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VoLTE Could Slash Smartphone Battery Life by 50%?

According to a recent study, a test of battery life between 3G (CDMA) and VoLTE showed a 50% reduction when placing calls over LTE only. The test apparently took place over an unnamed U.S. operator’s network in two major markets using a smartphone that was capable of making both VoLTE and CDMA calls. We do not know the specific device, only that it was using a fully charged 1540mAh battery. 

During the test, the device lasted 252 minutes over VoLTE and 503 minutes on CDMA. It’s tough to say why the drain happened so quickly, but the author of this study tossed out the idea that when using VoLTE only, you are only using the LTE chip, which could result in a larger drain. I don’t know that I necessarily buy into that idea, since we spent the first year of LTE complaining about dual-radios and the fact that a device’s battery was horrible because it had to power both an LTE and CDMA radio simultaneously.

One thing I think we should keep in mind, is the fact that VoLTE on Verizon is just now going into major testing, if you could call it that. By the time we get close to launch, which could be towards the end of 2013, I would imagine that devices will be built with VoLTE in mind and with a focus on battery life. Since we don’t know who the carrier was or which device was being used, I wouldn’t call these tests definitive by any means. Still, something to think about.

Via:  Fierce Wireless | BGR

  • This is kinda to be expected! Its just like when you listen to Pandora or any other music streaming service. If you set it to pull the higher quality audio it WILL consume more power!

  • if it was the same phone then it still had the 3G radio active. That’s why LTE eats so much batt life, you’re running two radios. If they got rid of the 3G radio I bet the batt life would be on par with 3G if not better.

  • Mr Furious

    There are some significant changes that will happen when Verizon leaves 1X (2G) in favor of LTE for voice calls. First is that they will be changing from a proven channelized technology to a new VoLTE packetized deployment. This is a major change in how Verizon voice will operate for the first time in almost a decade. The reliable voice network that you have taken for granted for years will be replaced. This is similar to what ATT did when it changed to GSM years ago. ATT went from having rock solid voice services to an unreliable mess that wasn’t straightened out for years (some think that it still is sub-par).

    The second thing is defiantly battery life. Packetizing voice has more overhead then channelized voice. The more aggressive the codec, the more CPU overhead. CPU cycles that are not currently used for 1X calls. Think of it as having a service like Pandora (without a buffer) running the whole time that you are on a call, but while you are talking your phone is also packetizing and broadcasting your side of the call back out.

    What can be done to improve this? Well instead of using software compression (CPU), Verizon can eventually offer phones with hardware compression. This would be a dedicated hardware DSP chip, tuned to Verizon’s Codec installed in each phone. Of course, this is only part of the equation and transmitting the RTP and signalling data will still take more power then 1X.

    Why would Verizon do this? Like everything its about money. They can use less towers for more calls. They will also be able to force upgrades and simplify support with a single type of tower. Less towers, more calls, cheaper support (internal network support, not end user). Quality will suffer particularly for early adopters, but hey – you already signed a contract right?

  • MKader17

    It don’t matter. I keep my GNex on charge 24/7 running Google Music, Pandora, Navigation, etc…

  • MKader17

    Dats not good riiight?

  • Former Verizon Customer

    Just wanted to mention that Verizon sucks. Pass it on.

  • Gavo265


    Guess I won’t be able to try it out myself because I accidentally turned off my LTE on my Bionic and can’t get it back -.-

  • Come on, look at the year this was published. Research/Tech papers take time to publish/leak. this was probably done on a dual chipset, that is CDMA and LTE separate, device. It was only this past year that single chipset devices went public. Also by the looks of it, this is planned release, not a leak judging by the name on the slide.

  • Paul

    It’ll be worth it for the call quality. The first few phones will probably be like the Thunderbolt, but the ones after with bigger batteries and more efficiency will be awesome.

  • j__h

    I would assume that VoLTE would be much higher quality and could account for some of the power usage.

  • ok

    The battery life apocalypse is upon us.

  • Hudu

    Makes sense. What did you expect. Existing voice is done on 1xRTT (not 3G/EVDO) which requires a lot less processing than LTE. Also, mature and optimized hardware are available for it.

    LTE is significantly more complex and requires more processing on fairly new hardware designs. That already should impact battery life. Now add voice capabilities similar to VoIP. That’s just more processing right there.

    No one should think that a pure VoLTE phone will actually use less power.

    • Pickles

      It’s like thinking a BMW will get better gas mileage than a Civic or decoding a high resolution H.264 video will use less resources than a low resolution MPEG-1 video.

      • Significantly more complex is not entirely true. CDMA has not changed in years, including the power required. Every tech has a finite life span. LTE was designed with low power in mind. Even lower than current “3G/4G” technologies. You are correct in the fact that it is not matured like CDMA in devices we use, only because the cost to mass produce such chip is still way more than can be passed to a typical consumer. However, it is very much refined and will become way less power hungry than CDMA is in consumer devices, with time.

        • Gizmo

          Are you familiar with both waveforms and how they’re processed on a client device? A more refined and spectrally efficient waveform doesn’t always equate to simpler processing. If anything, it usually means more processing and thus more resources.

          Anyone know how much battery life has changed on CDMA only phones? Maybe a comparison of dumb phones over time?

    • Diablo81588

      VoLTE is also significantly higher bitrate audio from what I understand. It only makes sense it would use more power.

    • r0lct

      Well considering they have another couple years to work it out before it’s widely available I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to reign it in.

  • cooksta32676

    Better bring back the Thunderbolt

  • chris125

    well this seems to happen with any first gen tech. Just like how first gen lte drained battery like no other

  • Diablo81588

    3G CDMA, otherwise known as EVDO, is a data only network. 1x is used for voice calls and text messages.

  • Casey Artner

    No carrier info or device info isn’t exactly indicative of a solid scientific study, and I might question the methodology of having both radios in the phone when real life usage suggests one or the other. Interesting, but I personally wouldn’t put much weight behind this one.

  • I’m surprised it doesn’t slash battery life by more than that. I’m pleasantly surprised, yet still underwhelmed.

  • Ibrick

    It’s a good thing I don’t make 500 minutes worth of phone calls on a daily basis..

    I’ll bet if I averaged it out, I probably spend maybe 10-15min/day on phone calls.. Some days, no calls, some days I might spend an hour on a call.
    Either way, I don’t think this will effect people nearly as much as the graph would have you believe.

  • TheCheapGamer

    Perhaps it was done on a first gen chip. IE, Thunderbird (but not Firefox)

  • WickedToby741

    Could this maybe be because of the fact that at this point there’s really no network or phone side optimization for VoLTE? I mean has any carrier offering LTE optimized their network for VoLTE or has any phone came out that is optimized for VoLTE? If there’s no optimization it should come as no surprise that VoLTE is incredibly inefficient.

    • smwandrie93

      in the test markets that they use, they switch all of their LTE towers in the test area to VoLTE so that lack of towers does not effect the outcome of testing, and also there are phones for other countrys that have the VoLTE capabilities built in, now its probably not as good as it will be say 1 year from now, but there are those devices out there that can still do it no problem.

      • WickedToby741

        Devices that can do it and devices optimized to do it are two entirely different things. If there are optimized devices and networks for VoLTE, then that’s fine. I don’t know of any, but that’s not to say they don’t exist. It just seems premature to declare VoLTE as a battery drainer when it’s still a relatively young technology that may not be fully optimized.

  • dsass600

    This will only affect battery when actually in a call. Otherwise it won’t really be making an impact.

  • Bryan

    The other explanation could be that the VoLTE signal wasn’t as strong because there weren’t as many towers for VoLTE. The LTE radio would have to use more ampification and more battery life.

    • smwandrie93

      in the test markets that they use, they switch all of their LTE towers in the test area to VoLTE so that lack of towers does not effect the outcome of testing

  • PyroHoltz

    I dont know about anyone else here but, I make maybe 1 call a day on my LTE device.

    • Tolk

      I don’t make very many calls either but when I do, it’s likely to be important so I better have enough battery life to finish it. Double the power consumption on an already low battery is definitely not good for those rare but important calls.

  • This doesn’t make any sense, we should be seeing wcdma caliber battery life with volte

  • KevinC

    Well, it makes sense. With CDMA + LTE radios in the phone, both have to be running in order to do voice and data.

    • Just from a high level, that seems like the most likely reason, unless there’s some voodoo magic here we’re not being told about.

  • NorCalGuy

    Seems like we are missing a lot of details here…

  • Bryan

    The other explanation could be that the VoLTE signal wasn’t as strong because there weren’t as many towers for VoLTE. The LTE radio would have to use more ampification and more battery power.

  • Suralin

    This is CDMA only vs VoLTE only? What about the hybrid CDMA/LTE comparison?

    • From the BGR article:
      “Interestingly enough, tests also showed that simultaneous voice and data usage on an LTE network resulted in 11% less battery drain, compared to using CDMA for voice and LTE for data.

      “This is possibly attributed to the fact that only the LTE radio is in use when using VoLTE/LTE, where as the CDMA radio and the LTE radio are in use when conducting the session in CDMA/LTE,” Ghanbarzadeh wrote.”

      • michael arazan

        This sounds like testing that they would be doing in Europe now that they have started putting LTE in. I’m thinking Europe because the carriers here could care less about their customers and power on their cell phones. The EU actually looks out for their citizens as customers and care about them having the the best and not letting corporations decide for the customer.

        Last year the EU wanted Apple to make all their devices have the ability to have Flash on them, and were prepared to penalize Apple if they didn’t comply, and them 3 months later Adobe announced they were discontinuing Mobile flash for html5, it’s a conspiracy I tell you

  • Tyler Casilio

    Is this like LTE2? Verizon only or everyone?

    • No. All it is is the ability to make voice phone calls over the LTE network. Voice calls over the LTE network. Voice over LTE. VoLTE

  • droyd4life

    1540 mAh battery? Sounds like the iPhone 5s..