Manufacturer Cell Phone Talk Time Claims—Tested!

By Will Smith

We test cell phone talk time claims to find out which phones meet their spec sheet promises, and which don’t hold up.

First, watch the video. It will entertain (or at least amuse) you.

PhoneClaimed Talk Time
Actual Talk Time
 Samsung Captivate350 min354 min 
 HTC Incredible313 min  302 min 
Motorola Droid 2 575 min 465 min 
 iPhone 4edit: 420 min 382 min 
 Palm Pre Plus330 min 305 min 
iPhone 3GS300 min330 min
So, what did we learn? Even after months or even a year of use (in the case of the iPhone 3Gs), these phones batteries held up well enough that they were able to come close to the manufacturer’s talk time specs. Some phones--the Captivate and the iPhone 3Gs--even exceeded their rated talk time, while a pair of newer phones with massive talk time claims fell short. That’s right, the Droid 2 and the iPhone 4 both fell short of their spec sheets. While those phones also had the most aggressive talk times specs (nine hours or more) and were among the longest running phones, they did not meet the manufacturer’s claims. Edit: Will can't do maths. iPhone 4's stated talk time is actually 420 minutes, instead of 540. So our 382 minute test result did come close to Apple's claims. iPhone 4 redeemed!

All the phones were tested while sitting on our desks, using real-world settings--calls were placed using the handset itself in 3G mode (or the equivalent for CDMA phones). We piped music through the phones to simulate talk activity, as well as to monitor for dropped calls (as an anecdote, our AT&T phones dropped the most calls). Phones were also connected to a Wi-Fi network while Bluetooth was disabled -- a typical configuration for smart phones in the wild.

So, there you have it. Manufacturers spec sheets tell the truth about cell phone talk time--at least most of the time. The feeling that our phone batteries drain unreasonably fast when on a call is just that--a feeling. Do you feel like your phone battery drains faster than it should during calls? Do you trust manufacturers’ stated talk time specs?