Long Battery Life? See ya LaTEr

If you have made the switch to an LTE device, the first thing you probably noticed is the speed:  videos don’t pause every two seconds, sites load faster, apps download faster.  Then, you probably noticed was something else moving dramatically faster….
batterybg_3When I first picked up my iPhone 5, I was impressed with its speed, then a little shocked at how fast it drained my battery.  Depending on what I was using it for, I would get a low battery warning after just a few hours.  You could almost see the percentage of battery power ticking away.  It made me wonder why.  So I did a little research and here’s what I found out:

  • MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) Technology – MIMO technology uses multiple antennas – at the transmitting and receiving end.  This increases speed by spreading the existing transmission power over multiple antennas creating an array gain that allows more data to flow through at a time.  This occurs by taking advantage of multipath.  Information reaches the receiving antenna multiples times, from different angles and different times.  How does this drain the battery?  An antenna requires a power amplifier in order to send and receive information – by doubling the number of antennas in an LTE device – the drain on the battery doubles as well.

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  • Years of practice – 3G phones use either GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) Technology or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) Technology.  Both of these mobile service technologies have been optimized over the past 20 years to be energy efficient.
  • Towers– LTE towers are fewer and farther between.  Your mobile device needs to boost its transmission power in order to connect with the LTE network.  The distance between the towers also mean that are gaps in coverage, so your phone is switching between LTE, 4G and even 3G.  Every time your mobile device needs make a scan to connect with a network, or boost its transmission power to connect to a tower –  your battery takes a hit.
  • LTE devices are co-dependent – Currently, most LTE devices cannot handle data and voice simultaneously.  Your device may be using LTE for data, but will switch back to CDMA in order to make calls and texts.  Again, to keep up with all that switching around, your battery has to work overtime.

No doubt, future generations of LTE will address the issue of excessive battery drain.  For now though, make sure you keep a charger handy.

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Thanks to Kevin Fitchard at GigaOm for the great info!