If you’re in the market to buy a high-end smartphone, there is little chance that Samsung’s Galaxy S6 wasn’t in your shortlist. The smartphone has been the biggest revival of the popular Galaxy S series from the Korean electronics giant and the reviews are raving. Said by some as “the Android to beat right now”, the phone is said to be a satisfying package. Except for the battery life, that is. The criticism for a non-removable battery aside, the relatively smaller size than its predecessor the Galaxy S5 (2550mAh vs 2800mAh) was a concern even before the S6’s launch. Especially so since it has an exceptionally high 2560 x 1440 pixel Quad HD display.
At its launch in New Delhi, Samsung drove two battery-related features of the Galaxy S6 very hard — the fast charging and the wireless charging support. The former charges the phone up very quickly, the latter allows charging (albeit much slower) by simply keeping it over a charging pad. Then there’s also the 14 nanometer Exynos chip powering the phone that is supposed to be more power efficient than ever before.
Now that sufficient time has passed for media houses to publish their extended battery tests, let’s see what the verdict on the battery life is.
AnandTech sums it up to this — “Samsung has managed to exploit their vertical integration to keep battery life effectively similar to the Galaxy S5, while using a higher resolution 1440p AMOLED display and a smaller battery than the one found in the Galaxy S5. I was doubtful that Samsung would be able to pull off this off, but they have and once again our results show that battery life is fundamentally more than just adding a larger battery.”
Some other publications have not been as kind; Android Central says with light usage the phone could last you through an entire day. But after using it to do smartphone-y things like watching YouTube videos and using it as a mobile hotspot, it died in 11 hours.
Ars Technica’s WiFi browsing test show the Galaxy S6 being beaten by the Galaxy S5 and even the iPhone 6. To its credit, a GPU-intensive 3D demo shows the Galaxy S6 coming up on top of the other two.
The Verge had this to say — “In our web browsing battery test (which loops a web page once a minute), the Galaxy S6 held up well, achieving over nine hours of uptime. But in actual usage — especially when streaming YouTube or playing games — I got less than that, sometimes distressingly less. There were days that I made it to midnight and beyond before it conked out, and there were days where the battery saver mode kicked in as early as 6PM. That’s decidedly average at best, and worse than what I get with an iPhone 6.”
And finally PhoneArena’s tests suggest the by-now familiar conclusion, where the Galaxy S6 is not as good as the S5, but is far better than the iPhone 6’s runtime.
Every publication did rave the fast charging ability, and did seem to accept it as a fix for the lack of great battery life. For The Wall Street Journal, the Galaxy S6 got charged to 50% in just 30 minutes. But this is only useful if you have a power port nearby. Charging using a traditional charger or a typical power bank will charge the phone at a slower pace.
There is another rainy-day-solution when you’re running out of juice, the Galaxy S6 much like recent Samsung phones comes with an ultra power saving mode. This turns the screen back-and-white and restricts usage to a limited number of apps. It can automatically kick in when the battery hits a certain low percentage.
So what’s the bottom line? From the analysis of all those reviews and by getting feedback from people we know using the Galaxy S6, it is not a marathon runner for sure. If you use it lightly, you may just get by the entire day without plugging in. Any heavier use than that and expect to keep a charger handy. Sure you don’t get stock Android and a healthy battery life like on the Nexus 6 or the Moto Turbo. But that premium slim build, great camera and fast performance are hard to ignore.
PS: The biggest surprise is that despite a lower-resolution display and a bigger battery, the HTC One M9 managed to clock less runtime in many battery tests we came across.