Getting the most of your battery life is a topic near to the hearts of many smartphone owners – its a thing most of us have spent considerable time and effort learning to manage.
For the most part we do this by being careful about how much sync activity is occurring in the background, keeping the screen as dim as possible, using apps like Tasker to turn data connections off until we open apps that need them, and the more adept and adventurous amongst us even resort to flashing custom ROMs or kernels in the name of eeking those few extra hours or minutes from our overtaxed batteries.
For those with extremely heavy use even these strategies are insufficient. Fortunately there are other options available to us in the form of accessories.
Today’s review is the first in a small series of reviews looking at hardware options for extending the battery of a Galaxy S II (SGSII hereafter). While these reviews are going to look particularly at Samsung’s current flagship, the options available here tend to be available for most prominent handsets out there, whether Android or otherwise, so I hope that the series can be useful for non-SGSII owners also.
The first option we’re going to look at is extended batteries, in this case Mugen’s 3200mA extended battery for the SGSII.
If you’re familiar with the spec sheet of the SGSII you’ll see that at 3200mA Mugen’s effort nearly doubles the capacity of the standard 1650mA battery found in the SGSII. Obviously its not possible to extend the capacity like that without increasing the physical size of the extended battery, and that has certain consequences – the most striking of which is adding size and weight to the phone. Because of the size increase it needs a custom rear-battery cover in order to house the battery in the phone, in this case it basically doubles the thickness of the phone at its thickest point.
In terms of how users feel about that there is a pretty sizeable spectrum of reactions. Extremely heavy users, who hammer their phone batteries with heavy use, and therefore really need the extra capacity are likely to make their peace with the loss of a svelte waistline. For them function simply outweighs form. If you’re in that camp then I suggest you just stop reading now and head here to get your Mugen extended battery. For most of the rest of us the question of whether or not to get an extended battery gets a little more complex – do the benefits outweigh the aesthetic considerations?
For myself I can safely say the answer is mostly no. For most day-to-day use I can get by, albeit without that much headroom at the end of the day. I need to curb my usage a little, and that’s a bit irksome, but I have to admit that I’m shallow enough that the small reduction in function is outweighed by my aesthetic concerns. That said there are certain use-cases where I simply have to have an extended battery.
The first of these is when I’m using mobile high definition link (MHL) with the phone. Even with the charging input the battery still trickles down when watching HD content or doing some emulator gaming. The loss of charge when doing this fast enough to be prohibitive. It becomes a matter of enjoying MHL and then putting the phone on charge straight after, or not using MHL for long sessions at all in order to have enough charge to face the day. Now I don’t have to make that choice, I do whatever I need to, for as long as I need to, and its thanks to having Mugen’s extended battery. Not curbing how I want to use my phone because of worries about battery life=winning.
The other situation where an extended battery is extremely useful is when I know I need the extra capacity, and mostly that’s going to be when I’m travelling, or perhaps going out for the day and anticipating heavy use of features like WiFi tethering or recording HD video. If I’m on a ten hour flight for example, and I want to watch video/listen to music/read ebooks/whatever, the stock battery is just not going to cut it at all. Again the Mugen can let me use the phone how I want without compromise.
If your use looks a bit like mine, generally moderately heavy-heavy, and occasionally extremely heavy, then an extended battery like the Mugen becomes a pretty good idea, particularly if you aren’t desperately hung up on looks.
If you’re at the other end of the spectrum to the function>form folks, and looks are extremely important, then obviously an extended battery isn’t for you – keep an eye out for the next couple of instalments for options that could fit for you (if you own an Arc but had the option to get a dual core like the SGSII or HTC Sensation you could well be in this group).
Now, after all that, how good is Mugen’s extended battery?
In short: excellent.
When I got the battery I charged it in accordance with their instructions, and also wiped the battery statistics in the phones recovery mode. Over the last week the battery life has proven at least double the stock battery, and its probably still a couple of charging cycles away from reaching its best. It’s important to really make note of this – lots of cheaper extended batteries make claims about their battery life that they don’t end up living up to. I’ve got a screenshot here of my last 38 hours use (the last three of which the phone has been on charge). Unfortunately it doesn’t show you the full story, because my current kernel/ROM configuration is experiencing some high battery drain (you can tell because the phone is awake nearly the whole time, I think my stock battery would have struggled to wring 16 hours use out of it under the same circumstances).
If you’ve never used an extended battery before, it could surprise you to learn that there’s actually quite a lot more to it earning that endorsement from me than you might think. I mentioned before about the ramifications of its larger size, and need for a custom rear-battery cover, but this imposes more design constraints than just a thicker waistline.
The new cover needs to fit really well for one thing, the recess for the camera aperture needs to be arranged so as to avoid shadow falling on the lens to the detriment of picture taking, and it needs to be durable and not too much of an eyesore. Mugen show their experience with extended batteries here – it not only fits beautifully, but it also has a wide and sloping opening for the camera, and looks very congruous with the rest of the phone by matching the textured look of the original cover. Its gets better though, while they may have matched the looks with the original cover, they’ve upped the ante with the materials. Despite the original cover’s texture, it still felt a little slick to the fingers – Mugen have used a material that looks essentially identical, but actually has a more rubbery/grippy sensation to it.
All in all I’m loving having Mugen’s extended battery on hand, I wouldn’t be without it now. If you’re in the market for an extended battery for your SGSII I think their one is a really great option.
If you’re not keen on extended batteries there are other options – stay tuned!