Samsung’s Galaxy S4 beats the iPhone 5 on battery life

After the Samsung Galaxy S4’s triumph in last week’s smartphone speed test, we turned our attention to mobile phone battery life. What use is a speedy phone if it runs out of juice before you get to enjoy its bountiful array of features? We tested each phone manufacturer’s flagship handset, from the iPhone 5 to the HTC One, to find out which phone had the best battery life.

Samsung is going to need to make more room in their trophy cabinet. Again the Samsung Galaxy S4 was the victor in both call time and internet usage, while Apple’s iPhone 5 floundered just ahead of the Nokia Lumia 920. Read on for the full results.

Phone reviews – read our verdict on all the latest handset

Which phone has the best battery life?Which phone has the best battery life

Offering 1,051 minutes of call time and 405 minutes of internet usage, Samsung’s Galaxy S4 was the clear winner in our testing thanks in large part to its 2600 mAh battery. This means it can store a lot more charge than other phones.  It offers twice the call time battery life of the iPhone 5 and a lot more juice for using the internet as well. That’s likely to be attractive to customers choosing which premium phone to buy.

It wasn’t all bad news for Apple’s iPhone 5 and its 1,440 mAh battery. Our results revealed it was the quickest handset to charge, taking just 141 minutes to reach a full battery.

How Which? tests battery life

We test battery life using our own phone network simulator so that we can be certain that the signal strength is the same every time. Signal strength affects battery life as phones have to work harder when there’s poor reception.

We also set the screen brightness on every phone to the same level; this is a readable level rather than the maximum so that we don’t penalise phones with brighter displays. Finally, we condition each phone’s battery before testing by fully charging it and then discharging it.

We then make a continuous call (for the call time test) and access a regularly updating special web page over 3G (to test web browsing).

Battery life in everyday usage will vary from person to person as everyone uses their phone differently. That said,  these tests are an extremely useful representation of battery performance and are comparable from one device to another.

Pay more for better battery life

Although the Samsung Galaxy S4 was a clear winner in terms of call time and internet usage, the battle for second place in these categories was a bit more convoluted. Good battery life on call times didn’t always mean good battery life on internet use. Sony’s Xperia Z came second for call time offering 985 minutes but dropped to the middle of the internet usage pack, although 322 minutes was still respectable.

All of these phones cost over £400 to buy SIM-free and retail for around £30 per month on contract. Interestingly, Google’s Nexus 4, which is available for £239 SIM-free from Google Play, came in third place for call time with a pleasing 846 minutes. But it disappointed in the internet use test, dropping to third from bottom with 308 minutes.

It’s also worth noting Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2, a phone-tablet hybrid, achieved 1,196 minutes of call time and 429 minutes of internet usage in our testing – making it the ouritght winner. So if battery life is all-important to you, the 5.5-inch ‘phablet’ could be your best choice of handset. Larger-sized phones – like the Galaxy S4 – tend to offer a better battery life, so it’s important to bear this in mind when upgrading your mobile.

Apple is set to release a new iPhone this Autumn that should boast significant improvements in battery life and processor speed. On the results of our testing, it’s got a lot of work to do to catch up with Samsung’s Galaxy S4.

How important is battery life to you when buying a phone? What do you make of the Samsung Galaxy S4’s performance? Let us know in the comments section below.

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21 replies

  1. An alternative to a tablet (or phablet) is an “extended battery” as I got for my Galaxy S4.
    It gives 2 1/2 times usable time against a slight increase in weight and thicknes.
    I can recommend it.

  2. To me battery life is THE most important thing. Not only when being used, but when in standby mode. A phone is completely useless if it is dead and needing a charge, no matter how flash or zingy it is! I simply would not consider a phone if daily, or even every 2nd day, charging was going to be required.

  3. My Droid RAZR MAXX HD wasn’t even considered? It has a larger battery capacity than any of these and would have easily won all these test except charging time. That’s why I got it instead of the SGS3.

    1. ^^^ This – I’m in the states but the maxx hd battery life lasts a good 24 hours with fairly heavy use – solid build quality – great device.

    2. The RAZR MAXX HD seems to be quite hard to get hold of in the UK. Motorola doesn’t seem to have any significant distribution over here.

  4. The battery life on my S4 is a little disappointing. Granted, it is better than my iPhone 4S, but it still barely makes it through the day with medium use. I even turned off most of the extra features. I’m going to have to buy a spare battery for when I travel.

    1. I feel the same way. My S3 lasted on average 18-20 hrs on medium to heavy use. My S4 barely makes 12 with the same use. I do understand that the screen is slightly bigger and is 1080p, but I would think it would be better. And buying a spare is a pretty awesome thing. I had one with my S3 and I now have one for my S4 and I love it. My phone doesn’t have to be plugged in unless I forgot to charge a battery.

  5. This test finds that the Nokia Lumia 920 comes out at 444 minutes talk time over 3G. Nokia’s specs for the device list it at 648 minutes over 3G. One of the tests is clearly wrong to get a difference of over three hours in what seems like a simple enough test. Well outside a reasonable margin for error (32% out).

    That or it’s just a defective battery in the one tested.

  6. Battery life is very important. After all, a phone with a flat battery is no phone at all. I have a Galaxy Nexus with an extended battery (slightly larger than standard). If I’m out and about, make a few calls or use GPS, it will die before the end of the day. I carry a spare battery just in case. This is bad design. Even worse is the Google Nexus 4: it has better battery life (apparently) but the battery is sealed inside and can’t be swapped! Another piece of bad design that has stopped me buying one. Which?, why no mention of this?

  7. My GS4 battery life is horrible. I’ve never seen anything like this. Coming from a GS2 and GS3 user.
    Lasts for only 6-7hrs in standby most of the time.
    Last night i went to bed around 23:30 (100% charged). When i woke up today at 7:30 my battery was 7%. 93% drain overnight, without even using the damn thing.
    This phone sucks. Worst money i’ve ever spent.

    1. Hey, how much is Samsung now paying for you to say this? Is it more than those stupid Mobilers! rewards they had? Never got much out of that one.

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