Dead Batteries from https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnseb/2457508491One of the biggest wrongs in the phone game (other than fake coverage maps,) has to do with battery life and average use. Most people would immediately spot the logic flaw asking how many days until you need to fill up a car’s gas tank, but it gets glossed over with phone adverts.

*side note, yet another weekend of not getting much done, these are just some thoughts I had while my now-threenager grumped about who knows what for two days this weekend.

For the gas scenario, how far are you planning to drive daily? Is it stop and go traffic? What speed will you be averaging? What grade of gas did you purchase? Are the tires properly inflated? What’s the total elevation change during the average day? Highway or city traffic? Etc. Those are questions that would need to be asked in order to answer that question.

I see statements again on upcoming flagships that the battery is capable of two days operating time. Yeah, no. (Ooh, I finally got to use a semi-current putdown reference).

I have an HTC EVO 4G… yes, the one from five years ago. On one of the original batteries I can make that thing run for 30+ days with no additional charging. No lie. I also have an HTC One M9 (the one from last year,) and yesterday I tanked the battery in under three hours.

Both pieces of info above are generally useless as each one of these devices does something different. The EVO wakes up, cranks on WiFi, checks a couple of things, then goes back to airplane mode. The HTC One M9 yesterday was downloading torrents of two linux distros (Debian at 12GB being one,) and pushing them to a drive via WiFi.

One of these also has Facebook and a host of spyware apps fighting to send all my data to some third party while I’m posting pictures of my kids, the other nothing other than Android, a stripped down Sense, and a script.

The phone equation becomes: how long are you planning on having the screen on, are you going to be connected to LTE, 3G, or WiFi for your data and how much for each? Are there any objects that will affect the signal between you and the base unit? Are you using a cell connection concurrently with a WiFi? Do you have spyware, or Facebook installed and running? Synching any data? Pay for that game or are ads popping up? What screen brightness are you using? What’s the temperature the phone will be in during all uses? Are your notifications set to vibrate or just blink the light? What’s the signal to noise ratio where you’re at? What connection speed will your data be traveling at (slower may mean the screen is on longer, faster may mean more power used to transmit,) will you be using GPS or location services? Are you using a case that will interfere with signal? Will you be sitting in such a way that your body is between your phone and the data source? Do you have any bluetooth devices and if so how far from the phone are they? I could go on.

The short is the standard use scenario doesn’t work. Touting “two day battery life,” or similar sounds great, but there is little average about use any more.

Yesterday I used four complete cycles of battery on my M9 so I could have what I needed for work today. During the most of it I had a three hour battery life and the phone was engaged in WiFi, SD reads and writes, and me poking around Facebook because I couldn’t escape the house.

And for me, that’s a pretty average expectation of a scenario. Months as long as I don’t use the phone for anything remotely resembling a smart device, 3-4 hours if I am actually using it.

A much more useful battery life statistic for a phone would be “how fast can Paul drain it,” and “given to a bored 30 year old stuck at home on a weekend, how long before needing to charge as they get stuck on more and more Pintrest and baby board nonsense?” – that second one is not my use scenario, but valid nonetheless.

In my case, an all-day battery lasts me three hours of actual use, or more than a day with no real use except the cell on.

So the usage times being floated around, much like the cake, are a lie. Although to be fair, trying to explain battery draining concepts and how your behavior actually in the end is mostly the key to longevity vs saying “two day battery life,” is pretty hard from a marketing point of view.

After all, battery times on my phone range from under three hours to approximately 48.5 days. Just depends on how I use it.