Samsung may have proudly announced the Galaxy S4 would have the world’s first 5-inch 1080p display using their Super AMOLED technology, but they left out what such an advancement would cost in terms of battery life.
Your display will always be the thing that eats the most battery on your smartphone or tablet, there’s just no way to escape that. When you compare the specs of any given smartphone, it’s easy to gloss over what the display technology is. The focus is usually on screen size, what kind of glass is covering the display, and what the resolution is. If you’re looking at a Samsung Galaxy S4 over other phones this year, you may want to take into consideration how expensive the new Super AMOLED display is going to be in terms of day-to-day use.
Easily the most expensive part of powering any display is the light source. LCD displays, like the ones seen in the iPhone 5 or HTC One, use an LED backlight to show what is on the screen. OLED displays don’t use a backlight, since the OLEDs themselves act as the light source. But OLED panels like the one in the Galaxy S4 consume much more power when they are pushed beyond 50% of their maximum lighting potential.
In comparing these two phones specifically, the Galaxy S4 display required 1.5 watts to reach full brightness, while the iPhone 5 only required .74 watts.
The display technology isn’t the only part of this experience that will suck battery life down faster on the Galaxy S4, though. There’s a pretty significant difference in how much energy would be required to draw images on the S4′s screen.
The iPhone’s 1136 x 640 resolution at 326ppi sounds pretty weak when compared to the 1920 x 1080 resolution at 441ppi of the S4. But it also costs the iPhone 5 a whole lot less in system resources to draw the same image because of that lower resolution display.
Samsung compensated for this extra draw by offering a much larger 2600mAh removable battery, compared to Apple’s 1440mAh fixed battery. Despite the significant difference in battery size, there’s very little difference between the Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5 when it comes to day to day battery life.
If you are in an environment where you are able to lower the brightness of your screen, the S4 battery should make it through the day. If you’re outdoors, however, or in any environment that would require higher brightness levels, don’t forget your charger.
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