Blame OLED Displays for Decline in Smartphone Battery Life

iPhone Xs Max back

As testing from Geoffrey A.Folwer shows from Washington Post shows, most smartphones launched in 2018 are unable to beat their predecessor from 2017 in the battery life department. He compared the battery life of 13 devices, including the iPhone XS, iPhone X, Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 2. The reason? Their high-resolution OLED displays.

In most scenarios, the previous generation device did better than its successor. The iPhone X lasted around 21 minutes longer than the iPhone XS, while the iPhone XS Max fell short of the iPhone 8 Plus battery life numbers by 4 minutes. The same trend continues over at the Android side as well. The Pixel 3 — despite its larger battery — lasted almost 90 minutes less than the Pixel 2 from last year.

There were only two exceptions in the testing: the iPhone XR and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. The former lasted for 12 hours and 25 minutes in the test, while the Galaxy Note 9 lasted for around 12 hours. And the reason behind their stellar performance is pretty clear.

The iPhone XR features a slightly lower resolution LCD panel coupled with a slightly bigger battery than the iPhone XS to offer battery life that is more than 3 hours better than it. It even outlasted the iPhone XS Max by almost 2 hours and 30 minutes. The OLED panel on the iPhone XS series consumes more power than LCD panels which is why the iPhone XR is able to offer notably better battery life despite packing the same internals.

As for the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung increased the battery capacity significantly — 3,300mAh to 4,000mAh — to offset the extra power drain from the high-resolution OLED panel.

Its the OLED panel that is a major culprit in the declining battery life of new smartphones. This is a worrying sign since OLED adoption is at an all-time high among smartphone OEMs. Apple is also expected to switch to OLED panels completely with its 2019 iPhone lineup.

In tests where the processor inside these new devices is stressed, they end up performing better than their predecessor. But there are other factors at play here as well. Despite what OEMs and chip makers claim, using LTE will drain your phone’s battery faster. So it is advised to switch to Wi-Fi whenever possible.

The report says that battery technology improves at a rate of 5 percent per year, while smartphones and their power needs are increasing at a far higher speed. Due to this, lithium-ion batteries used inside smartphones have reached an inflection point. Despite OEM claims of optimizing their devices for better battery life using machine learning and more efficient components, the average battery life on smartphones is actually going down.

Most OEMs are trying to work around the problem of the declining battery life on their devices by including wireless charging and a faster wired charging method. The former offers more convenience, while the latter can be used to quickly juice up your phone to ensure it lasts a few more hours. Most Android OEMs now include some sort of wired fast charging technology on their devices that can charge it from 0-5o percent in just 30 minutes. Apple also includes USB-Power Delivery support on its iPhones starting from the iPhone 8 last year but it continues to bundle a 5W power adapter with them.

How satisfied are you with the battery life of your iPhone? Do you think there’s room for improvement?

[Via Washington Post]