Note to Android Handset Makers: We Want Removable Batteries
The latest wave of high-end Android handhelds packs a variety of cool new features and speedy, 4G wireless connections, but most of the handsets suffer from the same universal problem: Poor battery life. An unfortunate trend has Android smartphone makers building many new devices with fixed batteries that can't be removed, in an effort to slim down already-trim gadgets.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
One thing about Google’s Android mobile software that drives me nuts: Every single Android phone I’ve used, with the exception of Motorola’s DROID RAZR MAXX, has absolutely horrendous battery life; I can’t make it through a full day on a charge. (To mitigate this issue, I carry two phones, but that’s another story altogether…)
And I’ve noticed a rather disturbing trend: Many of the newest, high-end 4G/LTE Android smartphones have fixed batteries that can’t be removed and replaced by the user when they’re dead. Take a handful of the most popular Android devices on the market right now: the Motorola DROID RAZR, RAZR MAXX and DROID 4, and the HTC One S and One X devices, all of them have fixed batteries. In fact, Samsung is the only major Android handset maker who seems to still be building the majority of its devices with removable batteries, though it’s unclear whether or not the much-anticipated Samsung Galaxy S III will have a removable battery or not—I wouldn’t be surprised if not.
Fixed batteries supposedly let manufacturers make thinner, sleeker devices. But personally, I’d rather have a device with a removable battery and an extra couple of millimeters, since Android battery life is so poor in general.
I’m also not sure that the fixed-battery trend is purely related to device size. Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry Bold is just 10.5 millimeters thick, and it has a 1230mAh, removable battery, which is admittedly small when compared to the average Android battery. The Android-based Motorola Atrix 4G has a 1930-mAh battery and is just 11 mm in thickness.
For comparison’s sake, the DROID RAZR, which has a 1780mAh fixed battery and is probably the thinnest Android device on the market, hence the “razor”-inspired name, is 7.1mm thick. That’s a difference of three millimeters and less than 200mAh. Now, ask yourself, are three millimeters worth the infinitely better battery life that a removable battery could afford? The answer is an easy one for me: No way.
Of course, the real issue here is that the Android software provides poor battery life when compared to other major mobile OS code. I use all of the major mobile platforms somewhat frequently, including Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone, and Android gets the worst battery life in my experience. But the way I see it, that’s even more reason for Android device makers to include removable batteries in their wares.
It’s on Google to resolve the underlying battery issues in Android, but handset makers should do everything they can to provide customers with the best overall experience, and in many cases, that means building devices with removable batteries.
So, Android handset makers, please, PLEASE do us all a favor and build your devices with removable batteries until the time comes when Android battery life is no longer a mobile-industry-wide joke.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.