There are a lot of things about this phone that remind me of the legendary Nokia brick phones of old. Battery life is absolutely not one of them. This is the first time I’m getting the chance to fully test battery life on a Windows Phone 8 device. Until now, I haven’t seen the option to set display timeout to “never” on one of the Nokia devices—the maximum was 5 minutes on the 920, 820, and 810. The 521 has a 1430 mAh 3.7V battery, putting it at 5.29 Wh—a far cry from the 9+ Wh batteries we see in a lot of higher end phones these days. This results in battery life being...not great—easily one of the poorest results we’ve seen in the 2013 Smartphone Bench after the original Galaxy Note and the notoriously short-lived Galaxy Nexus.

It’s worth noting, too, that the 521 is using single-carrier HSPA+ as the air interface during our mobile broadband test. That’s technically 4G, but obviously offers less bandwidth than the DC-HSPA+ we’re used to seeing on T-Mobile.

AT Smartphone Bench 2013: Web Browsing Battery Life (3G/4G LTE)

AT Smartphone Bench 2013: Web Browsing Battery Life (WiFi)

Cellular Talk Time

I did the battery life testing at the medium brightness setting (191 nits), since that was the closest to the 200 nits we use as the baseline and well within the margin of error. Talk time is a bit more respectable, indicating that the display and backlight are perhaps a bit less efficient than in other devices.

When you think about these results in the context of the battery capacity, the 521 is actually pretty efficient from a power standpoint. Obviously, with a dual-core CPU clocked so low combined with a relatively small display, this makes sense; I just wish that Nokia had specced at least a slightly larger battery to get more competitive runtimes.

Meet the Lumia 521 Performance, IE10 Mobile, and Cellular
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  • Gunbuster - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    This may be down to confusion on how to "re-open" an app. If you long press the back arrow capacitive button you get the running apps and have almost no lag. If you hit windows and select the live tile for an already open app it kills that app and loads it again fresh. I don't really agree with that design choice as it seems to confuse most users. Reply
  • Myrandex - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    You can hit the start button, go back to the homescreen, and select an app and still get fast refresh. It still needs to be recently run though. I do this frequently. Reply
  • Collin5 - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    It seems unlikely that Vivek doesn't know about the task switcher, but who knows?

    However, not all apps are reloaded when relaunched from a live tile. Some apps support a feature called "fast resume", which allows them to resume instantly, even when reactivated via a live tile. Unfortunately, apps must support this feature explicitly, and the fact that not all do leads to behavioural inconsistencies, which is why I agree with you (and Vivek) that at least this aspect of WP multitasking is poorly designed. Fast resume support must be mandatory.
    Reply
  • althaz - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    This is the same behaviour as iPhone and Android (disclaimer: I haven't used an iPhone for over a year). Reply
  • Azurael - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    I was about to say I very rarely encounter this issue on my phone, but then I remembered that the Nexus 4 has 2GB of RAM so it's not exactly an Apples to Apples comparison. I usually have to run 10+ apps to start seeing the reload on taskswitch behaviour...

    Android, however, doesn't relaunch apps if you select them from the home screen - the behaviour is exactly the same (and instant, if the app has already been launched) as using the task switcher.

    I guess the biggest difference in reality is that - at least in theory - Android 4.x devices should have a task switcher button, which is a lot more obvious to the user than holding back. Having said that, a lot of 'three button' Android devices are stuck with an obsolete and practically useless menu button instead due to pigheaded device manufacturers ignoring Google's UI guidelines, and then we're stuck with the same behaviour but holding the home button instead...
    Reply
  • Seurahepo - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    No, it is NOT. iPhone apps are not "reactivated" when launched from the home screen. No matter how the user comes back to an app it is instant (provided it has been recently used and it is still in memory).

    Could some of you WP fans explain to me *why* the apps are slowly restarted from the live titles? Blaming the users are using the phone wrong is kind of defensive, seems like there is a big UI/UX problem for no apparent reason.
    Reply
  • althaz - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    This is entirely dependent on the app devs actually. Most do choose to reload the app if you go back to the start screen and then load the app. Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    That's madness... Because people who are new to smartphones tend to ignore quicker methods of multi-tasking and usually resort to tapping home and reopening apps from shortcuts/tiles/all apps...

    At least that's what I've observed among older clients and family members of mine, regardless of OS. If they're on an iPhone they'll seldom double tap home (if they even know about it) and on Android they flat out ignore the app switching button (a decision reinforced by HTC's choice to eliminate it I imagine, or hide it behind multiple home taps rather).
    Reply
  • toraji - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    good points collin Reply
  • mi1stormilst - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    I just picked up one on Craigs List for $115 new in the box (from HSN deal). It came with a cheap pair of headphones, car charger and a soft case. I charged it up and went to the t-mobile website to sign up for the $30.00 a month pre-paid plan (100 mins of talk time, unlimited text and data). I am using it as a home phone and a phone for my two youngest kids to share when they are away from home. We all like the physical phone, camera is decent (needs a flash) and the interface is clean and fun. The speed of the OS is mostly snappy the data connection is faster than expected. Battery life is more than acceptable if you are not playing and staring at it all day. I only have two complaints: 1.) The OS does seem to slow down occasionally in different screens especially when trying to type in the keyboard. 2.) It is not clear how to close down apps or navigate in the Browser. I am satisfied with the phone overall and have recommended it to budget minded folks. Reply

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