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ThunderBolt battery could pose problems for users

Computerworld field tests show battery in HTC ThunderBolt on Verizon LTE network averages less than 5 hours per charge

March 30, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Independent speed tests for the HTC ThunderBolt smartphone on the Verizon Wireless LTE 4G network show it runs many times faster than on older 3G networks for Web browsing, emailing, streaming video and music and playing online games.

At the same time, though, its battery life comes up shorter -- sometimes much shorter -- than advertised, according to initial Computerworld field tests.

In four field tests over several days, battery life on a review unit of the ThunderBolt averaged only 4 hours and 22 minutes between charges, two hours below the advertised 6.3 hours for the device's 1400 mAh battery.

The faster battery drain came from relatively heavy video and music downloading, though the tests also included typical voice calls, texting, e-mailing and Web browsing tasks.

The testing was done as the phone occasionally moved between 4G LTE and 3G cell zones in the Boston suburbs.

Four hours and 22 minutes of battery life is not out of line with the findings of various online reviewers who also pushed the ThunderBolt by receiving heavy downloads of music and video, as well as using it for videoconferencing on LTE.

Some bloggers have offered workarounds -- by shutting off the LTE connection or buying a longer-life battery.

However, our experience with the ThunderBolt found that even in 3G zones, the battery life can be quickly sapped by multimedia data. (The ThunderBolt's voice traffic runs over CDMA for now, separate from LTE data traffic.)

In a separate test of battery life, Computerworld also tried out ThunderBolt's Mobile Hotspot capability. Using the ThunderBolt as a Wi-Fi hotspot, we started with five devices connected over Wi-Fi to the ThunderBolt. The smartphone was also connected to the LTE cellular network in Framingham, Mass.

In the mobile hotspot test, the ThunderBolt's 1400 mAh battery was drained to less than 15% in just two hours. That quick battery drain may be why Verizon suggests connecting the smartphone to a wall charger when using it as a mobile hotspot. (A warning on the phone says: "Mobile Hotspot may use more battery. You may want to connect the phone to a power supply."

HTC and Verizon don't appear to have any official statement of ThunderBolt's battery life when used as hotspot without a power connection.

LTE, battery background

Several early testers of the ThunderBolt found LTE speeds are the device's most striking feature. Network World reviewers reported an average of 12 Mbit/sec downlink speeds on five tests over LTE in Framingham, Mass., while a Computerworld reviewer got 16 Mbit/sec download speeds and 19 Mbit/sec upload speeds in the New York City area.

That Computerworld reviewer found the LTE speeds were 20 times faster than Verizon's 3G speeds, which are far more widely available than LTE. LTE networks are now available in some 40 cities.

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