The Google Pixel 5 and LG G9's 5G may be way gentler on the battery than Galaxy S20

The Pixel 5 and LG G9's 5G may be gentler on the battery than Galaxy S20
The 5G revolution will be televised and will be spearheaded in the US by the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, whose collective spectrum holding will have to be capitalized on fast and early.

The rollout, however, has dark sides, and we don't mean the 5G and immune system conspiracy that is spreading like wildfire in coronavirus times. Besides higher capital expenditures for populating urban centers with mmWave base stations, for instance, carriers will also face higher electricity costs, as the 5G equipment consumes up to four times the electricity needed to maintain a 4G network.

That inherent frugality of the 4G connection is reflected on the phone side of things as well. We knew that 5G is a battery-guzzler before, as the modem is usually sat outside the system chip, and phone makers need way more antennas all around the phone to maintain good signal with the fastest, mmWave bands that 5G networks like Verizon's use.

What we didn't know, however, is the exact value of a battery life hit that 5G would give over 4G connectivity, and the difference between a chipset with an integrated 5G modem, like Qualcomm's Snapdragon 765, and one where the modem is tacked on as an extra component, like on the flagship Snapdragon 865 chipset. 

Well, courtesy of Xiaomi whose K30 series features phones with both 765 and 865, we now know the intense difference in power draw. 

Not only are 4G phones 20% more power efficient on average, but the difference between a flagship chipset like the Snapdragon 865 with the modem sitting separate, and the Snapdragon 765 with an integrated 5G modem, adds another 20%.

Google Pixel 5 vs LG G9 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 5G battery draw

That would explain the huge bump in battery capacity that Samsung undertook for the Galaxy S20 series, and the larger batteries on 5G phones in general. Google and LG, however, might have chosen a different approach, as they are rumored to pick Snapdragon 765 as a system chip for the Pixel 5 and LG G9.

The reasoning? Well, unlike Snapdragon 855 that could be bought from Qualcomm as a standalone unit, the 865 is only bundled with the 5G modem. This requires retooling of the phone's insides, and, if you wanted the much-touted 5G speeds, you needed to additionally pay Qualcomm for adding mmWave filters, and outfit the handset with a lot more antennas all around, as millimeter waves like Verizon's 5G network, can't travel very far, or penetrate even your palm easily.

Thus, by saying that Snapdragon 765 is cheaper, we don't mean just the chipset costs, but the price for the whole processor/graphics/modem/antennas kit which when coupled with Qualcomm's licensing fees and the internal design reinventions necessary, could add up significantly to the final assembly cost of the phone. Snapdragon 765, on the other hand, is the only integrated, shovel-ready 5G solution that can be used on US carriers so far.

Apparently, all of this 865 paraphernalia not only adds to today's flagship phone costs, but they also take a heavier toll on the battery compared to, say, the Snapdragon 765. LG already equipped the V60 with a 5000mAh battery to keep its top-end 5G chipset satisfied, and we wonder what the G9 and Pixel 5 will bring in the battery capacity department.

If Google chooses to go 5G on a budget with the Pixel 5, and LG G9 does the same, we will potentially have upper midrange phones whose performance will take a hit compared to what the Galaxy S20 models are offering, yet they will gain in the price-to-value ratio and power draw advantage departments.  

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