One thing that I love about working as a technology journalist is that we are always moving forward. The industry is always maturing; devices get faster, screens are larger, brighter and sharper. New things become old things, Walkmans become cavemen.
This, dear reader, is why the effect of 4G on battery life bothers me so much. Because worrying about battery life is so 2010.
I thought we'd put battery life to bed this year. It was, with only a few exceptions, something I didn't have to worry about too much. In a recent survey that we ran on CNET, a majority of respondents said that they were happy with a solid, single day of battery life, and that's exactly what we were seeing with this year's phones — before 4G raised its ugly head. The Samsung Galaxy S3 was a great example. It's 2100mAh battery pack would easily see me through a busy work day or even a slow weekend, between charges.
This, compared with only two years ago, when we were routinely writing articles about how to best sustain your phone's crappy battery over the course of a day. Whenever a friend bought a new Android phone, the first thing I would do was install a Mobile Data widget for them, to turn their data on and off. My friends would complain that if the data was switched off, they wouldn't be able to have emails and tweets pushed to their phones. But I was resolute; after all, what good are notifications if they are pushed to a phone with no juice.
Time-warp to today, and I haven't installed a widget like this in over 12-months. I leave syncing settings on new phones to "Auto" across all services, even frivolous things like Flipboard. And yet, there I was recently, typing "4G on off" in the search field in Google Play. There I was, hunting around like a grunting caveman in the dark through the "Wireless and Network" settings on the Samsung Galaxy S3 4G and Motorola Razr HD, looking for a way to disempower this power-hungry data mode.
I know, I know: first world problems. And I know that this, too, will change. Batteries will be bigger next year; systems and processors will be more power efficient. Like I said, this industry moves quickly, and this rant, itself, will soon sound ancient. It's just, sometimes, when things move so quickly forward, the flux capacitor kicks in and sends you back in time.
The moral of the story is to be patient with your 4G purchases. Cool your heels. For the most part, the 4G phones this year are just like their 3G counterparts — but with LTE radios gaffer-taped to the side. Wait until next year, at least.