Let the Browser Battery Wars begin

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 7, 2016
Updated • May 22, 2018

Remember the time when browser developers focused on JavaScript speed? This started with the release of Google Chrome, and Google's initial focus on speed.

While that certainly helped, especially since organizations and companies like Mozilla or Opera had to improve their engines as well to provide users with a similar experience, it put other features such as customization or control on the backburner.

The focus changed eventually, when all browsers shipped with reasonably fast JavaScript engines. The main reason for that is that while there are still differences in speed, their impact on a user's experience is minimal except for the odd web application that runs a lot better when a certain feature runs faster.

Nowadays, focus seems to have switched to battery live. The past couple of months has seen Microsoft release a battery comparison that saw Edge coming in first and Chrome last, and Opera Software shipping its browser with a battery saver mode that the company claims beats other browsers.

And now it is Google's time to claim that battery life in Chrome 53 has improved significantly over previous versions of the browser.

Google demonstrates the improvement with a comparison video that pits Chrome 46 released in 2015 against Chrome 53 released in 2016 against each other.

In that video, the device running Chrome 46 dies after 8:27 hours of playing a Vimeo video while the identical device running Chrome 53 dies after 10:39 hours or 2:12 hours longer.

Google did not test Chrome 53 against other browsers.  If you remember Microsoft's tests, it did use Surface Books for the testing as well. The company's browser Edge came in first with 7:22 hours of battery time while Chrome came in last with 4:19 hours.

The tests cannot be compared with each other, as different videos were used in the tests.

Update: Microsoft released an update battery test that showed the improvements made in the Anniversary Update compared to the Fall 2015 update.

Additionally, Microsoft compared Edge against Chrome and came to the result that Edge is more efficient than Chrome (and Opera and Firefox).

The company created a new side by side comparison which Edge one against the other browsers.

Closing Words

It seems clear that battery time is the new battleground for browser developers, with each claiming the coveted "best in class" spot for themselves.

Playing a video non-stop until the battery dies is probably not the best "real world" test that one could come up with to test battery life. Most users are probably not using their mobile devices to play videos non stop.

What's missing is an independent test that pits all major browsers using default configurations against each other in real-world scenarios.

While one browser may very well be more optimized than others, it is clear that all users will benefit from this new battleground eventually. Browser developers will start pushing improvements to better their software's battery life; a process that has already started.

Now You: Do you care about battery life?

Let the Browser Battery Wars begin
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Let the Browser Battery Wars begin
Browser developers such as Google, Microsoft or Opera have found a new battleground to compete in: battery life of their browsers.
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  1. chesscanoe said on September 8, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    I just use my clamshell phone to talk when I’m away from home. At home I use my laptop there 95% of the time, and it’s plugged in to A.C.. So battery concerns are certainly legitimate, but not my worry.

  2. Gary D said on September 7, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    All these tests to prove how long a battery lasts. Duracell does exactly the same in TV adverts for torch, toy, etc., batteries.
    Remember that these “proofs” are written and recorded by Marketing personnel.
    Marketing departments are renowned for telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth about products. :-)

  3. Fx0 said on September 7, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    > This started with the release of Google Chrome, and Google’s initial focus on speed. While that certainly helped, especially since organizations and companies like Mozilla or Opera had to improve their engines as well to provide users with a similar experience

    That sounds like Google would be the best in general wrt JavaScript performance. But, for example, asm.js is a Mozilla invention and Google had to improve their engine to provide Chrome users with a similar experience. Every browser (and JS engine) has strengths and weaknesses.

    Also “it put other features such as customization or control on the backburne” is misleading because the javascript engine and the frontend of a browser (where customization happens) are totally different things with different teams of developers.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 8, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      When Chrome started out, there was no asm.js or any other serious effort by Mozilla or Microsoft to improve JavaScript speed. Sure, they worked on that, but it was not a focus.

      Then came Chrome, and the focus changed quickly. Yes, nowadays things have changed but back then things were different.

      Chrome is arguably the browser with the least customization options out there when it started. Heck, even Internet Explorer supported things like toolbars which Google’s browser did not and still does not.

      Their focus was on other things, and while they surely put some thought into the UI and had a dedicated team working on it, the result was a browser that gave users less customization options.

      Many users seem to like it, so from a marketing point of view that was probably a good decision.

    2. Croatoan said on September 7, 2016 at 10:33 pm

      It’s not misleading. It means that team of developers for javascript got increase in work force while customization team got huge decrease in work force.

      1. Fx0 said on September 8, 2016 at 4:07 pm

        It’s misleading because the one has nothing to do with the other.

  4. Khidreal said on September 7, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    I DO care about battery life, but I think they are making tests on the wrong devices…

    nowadays everybody – or almost – has internet on their phones and therefor they go to facebok or twitter from there. do you know how weird you feel like going on a train, with your laptop open? people staring at you like if you were some addict? they are testing browser battery efficiency on laptops, do you really think someone would buy a laptop specifically for going around visiting google or something?
    if the motive is to go to internet, even my old 10 year phone can do that… and still the battery will last for the entire week. why would I use a laptop to do it? that’s why I think they are testing the wrong devices, laptops are vanishing, on the last 2 years I saw a lot of friends and known people selling their laptop for a relatively cheap price and buying a desktop + a tablet/smartphone – even on stores, some stores already do this: desktop + smarthphone/tablet; smatphone/tablet deals.
    nowadays tablets become each time more like a computer and I believe in like 10 years it won’t justify to buy a laptop – I am saying crap, it already does not justifies to buy a laptop – it will be more worth buying a tablet – it’s smaller, as powerful as a laptop, games, programs… only big difference is you use your finger…

    and it’s not only me who says this, if you watch a lot of sci-fi films about the future like me, you already noticed there are no laptops, you always see desktop and tablets, most of them not even use phones, they use tablets as a phone – which is already a reality nowadays – or they use something like a smarwatch. I believe laptops will vanish during the next 10 years, and phones during next 15, traded by smartwatches or tablets. actually I know 1 person that uses a tablet instead of a phone, and I think this is the area they should be testing, not laptops, they should do this kind of improvements on their mobile platforms like android and iOS, which are the future, right now they are focusing on a “pre-dead” platform.

    1. Gary D said on September 7, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      @ Khidreal

      “right now they are focusing on a “pre-dead” platform”

      So you are saying that my Laptop is an Electronic Zombie. Should I be frightened ? How do I kill it ! :-)

      1. Khidreal said on September 8, 2016 at 2:59 am

        what I am saying is that laptops are not dead, but are not alive either… you are taking this like if it was like a joke or something, but think about it, how’s the technology world going? what areas are companies like Nvidea, AMD or even intel focusing more on? what has the most -buy rate during the passed couple of years? things like that… clearly laptops are not the winners LOL. and when things like this happen, well, usually they just… die…vanish… that’s why you have a thing called dead projects, or discontinued projects, as you may prefer. everything reaches a point it can’t adapt anymore, and laptops can’t do it anymore… that’s why each day it passes you have smaller objects, like the creation of laptops – created because desktop PC’s can’t addapt to mobility. I think you are smart enough to get the point… it’s like nature’s evolution process: you can’t adapt, your species die. that’s the ultimate rule nature imposes to all forms of like, rule which is also imposed to all the things we – and other species – create.

      2. Earl said on September 7, 2016 at 11:45 pm

        I’m pretty sure he’s saying [only?] zombies go to facebook (not a surprise, really). I don’t go there myself–guess I’m not “everyone”. Maybe zombies can’t use real computers? Too complicated? (Meh.)

  5. Anonymous said on September 7, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Google should give us also the result of its tests about how long people are chance to survive or kill someone using their android phones while driving. Poor children in the back watching their videos thinking to the life of their battery instead of theirs.

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