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Cellphones Power Wireless Networking Hardware

4G Phones Are Really Fast — At Draining Batteries 281

Hugh Pickens writes "With Verizon's 4G network covering a good chunk of the country and AT&T gaining ground, more smartphone users have access to the fastest wireless service available. But because 4G coverage isn't truly continuous in many locations, users' batteries are taking a big hit with 4G, as phones spend an lot of battery power trying to hunt down a signal. 'You've got a situation where the phones are sending out their signals searching and searching for a 4G tower, and that eats up your battery,' says Carl Howe, a vice president for research firm Yankee Group. The spottiness of 4G stems at least in part from the measured approach carriers have taken to it, rolling out the service city by city. There are a few tricks 4G users can try to extend battery life such as turning off your 4G connection when you don't need the fastest speeds — when using email, for instance — or using a program such as JuiceDefender to search for apps you may have downloaded that you don't need to run all the time, and erase them."
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4G Phones Are Really Fast — At Draining Batteries

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  • by Freaky Spook ( 811861 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @11:18PM (#38962899)

    Where your phone would last a week on stand-by and you wouldn't have to hang around the single power socket in the airport departure lounge with all the other smartphone junkies waiting to charge your phone.

  • Android spergs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @11:21PM (#38962909)

    Remember all the trolling Android spergs on Slashdot who bashed the iPhone 4S for not having 4G? So much for that.

  • by quacking duck ( 607555 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @11:36PM (#38962991)

    The fact you're on coast-to-coast flights (5-ish hours) should actually *increase* battery life for that charge, since you're in airplane mode and it's not hunting for cell or wifi signals.

    You're probably watching video or playing games more during the flight than you'd be running around on the ground of course, but I'm amazed how little battery is used when I watch an hour-long show on my iPhone while on the gym machines--less than 5% drained. For comparison, browsing the web or using Facebook for 30 minutes on the bus will eat 10%.

  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @11:43PM (#38963033) Journal

    The hard core android fan brags about having four cores in their phone, even if everything they're doing could easily be handled by a single core, gets its battery drained four times faster, and doesn't have a noticable performance improvement over the competition.

    You mean, "even though their phone just turns off the three other cores 95% of the time anyways". And in fact, some even turn off all four cores, and switch over to a super power-saving core that has especially low performance, but is well enough to play music and HW-decoded video.

  • Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @11:45PM (#38963047) Homepage

    I'm typing this on a MacBook Air, which gets about 3x the battery life of my previous laptop. And the room I'm in has CFL bulbs which are about 1/4 as power hungry as the old fashioned bulbs.

    So no, newer electronics don't *always* use more power.

  • by Ayanami_R ( 1725178 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @11:46PM (#38963059)

    I would gladly take a "bulky" device with a ton of battery. I don't understand the the tablet manufacturers all trying to copy the thinness of the fruit product. Keep them relatively slim, but kill em on battery life. Take the transformer, it's thin enough and light enough. Now that they CAN make it slimmer than the fruit product DONT, fill the space with frigging battery!

  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @11:47PM (#38963063)

    I do remember everyone saying the 4S absolutely needed 4G, but Apple kept 4G out of it for this reason - it would be horrible about battery life, so bad that it would negatively affect the consumer experience.

    Not that the 4S is great about battery life either, but imagine it worse.

    And all this for not even 4G. Its more like 3.75G, but the American carriers lobbied to bend the rules in advertisements.

  • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @11:47PM (#38963073) Journal
    Umm, the standard fapple rebuttal to "my android phone has 4G!" is that 4G is a battery hog and Apple is more concerned with battery life.
  • Apple again (Score:2, Insightful)

    by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:08AM (#38963195)

    Wow this same story keeps happening. Apple elects to go with 2G edge instead of 3G. Gets ridiculed. The all the 3G phones have connection problems and drain their batteries. Apple delays 4G. Gets pilloried. Oops the 4G phones are suck and regret. It's not that apple is always later to the party. Indeed they are a realtively early adopter (dynamic memory, graphic printers, .... ) and an early dropper of obsolete tech (floppies, zip drives, ports...).

    Like Paul Mason, they only serve their wine when it is time.

  • by anubi ( 640541 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:09AM (#38963199) Journal
    Consider the marketing angle... that's where the money is.

    The people who are opening their wallet to buy are after the snazziest technology they can get. Bragging rights. By golly, they want to have something that everybody else doesn't have.

    Lamborghini did not make their profits from their mileage numbers. Anyone who can afford their cars would probably reconsider their purchase if the car failed to pass everything they meet on the freeway.

    So the phone won't run an hour between charges... who cares? The guy has already bought spare battery packs and charging apparatus. The phone has already served its purpose if it impressed the hell out of his co-workers during the call in the conference room.

    These phones are not designed for the same market that goes to Wal-Mart for jeans.
  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:26AM (#38963303) Journal

    Oh definitely, but for example the Tegra3 despite having four cores shuts them all down most of the time, and runs a 5th power-saving core. All of this is done silently behind the scenes, and so they never know that they're usually only running on a low-power efficiency core, rather than the roaring engine in the back.

    It's like having a two-cylinder engine that is used during stop-and-go traffic (you know, the majority of what you do during your commute) that allows you to drive your Ferrari down to the store without having to fill up on gas on the way back home. But any time you have to impress someone, and pull out the e-peen, then you can just "drop the hammer" and the engine switches over to the high-performance v12, and you go "ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!"

    It's definitely all about marketing. This is the best way that they could come up with to let you have your cake and eat it, too... "it has 4 cores, _AND_ it has excellent battery life! *mumbling under breath* because it is almost always running on an economy core unless you're showing off..."

  • Not true (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:02AM (#38963465)

    The iPhone - and it really was the first in this category - got people to charge their phone every single night.

    That's not the case.

    I've had and iPhone since the first one, and I've usually only gone to charge it every three days or so. That's with moderate email/web/app use.

    It's less time than other dumb phones but much more time than smart phones of the time (like Treo or Windows Mobile) offered. The realistic multi-day battery life was a huge draw early on, exactly because finally there was a smart phone you DIDN'T have to charge every day.

  • Re:Not true (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:59AM (#38963751)

    The iPhone - and it really was the first in this category - got people to charge their phone every single night.

    That's not the case.

    I've had and iPhone since the first one, and I've usually only gone to charge it every three days or so. That's with moderate email/web/app use.

    Clearly you never use it.

    I have to carry an Iphone 3GS for work, I have to charge it every day and all it does is receive SMS's. I make a call on it about once a month yet requires charging once a day. My Android phone (HTC Desire Z running Cyanogen 7) lasts two days on one charge as well as having a replaceable battery and I use that for voice calls, SMS and web use.

    Iphone 4's I've seen require more charging then the 3GS did. There's a reason every Iphone owner has a charge cable at their desk.

  • Re:Not so fast (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:05AM (#38963777)

    I'm typing this on a MacBook Air, which gets about 3x the battery life of my previous laptop. And the room I'm in has CFL bulbs which are about 1/4 as power hungry as the old fashioned bulbs.

    So no, newer electronics don't *always* use more power.

    Your macbook cant do what an old P4 Laptop couldn't.

    Your macbook gets a higher score on the battery because it gets a lower score on everything else.

    I had an Asus U30SD. The U30SD has the Optimus graphics chipset, this is a GF520M and an Intel 3000, if I want to play games, I have to use the GeForce chip which gives it a battery life of 6 hours, if I use the Intel IGM, I get a battery life of 10 hours. I now have a U46SV with a GeForce 540M and the discrepancy is worse. Do you see the inverse relationship between processing power and battery consumption?

    Now the reason LTE phones use more power then HSPA phones is that the LTE transmitter is not integral to the SoC, it is it's own chip. Once the new ARM line is released (mid this year IIRC) we'll see battery life improve significantly as LTE chips will be integrated into the SoC like HSPA chips currently are.

    To elaborate, the Intel graphics chip in your laptop is integrated into the CPU die, so it's powered from the same source as the CPU rather then being a seperate chip with a seperate power supply, do you honestly think you'll be getting the same battery life if you had a discrete graphics card?

  • Re:Android spergs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:16AM (#38963837)

    Given a choice between having a feature you can turn on and off at will, and not having the feature, the better choice is always having the feature. An iPhone 4S with 4G would've had exactly the same battery life as the 4G-less iPhone 4S, but you would've been able to get 4G data speeds whenever you felt the tradeoff in battery life was worth it.

    And how many of the gazillion people who bought iPhones would understand, much less remember, to do that?

    My dad can't remember turn his iPad's 3G receiver to save power when he's home on wi-fi. Fortunately for him, the 3G modem is pretty efficient and the darned thing still runs all day and all night on a charge.

    Apple has calculated that the no-fret longer battery life from a mature 3G chipset will result in happier customers in aggregate than the occasional speed boost of early 4G chipsets. I have zero doubt that Apple's calculus is accurate here. People don't like having to turn features off to get things to work well.

  • Signal strength (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:51AM (#38964943)
    I suspect this is an infrastructure issue. Phones need to use more power to talk where the tower signal is weak. My wife's phone goes days without needing recharge (strong signal for her carrier) while my company BB only lasts two days (weak O2 signal at home, stronger at work) and needs a daily charge in rural Devon where the signal is frequently missing.
  • Re:Not true (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:51AM (#38965387) Homepage Journal

    As I said I use my phone daily. I currently have an iPhone 4 (not 4s) and I only plug it in to charge about every three days. Again, this is moderate web/email/app use (I don't make many calls either).

    It all really depends on how you use it. Wifi on or off. 4G, 3G or 2G. Screen brightness setting. What apps you run, what notifications you have set up, how much stuff is set to background sync and so on. I don't know about iOS but on Android there is a handy feature built in that shows you how much energy each part of the phone and each app has used so you can optimise. Two or three days is about my average too, and I do a lot of reading on my phone.

    At this point the 3Gs battery may simply be getting weaker, you could have it replaced fairly cheaply.

    [smug mode]

    * Flips open Galaxy S and pops in new battery *

    (sorry, can never resist)

Happiness is twin floppies.