Editorial: Android’s Flaw

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I’m fortunate to be able to review all kinds of different phones. Because of this, I’m regularly changing phones, though at the end of the day, I always have a “go to” device, which I like to call my “Daily Driver.” Right now the Inspire 4G is my Daily Driver, previously is was Palm Pre 2, Nexus S, Samsung Focus, iPhone 4, and so on. Each mobile operating system has its pros and cons, though lately I’ve been gravitating towards Android. I really appreciate its flexibility to be customized, yet I also enjoy the cohesiveness of the experience. I know where everything is, I know which third party apps and interfaces make the experience better, and Android helps me be productive, have fun, and stay in touch (which is not to say that other operating systems doesn’t afford this).

But there’s a really big flaw in Android.

In our recent review of the Inspire 4G, we gave the phone really high marks. And deservedly so: it’s fast, has a beautiful screen, fantastic build quality, and so on. After a few days of using it I was in love. Not only that, but I was excited to see that battery life was pretty decent, despite the device having a large 4.3″ display. With moderate use, I could get through the day. And that’s all I need.

Then, battery life suddenly got much worse. Battery would dip down around 15% by dinner time, and by bedtime, the phone was dead. I found this particularly strange because several days prior, battery life was fine.

But I knew where to turn! I went through the poor-battery-life-on-an-Android checklist. I thought about any apps I’ve installed recently that might be running in the background: I couldn’t think of anything, in fact, after the review, I didn’t install any additional apps. I checked running processes to see what was hogging battery: nothing suspect there. I went through every app that might be synchronizing, and reduced the frequency, or turned off auto sync altogether. I reduced screen brightness. I killed the live wallpaper. I made sure screen animations were off. I even made sure to check the setting that shows you what is using your battery…which told me nothing except that my screen was the biggest user of battery (duh). Then I gave up and knew my next painful step to fully remedy the situation: a factory reset.

Android’s biggest flaw is that some phantom app or process can sap battery life, unbeknownst to the user. This isn’t the only time I’ve experienced phantom battery use on an Android. Windows Phone 7 and iOS are too tied down (and an app’s ability to run background processes, etc) to let this happen. I’ve also found BlackBerry and WebOS to be pretty consistent with battery life. But not Android.

It’s possible that I’m missing something obvious…perhaps I have my email set to manually pull in messages every five minutes (which it’s not, I just checked), but I’m a pretty technical user, and I’ve dived in pretty deep to find the culprit. I refuse to use a task manager and keep all background apps suppressed. That’s just a bad experience.

Have you ever experienced this problem with Android? If yes, were you able to find the smoking gun and reclaim your battery life?

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.