Let me first say I am quite enjoying my enforced experiment with the LG G3, LG’s newest flagship model. I like what they’ve done with the device.
The operating platform is fcukng shIt.
There we go.
Let me further revise that statement.
The power management of the operating platform is fcukng shIt.
I mean, utter toss.
Utter fckng drivel.
[I don’t normally use the F word because I tend to get complaints for people who don’t receive their Mobile Industry Review newsletter because the corporate mail system has knocked it into the unobtainable spam folder. Hence the modification, which, incidentally, gets through perfectly fine.]
I am the first to demand access to all the cool toys — big screens, wickedly cool lifestyle monitoring whizzy things along with background processing and multi-app capabilities.
However, I expect that to be at the end of the list for the device manufacturers and software developers. I expect sane heads to make sure the device gets through the flipping day, FIRST. Then add the bells and whistles.
Sadly, that’s not the case.
It’s not just the operating system. You’ll note that I didn’t explicitly blame Android. I used the word ‘platform’ — interchangeable with ‘ecosystem’.
You have to laugh — as I did — I burst out laughing walking along Threadneedle Street this evening when my phone piped up with a “30% of battery left so I’m switching everything off” message.
How is that a fix?
“Here, have 70% worth of amazing experience and then, once you’ve nutted your battery, we’ll switch all that coolness off. So, you can get through the rest of the day.”
My mistake was considering Whatsapp and Google Hangouts as business critical communications platforms.
They are not.
They can’t be when they’re running on top of a device with a super HD screen, dozens of processors and bucketloads of bloaty buggy software running on top of the OS opening all sorts of connections all the flipping time.
Here’s how I used the phone today:
- I unplugged it from the wall at 130pm.
- I didn’t touch it until 230pm whereby I used it to check some email and engage in about 20 minutes of Whatsapp.
- I used Whatsapp occasionally across the next hour plus a bit of email running up to 4pm. I could see the battery draining by the second.
- I then placed a call from about 530-6pm. That took me to under 50%.
- I placed another 10 minute call and I was hitting 40%.
- I walked along Threadneedle Street and lost TEN FLIPPING PERCENT because I was Whatsapping and Google Hangout-ing.
Instant messaging is the absolute bane of my mobile existence. I love it but the phones just cannot, cannot CANNOT hack it. Not when they’re having to do everything else.
I haven’t looked into my LG’s inner gubbings to see what’s been sucking the battery most, but you can bet your bottom dollar the huge glorious screen is up three in the top 3. That and the cellular/data connectivity switching having to take place.
I didn’t expect the phone calls to suck the battery so much, given the screen is off for the duration.
Anyway, I then got in a cab to Waterloo and had the temerity to use Feedly to browse some news. Continually! For a good few minutes. That took me to 15% and the next LG battery warning.
I made it to the train at about 9%.
So who’s to blame?
Well, Android yes. The handset manufacturer, yes. But let’s give a nod over to Ye Olde Nokia and Symbian and remember how it used to be done. Back in the good old days, developers had their faces pressed against hot coals if they were lazy enough to attempt to open up a communications socket without good, proper, demonstrably useful reason.
That’s because every time your phone has to actually DO something beyond presenting a few menu items at you, there’s an immediate power impact (especially when the phone battery didn’t have to power such hungry screens). Back in the good old days, your mobile apps had to be designed from the ground up to use data sparingly, particularly given the crazy per megabyte rates people had to suffer.
It was drummed into developers that you needed to think very, very carefully about the demands you placed on the phone’s antenna. Back in those days, the wrong code executed at the wrong time could sink your battery and run up tens or hundreds of quid’s worth of data.
There’s a temptation (or, perhaps an assumption) that having a 3G, H or 4G signal on your phone means you’re all good to go, that your phone is ‘connected’. Well, yes. Not quite. There’s a power consumption cost every time you communicate. Even on WiFi, however the technology is a little different there. With mobile data, you’re actually sitting on top of layers of technology and having to deal with the laws of physics too. Inside a building? Arse. Attached to a seriously busy cell tower? You might need more power to establish or maintain that connection. Bad weather? It all adds up.
And then when I come along with my semi-continuous Whatsapp conversations, it all goes to pot.
Because although it seems to me as though I’m having quick 10 second bursts of conversation across 10 minutes, I’m causing power misery, switching my screen on, doing the little taps to open the screen, flicking up the app and so on.
I can’t entirely blame the operating system or the manufacturer. I think, however, there’s a portion of blame that is often unallocated that should be thrown squarely at lazy mobile developers. Let me ask you this: Have you actually thought about the power implications of everything you are asking your app to do? No. Hardly anybody does. As a developer, the ‘connection’ is assumed to be binary and permanent. It’s either on or off.
And when it’s on, go for it.
If you’ve ever been around mobile app developers and looked at the kind of code they execute, most of it (could I go out on a limb and assert that all of it?) blithely assumes the user is on WiFi. The app will certainly be tested on WiFi. With only the most thorough actually testing their apps in real world poor signal areas. And even if there’s a real battery impact, I’ve almost never seen that challenged as a failure or significant problem. It’s ignored.
Which means we’ve got a whole ecosystem more or less guaranteed to annoy the hell out of me.
There is a degree of control when it comes to Apple. Many key operating system features are still entirely out of bounds. Developers can only do so much because Apple wants to control the environment as much as possible. Which means that I often do get better battery performance on iOS… (flippantly) because I can’t do as much as I can with Android. iOS is almost self limiting.
Still you only need to run something like Socialcam properly and have it recording video then uploading it ‘live’ to YouTube to feel the iPhone reach frying pan heat level and the battery hit 20% in 10 minutes.
On Android I’ve got countless processes running all over the place, whether it’s Google tracking my location or DropBox trying to upload the latest photo I’ve snapped and repeatedly hammering my antenna because I’m in a limited signal area. Don’t even mention the GPS or the whizzy “Ok Google” power demands.
Sadly, in the end, the full ownership of the blame rests with me.
My expectations are completely skewed.
I’m using all sorts of apps that I’ve chosen because of their visible utility. If there was some kind of ‘battery consumption kite mark’ for apps I might consider abiding by that and deciding on my app choices with more thought.
But it’s my problem, fundamentally, right?
I should have my screen running at 12% brightness, first of all. I don’t because it’s sometimes difficult to see. Heh.
I should carefully limit my data usage, turning off mobile data until I really need it. And I should deinstall almost everything I’m running and in particular, switch off as many background processes as possible (e.g. Google Sync, Widget updates and so on). I might actually try that.
But… what is the point? I might as well go back to using a top of the range candy bar Nokia offering days of power. And run that alongside an iPad Mini/Full size.
I should have taken my charging cable with me, today, so that I could have sucked some of my Mophie PowerStation’s 10,000mAh to keep me going.
I wonder if anyone has made a 10,000mAh battery for the LG G3?
Or, actually, given I’m using the G3 which sports a removable battery, maybe I should be carrying three of them around with me so I don’t have to limit my actual usage of the phone during the day so I have power to get me home?
I think it’s time for me to make peace with this issue and … finally, finally accept that it’s my fundamentally problem. If I want to use this wickedly good technology (and boy, am I a power user) then I need to recognise and accept I need to always carry spare batteries.
I think my frustration today came from the fact that I stood there in front of the power socket today and thought, “Nah, I won’t need to take the cable today… I’ve got a full charge and it’s not as if I’m going out the whole evening either.”
My mistake. There are some efficiencies to be gained trying to limit unnecessarily functions. I think I should either get a stupid case to destroy the nice feeling of my super-slim LG G3 or always carry a battery charger and lead.