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Android sucks (at power management)

August 13, 2012

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the link bait-ish title. I’m a weak person.  Anyway, after more than a month of using my Galaxy S3 almost daily, I’ve decided that the major issue I have with Android isn’t the lower quality of its applications (although the quality bar is definitely lower). No, what bothers me most is that Android sucks at power management.

Despite the fact that my iPhone 4 is now over 2 years old and the S3 brand new, I get a day and change at most from the battery on the S3. And sometimes I manage to suck the battery dry within a day. My iPhone 4? Still going strong at at least 2 days per charge. Some of that difference is due to the fact that the S3 has a 4G radio, which consumes more power. But even more than the reduced battery lifetime, what bothers me is the sheer variability in battery lifetime.

On any given day I’ll end up with between 40% and 60% battery left at the end of the day, despite no clear (to me) difference in my phone usage behavior or the time I spend in 4G vs. WiFi coverage. That’s a 20% range swing, and it doesn’t even count those days where the battery runs dry without any significantly different usage on my part either. That’s the difference between charging every day (60% usage in a day) vs. every 2 days (40% usage a day). On Sunday I was up in SF much of the day and ended up with 71% battery left, but after deciding not to charge up the phone ran dry by 5 PM today.

What do we know about people?  They seek patterns to explain outcomes. And what do we get if there are no clear patterns to explain the outcomes?  Superstitions. I’m halfway convinced that any time I run Google Maps it’ll cause my battery to run dry within hours, since the last-but-one time I ran Google Maps my battery ran dry well before the end of the day. Except the last time I used Maps it didn’t seem to have any impact on my battery, so maybe not. Or maybe it was because I ran a search. Or didn’t exit to the home screen before putting my phone away. Or maybe it was some other app. Who knows?  Not me, because I don’t see any rational explanation for the extremely wide variance in my phone’s power consumption. Maybe it’s sunspot activity.

Regardless, I think what Android needs is Project Juice, not Project Butter. Because right now Android is training users that running apps is bad, because they may randomly suck your battery dry without any obvious cause. No wonder iOS users tend to use more apps than Android users.


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