Which Smartphone or Tablet Has the Best Battery Life? - CHOICE #462

15 April 2015
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Looking for the smartphone or tablet that can give you the best battery life? And do they differ in battery performance in any way significant?

A total of 14 models - 8 mobile phones and 6 tablet computers - were put to a joint test organized by ICRT (International Consumer Research and Testing).

In an accelerated test in simulation of 2-year usage, the samples were operated, over charge-discharge cycles, with measurement taken at the simulated intervals of 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months, by continuous streaming of internet video at maximum brightness. The performance of the battery at the end of each interval was measured and compared for any change in operating time after the test.

According to the stringent test, the smartphone model top in battery operating time beat the least performer by more than double - 9.5 hours versus 4.5 hours - despite both claim more or less the same battery capacity of 2,800mAh and 2,500mAh respectively.

Indeed, 2 other models with almost identical battery capacity claim of about 2,000mAh varied also substantially in operating time from 8 hours 10 minutes to 5 hours 44 minutes respectively.

In the case of tablet computers, the difference in operating time among the samples was relatively smaller - the shortest lasting 5 hours 11 minutes while the longest 7 hours 23 minutes.

It would seem that the manufacturers' claims of battery capacity may not be the sole indicator of the operating time of mobile gadgets. Other factors such as the screen size and the processing speed would also affect the performance.

On the whole, the test results were deemed satisfactory: the loss in operating time of all smartphone (except one) and tablet samples during the course of test was within the bracket under 15% - from a low 3% to a high 14%.

The one smartphone exception though still within an acceptable range recorded a loss of 20%; its operating time dropped from 8 hours 10 minutes to 6 hours 32 minutes, one and a half hour less in battery performance in 2 years' time.

As increasingly new mobile phones, similar to the tablets, are designed with built-in batteries, users cannot simply buy a new battery to replace one with poor performance. The battery life literally dictates the life span of the device itself if maintenance service is not available.

The ICRT test on battery life is part of a global lobby for warranty on battery.

According to a EU Directive (1999/44/EC), consumers have the right to repair, return and refund on goods not fulfilling the contractual requirements within 2 years of the purchase, including electrical and electronic products.

In Hong Kong, warranty is generally valid for one year but some manufacturers were found to limit the period for batteries to 6 months only. A survey showed a vast range of fees for battery repair or replacement from $269 to $1,600 after expiration of the warranty period. Some also charged a non-refundable inspection fee of about $100 or more.

The Council believes the provision of a longer warranty promotes sustainability and waste reduction. Consumers are urged to be conscious of the impact to environment and make repairs and keep on using the products whenever possible.

The levy of an inspection fee though small in amount is an obstacle that might deter users to have their products repaired. If more affordable repair service is preferred, consumers might consider individual repair service providers available at mobile phone shopping centres where the service is sometimes quick and on-the-spot.

To protect personal privacy, consumers are reminded to back up and erase essential personal files and remove memory card before repairs.

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