The Real World 24 Hour Nokia N8 Battery Test

Posted on 01/20/2011

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The most frustrating thing about modern day smartphones is that they all seem to be afflicted with shocking battery life. Not all mind you but most. Reading around the web it seems that most users have resigned themselves to getting minimal battery life, essentially charging up every night, and taking the phone off the charge in the morning on the way out, which barely amounts to 18 hours if that. That to me seems unreasonable but it seems this is the way things are heading if one wants a powerful all-in-one smartphone. Battery woes are a new thing for me, having been a feature phone user until recently. I still remember fondly the days when less than week was a terrible performance. But I have come full circle now with the Nokia N8 as phone, and it seems like I should be grateful with 24 hours. That is a key number for me. I don’t like leaving my phone on the charge all night, and I would like to know that if push came to shove, I could at least last through an entire day without reaching for a charger. So the last couple of days I decided to monitor how the battery holds, noting when I take the phone off the charge and when I am absolutely forced to top up. Phone usage was not manipulated in the slightest. Thus I wasn’t going to sit and play Need for Shift for three hours trying to get that next super car, since this is not what I do with my phone normally, and there would be no holding back either. Typically usage for me involves a lot  of internet, I’d estimate at least two hours including social networking, GPS either with Ovi Maps or Sports Tracker, music player with FM transmitter and mobbler scrobbling in the background, 24 hour email sync for two accounts plus exchange for contacts/calendar, camera with both stills and video, sms and phone calls. It mus be said that I’m not avid gamer.

Now I don’t consider myself a hardcore user but I know from conversation with friends and general observations that my usage pattern is somewhat in the minority. I do take devices through their paces and as such I expect to get worse battery performance than the average user. My mother-in-law doesn’t consider my phone as separate entity, she calls it my extension, and even my own parents (the horror!) often throw in a comment about how often I use the thing. Despite this I do not think a full day on a charge is unreasonable, hence the title of this post.

Part 1 (17.01.11-18.01.11)

I took the N8 off the charger at 5PM (Monday). I went on a shopping run, and on the way to and from the shops (a 10 minute one way drive), I had the music player going, with the FM transmitter and Mobbler. I typically use Mobbler in offline mode and scrobble once I’m done listening. Strangely I find this friendlier for my data. In the queue waiting to pay, I also hopped onto Nokia Social to see what was happening in Facebookville.  The rest off the evening was spent mostly browsing the web and catching up on Twitter in between cooking and this accounted for about 45-60 minutes or so.

I drive 38 KMs to work and the N8 has simplified my music listening for these longish journeys. I’m not a fan of random playlists, so I’ll typically load three of four albums into a driving playlist, fire up mobbler and in the car turn on the FM transmitter. The journey to work is roughly 45 minutes I usually get to the office well before I start work (to avoid traffic) so spend the hour or so having coffee and listening to music while mobbler runs offline.

During office hours I do most of my ‘computing’ on my laptop. I no longer sync work email to my phone, which is my most active email account during the day, due to the limitation of only having a single exchange account on the N8 and this is reserved for Google Sync. This is currently set to sync every four hours all day. If I make urgent changes that need to be synced in between I do a manual sync. My gmail and ovi accounts are handled by Mobile Documents (full review coming soon) and this is set to sync every 10 minutes and the app needs to be open for this to work. Much of the use of my phone is sending SMS’ and taking calls, with occasional browsing during my tea and lunch breaks when I’m out of the office. I sent 10 SMS’ during the course of the day and spent roughly 10 minutes chattinng on the phone. I was also busy downloading some content via Ovi Store so in total I probably spent about an hour or so on the internet on device.

The drive home was a little over an hour or so with the same story as the drive to work, music player, FM transmitter, and mobbler. I got  home just after 5PM and was on Opera Mini and nimbuzz until about 5:30 when I was down to one bar and decided to charge up. Now I don’t know how long the one bar would have lasted, probably not much more with active use but yes, I had gotten through a 24 hour period on a single charge on the N8. The table below summarizes what I had done.

USAGE Approximate TIme
Music (includes FM transmitter and Mobbler) 2hr 5 min
Email At least 10 minute sync during day, 4hr off peak
Music (with Mobbler) 45 min
Online (Social, Opera Mini, Nimbuzz, Gravity, Store) 1hr 40 min
Calls 10 minutes
SMS 10 SMS sent
General Use 30 minutes


So nearly 3 hours of music, which assorted apps running at the time, over 90 minutes of browsing, and calls and SMS’ excluding general use was good for 24 hours which is not bad.

Part 2 (18.01.11-19.01.11)

I took the phone off the charger at around 7PM. I took a few pictures of my son (all with the flash) and uploaded one onto Facebook. After dinner I had to collect a book from a friend of my wife’s at a place I had never been to. I used Ovi Maps but managed to select the wrong street (there were a couple of streets in the same area with same name, joy) and spent half an hour driving in circles. I called my wife to confirm the address and then called the guy I was meeting to confirm the address again and get some directions in case. The call to my wife was about a minute and I spent about 5 minutes getting clear directions. When I arrived, being a complex, I had to call again to find the correct unit. On the way home  about a ten minute drive, I lisstened to more music using the FM transmitter with mobbler scrobbling away. At home I played Ovi Maps Challenge for about half an hour and spent another 20  minutes on Opera Mini. Bed time!

In the morning I went for a run and used Sports Tracker, I ran for 33min 30secs. This of course uses the GPS.

The drive to work was the same as yesterday just a bit quicker at 40 minutes and I only spent half an hour or so on my early morning coffee. For general use I did set up a few calendar entries on device  for about 10 minutes or so, then synced to Google. I had a staff meeting later on and I no longer carry a notepad in but instead jot down any important points that I using the notes application, so that was another 10 minutes of general use.

What I noticed at this point though was that the GPS, now amounting to more than an hour of use, really knocks the stuffing out of the battery. At 10:30, roughly 15.5 hours since the last charge I was down to three bars already.

More work was to follow though. With no internet at home, I had to process some applications for my wife online. This involved me going through the forms, and sending an SMS when I got stuck. If things got complicated I would call. About an hour later the process was completed and in total I had spent nearly 20 minutes talking on the phone.

I spent the rest of the time doing mild stuff on  the phone, reorganising my homescreens (they are still a work in process) and looking for more apps on Ovi Store. I tried out a few apps, things like MazeLock and the News24 widget. I received one more phone call later in the day, a confirm of a cancellation for a lunch I was supposed to be attending, which was about two minutes or so.

By the the time I was leaving for home at about 4PM, power saving mode kicked in but I soldiered on an settled into my music listening routine. After 45 minutes, a burst of static flooded the speakers; the N8 had given up the ghost, just shy of 22 hours. Compared to yesterday this was far more rigorous. Over an hour of GPS, over 2 hours of music, a fair amount of browsing, a bit of gaming, lots of texting, and a decent amount of calls taken. Ordinarily I wouldn’t talk as much and certainly the gaming is a casual endeavor at best.

Once again a tabular summary:

USAGE Approximate TIme
Music (includes FM transmitter and Mobbler) 100 min
Email At least 10 minute sync during day, 4hr off peak
GPS (with Ovi Maps then Sports Tracker) 65 minutes
Music (with Mobbler) 30 min
Online (Social, Opera Mini, Nimbuzz, Gravity, Store) 2hr
Calls 35 minutes
SMS 15 SMS sent
General Use 60 minutes

Conclusion

In all honesty, I don’t know what to make of my results. I have a few friends with Samsung Galaxy’s with varying usage patterns but only one I would say uses his phone as much as I do, and all three HAVE to charge everyday. Another android (Droid 2) totting friends charges everyday with slightly less use than what I’ve just described also will not survive beyond a day. In general it seems that unless the phone sits in the pocket and rarely gets used then more 24 hours is pushing it. I must say I am a little disappointed. I was hoping to be able to push on into a second day and maybe even making it work and back again before the N8 retired. At least I have the necessary accessories, a slim travel charger, a car charger and of course the N8 charges via USB, so theorectically there will always be a charger on hand. I personally would not have minded a slightly larger frame for a battery like the monster fitted on the E72 for example. It’s a pity that as phones get more and more advanced then battery life is deteriorating almost as fast.

I really hope that soon enough manufacturers can find a balance.


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