Of battery drain and crazily high connection speeds

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Entitled 'Everything Everywhere's 4G: Why I'm sitting this one out', there's an interesting piece here by the reliably controversial Andrew Orlowski, talking about the extra battery drain involved with LTE. Yes, this communications technology is still being rolled out in Europe and somewhat erratically in terms of frequencies and compatiility, but Andrew points out that the battery hit is probably not worth the extra performance in the first place.

Yes, I'm sure, the kinks will get worked out and, in five years time, we'll all be on LTE everywhere we go, every device will talk to every network, the power issue will have been solved and we'll all be complaining about something else, but in the meantime Andrew does raise some valid points:

But there are two more good reasons to hold fire, which have received surprising little attention, and they're closely related. There is a significant trade-off in using a power-guzzling 4G device. "Fast Phones - Dead Batteries" is how the Wall Street Journal sums it up succinctly.

4G can do more with the radio spectrum than 3G, but this cleverness comes at the a cost: it requires much more processing power to cope with the surge in data and the electronics will draw more current. This is straightforward physics and - even if mobile networks had no legacy baggage - a 4G network would deplete your battery faster than 3G. The technology in the handset will improve and become more efficient, but that's no use to us here and now.

...4G phones lock onto a 4G signal whenever they can, and in the early days of network build-out, that's going to be a lot of the time.... 

The question you then have to ask is - do you really really need that extra speed? When HSDPA+ has proved more than adequate? Personally, I'm struggling to think of applications where I'm prepared to trade off weight and power drain against that speed. As a punter, waiting for competition (due to arrive next summer in the UK) and network maturity (maybe two years out) looks like the smart choice....

If you're only ever sat beneath a 4G network mast, and with a briefcase full of power chargers, the question may be a moot. What about you?

Good points. As it is, many parts of the UK suck the life out of a feeble 3G connection and kill a phone battery in half a day. Do we really want to have more of that, only worse? Devices are coming with bigger and bigger batteries, but I'm not convinced they'll be enough with current specs.

And as for speed, it's great for tech bloggers to boast about getting 30Mbps on their LTE connection ("twice as fast as my home broadband"), but all those bits have got to be served up by some web server somewhere and decoded at the phone's end. And, ultimately, digested by your eyes and brain. Three bottlenecks that are, I'll wager, just as critical to the mobile experience as the raw bit speed. 

Do I want 4G (LTE)? Nope, I'm with Andrew on this one. What I do want is 3.5G in more than just city centres across my country. 

Heck, in some parts of the UK, I still just want a signal - any signal!!

Source / Credit: The Register