No matter what phone you’re carrying around, the one thing that can’t falter is battery life. That’s why we test every smartphone that comes through our review desk for its relative longevity. So far, Android smartphones are taking the lead from the iPhone 15 Pro Max, previously the best-performing phone battery in Gizmodo’s battery benchmark tests.
Now that the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and the OnePlus 12 have gone through the review rigamarol, the iPhone finally has some competition in the battery department. It’s great news for Android users, who may have felt frustrated in recent years over not-too-stellar performance.
Android is doing well so far
Reviews are generally subjective, as every outlet’s respective testing mechanism varies. At Gizmodo, our battery rundown benchmark includes setting the screen to about 200 nits on the brightness meter, plus or minus a few points, then streaming a 24-hour YouTube in perpetuity until the phone dies. We’re considering adjustments as displays get brighter and phone makers are more aggressive at implementing energy-saving software tricks. But for now, this is our benchmark.
Many Android’s hit flagship phones from the past two years were barely hitting the 18-hour mark in our battery tests. If you wanted ample battery life, you had to cheap out for a Samsung or Pixel A-series so that there wasn’t too much hardware under the hood sucking up all the available energy.
OnePlus has had a consistent track record of offering the best battery life in the Android realm over the past two generations. The OnePlus 10T, a summer release with a slight spec bump-up, topped out at 17 hours and 39 minutes, while the OnePlus 11, with its 5,000 mAh battery, offered up to 20 hours and 43 minutes of video playback. This year’s OnePlus 12 is even more impressive with its 5,400 mAh battery: it outlasted the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 25-hour battery life at 27 hours and 43 minutes.
Samsung’s devices have gradually gotten better with each iteration—last year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra, with its 5,000 mAh battery, lasted 18 hours and 33 minutes compared to this year’s Galaxy S24 Ultra with the same size battery pack, which topped out at 23 hours and 22 minutes.
What’s going on under the hood?
The newest Android devices are faring better with battery because Android 14 offers better cache management under the hood than previous generations. Dave Burke, Android’s VP of Engineering, spoke about the changes a bit more in-depth in Google’s internal podcast, The Android Show:
We’ve done a ton of work to reduce CPU activity of background apps, and the result is that there’s 30% less cold starts now on Android 14.
Cold starts rely on that initial read and write to speed up the process. Google said that users would feel the 30% reduction, and some Android forums have already praised the gains in longevity brought on by the Android 14 software update.
The OnePlus 12 and Galaxy S24 Ultra run their respective version of Android—Samsung’s is OneUI, and OnePlus calls its version OxygenOS—but both devices are based on Android 14 source code, plus any extra tweaking each manufacturer has done on its side concerning its particular hardware configurations. We can assume some of the improved performance in the battery is because of what’s happening under the hood and within the software.
We still have a couple of additional battery tests to run with our arsenal of Android flagships to see how the latest phones fare against the rest of the landscape. It’s promising to see consistency across the platform, but we’re also curious how Android’s affordable set—the OnePlus 12R, the Pixel 8, and the smaller Galaxy S24—fare against Apple’s iPhone 15.