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Nokia’s ‘3-day’ phone battery struggles to last the weekend

“Three-day battery life. A long-lasting battery and more processing power to take you through the weekend.” These are the exact words on Nokia’s website for the Nokia G11, and a serious selling point for the cheap Android phone. But is it an accurate statement? I’ve spent nearly a week with the G11 to find out, and unfortunately, it seems Nokia may be overselling the phone’s capabilities.

Three-day battery?

The claim comes with a caveat on Nokia’s website, but rather than undersell the statement, the clarification at the bottom of the page gives you even more confidence the G11’s 5,050mAh battery will make short work of a long weekend. It states:

“The three-day battery testing was conducted using a real-life usage test by HMD Global. The test included active usage of a device for five hours per day with a new battery. Usage included gaming, video streaming, calling, sending SMS, browsing, and using apps such as social media, news, navigation, and music. The test was conducted with normal device settings in a lit indoor environment. The device was left on standby overnight.”

Nokia G11 rear panel, resting on Lego.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I don’t usually get anywhere near five hours of use per day, so surely with my two-to-three hours of use on average, the G11 shouldn’t break a sweat getting to that three-day point. I charged the phone up before going to bed and turned it off until 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. As in Nokia’s test I used the phone as normal and left it on overnight in Do Not Disturb while it was connected to Wi-Fi.

I was therefore surprised to find the battery was under 10% by the end of Thursday, which barely counts as two days, let alone three. However, it’s not unusual for a phone’s battery to need a single charge cycle to adapt to usage and settle down, so I gave the G11 the benefit of the doubt, and charged it up ready for another three-day attempt.

It was charged and ready to go at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, and by Saturday evening it was on its last legs. Once more, it struggled to reach even two days’ use, and at this point, due to other factors I’ll come back to, I’d really had enough of the G11. I put my SIM in the Google Pixel 6 Pro, hardly known for its stellar battery life, yet it has been less of a power hog than the Nokia G11.

Heavy use?

You’re probably thinking I hammered the Nokia G11’s battery with hours of gaming and video, right? No, and this is what makes me think it has almost no chance of actually reaching three days. It caught me on a series of busy days where I barely used it, sometimes dropping down to just one hour of use according to Google’s Digital Wellbeing dashboard. Yet it still couldn’t get even close to Nokia’s claimed three days of battery life. So what is a possible reason for this massive discrepancy?

The Nokia G11's battery charging port.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Optimistic marketing, a highly controlled test environment, or even a dodgy review phone are all possible. But it may also have something to do with the processor, modem, and software. I used the Nokia G11 mostly without Wi-Fi, relying on a 4G LTE signal throughout the day, then switching to Wi-Fi in the evening. The signal is average where I live, so the modem may have had to work harder to maintain a connection sometimes, but it’s never dropping out of service. The Nokia G11 doesn’t use a Qualcomm or a MediaTek processor, but a Unisoc T606 chipset with 3GB of RAM.

According to the G11’s specification page, the G11 supports all the required bands to connect with my network and provides good 3G and 4G reception, and while Unisoc (formerly Spreadtrum) isn’t that well-known, it’s still an experienced company. Yet the Nokia G11 chugs along, rarely showing anything beyond lethargy, and during a single 40-minute voice call the battery lost around 15% of its charge. The phone has also been quite buggy over the time I’ve used it, and never feels very put together, software-wise.

A poorly optimized phone will never make good use of the available power, and this may be affecting the Nokia G11’s ability to backup Nokia’s claims.

Using the Nokia G11

What about the rest of the phone? It uses Android 11 and two years of major system updates are promised, but as that will include Android 12 which has been available for almost a year anyway, it’s not that great. I’ve encountered various bugs, including apps not opening properly and the swipe gestures not registering, making the Nokia G11 often quite annoying to use. It’s not a fast phone either, so patience is needed. Trying to rush the phone can result in it getting confused, slowing down even more.

Nokia G11 screen, with the phone resting on Lego.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The screen is also pretty bad. It’s a 6.5-inch LCD with a low 1600 x 720-pixel resolution, and although it has a 90Hz refresh rate, there is an intermittent flicker on mine. It often shows up when the phone has been on standby, and it’s very noticeable in the center of the screen for a short period of time. It makes looking at the G11 quite an uncomfortable experience when it’s there. The screen is also quite dim, has slow and stupid auto-brightness, and poor viewing angles.

The camera isn’t going to sell the Nokia G11 either, with the 13-megapixel main camera delivering average photos in sunlight, and struggling in anything approaching low light. The selfies taken by the 8MP front camera lack detail. But it’s not all bad. I quite like the simple design, it feels well made and hard-wearing, and there’s a hybrid SIM tray with space for two SIMs and a MicroSD card.

No benefits

I stopped using the Nokia G11 after the two attempts to get close to the claimed three-day battery life not explicitly due to it failing to reach the target, but more because of the slow speed, software bugs, and the low-res, flickering screen. This is a cheap phone at 120 British pounds, or about $150, so compromises are to be expected, but it really became tiresome to use.

However, if the battery had lived up to the expectations created by Nokia itself, there’s a good chance I’d feel at least a little differently. Delivering three days of battery life would give the Nokia G11 a true selling point, but two days maximum with relatively light use means it’s unlikely to come anywhere near that goal. It takes away the prime reason you may consider buying the Nokia G11, as other phones with a higher specification will match or beat the standby time.

So what to buy if you only have a small budget? The $199 Motorola G Power (2022) has several of the same drawbacks but the battery seemed to be long-lasting in our review, compared to the Nokia G11. Spending more will get a better smartphone all around, and the 299 pounds OnePlus Nord CE 2 should be at the top of your list. It comes with a faster processor, a better camera, 5G, and quick battery charging. Plus the battery lasts two full days.

Based on the time spent with the Nokia G11, the only chance you’ll get close to the claimed three-day battery life is if you leave it practically untouched in a corner.

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