Sunday, June 19, 2011

Androids hate batteries

Robots need juice. No, not from fruit (well, according to this video, that's a possibility), but juice in the form of a stream of negatively charged particles called electrons. Put simply, our more popular mobile robots--Android phones--need batteries, and lots of them.

It's no secret of the companies manufacturing Android devices and the customers that buy them that the battery life of even the newest phones may have you anxious every time you must leave the house and your precious wall outlets. Let's face it, the Android phones shipping today, with all their horsepower, have at most a battery life to the tune of 4-5 hours. And that's still a theoretical. Real-life battery runs are about 1.5 hours when doing something processor-intensive like playing a game.

Of course, some Android devices are better than others. I haven't been able to play with all of them, but it's safe to say that if you have a 4G Android phone, you're looking at maybe 2 hours of real-world talk time. That's a lot of (fruit) juice for a robot, especially if you plan on toting your robot friend on a long journey.

I look at this as a big problem for the future of Android phones in the face of ubiquitous 4G data and more powerful phone processors. And I feel this is an important discussion that is seemingly ignored by the media and those reviewing these products. Consumers looking for a new phone probably don't know about the energy problems plaguing these phones and are most often surprised when they realize that most of their day involves managing battery life.

Which leads to the next important point about user experience. The first thing a new Android user is told to do after buying their phone is to go on the Android store and purchase a task-killer app. As someone who spends most of the time on a iPhone, this just seems ridiculous. Not only do iPhones get spectacular battery life, but at no time does the user need to focus on managing background apps for the sake of battery life.

Not to sound like a iPhone snob, but when it comes down to what smartphone you'd feel most comfortable taking out and away from nearby energy sources, the iPhone wins hands-down. As a Nexus One owner and having extensively used various Droid devices as well as the Motorola Atrix, the future looks a little bleak for Android when battery technology has remained relatively idle and the new energy-hogging processors and 4G data bands look to chew your Android into a lifeless hunk of parts.

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