The iPhone 7 finishes last in our battery life tests

The iPhone 7 may be touted by Apple as its best smartphone ever, as is tradition, but sometimes your best just isn’t good enough. Which? testing has revealed that the battery on the iPhone 7 doesn’t last as long as its three major rivals.

We compared the iPhone 7’s battery life, when making calls and browsing the web, to those of three top Android competitors: the Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and LG G5, and the results were staggering.

Best Buy smartphones – find out which other models impressed in our test lab

Smartphone battery life: The results

smartphone-battery-life-2016

Our iPhone 7 is running iOS 10, the latest version of Apple’s operating system, and all three of the Android handsets are running Marshmallow 6.0.

Whilst the iPhone 7’s 712 minutes of call time (nearly 12 hours) may sound acceptable, the rival Samsung Galaxy S7 lasted twice as long – and it doesn’t even have the longest lasting battery. The HTC 10 lasted an incredible 1,859 minutes (that’s almost 31 hours).

When it comes to internet browsing time, arguably the more important measurement, the results were a lot closer. Close, but the iPhone 7 still came bottom. The 615 minutes of battery life offered by the iPhone 7 is 25 minutes less than its nearest rival, the LG G5, and 175 minutes less than the top performing HTC 10. In fact, the HTC 10’s 3G internet browsing time was even longer than the iPhone 7’s 3G call time. It doesn’t make for pretty reading for Apple.

Of course having the longest battery life isn’t everything when it comes to picking the best phone. You can find the full results of our smartphone tests, including screen quality, processor speed and how the cameras on each handset stack up by reading our mobile phone reviews.

Why does the iPhone 7 battery fare so poorly?

So just why does the iPhone 7 have such a poor battery life? It may sound obvious, but the majority of the fault lies in its comparatively tiny cell. Smartphone batteries are measured in milliampere hours (mAh). The iPhone 7 has a 1,960mAh battery, whilst the HTC 10 has a 3,000mAh battery: it should hardly be surprising that one battery nearly half the size of another offers roughly half as much charge.

How Which? tests smartphone battery life

In the interest of fairness, we test battery life using our own phone network simulator. This ensures that the signal strength is consistent for each test, which is important as a phone has to expend more power when it’s struggling for reception. We also set the screen brightness on every phone to the same level. Finally, we perform  a full ‘power cycle’ of each phone’s battery prior to testing – that means fully discharging and then charging it.

For the tests we made a continuous call over 3G for the call time test and access a regularly updating special web page over 3G to measure web browsing time.

More on this

iPhone 7 first look review – our thoughts on the new arrival
Best smartphones of 2016 – see which handsets are worth the cash
How to buy the best mobile phone – choose wisely with the help of our guide

25 replies

    1. Why? These are all considered non-phablet phones with smaller sized batteries. The 7 Plus would need to compete against the S7 Edge, Note 7, Nexus 6P and so on. This is a very fair test, iPhone 7 is last place in battery life. I am shocked that the 10 is on top though.

    2. Hi Callum, interesting findings.

      Why didn’t you include its predecessors, the iPhone 6S and 6 in this comparison? You explain the poor battery life as being due to the low mAh capacity, which would make sense except the iPhone 6S is rated at 1715mAh – even less than the 7, so maybe something else is causing the poor battery life?

      Also, I think the fact that iOS 10 is still relatively new and each iOS version tends to get optimisations to battery life etc., means the battery life may later improve.

    3. Hi Reisin,

      We didn’t include them as this was intended to be a simple comparison of 2016’s flagship devices. The iPhone 6s’ battery life has been well documented at this point, so we wanted to keep the study as relevant and fresh as possible. Which? members can see the battery life of every phone currently on test by heading into its review – see which.co.uk/reviews/mobile-phones for more.

    4. The iPhone SE at only 1624 mAh is further evidence that you don’t need to pack in a high mAh for good battery life – as Which’s own review rates the SE battery as great. Apple does it right – low mAh to keep the weight and size down, but optimise the OS for more battery life.

      Yes, the iPhone SE has a smaller screen to power – yet phablets have larger screens to power yet they’re still expected to last longer than normal sized phones. So the iPhone SE has superb battery for a normal sized phone even with its lower mAh.

    5. For the voice call, do you ensure each phone has the same input (ie playing a music in loop near the microphone in a soundproof space)?

      Also, with your network simulator, can you also monitor data traffic? If yes, do you see a difference between data volume of each phone during phone call (for example more data with iPhone during silence)?

      I ask that because I think such difference in voice call is not consistent with data transfer results.
      So I supect either a bug in Apple implementation of voice codec of its configuration (especially since it seems there is a bug that cause poor quality in voice call) or an issue with test setup if you don’t control sound input and longer lasting phone has the opportunity to achieve even better phone call duration (for example, silence during the night when there is nothing to hear and codecs allow to send nearly no traffic and save a lot on battery).

    6. Hi Maximilian,

      The call tests are conducted in a strict lab environment – the call simulation and surroundings are absolutely identical for every handset (not just in this test, but for every handset reviewed by Which?).

      We don’t monitor data transfer during the call test, though, as that would skew battery longevity which is the main aim of that particular test.

    7. Despite the reservations expressed above, this test should have been conducted against the iPhone 7 Plus, not the iPhone 7. Or at least both. Why? One has to compare similar sized phones, not simply group junior models together – apples vs. apples, no pun intended. A volume comparison shows that the HTC 10 is larger than the even iPhone 7 Plus, not just the iPhone 7. When it comes to battery life, size matters.
      HTC10-(145.9mm x 71.9mm x 9 mm=94.41189 cm3)
      iPhone 7 Plus-(158.2mm x 77.9mm x 7.3 mm=89.963594 cm3)
      LG G5-(149.4mm x 73.9mm x 7.7mm=85.013082 cm3)
      Samsung Galaxy S7-(142.4mm x 69.6mm x 7.9mm=78.297216 cm)
      iPhone 7-(138.3mm x 67.1mm x 7.1mm=65.887503 cm3)

      Just for completeness, here are the dimensions for the other phones mentioned in the comments above:
      Huawei Nexus 6P-(159.3mm x 77.8mm x 7.3mm=90.472842 cm3)
      Samsung Galaxy Note7-(153.5mm x 73.9mm x 7.9mm=89.614835 cm3)
      Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-(150.9mm x 72.6mm x 7.7mm=84.356118 cm3)

    8. Hi Chuck,

      Whilst you’re right that the iPhone 7 Plus may be similar in size to some of the Android flagships tested, at Which? we always aim to tackle tech tests from the consumer’s point of view. When the average consumer walks into a mobile phone store to buy a new phone they are presented with a few major handsets to choose from. Retailers are not comparing the iPhone 7 Plus to the Galaxy S7, despite their similarities in size – they’re comparing the iPhone 7 to the Galaxy S7. The iPhone 7 Plus is then considered the direct alternative to the Galaxy S7 Edge. Despite the fine margins in dimensions, those handsets are considered ‘phablets’ from a marketing standpoint.

      This article wasn’t designed to compare results between the most physically similar phones on the market, it was designed to compare results between the big-name flagship handsets the consumer currently has to choose between.

    9. Duh… the big difference was in 3G call time… I checked my usage and phone app accounted for 1% usage.. so if in a day I used the phone for 4hrs on, actual use time, double the call time would have saved gained me 2mins battery… people spend their time in apps, switching between apps, using call time as a major indicator of battery life when these days most people barely use the phone app is just plain dumb and not a true representation of real world battery life a user will experience.

    10. You’ve tested the extremes of active behaviour, i.e. continuous phone use or continuous browsing, but what about battery usage during the long periods of sitting in your pocket in standby?

      I’ve been told that iPhone standby power management is far superior to other phones and that over the course of a day’s average use (light talking, light browsing) it will have more battery power remaining than most others, but it would be good to see a fair comparison done. Equally how would these phones compare when left on standby with no other use at all?

    11. You should test with the same size screen. iPhone 7 Plus has the same screen size as the other phones you tested. The standard 7 is a smaller phone…ie less battery.

    12. The iPhone 7 and 7+ are 4.7 and 5.5 respectively. The HTC and LG are 5.2 and 5.3

      Yes, I think it would be more honest to compare it with closer phone. Very deceptive as it is currently

  1. I’m assuming you’ve tested new samples of each. When the battery ages, its capacity drops dramatically – so it’s important it can be replaced easily. Apple have always ‘designed’ phones such that the battery went in first, so must come out last – making it almost impossible for the user to replace it himself. I have an iPhone3 whose battery now lasts 10 mins at most – my first and last smartphone. I’ve gone back to using a ‘dumb’ mobile phone and an Android tablet for internet.

    1. There are generally less battery issues and gadget issues – since the case is closed and stronger … and it makes even more sense on a water proof phone.

  2. Well that’s not a very real world test is it? Real world battery life will probably be very different. Who spends 30hrs on a continuous phone call? Or the whole time on a constantly refreshing web page? If you want your tests to actually mean something you would need much more complex tests. What people actually use their phones for are things like messaging, apps, music, camera, navigation etc. Maybe you could devise a test where you do each of these things constantly for half an hour or something before moving on to the next one and then see how much battery percentage is left at the end. (Although that would depend on how accurate the percentage reading is). Or how many times you could go round in that cycle of usage for example.

  3. Hi Callum, perhaps the biggest fallacy I see in this study is how much importance is placed on the voice call benchmark. Mind you, the iPhone 7 delivers a solid 12 hours of talktime according to your benchmark which few in their right mind would spend on their smartphone in a day.

    However, the reality is people only spend just on 10% of their time using smartphones for voice calls and the rest of the time they are strangely enough doing “smartphone” things like browsing the web, using social media, playing music, games, email etc. As such, the 3G internet use benchmark is far more important and on that stat, the much smaller iPhone 7 delivers comparable battery life to the LG G5 according to Which’s Benchmark.

    Mind you, the question has to be asked, where is the 4G LTE internet benchmark or the app usage benchmark or the music playing benchmark or the games benchmark or the social media benchmark? All of these tasks users spend more time doing on their smartphones.

    That is why PhoneArena’s real-life usage battery benchmark which shows even the iPhone 7 beating all of the Android phones is far more revealing than Which’s artificial single use stats.

    Even the small iPhone 7 rates higher than all of the Android competitors and of course, the iPhone 7 plus blows them all away on battery time:

    Apple iPhone 6s Plus 9h 11 min (Excellent)
    Apple iPhone 7 Plus 9h 5 min (Excellent)
    Apple iPhone 6s 8h 15 min (Excellent)
    Apple iPhone 7 7h 46 min (Good)
    HTC 10 7h 10 min (Good)
    Samsung Galaxy S7 6h 37 min (Average)
    Apple iPhone 6 Plus 6h 32 min (Average)
    LG G5 5h 51 min (Average)
    (Source PhoneArena)

  4. why are these benchmarked against 3G? I can’t recall the last time I saw my phone on a 3G connection. I’m on LTE 95% or more of the time, occasionally 4G.

  5. 3G tests – what is this a review from 2010? How is a 3G call test relevant? LTE SURELY far more relevant, also the 6S Plus is the only choice if you want long battery.

    I can’t remember the last time I *called* on my phone. I mainly use it for screen off tasks like listening to podcasts – something the iPhone should be better at due to better OS and hardware integration. Also why not include the 7 Plus as a comparison.

    Wich look pretty ignorant in their methodology here.

  6. The hugely ignorant issue here is that the iPhone has far better standby battery time – its passive drain is far lower.

    By not taking this into account your result is not only wrong – it is backwards. In every day use iPhone is likely to get better, not worse, battery life.

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