Back in the day when we just had phones for calling and texting it was easy to get an idea of how good a phone’s battery was just by looking at the standby and talk time entries on a phone’s spec sheet.

While having a look at these figures is still a good way to figure out how long a phone’s battery lasts, it doesn’t always give you an idea of how much music and movie playback time you get, how much time online with no Wi-Fi you can get out of a full tank or whether or not its a good idea to set up a less frequent refresh rate for your emails.

Nowadays its more common to see these things published alongside your standard talk time and standby time figures. Apple has published listings for all of the above on the Tech Specs section for the iPhone 4S, but not every manufacturer has followed Cupertino’s lead.

With this in mind we took our iPhone 4S to town alongside three others running different mobile OSs to see which phone had the most resilient battery.

Samsung Galaxy S2 battery settings

Apple iPhone 4S vs Nokia Lumia 800 vs Samsung Galaxy S2 vs BlackBerry Bold 9900 - general battery specification

The official published talk times and standby times for each of the phones is as follows

Apple iPhone 4S: 14 hours (2G) 8 hours (3G) / up to 200 hours
Nokia Lumia 800: 13 hours / 265 hours
Samsung Galaxy S2: 18 hours and 20 minutes (2G) 8 hours 40 minutes (3G) / up to 710 hours (2G) up to 610 hours (3G)
BlackBerry Bold 9900: 6 hours 20 minutes / up to 307 hours 10 minutes

The official sizes of each phone’s batteries (in milliampere-hours) which are officially stated, except in the case of the Apple iPhone 4S - unofficial teardowns show a battery size of 1430 mAh.

Apple iPhone 4S: 1430 mAh
Nokia Lumia 800: 1450 mAh
Samsung Galaxy S2: 1650 mAh
BlackBerry Bold 9900: 1230 mAh

Apple iPhone 4S battery settings

Nokia Lumia 800 official spec sheet, Samsung Galaxy S2 official spec sheet, BlackBerry Bold 9900 official spec sheet.


Apple iPhone 4S vs Nokia Lumia 800 vs Samsung Galaxy S2 vs BlackBerry Bold 9900 Music Playback test - simulation of a train journey

Each of these phones has a built in music/MP3 player app and are capable, to varying degrees as replacements for your iPod/Zune/Creative Zen PMP of your choice.

But how much music playback will these devices actually give you? Turning off all wireless connections (Wi-Fi, GPS, sync settings, Bluetooth) but leaving the cellular connection on, we attempted to simulate the typical Long Train Journey.

You’re sat in the Quiet Zone, but some people have taken it upon themselves to be incredibly noisy anyway. Out come the headphones... but how much battery have you got left?

From a full charge we put the same songs and playlists on repeat shuffle to see which one gave you the most playback power. Volume was set at medium and each phone had headphones plugged in. Wi-Fi, GPS, sync settings, Bluetooth were turned off, with the standard cellular connection left on.

After 12 hours of consecutive play, each of the phones batteries were at the following levels:

Apple iPhone 4S: 65 per cent
Nokia Lumia 800: 41 per cent
Samsung Galaxy S2: 16 per cent
BlackBerry Bold 9900: 63 per cent

So for general playback while still connected to the network, the iPhone 4S and the Bold 9900 offer the best performance. The Nokia Lumia 800 lasted 12 hours with a respectable 41 per cent left in the can while the Galaxy S2 was straggling with just 16 per cent.

Depending on how many leaves are on the track, we can’t imagine any train journeys lasting 12 hours. But this test is a good indication of how well your phone would hold up if you were playing music and you didn’t have a totally full tank.

Turning all wireless connections off (i.e. enabling Airplane Mode) would effectively turn your phone into a music player and give you even more juice, but you’d at least want to be able to pick up any calls that came through.

`nokia Lumia 800 battery settings

Apple iPhone 4S vs Nokia Lumia 800 vs Samsung Galaxy S2 vs BlackBerry Bold 9900 Movie playback test - how many films can you watch on your phone?

Once we’d recharged all the phones back to max we tried out the same test again, only with a movie playing on repeat instead of music. This time round, instead of testing for battery life over a 12 hour period, we wanted to see exactly how many plays of a film you’d be able to get through.

We loaded the same film (Goodbye Lenin, MP4, running time 1:56:02) on to each of these phones and left them to play on repeat until the batteries gave out or the phones stopped playing them altogether (due to low battery warnings).

On all devices, the display brightness was turned on all the way up, sound turned up to 50 per cent and headphones were plugged in. As before, Wi-Fi, GPS, sync settings, Bluetooth were turned off, with the standard cellular connection left on.


Apple iPhone 4S: 9 hours of video playback, stopped playback at 4 per cent
Nokia Lumia 800: 6 hours and 45 minutes of video playback
Samsung Galaxy S2: 8 hours and 6 minutes of video playback, stopped playback at 5 per cent
BlackBerry Bold 9900: 7 hours and 5 minutes of video playback

In each case, all of these phones on full battery would give you at least three full plays of a two hour long film. What’s a little surprising is the Samsung Galaxy S2, which didn’t do so well in our music playback test, fared second best here. 

Apple iPhone 4S vs Nokia Lumia 800 vs Samsung Galaxy S2 vs BlackBerry Bold 9900 - General phone use 

As well as testing out each phone’s staying power for specific things, we also spent a day with each phone with everything turned on. Wi-Fi, GPS for when using maps, 3G on and off, push email on (and set to the most frequent where applicable) and, gosh darn it, making a few phone calls.

In the interests of fairness and control, we kept a log of each time we received a call on each of the phones and then got participating friends and colleagues to ring us the same number of times on each phone. We know that our battery test didn’t take place in strict science lab conditions but we’ve kept things as fair as we possibly can with each scenario.

This trail started at 9:00 AM and lasted until the batteries started to flag, so it’s a test of a generic working day spent in the office - resisting temptation to make use of the many, many phone chargers and USB cables littered about the place. A day without wires - how long can your phone last?

The Herculean tasks we put each phone through were as follows:

  • Using Google Maps/Bing Maps/BlackBerry Maps with GPS on
  • Half an hour of web browsing (over Wi-Fi)
  • Half an hour of web browsing (over 3G)
  • Syncing to iCloud/SkyDrive/Dropbox (over Wi-Fi)
  • Syncing to iCloud/SkyDrive/Dropbox (over 3G)
  • Updating Facebook (over Wi-Fi)
  • Updating Facebook (over 3G)
  • Watching YouTube clips (over Wi-Fi)
  • Watching YouTube clips (over 3G)
  • Listening to music

After all of this we found that the batteries gave out or started shouting ‘low battery’ messages at us after:

Apple iPhone 4S: 9 hours 2 minutes
Nokia Lumia 800: 20 hours and 50 minutes
Samsung Galaxy S2: 10 hours and 6 minutes
BlackBerry Bold 9900: 22 hours 18 minutes

The iPhone 4S, despite doing us proud in the music and video playback tests came off worse than all of the others, less than half of the overall performance of the others. We’ve not had much fun with the iPhone 4S's battery in the past, so we weren’t hugely surprised.

The Samsung Galaxy S2 fared the second worse, but then again, the Samsung Galaxy S2 boasts a large 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen which requires a bit more juice to keep it running. The Nokia Lumia 800’s screen, though smaller at 3.7-inches, is also an AMOLED type, but lasted a lot longer.

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 overall provided us with the most consistent battery performance overall, despite its battery being significantly smaller than the others, partially due to the Bold 9900’s 2.8-inch screen being much smaller and less battery intensive.

Of course every phone is different and everyone uses a phone in a different way. Ultimately, the more tasks you throw at your phone, the more likely the battery level is likely to drain quickly. There’s a number of things you can do to prevent unneeded battery leakage if you’re looking to optimise power levels. These tips apply regardless of the types of phone you’ve got though downloading Onavo for iOS and Android is a good way to not only conserve battery but streamline your data use too.

Perhaps the ultimate battery saving tips though are to turn your phone off when you don’t need it and to take a charger/USB cable with you wherever you go.