When I first reviewed the iPhone I talked about its battery life as being borderline for the business traveler. Whenever I travel with the phone, it always needs a charge by the time my first dinner meeting rolls around. Steve Jobs originally proclaimed that battery life and chip size were both reasons that the first iPhone didn't have 3G support, the question is does the new iPhone offer 3G performance without the battery life penalty?

Unfortunately, as Apple doesn't design any of the chips or battery technology that goes into the iPhone, it doesn't really have much control over things like 3G battery life. And thus, the iPhone 3G suffers like any other smartphone when operating on a 3G network.

The test below is the same one I ran in the original iPhone review, in fact that iPhone and Blackjack data is taken straight from that review - the new data is obviously the iPhone 3G, operating in 3G mode. The battery life is expressed in minutes and the results are expectedly not very good:

At 197 minutes, the iPhone 3G can keep you browsing for a little over 3 hours before completing dying. That's with no additional phone calls or anything else going on in the background, just constant surfing. The problem is that this is a very realistic scenario for many users. If you're out of the house and stuck somewhere without a laptop, you'll want the speed of 3G but the battery life will mean that your surfing experience is almost half as long as it would be on Edge. Granted, you can load pages faster in the same amount of time, but you'd have to load pages around twice as fast on average to equal the same productivity.

In our 3G performance test from earlier this afternoon we found that while 3G can easily be up to 10x faster than Edge, the real world browsing performance will generally be significantly slower than that. Only our AnandTech loading test was able to perform at the required 2x speed to make the iPhone 3G, in 3G mode, more energy efficient than running it in Edge. The Facebook and Digg tests both weren't fast enough to balance out the additional power draw.

We'll be running more tests on the iPhone over the weekend, so stay tuned for more updates...
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  • bikinistud - Saturday, July 12, 2008 - link

    So what? Apple chose form/functionality over being the Swiss Army Knife of cell phones. It does certain things great like web browsing and email, and does it in a nice looking brick. For some that's enough, for others get a Windows Mobile/Blackberry smartphone. It's not like people don't have a choice and MUST buy an iPhone.
  • sprockkets - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    Yep, 3G just takes more everything no matter what. 4G, with trials showing around what 170mbps, still won't be as fast, since latency is much higher than a normal broadband line.

    Sadly, the only phone I know of with a high res 640x480 screen so far, is the OpenMoko phone, and is of course, not ready for prime time.

  • Justin Case - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    There are several PDAs with built-in phone and 640x480 screens. In fact, they've been around since before Apple released even the original iPhone (ex., the Qtek 9000, which has a proper keyboard in adition to the touch screen). The Nokia N800 or N810 are 800x480.

  • sprockkets - Saturday, July 12, 2008 - link

    Yeah, those are PDAs. Notice how any Windows Smart Phone or otherwise has only 320x240, Nokia's included. 320x240 is nice for my Ming or smaller screens, but this is 2008.
  • sprockkets - Saturday, July 12, 2008 - link

    Oh wait, nvm.
  • Some1ne - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    Your assertion that "you'd have to load pages around twice as fast on average to equal the same productivity" isn't really accurate, unless *all* you are doing is loading webpages, and spending zero time actually reading them. Since that's probably almost never the case in real life, the 3G iphone would have to load pages much more than twice as fast as the EDGE version in order for productivity to be the same given that the battery only lasts half as long.

    For example, say the EDGE phone gets a 600 minute battery life, and can load a page in an average of 2 minute. And say that the user spends an average of 4 minutes reading each page that is loaded. So loading and reading each page takes about 6 minutes, meaning that with the EDGE phone the user could read 100 pages before the battery runs out.

    Now, say the 3G phone is twice as fast, but only gets half the battery life. So it has 300 minutes of runtime, and each page loads in 1 minute instead of 2, but the user still needs the same 4 minutes to read each page. So now each page only takes 5 minutes for the user to load and read, but still the user can only read 60 of them before the battery is dead.

    As 60 < 100, the user is not equally productive on the 3G phone, even though it was loading the pages twice as fast. In fact, in this example, there is no way that the user could ever be equally productive on the 3G phone, even if it loaded pages 100x as fast as the EDGE phone. Too much time is dominated by the user actually processing the information displayed on the phone for faster download speeds to make up for the loss in battery life. I suspect in the real world, the case would be similar, and almost anyone would end up being more productive on a device that downloaded slower, but ran for twice as long.
  • Weiser - Sunday, July 13, 2008 - link

    I would argue the logic is flawed due to the assumption that the battery use is two times greater when there is no data transmission occuring.

    If the tests were done the same as the 1st gen iPhone then it was a loop of consecutive web page requests always trasmitting and receiving data that lead to ~half the battery life.

    In your scenario the battery use would be double for that 1 minute of downloading but then during the idle 4 minutes what would it be? I would argue (ignorant of the facts) that the 3G chip may take a little more juice even when not transmitting/receiving but probably far from double. Is there any data on this?

    I would expect that the estimate that "you'd have to load pages around twice as fast on average to equal the same productivity" is largely accurate based on what I see.
  • AnnihilatorX - Sunday, July 13, 2008 - link

    Your measure of productivity is flawed but you ignored the fact that productivity also includes the realms of efficiency.
    Although you can read more pages with EDGE due to longer battery life, however, no one is going to wait for a page to wait for 2 minutes patiently and spend all 300 minutes of battery life surfing. I am sure many will prefer quicker and speedier definition as productivity rather than able to do more in a longer time.
  • Scott66 - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    One look at the chart and one sees why Jobs did not want 3G. Also given the fact that 3G has been poorly implemented with few areas actually able to use it, Why all the demand.

    I predict many phone users, be they iphone or other 3G capable phones disappointed with the battery life.
  • retrospooty - Saturday, July 12, 2008 - link

    "One look at the chart and one sees why Jobs did not want 3G."

    Palm and many other companies have been doing it for years without batery life problems. Why cant Apple? There HAS to be something wrong with their 3G implementation.

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