Battery life consistently shows up as a top concern in consumer cell phone surveys. The enterprise market, with its mission critical devices, is no different. Battery life is a funny thing though – power off your phone completely and its battery will last for weeks. An extreme example for sure, but it illustrates the need to balance usefulness with battery life. Spectralink recently undertook an effort to increase the standby battery life of its PIVOT portfolio, reaching an unprecedented 90+ hours in standby. But this only tells part of the story.
Let’s look at the major battery drains for a typical Android-based smartphone. First, displays are power hogs. Reducing display shutoff timeout and lowering brightness can do wonders. Letting the display go dark also allows Android to enter “suspend” mode, during which the CPU doesn’t need to worry about computing display updates and processing touchscreen input. This reduced CPU activity yields substantial savings. Radios (cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) are the next big power drain. You can’t turn them off or you’ll miss calls and messages. Cellular radios consume more power than Wi-Fi, and radios consume the most power when transmitting. Reducing radio “chatter” is paramount in optimizing battery life. Not only will radio power consumption be reduced, but less CPU activity will use to decode and process network activity.
In the “good old days” of wireless phones things were simple. Most Spectralink Wi-Fi handset activity was dedicated to placing phone calls. Concepts like standby time and talk time were easy to define. In the new age of WorkSmart enterprise smartphones, a device is never completely in standby. Dozens of applications and processes run in the background, including Google’s own Google Services. They send traffic over the network, check in with messaging systems, check for updates, etc. Users look up information, enter data, text with colleagues, respond to alerts, etc. Such tasks engage the display, the radio, and the CPU, all of which significantly impact battery life. Better control over what applications are deployed and how they are configured is an important aspect to getting the most out of your battery. It is difficult to define typical battery life measurements beyond “standby” and “talk time” because of so many applications and usage patterns. The final proof is with the user: can she go about her day without worrying about her essential device running out of juice? Given the current state of the technology, the near future belongs to those vendors who offer the best mitigation practices, like removable batteries and convenient charging solutions.