This is Part 4 of Alvin’s Xperia Mini Pro Review.
Battery life has never really been all that fantastic on an Android smartphone, right from the beginning with the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1). If I’m honest, it’s really no surprise because it’s really all down to how Android works. By default, Android maintains a constant data connection either via WiFi (when available) or by cellular data. While WiFi does not deplete a smartphone’s battery to any substantial extent these days, that constant data connection maintained by your device so that it can constantly talk to the social networks and cloud services you use when you’re out and about with your smartphone really takes a toll on the battery. But it’s not really the fault of the platform that Android devices perform so poorly in the battery life department; if I were to return to Symbian and my E5 and use it with push email enabled and my social client constantly connected, it would also not be very long before the dreaded ‘low battery’ warning appears.
The Xperia mini pro uses a 1200mAh battery, which cannot really be considered ‘high capacity’ in this day and age. But of course, there isn’t a huge bright display to power on the Xperia mini pro, nor a newfangled LTE radio, nor anything that might make such a battery seem woefully inadequate. No one should expect miracles regarding this little smartphone’s longevity though. To sum the entire situation up, you can reasonably expect one solid day of moderate usage if connected exclusively via WiFi, but only half a day if the device has to rely on a cellular data connection. I currently have bought, installed and configured JuiceDefender Plus, and it has improved the situation noticeably; what JuiceDefender Plus does is to disable all data connections when the device is asleep, only allowing short bursts of connectivity at a set interval so that your smartphone can poll Google, Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you have enabled. Of course, a basic cellular connection is still maintained all the time so that calls and texts can still come in. When the device is awake and the display is on, everything works as per normal. It’s not an expensive app and I strongly recommend it because it’s easy enough to configure to your liking does make a difference.
I’ve conducted detailed testing over the past 2 weeks, recording battery percentage values in Evernote along with the time they were recorded as well as a general description of what I’d been doing on the Xperia mini pro since the last recording. According to my data, this device takes approximately 2 hours to charge from a completely dead state to being fully charged, although it gets to 80% relatively quickly (in about an hour, I’d say).
So let’s take a look at the sort of battery life you’ll get without JuiceDefender’s help. With JuiceDefender disabled, the device loses 20% of its charge simply by remaining idle and asleep for 11 hours. I also managed to run the device connected to WiFi the entire time from a full charge until it automatically shut down in 9 hours, with a fair amount of music playback, a substantial amount of time spent surfing the Internet, occasional Twitter usage and some downloading of apps. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd low battery warnings at 15%, 10% and 5% occurred within 10 minutes of each other as I continued my browser usage regardless.
I use Google+ primarily for sharing photos, and the Google+ Android app has the capability to immediately upload any photos you capture with the camera to Google+ where you can selectively share or delete them. Needless to say, this affects the Xperia mini pro’s battery life rather substantially; I tested out this functionality over an hour and a half of shooting (and uploading in the background in the middle of a forest that has spotty 3G coverage) and was left with just 60% of battery life remaining. Once the uploads were done, I then listened to some music via earphones at half volume and browsed Twitter over 3G on the journey home, and was left with 30% remaining by the end of the hour-long journey.
On a separate day, I charged the Xperia mini pro fully, unplugged it and proceeded to do some rather serious web browsing, trawling through Google Reader and reading articles, while actively reading and posting on Twitter while connected via 3G, all while playing music and listening to FM radio over earphones. I was using it rather actively the whole time but there were also several short periods of time when it was asleep in my pocket. I was left with just 40% of battery life remaining after 2.5 hours of such use.
With JuiceDefender enabled, it would be realistic to expect a day of use out of the Xperia mini pro even without being connected via WiFi. From a fully charged battery, I was left with 65% after 5 hours of non-stop music playback via earphones and checking and posting on Twitter every now and then. I also had the chance to take the device out on a 4-hour-long cycling trip with Sports Tracker running; in other words, constant GPS lock, some camera use (I shot 37 photos in total), occasional checking of Google+ and Twitter over 3G, and music playback over earphones at 70% volume for 4 hours. By the end of the trip, I had 45% remaining; I then went on to download some podcast episodes over WiFi and play them via the loudspeaker at 70% volume for 2.5 hours which knocked another 20% off the battery. 40 minutes later, the first low battery warning occurred.
On another occasion, I let the device, fully charged at noon, remain idle for the entire afternoon and then using it rather heavily for browsing, Twitter and Google+ over both WiFi and 3G in the evening, with music and podcast playback via the loudspeaker for 2 hours. By 11.30pm, the Xperia mini pro still had 1/4 of battery life remaining.
As always, battery life is very dependent on your personal usage, network conditions and how you’ve set up your device. My testing is by no means scientific, but I hope it provides a general idea of how long this smartphone can last under various circumstances.
It’s been a little more than 2 weeks since I picked up the Xperia mini pro, and I’m extremely confident that Nokia does make the most solid and durable smartphones around and this bit of Sony Ericsson kit doesn’t quite come close to the sort of build quality you can expect from a Nokia. There is a noticeable gap in the slider despite the keyboard being somewhat sunken into the bottom chassis, and as I mentioned in the very first post there is a very slight give when tapping the display with the slider closed, as if the slider is loose. There is also a very slight creak in the back cover only right below where the volume rocker is. I’ve put more fingernail marks on the microUSB port cover, and I find the Home button a bit stiff (feedback is definitely firm, which I still prefer over a loose and mushy button). The device has an ambient light sensor that cannot be switched off in the settings, but its effect is so subtle that for the first week and a half I thought the light sensor was somehow broken. I wish the keyboard and capacitive key backlight would stay on instead of always going dark even when the display is still lit. However, I’ve found the little notification LED to be very helpful, I’m getting better with the keyboard, the device fits really well in my hand, the soft-touch back feels fantastic and there’s something really special about holding such a tiny phone to the side of your face.
The next and final segment of my Sony Ericsson Xperia mini pro review series will cover its camera and provide a conclusion to this entire series. I’m heading out now to capture some HD video for the review, so do keep watching this space!