larger in order to achieve the same battery life as 4G phones.

Find dream battery life

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The key takeaway here is that developing a smartphone with all-day battery life isn’t simply about choosing the largest battery possible. Manufacturers must consider the cost, the space inside the machine, and the hardware they plan to equip the machine. The more features the device has, the more difficult it is to calculate. Most manufacturers try to strike a balance between hardware and battery capacity so that you can use it for a full day of normal use and sometimes you don’t need to have a big battery.

The test at the beginning of the article doesn’t give a direct correlation between capacity and battery life, because it doesn’t exist. Large batteries obviously give the device more power, but the manufacturers’ hardware choices have the same impact on battery life as big as the battery itself.

Mid-range smartphones are equipped with technologies that consume less power, such as the Pixel 3a, which usually require only a small battery and can last all day. In the high-end segment, manufacturers use larger capacity batteries (and also bigger phone sizes) to ensure sufficient power for more modern technologies, such as 5G, frequency monitors. high fresh, or strong gaming performance.

Of course, how you use your phone is also a factor that affects battery life. Users who only surf Facebook will definitely have more battery left by the end of the day than gamers who plow hoes on their phones!

Reference: AndroidAuthority

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Source : Genk