Last month we held a competition to find three readers to test three smartphones using EE's 4G service. While they get to keep all three phones, they have to sing for their supper first -- namely, by reviewing all of the devices for us. Their very first challenge? Testing the battery life of a Galaxy Note 3 using 4GEE.
The first challenge I've been set is to look at the battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, a large phone with a pretty capacious battery (3200mAh -- to give you an idea, that's double the iPhone 5S' 1560mAh!)
My typical daily usage involves checking emails in the morning and evenings, and intermittently checking social feeds and calendar during the day. I would probably only have the display at about 40 per cent brightness during the day unless I needed to use the phone outside.
I found that I could easily get through a full day without charging the phone if I had started the day on a full charge. While most people tend to plug in their phones overnight to charge, I prefer not to unless really necessary, in order to maximise the life of the battery by ensuring I do full charge/discharge cycles when possible. This means I usually end up plugging it in at work during the day.
For my intensive test I chose the movie Thor, thinking it would be a good way to test the Note 3's wonderful 5.7-inch 1080p display. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were off and the screen brightness was set to maximum during the test. I started the Netfix movie stream on 100 per cent battery and by the time I had finished, I had 61 per cent of battery life remaining which is pretty impressive in my opinion. The device was also downloading typical background data such as email, social updates etc, during movie playback.
The film is 1 hour 53 minutes long and I streamed this over the EE 4G network. Interestingly I could get two bars' signal strength on 4G in my office, and the film streamed without a flaw or pause. Normally on my own phone (an LG G2 on the Vodafone 3G network), I can barely get a decent phone signal in my office and have to use a Vodafone SureSignal to boost reception even though I'm smack in the middle of Central London. The Speedtest.net app showed that I was getting 28MB download and 10MB upload speeds on EE 4G compared to the 3MB download and 1MB upload on Vodafone 3G -- I think I am becoming a 4G convert!
Overall, I would say I'm impressed with battery life and I'm seriously considering flogging my LG G2 (even though it's considered to be the top Android phone out there right now) and keeping the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as my main device.
A few weeks ago, we were handed Samsung Galaxy Note 3s and instructed to "ravage the battery", putting the sizeable 3,200mAh battery to the test. If I'm honest, this challenge really didn't require a huge effort on my part, as I'm already what you might classify as an "extreme" smartphone user.
Considering this phone has a beastly 5.7-inch HD screen and was loaded with a blazingly fast 4GEE SIM card, it performed shockingly well. During the working week, I bring my iPhone charger with me everywhere, as my iPhone 5's battery has become so pathetic that it requires a full mid-afternoon charge after a morning of heavy usage. With the Note 3, I instinctively threw the charger in my bag, but not once did I have to use it out of necessity. I did a few top-ups here and there, but never did I actually experience the "OMG 5 per cent" anxiety of a near-dead battery that I'm so used to.
On an average day during my test, I would head to work with a fully-charged phone around 8:30am. I usually walk to work (about 45-60 minutes), streaming Soundcloud, Spotify radio or BBC radio, along with occasional checking of maps and frequent walking into poles whilst browsing Twitter. When I'm feeling lazy, I hop on the tube, which is a solid twenty minutes of reading saved content or news on my Pocket app and listening to Spotify. (As an aside, reading on the Note 3's large screen is much more enjoyable than any other phone I've ever owned, and unlike my Wi-Fi only tablet, I don't have to remember to download media before I leave my flat).
Even when at work, I continued to use it intermittently throughout the day. Passively when I zone out of work, when I get notifications, in the toilet, in meetings when I shouldn't be (kidding!), using maps on the way to lunch, or waiting for the kettle to boil.
Heading home around 6ish, I noted the battery was impressively still sitting at around 40 per cent without a charge, even with the aforementioned heavy usage. I can even walk all the way home, another solid hour of heavy usage, and it still holds out with some juice to spare. Although 12+hours of battery life may not be impressive for some, it is for me, as I get about half of that with my other handset without the use of an ugly "charging case".
On weekends, I carried my charger just in case I needed some emergency juice. To compare a busy weekend day versus a working day in numbers, I managed to get my Note 3 down to around 25 per cent battery after using it from 10am-6pm without a charge...but that was with practically non-stop usage and a tonne of photo taking.
Streaming over 4G, and with maximum screen-brightness, I watched the entire 92 minutes of Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion (because why wouldn't you?!) using the Netflix app, and it only managed to knock a fully-charged battery down to 61 per cent. I'll be keeping that battery life and 4G connection in mind for my future train trips; I can easily consume two whole full-length films over 4G and have battery life to spare. Possibly even more play-time if I turn the screen brightness down a tad.
All in all, the battery longevity and reliability meant I felt much less panicked about a low battery percentage on the Note 3 versus on my iPhone 5 -- when my iPhone 5 is at 15 per cent battery life, I sometimes have minutes left. When the Note is at 15 per cent battery life, I could possibly get an hour or more out of it. Also, I really notice that the Note tends not to drain if I am not using it, whereas my iPhone 5 seems to drain whether or not it's just on standby, even with apps closed.
I've lived long enough to know that there are precisely two things in life which concern me. The first, and rightly most worrying one: spiders. The second is the constant and unshakable fear of my mobile running out of battery.
I've found that there are a number of strategies I've adopted over the years to mitigate a low battery. I constantly seek out a source of charge, even if my phone has plenty of charge left. I carry around a portable battery charger at all times. The latter seemed like a good solution at first until I realised it was another battery I worried about charging, another mouth to feed.
These aren't solutions though; these are workarounds. The solution is to have a mobile battery capable of getting me safely through the day. With a battery capacity of 3200mAh, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has the largest battery of any mobile I know.
To test heavy usage, I tortured the Galaxy Note 3 by binge-streaming movies on Netflix. Of course, selecting a movie to watch is no small decision: I wanted a movie that was universally revered and ideally something I'd never gotten around to watching. I came up with Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and for the illusion of science, I decided to watch the same film under different conditions and compare the battery life.
Setting the screen brightness to 100 per cent for everyday use is unnecessary; the screen is bright and beautiful at 60 per cent. However, for the purposes of testing, I turned it up, reached for my sunglasses and settled in to be delighted by a movie that had almost escaped me. I decided to use headphones with the volume set to full volume (the choice to use headphones that was in no way influenced because I was doing some of the testing whilst at work).
Ferris Bueller's Day Off has a runtime of 103 minutes. I streamed the film three times: once using Wi-Fi, once using 4G, and once using 3G.
I figured that 4G would consume more battery than 3G for some reason but my testing revealed this to be very wrong. I might suggest that for data-hungry uses, like streaming video, 4G is actually easier on the battery because when the 4G radio is working, it pulls down more data than 3G and therefore has to do less work. If the radio is working less, it is consuming less battery. That's a whole lot of maths and science there backed up by around 0 actual knowledge of the subject.
The ability to watch around three full movies on a single charge is fairly impressive. As I mentioned above, 100 per cent brightness is very bright. Given that the screen is typically the biggest consumer of the battery, lowering the brightness to 50 - 60 per cent would go a long way to making the battery last longer still.
What about if you're one of those odd people that does other things with your mobile besides binge-watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off? For testing the "everyday" use I set up the Note 3 to match the settings on my Nexus 4. For me, everyday use means having Bluetooth always on, auto screen brightness enabled and constantly connected to the internet. For at least three hours of the day I have Bluetooth headphones paired and spend a lot of this time streaming from Google Music.
Being a nerd, I have more stats on my daily use than you'd care to read (I fricking love stats) so let me instead show a graph of battery usage throughout the day:
A = Idle
B = Lunch time
C = Streaming from Google Music / Bluetooth headphones
D = Filming slow motion video
E = Idle
F = Texting / Browsing internet / Screen on a lot of the time
At 20.39, 12 hours after leaving the charger, the mobile still has a 42 per cent battery remaining. This is excellent for me as I'm only ever looking to make it through to night time on a single charge. If I were planning a late night, I'm confident that this device could still call me a taxi well into the wee hours. Thankfully I'm way too old and boring to ever need that ability, but it makes me feel younger just knowing that I could if I wanted to.
Summary of Battery Consumption Rates:
- Phone idling (screen mostly off, 4G-connected, Bluetooth-enabled) draws about 2 per cent battery per hour.
- Phone streaming music (screen mostly off, 4G-connected, Bluetooth-enabled and headphones paired, streaming from Google Music) draws about 4 per cent battery per hour.
- Phone streaming video (screen always on, maximum brightness, 4G-connected, Bluetooth-disabled, streaming from Netflix) draws about 19 per cent battery per hour.
For a quick and dirty, unscientific comparison, 12 hours of "everyday" use using 3G instead of 4G resulted in me having 43 per cent battery left. I tried to do roughly the same amount of each activity. I'm happy to conclude that 4G usage does not noticeably negatively influence battery life and, as can be seen in the video streaming test, can actually use less battery than its 3G counterpart.
After each day of regular mobile usage, I'm finding the device still has 20 - 30 per cent battery left after midnight. That's impressive enough for any device, let alone one with a 5.7-inch full HD screen.
Samsung could have opted for a smaller battery to reduce some weight from the device but in my opinion they have nailed it. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a mobile which you can use heavily throughout the day without having to worry about when you'll next find a charger. The obvious curse of a big battery is that you now have more time to worry about spiders.