2023 is here and with it comes yet another suite of advancements in system-on-chip architecture. That means as the manufacturing processes get smaller — 4nm in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2's and A16 Bionic's case — the chips get more powerful and less power hungry. Or so the story goes.
The truth of the matter is that we have yet to see the fulfillment of that promise, at least in its entirety. Yes, newer SoCs and CPUs are more efficient than their predecessors, especially if you go back just a couple of generations. But when it comes to smartphones, two companies can't seem to get it right, despite many of their competitors managing to.
I'm talking about Samsung and Google, specifically their flagship phones. The latter has especially disappointed me, with battery life being the most significant thing holding me back from wholeheartedly recommending Pixels. (Despite the Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 6a being my favorite phones of 2022.)
Every phone we review goes through a rigorous testing process, including battery life benchmarks. This is a custom test where we have a phone endlessly reload web pages until it dies. The average is about 10 hours, with the handsets on the best phone battery life list exceeding that. Obviously, we want to see more than 10 hours.
Last year, Google couldn't manage even that. The Pixel 7 Pro turned in a final result of 8 hours, 4 minutes. The Pixel 7 managed 7:17 while the Pixel 6a squeezed out a paltry 6:29.
Samsung's Galaxy S22 series fared better, but not by much. The Galaxy S22 Ultra lasted for 9 hours, 50 minutes with the Galaxy S22 Plus going for 9:27 and the Galaxy S22 hitting a mere 7:51. (By comparison, the Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro lasted 15:30, and the iPhone 14 Pro Max went for 13:39.)
None of those results are good, and I want to see that change with the Galaxy S23 and Pixel 8 this year. As we approach a point where most smartphones are extremely proficient at basically everything they need to do, battery life is one of the final battlegrounds for devices to duke it out. And it's where Samsung and Google struggle the most historically.
That could all change this year with Tensor G3 and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, and we'll know about Samsung's progress in a few short weeks at February's Unpacked 2023. We'll need to wait for the fall to see how the Pixel 8 does. The Pixel 7a is due to release sooner, though, but with rumors suggesting it'll use the Pixel 7's Tensor G2 chipset, I'm not holding my breath for a battery life breakthrough.
I fully expect the Galaxy S23 and Pixel 8 to be good phones, but I will find it a challenge to recommend them if Samsung and Google don't figure out this battery life thing. There's no excuse anymore.