Best phone battery life 2016 - top smartphones tested

Battery Life

We put all the top smartphones to the test to find out which one has the best battery life

Battery life is one of the most important things to consider when buying a new smartphone. With the vast majority of phones, you'll probably need to charge them every day, preferably at night just before you go to bed, but this isn't always possible if you like watching videos on the commute home from work or are constantly using it to stream music and surf the web during the day. If you're constantly having to carry a battery pack round with you just to make it through the better part of an afternoon, then it quickly begins to lose its so-called 'smartness' and just becomes another daily annoyance. 

A good indication of how much juice you're likely to get out of your phone's battery is to look at its overall capacity, which is rated in mAh. The higher the mAh rating, the bigger the battery, so phones with bigger mAh capacities should, in theory, last longer. This isn't always the case, though, as other factors such as screen brightness and resolution also play a big part in how quickly it drains the battery. 

See our Best Buy smartphones for 2016

To see how your phone stacks up against the rest of the competition, we've put all our battery scores in one place, letting you see which phones are the kings of endurance and which ones can barely make it to a sprint finish. In the graph below, blue bars signify Android smartphones, while red designates iOS and Windows phones are shown in green.

How we test

To measure a smartphone's battery life, we run a continuous video playback test. We made the video file using a handful of scenes from Spider-man 2, encoded to H.264 and looped to epic lengths. We then play back the file and record the sound being outputted from a pair of headphones, allowing us to measure how long the file played for before the battery failed. In Android, we've always used MX Player for playback, but for Windows and iOS devices, we use the phone's internal video player. We also set the phone to aeroplane mode, turn off any automatic brightness and sleep settings and set the screen brightness to 170cd/m2.

We did the same tests on tablets - see the results here

While putting the phone into aeroplane mode turns off all of the wireless features and, naturally, extends battery life, it does mean that our tests are repeatable. The big problem with wireless is that signal strength can come and go, which forces the phone to adjust the amount of power that it uses constantly, causing variable results. This year, we're working on a test that will use Wi-Fi and a streaming video, to give a closer and more accurate representation of battery life under test conditions. However, it's important to us that the test is repeatable, so we can compare phones with a degree of accuracy. Ultimately, how you use your phone, where you live and which mobile network you're on will all affect battery life. At Expert Reviews, our goal is to show which phones last the longest in repeatable conditions, with the inference being that longer-lasting phones will outperform those with smaller batteries in the real world.

Results

As you can see from the graph below, there's a huge discrepancy in smartphone battery life, with just under ten hours separating the best battery life from the worst. Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is our current battery life king, lasting 17h 48m, but the best iOS device is the iPhone 6S Plus with 14h 58m. Meanwhile, the best Windows phone is the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL with 13h 02m. 

There are a couple of surprises here, too, as the iPhone 6S only ranks 24th out of 46. Likewise, the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact, the latest model of last year's battery life champion has fallen much further down the table to 11th place. It's not just phablets and flagships filling out the top spots either, as the LG Leon and Motorola's 2nd Gen Moto E both rank in the top ten and don't cost any more than £100, showing you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a long-lasting phone. 

Best smartphone battery life 2016

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