Your choice in carriers may be hurting your battery life

Your choice in carriers may be hurting your battery life
Battery life is often cited as the most important feature of a mobile device, but have you ever wondered whether your choice in carriers could be affecting your battery life? It turns out that the answer might be yes on that one; and, according to tests by Laptop Mag, your best bet for battery life might be with T-Mobile.

The tests have been conducted in both New York City and in Chicago using the HTC One M7 and M8, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5. Each test was done while the devices had "at least 3 bars of service", with Bluetooth, NFC, and Wi-Fi turned off, and brightness set to 150 nits. The results are pretty stark. Across the board, the T-Mobile variants of the devices have had better battery life, sometimes by quite a sizeable degree. The biggest difference was found between T-Mobile and Verizon on the Galaxy S5, where the Verizon model clocked in at 7:30 of battery life, while the T-Mo model scored nearly 11 hours. That's a three and a half hour difference. 

Even looking at the average battery test results over the past 12 months and the past 36 months, the results held. T-Mobile devices had the highest average battery life, while Verizon models came in last. AT&T actually showed improvement, as it was in the bottom with Verizon over the 36 month span, but had climbed up close to even with Sprint in the past 12 months. 

Unfortunately, it is unclear exactly why this is happening. Laptop Mag speculates that two of the most likely factors are network efficiency and possibly even carrier bloat. There is certainly a correlation between the amount of bloat and battery life (Verizon has the most bloat and the worst battery), but that doesn't necessarily indicate causation. 

source: Laptop Mag



1. Duketytz

Posts: 534; Member since: Nov 28, 2013

T Mobile is really shaping up to be a great carrier, sadly I'm not in the States

4. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

T-Mobile has a Chicago completely. I have yet had an issue in my city with them. All the dead zones before are LTE and the speed has always been consistent. The only thing I can complain about is barely receiving any signal inside the mall, which is because of the 1900MHz band.

10. needa

Posts: 205; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

indeed. tmo lte has a hard time penetrating house walls too. and i dropped quite a few calls also, which is something that no longer happens on att and verizon.

12. Duketytz

Posts: 534; Member since: Nov 28, 2013

I guess such is the benefits of a smaller country like mine where we have near 100 % coverage.

19. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

I get full bars of LTE in my

29. JC557

Posts: 1919; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

The choice of bands to use determines how much the signal can penetrate (err... giggity?) and the higher the frequency the tougher it is to get a signal in certain structures unless there are repeaters of some sort in place. Once T-Mobile gets more towers and rivals that of AT&T then I'll definitely jump ship back to the company I started my mobile journey with. It would also be nice if T-Mobile used a lower frequency like AT&T or Verizon.

2. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

I learn something new everyday. That gap of three and a half hours though...

7. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Yeah, that's amazing.

3. pavsidhu

Posts: 214; Member since: May 20, 2014

Very interesting article, I would like so see how the battery differs with other phones.

5. bestmvno

Posts: 251; Member since: Mar 07, 2014

What an incomplete and nearly useless study. What is the average signal strength for each device on each network? That's your likely number one factor in determining battery life in this case. The study said they made sure each phone had at least 3 bars? What does that even mean? It tells you very little. Furthermore, the phone on one network may have 3 bars, and on another 4, but that's still not really the signal strength. Need the db level.

6. domfonusr

Posts: 1085; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

Furthermore, phones that connect predominantly via GSM networks will have better battery life than phones that connect more predominantly via CDMA, WCDMA (UMTS or HSPA), or LTE. So, might this study actually backfire, and be an indication that T-Mobile phones connect to a 2G network more often than phones on other networks in the US? Gotta ask the question...

8. alumoyo

Posts: 391; Member since: Aug 26, 2013

Hahaha - well spotted! I didn't even consider that - 2G Network uses a lot less power than 3G on my phone: in fact I always turn my network down to 2G whenever I need extra endurance. And here I was ready to praise T-Mobile.

9. needa

Posts: 205; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

i can tell you flat out that the tmo iphone 5s test drive was switching between 2g 3g 4g and lte all the time. it was a constant battle for me. i could rarely test lte speeds because if an earlier generation signal was stronger... i was stuck on that one. and good luck if you are indoors with 2 bars of lte outside, which was the case for me almost everywhere i went, because by the time you walk through the front door of your house... you will drop to 4g or worse.

11. bestmvno

Posts: 251; Member since: Mar 07, 2014

Are you in one of these test areas used in the study? I have a nexus 5 outside those test areas with t-mobile, and have LTE disabled. My phone is always connected as H, and H+ but never drops to Edge. H, and H+ are very strong in my area. LTE is not as strong and does drain the battery quicker.

13. ojdidit84

Posts: 462; Member since: Jul 16, 2011

WHY CAN'T YOU GUYS JUST LET TMO HAVE THEIR SHINE!!! I MEAN, REALLY!!!!1111 I kid, I kid... Interesting points though. This study is a little lacking on the specifics of all of their test data. Especially with the "at least 3 bars" part. I'd also like to know if the phone were on LTE or HSPA or CDMA and so on for the tests. And this is from Laptop Mag? You would think they'd be a little more scientific or at least a little more detailed with their testing. I get amazing battery life with the Note 3 on TMo and have hardly ever seen a signal other than LTE, although San Diego is pretty damn well covered with TMo's LTE network (and everyone else except Sprint). I need to find someone with a VZW Note 3 and see what they're getting...

30. JC557

Posts: 1919; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

Yup, I wanted to post the same thing as that is something else to consider. In NYC though T-Mobile has a pretty strong signal so that shouldn't really be a problem, it's those fringe areas that are the worst.

14. Joshua9007

Posts: 94; Member since: Jun 08, 2012

I agree with everyone else here that there are too many variables with this study, but I'm sure that it is slightly indicative of real world results. That being said, I think phonearena could do something like their battery test across the carriers at different locations and with the same group of phones. The custom script that they use would have comparable results and we could see if verizon really has worse battery life... I would be interested to see that article!

15. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

The problem I see as a TMUS customer is that it has dark spots all over town, unfortunately particularly where I live and work. The weak signal makes the phone crank up its transmit power to reach the tower, using up more energy. Chicago may be different, but where I live TMUS has quite a spotty coverage.

28. AfterShock

Posts: 4146; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

This is true for all carriers and a phone in real world usage honestly. Its what skews statistical claims of battery life up between stationary tech sites tests an out in the wild usage. So yeah YMMV.

16. stealthd unregistered

Picking 2 of the largest metropolitan areas in the country doesn't seem like a very good sample size. Throw in some random rural/surburban towns and the data might look more relevant.

17. ryan5609

Posts: 107; Member since: Nov 01, 2011

I always knew there was something about Verizons network that just destroyed battery life. Add this to the reason why I left Big Red. T-Mobile FTW!

31. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

But part time of the reason I can't get service with T-Mobile or Sprint for that matter is coverage. While it may suck battery life, you can always recharge your battery. But if there isn't any signal, the best battery life in the world won't help. Most of the signal T-Mobile has outside of major metros is roaming off AT&T's towers. And since you can't get service with any carrier unless you're in an area that has their towers, not roaming, my only options are Verizon and AT&T. Would love if they had a larger footprint and not just relying on roaming, but it is what it is.

18. SemiFinal

Posts: 117; Member since: Jul 26, 2014

Wow look at the huge improvement between the previous and current models alone

20. meanestgenius

Posts: 22085; Member since: May 28, 2014

There are just too many variables left out of this study for it to be accurate.

21. medalaster01

Posts: 43; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

I use Vodafone in India which has the worst reception but still I get 2days of battery with my t2ultra..and he'll it's gr8.

22. ManusImperceptus

Posts: 724; Member since: Jun 10, 2014

I realise respect for WP and it's advocates is in shortage on this site, but Steve Litchfield of AAWP (hey, he likes Android too...) has an explanation for mysterious battery drain: I can't say if this truly represents the difference between T-mobile and it's competitors, but it may... :-)

23. fatTony

Posts: 115; Member since: Dec 20, 2012

This is good info but I don't know how many people consider battery life when they're comparing carriers.

24. zachattack

Posts: 621; Member since: Jul 31, 2013

This article, is laughable

25. Federated

Posts: 263; Member since: Mar 06, 2010

I'm glad I'm on T-Mobile.

26. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Since the major carriers use different frequencies and the lower the frequency the larger the cell size, ergo the carrier using the lower frequency will have the towers farther away than a carrier using a higher frequency. Since the farther the tower is the more transmit power the phone has to use, therefore draining the battery more quickly, the battery in the phone with the carrier using the highest frequency would last the longest. If this is true, since VZW uses 700MHz, ATT 800MHz, S 1900MHz and TMUS 1700/2100MHz, the phone with the worst battery life would be with VZW, then ATT, then S and finally TMUS. Except for a couple of cases where ATT and S swapped places, this seems to the case and why TMUS customers enjoy longer battery life. Of course, the downside of using higher frequencies is poorer building penetration and the need for more towers, which, unless satisfied, results in more blind spots than using lower frequencies.

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