iPhone 7, Galaxy S7 and other major flagship phones lose to cheap phones in this one key area

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

I have been reviewing some affordable phones recently and it dawned on me: all these phones had one thing in common. And it was not just the price tag. The phones that I was looking at were the new Samsung A series, a couple of even cheaper Lenovo phones, the Honor series and a few other similar devices. They were all very different, yet they were all similar in one aspect.

Amazing battery life.

No matter their software version, no matter their interface, it almost seemed like a norm: an affordable phone would come in the office and amaze us with its stupendous battery life.

Mind you, we are not easily impressed! Quite the opposite, I have grown a thick skin to 'innovation' (the word is abused way too often and it seems to refer to gimmicks more often than to real innovation), but I was genuinely taken aback with how good affordable phones have gotten in terms of battery life. We run a custom battery test here at PhoneArena and we are rigorous about the method and the results. We make sure that we pre-set phones displays to 200 nits, a level that is common and perfectly convenient for indoor use, and we put the devices through a typical use scenario. Here is the results that we have been getting with a few of the affordable phones that we have reviewed in the recent past.

Battery life (hours) Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) 11h 4 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) 11h 9 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) 12h 58 min (Excellent)
Lenovo K6 10h 40 min (Excellent)
Lenovo K6 Note 10h 47 min (Excellent)
Honor 8 9h 7 min (Excellent)
Honor 6x 10h 1 min (Excellent)


I do not, however, want to mistake a test score for real life longevity. A test never tells you the full story, so I have tested and used these devices as my daily driver for a while, but in this case I can only confirm: yes, I get through a full day easily on those phones. What's more I get to two days and with my typical moderate use I can sometimes even squeeze up to three days on a single charge.

I have been happy with these outstanding numbers, but I soon realized: "Wait a minute, I am not getting nowhere close the battery life with much more expensive, flagship phones!" Why is that?

Battery life (hours) Higher is better
Apple iPhone 7 7h 46 min (Good)
Google Pixel 7h 45 min (Good)
Samsung Galaxy S7 6h 37 min (Average)
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 7h 18 min (Good)
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 9h 5 min (Excellent)
Google Pixel XL 7h 19 min (Good)
LG G6 6h 9 min (Average)
Huawei P10 7h 42 min (Good)

A quick look at our tests proves this: only the iPhone 7 Plus compares to the worst performer among the budget phones that we have picked in terms of battery life, while all others are doing significantly worse.

Let's look for the reason behind this confusing occurrence...

Battery life (hours) Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) 11h 4 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) 11h 9 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) 12h 58 min (Excellent)

To better isolate the effect of thousands of factors on a phone, we compare the battery life on three phones with practically identical software, made by the same company and running on very similar system chips: the new Samsung A series. This comparison is interesting because it shows the difference a bigger battery makes: the A5 and A7 are identical in terms of both software and use the same chip, and same resolution screen, so one can only logically explain the better longevity of the A7 by its larger-capacity battery cell. Duh!

What's more interesting, though, is that we can see when comparing the A3 to the A5 and A7, that one can still get outstanding battery life of a phone by dropping the resolution and slightly reducing the maximum CPU frequency. This suggests that we could have big gains by simply using a phone with a lower resolution.

The findings that I share here are very important for me and they should be for you for many obvious reasons and one not so obvious one: long-term battery longevity. Lithium Ion batteries like the ones on our phones usually last around 500 cycles (a cycle is a full discharge of the battery from 100% to 0%, and if you use your phones from 100% to 40%, charge it up, and than use 40% more, those numbers are summed and the sum counts as one cycle). After 500 cycles batteries do not just die: it is considered, though, that they lose a visible amount of their capacity, and you start to feel the cell has aged. You will have to charge a phone with mediocre battery life more often, and you will reach its battery cycle limit quicker, hence the device will 'grow old' faster.

Conclusion


All in all, it is surprising that so many affordable phones beat much more expensive devices easily in terms of battery life. But surprise can be a great thing: we learn from it. In this case, flagship phones can take a few clues from their more affordable siblings. 


Are the marginal resolution gains that come from a Quad HD (1440 x 2560 pixel) screen over a Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels) screen worth it? Should a phone go all out in terms of clock speeds and risk consuming too much energy? What is the right balance between battery size, resolution and performance? In our in-office tests, most people don't see any difference and with the VR craze fading away, I tend to think that I'd rather have that lower resolution with a significant gain in battery life. But whatever the case, it seems clear that we can and should expect more in the battery department from flagship phones.

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27 Comments

1. SleeperOne

Posts: 370; Member since: Feb 25, 2017

It's a pretty good time to be a smart phone owner, you can pay $200-$300 less on a phone with decent support beyond just two years.

7. Tyrion_Lannister unregistered

Support is overrated. Most users don't care whether their phone is running kitkat or nougat. In fact, i would pay money for my phone to run kitkat and get that insane battery life.

14. Podrick

Posts: 1284; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

Kitkat, the best Android ever!

20. mahima

Posts: 726; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

yep...redmi note 3/4 can do 90% of what a flagship can do without much hassle with an amazing battery life except for the camera

2. Khyron

Posts: 397; Member since: Sep 28, 2015

another praising iphone post ridiculous battery test

16. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Well Apple doesn't keep these guys in line for nothing. They literally rig their tests in favor of iPhones and then just make up numbers when necessary. If you preface it with "no test is perfect", you can get away with straight up lying. Strangely, when a head to head comparison is filmed between modern flagships, the iPhone almost always comes in last for some strange reason.

27. tokuzumi

Posts: 1844; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

404: iPhone praising not found.

3. Cat97

Posts: 1804; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

The answer is quite obvious: because your battery test is flawed. If I look at the GSMArena adjustable battery rating charts and adjust the usages to my usage pattern, I get very similar battery life to their published numbers. Your test completely misses the mark, it has nothing to do with real-world usage. What do you mean the Exynos S7 Edge gets a rating of 7 hours when I get 36-48 hours on a charge ?

5. Heisen8erg

Posts: 28; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

they not using s7 edge exynos. this result is for sd820 version. few months ago they tested the exynos version and it was above 11h at least. i dont remember exactly. but it was in a post and they never use that.

9. 0kax0el0

Posts: 238; Member since: Nov 15, 2012

PhoneArena rates the battery as Screen-On time. How much time the screen stayed on, while running their custom script, whatevere it may be, before the device runs out of battery.

4. Heisen8erg

Posts: 28; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

what about exynos version of s7 & s7 edge! s7 edge exynos battery life is like a series even better! you test the phone and result was something above 11 hour. you not exlucive for america! stop this bulls**t about samsung. ectept 625 phones with 3500+ ma battery there is no ohone on earth with better battery life than s7 edge exynos. its a fact! of course i mean 3500 ma battery or less. even better than lots of 4000 phones. just admit it! its not gonna broke apple and they not going to stop paying you! #PhoneArena #Bulls**t

10. Heisen8erg

Posts: 28; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

sorry for the typos. and if im not wrong s7 exynos was 11 h & something and s7 exynos was around 13 h. even in this s**tty benchmark this two phones are beast in term of battery life. and they put it along sd820 phones!

6. Tyrion_Lannister unregistered

It's all about the processor and the battery capacity. Your battery testing is heavily influenced by processors, which should not be the case. See the difference between exynos and snapdragon s7. The difference is insane. In real life however processor doesn't make that much impact. Most of the burden is on screen and modem. What I mean is: your battery test is absolute horse s**t.

22. Victor.H

Posts: 1050; Member since: May 27, 2011

It's this kind of mindless bashing for the sake of it that makes me a bit sad. Of course testing is heavily influenced by processors! Why shouldn't it be! It's like this by design: processors are different and use different power, and let me also remind you that they run the show. A system chip is figuratively the brains of a phone. The second thing that drains battery is the screen, but since we set all screens at the same brightness level - again on purpose, to put phones on equal terms - it is processor, software and the effect of resolution that play the biggest role. So is this trash talk really necessary in the comments? We all deserve a civilized discussion.

23. DBoss

Posts: 102; Member since: Feb 18, 2017

We expect a transparent battery life validation test what you have been doing for all mobile phones! unless you reveal it, these bashing words would most definitely continuous in all flagship review articles. +1

25. Tyrion_Lannister unregistered

I have been trying to have this discussion for a few years by now. But never have been approached. What I would like is a transparent article showing how your tests are done. And I don't mean "custom script with 200 nit brightness". I mean all of it. Until then, I believe my bashing is justified since your tests rely too much on the processor. Yes, the processor is the brains. But sometimes people just like to view a video or browse reddit on their phones, in which case the screen efficiency, panel self-refresh, video fixed-function decoder and other stuff come into play. One more thing: if your script is pegging the processor at 100%, then a faster processor will get more work done in less amount of time, making the 'time for which it runs' irrelevant and 'amount of work done' more relevant. I am not a mindless basher and certainly know how to test these things. There can't be a 'one script solution' to handle something as complicated as battery life. There is a reason other reputed sites do a multitude of tests reviewing battery life in those. Regarding civilized discussion, I am ready to do it. Put your best guy forward and I will lay down my points of concerns with appropriate reasoning. Answer those and the bashing will stop.

26. 11quincy11

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

It kind of is cuz of all these ""trusted"" tests r wrong.

8. Tretas

Posts: 24; Member since: Apr 04, 2016

How convenient !!!! You just forgot Huawei Mate 9 on recent flagship phones so a iPhone can be the best.... It´s the first time i comment on iPhone bias.... Shame on you !! Too much !!!

11. 0kax0el0

Posts: 238; Member since: Nov 15, 2012

I consider myself more an intensive user than a power user, what I mean is that I don't use processor demanding apps instead I use the phone a lot, so I've found that a Moto Z Play fits me better than a Galaxy S7.

12. Mixkhata1

Posts: 161; Member since: Feb 26, 2017

I agree that QHD is futile on mobile screens as they are too small to enjou this resolution. 1080p is more than enough 4 all of our needs, and this VR fad needs to go away. This is costing us improvements in flagship battery life. I want better battery life infinity more than I want VR setup. Period.

13. Heisen8erg

Posts: 28; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

you are right if we talking about lcd but oled is diffrent. with samsung you can change from qhd all the way to hd and the diffrent is so small. maybe around 5-6%. on lg or apple screen resolution can make a huge diffrent up to even 30%! you dont have to stuck with old ips panels and full hd. you can go for amoled and even 8k (!) instead for same battery life! its too much stupidity to not use oled panel! i cant belive apple and lg.

15. A_A_A

Posts: 221; Member since: Jan 23, 2017

To be honest nowadays mid range devices are so good ( Samsung A 2017 series, Huawei Honor 8, OnePlus 3T, Xperia X Compact and some others) that where is almost no reason to pay twice price tag for flagship devices. Well, may be only if you play heavy games. I'm not saying these mid range devices are perfect but they are very good in almost all aspects and easily cover the needs (even in terms of design) majority of consumers. There is not much reason left to buy a flagship device.

17. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

You're comparing battery-life of a cheap phon ethat has no advanced features or capabilites to a falgship. PA that is the most stupidest thing ever! I'm done. I can take it any more because I am so close to just cussing you all the f**k out on just being stupid. Then after seeing all you guys photos, I realize you guys arent even nerds, because nerds are actually smart and cool and you guys are neither,

18. joevsyou

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

sadly so, however, that's because they are packed with many features that take a bigger toll on battery life and go for a premium look which reduces it's bulkiness unlike other phones. it's not hard to understand... You got mid range phones they tend to pack less features and be more bulking which allows them to stash a bigger battery and less resources to run

19. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

No. Its completely stupid because what thwy are saying is, a small car vets bwttwr has milage vs a latger car. Which is obvious. A flight jet is lighter and tbus faster than a commercial jetliner and can fly faste. A skinny person can run farthee bedorw runn8ng out of breath vs a fat person.

21. ATLTRIUMPH

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 15, 2017

My Pixel lasts waaaaay longer than 7 hours

24. s2msung

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

Install package disabler pro from play store and battery life of samsung can be extended by 40%

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