I bought my first smartphone Sony Xperia tipo in September 2012. It literally did not work well enough for basic activities such as opening contact book and making a call without lag. I realised that the phone did not have adequate RAM and processors to function. In fact it was never a smartphone but just a ‘smart feature phone’. I got rid of the Xperia tipo and bought Google powered stock Android LG Nexus 4 in the last week of June 2013. Compared to my prior experience, Nexus was definitely better in terms of day-to-day functions. Even though it felt convenient to have a larger screen, especially to watch a quick video, for an average height person like me, it’s quite a struggle to operate in one hand.
When I bought the Nexus 4, the objective was to have the latest OS, snappy performance of apps and a better battery life. When we use a handheld device, we expect to charge the battery early morning and to last till evening. I do operate the phone in similar fashion. Last night I slept at 12:30 with the battery status of 19%. I got up today morning at 6:15, and the phone was powered off due to battery drain. I know for a fact that, 3G causes more battery drain than Wi-fi and hence I have an app (Smart Connect) that takes care of scheduling so that during my sleeping hours, phone has no 3G and no vibration but in silent mode. I turned off ‘Google Now’ last week because it ate up so much data and battery from the background. So what was wrong with the phone that drained battery so fast in stand-by mode?
Let us look at the App settings and the way apps are designed for Android. Most of the apps have settings such as (taking LinkedIn app as an example) modify your contacts, read call log, read your contacts, write call log, read calender information plus confidential information, modify or delete the contents of your USB storage, control vibration, read sync settings, send sticky broadcasts, etc. To perform all or any of the automatic permissions, apps consume RAM, processors, GPU and battery.
In terms of tech specs, Nexus 4 is powered by 2GB RAM and 2100 mAh battery with a quad-core processor. It is not merely a hardware issue and instead, the OS itself has performance related issues. I did some research and installed an app for killing background tasks. However, killing background tasks is a never ending process. Literally every app in android has a (bad) habit of running in the background, automatically because of which RAM is consumed even on standby mode. Therefore, for an android phone, difference between actual battery usage and standby is not so much, except for display and graphics usage which use even more of battery power. It makes no sense as to why apps like ‘Flipkart eBooks’ should run in background. Moreover, I figured out that one can completely disable background processes but that does not necessarily help!
I was quite happy with the TRIM function that was introduced in Jelly Bean 4.3 but performance issues remained the same. Android phones have numerous screen sizes and configurations. When I bought Nexus 4, I did not expect an extraordinary camera for that matter. On the other hand, I expected the Apps to be really optimised for the screen size, snappy performance that could last a day. However, my presumption was short-lived as one of the best games, Temple Run 2 start screen’s not optimised for Nexus 4 display and even with 2GB RAM experience’s itchy. The phone heats up too quickly and it becomes impossible to use for more than fifteen minutes at a stretch while playing a game or shooting a video. This made me feel like, Android is flawed and is worse than Windows Phone 8 OS. Notably, Android has been around for years together and of course there were incremental improvements.
So how can we find out the battery performance in an Android phone? It is fairly simple. Go to Settings > Battery. Here you can see whether the phone is charging or discharging and various apps that drain the battery, percentage-wise. Most of the tech reviews do not go further down. When you tap ‘Screen’ you will see actual number of hours the screen has consumed the battery, understandably, that many hours you practically used the phone! I mean you can not use the phone in a sleep mode, and if you look at the screen below, I had used the Nexus 4 phone for about an hour or so and battery had drained so much. Rest of it goes to the apps running in the background mode, i.e. Standby mode.
Apps running on the background can be really troublesome to your pocket as well. Two days in the past week, my phone consumed more than 60 MegaBytes of data per day. I do work in a paid job for living and hence I hardly get a chance to really do much with the smartphone. It costs INR 250 for a GigaByte data per month which is about 33 MegaBytes a day. Unless you are really careful about your usage, you may have hard time paying the data related bills.
There could be lots of arguments regarding various apps and customisation options. For me, if I buy a device at a price of beyond INR 26,000, I expect to use it rather than researching on the device itself. It may give me option to root and do hundreds of customisations. However, instead of spending time on the device to customise, I should either use it for productivity or recreation by installing apps that I feel appropriate. A computing device is supposed to make our lives better and not worse. Most of the people who buy Android, fail to understand that things could be better. Android is an open source code and hence Google does not seem worry for anything more than collecting data and trying to gain as much as from advertisements. I love this quote by Jim Dalrymple – “I wouldn’t like to use something that doesn’t work well enough every time”