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Android Battery Life, Nexus, and Motorola: What's the Problem?

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Does Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) have an internal communications problem?

On the December quarter conference call, Larry Page said, "Battery life is a huge issue. You shouldn't have to worry about constantly having to recharge your phone."

This is from a company that has as its signature device the Nexus series of smartphones that were engineered with HTC (TPE:2498), Samsung (KRX:005930) and LG (NYSE:LPL) over the last few years.

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Google has said repeatedly that the Nexus program shows off "the best of Android." That's true, on many fronts, including software.

The Galaxy Nexus, launched in the fourth quarter of 2011 and still selling today, was one of the very first phones with 720x1820 resolution. Nexus phones were also some of the first with NFC.

But Page was speaking about a specific hardware problem on the conference call -- batteries -- and the Nexus smartphones don't have good battery lives. Granted, there are other Android phones that are worse. But I don't know anyone with one of the two most recent Nexus phones (Samsung Galaxy Nexus and LG Nexus 4) who is happy with the batteries.

Adding insult to injury, when Google launched the eternally short-in-supply Nexus 4 in the fourth quarter of 2012, the phone didn't have a removable battery. At least if the battery is removable, you can choose to carry a spare battery in your pocket, or you can replace the battery with a bigger one that will last longer.

Another division of Google, located in an isolated spot in Illinois and known as Motorola, has a much better track record when it comes to batteries. Long before it was acquired by Google, Motorola Mobility launched the Droid Razr Maxx smartphone, which has the best battery life of any Android smartphone on the market.

The Droid Razr Maxx is outfitted with a 3,300 mAh capacity battery, some 50% greater than the Nexus 4. The battery in the Galaxy Nexus is even smaller.

The Droid Razr Maxx saw an upgrade, planned long before Google's acquisition of Motorola closed, in late 2012, but the battery size remained the same class-leading kind. As to what comes next, we don't know.

The Motorola devices, however, are not Nexus devices. The current version of Android running on Nexus is 4.2.1. Some of the Motorola devices just got 4.1, but many Motorola devices are not there yet, and some will never get there. Some won't even get to 4.0, even though it was launched more than a year ago.

Demand for "pure Nexus" has increased dramatically in recent months as more consumers realize they don't want to have phone manufacturers and mobile network operators force Android modifications upon them. Consumers want their OS upgrades, and they want them as soon as Google issues them.

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