Earlier this week, I was posed the question, ‘On a mobile device, what’s more important, battery life or user interface?‘ Of course, the first answer is both, but on a more serious note, it’s a really interesting question.
Prior to my experience with the BlackBerry Bold 9700, I would have said user interface, hands down. It has to be easy/intuitive to use any mobile device, and especially in the post-iPhone world, UI is everything. However, UI means nothing if your device doesn’t stay powered on long enough for you to enjoy it. Case in point, the Nokia N97 or my HTC Eris. Both have great user interfaces (in my opinion), but with both of them, I find myself constantly having to make a decision – whether the planned task is going to hose my battery too bad. Do I really need to use the GPS to drive to work, or is it going to tax my battery too much to be worth it? How long can I use my phone with Last.FM for music in the car without leaving me with a dead battery the rest of the day? Questions like that really happen in my daily life.
With the BlackBerry Bold 9700, I had my first all-day battery experience on a mobile device. Despite my best efforts, I was completely unable to kill the battery on that phone in a single day. Thus, I was able to use any and all parts of the phone with no concern as to what state it would leave my battery in. Personally, I found the BlackBerry user interface completely lacking – ugly icons, little to no transition effects, boring old menu structure, limited interaction options, etc. However, I’m willing to deal with all that in order to get such great battery life.
One thing to consider, though, with the battery life, is whether there’s a threshold. For me, if I can get through 12 hours of continuous real-world use (email, Twitter, Facebook, SMS, streaming music, a bit of browsing, etc) without needing a charge, I’m golden. I don’t need a 3-day battery charge, as I sleep every night, and can plug my phone in then. So, once a device offers battery life equivalent to the Bold 9700, there’s really no reason to stress for additional battery life, and focus should then be redirected to user interface, if that makes sense?
What do you think? Is user interface really the end-all-be-all, the holy grail, as it seems to be thought of today, or is battery life still something that most mobile devices can strive to improve? What’s more important, if you had to pick one? Would you be willing to put up with a slightly lackluster user interface in exchange for seemingly endless battery life, or would you rather charge all day but have a gorgeous user interface?