iPhone 3G’s mediocre battery life still beats rivals

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from PC World.

The battery life on Apple’s new iPhone 3G isn’t great, but it beats that of other 3G smart phones we’ve seen. PC World’s Test Center ran it through our standard talk-time battery life test, and found that on average it ran 5 hours, 38 minutes, a running time that we consider earns a Fair rating.

That’s a big tumble from the superior performance of the original iPhone, which ran on AT&T’s slower EDGE network and lasted the maximum 10 hours of our testing time. But the iPhone 3G beat out the rest of the current 3G smart-phone pack, most of which fell shy of the 5-hour mark that’s the cutoff between a word score of Fair and one of Poor in our performance ratings.

See PC World’s 3G battery life test results

Of other handsets that support AT&T’s HSDPA/UMTS network, only the HTC Touch Dual came close, with an average talk time of 5 hours, 18 minutes. The AT&T Tilt pooped out at 4 hours, 47 minutes, trailed by the Pantech Duo at 4:46; the Motorola Q9 Global at 4:43; and the Palm Treo 750 at an abysmal 3:53. The iPhone 3G also beat out competitors on Sprint and Verizon’s EVDO mobile broadband networks, including the Palm Centro (4:19) and the Samsung Instinct (5:33).

Power-hungry networks

3G networks in general are notorious power drains, but the network type used by AT&T is particularly power-hungry because voice calls use the same mobile broadband network as data tasks. In contrast, the EVDO technology on which Sprint and Verizon base their 3G networks supports data only; voice uses older CDMA networks, which (in theory at least) use less power.

The good news for AT&T and other HSDPA/UMTS customers is that they can make voice calls while using their phones for data (that is, tasks such as browsing the Web or reading e-mail); Sprint and Verizon users cannot simultaneously do both.

And the good news for 3G iPhone owners is that they’re probably better off than other 3G handset owners in terms of battery life. But that won’t help when your 3G iPhone stops running at the end of a long and busy day.

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