Does Anybody Really Care About Kindle vs Nook Battery Life?

There’s been a certain degree of controversy arising from competing claims about the battery life of the Kindle vs the new Nook.  I’m finding it a little bit silly overall, so I thought perhaps it would help to outline the situation and explain what is really going on.  Here’s what we’ve got.

A fairly short while ago, Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) announced the pending release of their new touchscreen Nook eReader.  It would have a better screen than the old Nook, a whole new interface, and basically all the essentials that you would expect from an eReader hoping to compete with the Kindle.  Among these was a battery life measured at an impressive 2 Months.

Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) responded to this claim based on the information available at the time.  The Nook Spec Sheet indicated that they had derived this estimate based on 30 minutes of reading time per day on average.  Since up until now the Kindle had been estimating its battery life based on 60 minutes of reading per day (I guess they assume that their customers like books more?), it was a simple enough matter to change the metric a bit and display the same claim.  No fanfare that I saw, just a quiet change of the product page.

Barnes & Noble didn’t like this, of course, and released a detailed report explaining how they performed the testing side by side with a Kindle.  In their testing, the Kindle came out with 56 hours of reading time while the new Nook managed an impressive 150 hours.  Both of these involved the WiFi being off, of course.  These numbers are impressive, it must be admitted.  Even the Kindle performed far better than Amazon had claimed at any point.  Now, I don’t have information specifically indicating that they took into account battery discharge while the devices were either off or on standby, but it seems fair to assume and hardly matters in the grand scheme.

What’s happened here is that Barnes & Noble has allowed the focus to fall away from the feature that really makes their new Nook stand out to potential customers, the touchscreen, and focused on a comparatively minor point.  Really, when your charging schedule on these things has reached a point where it is better measured on the scale of a calendar than a clock there isn’t going to be a lot of issue anymore.  I can understand why it would be important to them to emphasize this, having actually managed to run through a full charge of the original Nook in 2 days before, but it really isn’t the big deal it is being made out to be.

I don’t know if this is some kind of effort to draw attention away from the fact that their great new product was somewhat anticipated by the earlier release of the eerily similar new Kobo eReader, or if they have simply got different priorities than those that make sense to me, but I’ll admit I don’t get it. I love the Kindle‘s long battery life.  When it comes time to charge, I’ve usually known I was getting close for about a week.  Will it be nice to see the same happen to the Nook?  Of course.  When it comes right down to it, though, I don’t think many people care enough to count the days.  There’s just no room for either pride or outrage on this matter.  So why does it keep coming up?

Strange Kindle battery behaviour

Since I’m currently travelling in the UK for more than a month already, I have Wireless turned off on both Kindle 2 and Kindle DX that I have. After a month of moderate reading while Kindle was getting an occasional small charge only when I connected it to the computer to sync new content battery indicators on both K2 and DX were showing roughly 75% battery capacity.

My original intent was to wait some more and then make a post about how great Kindle battery life is if you turn off the wireless. However before I could do that, interesting thing happened. When my wife turned on her K2 the charge indicator jumped from 75% to “critical low” (battery icon with exclamation mark). Kindle had to be charged. In a couple of days exactly the same thing happened to my Kindle DX.

This happened about one month after devices were fully changed. What is interesting that although my wife read roughly 3 times as many pages as I did, batteries in our devices ran out at about the same time. So it looks like it was more related to idle time rather than usage.

Amazon’s official stance is that with wireless turned off Kindle should go around 2 weeks without a charge depending on the usage. Ours lasted twice as long. However what’s more interesting is the way charge suddenly dropped to zero. Something you should keep in mind if you intend to take your Kindle somewhere without electricity for long time.

I’m interested if anyone has observed similar strange behaviour?

Kindle 2 Features I would love to see

Although I’m extremely happy with my Kindle 2 there are several features I would really like to have (even if only in Kindle 3) ordered by descending importance:

  • Full Unicode character support (Cyrillic, Asian, etc). Currently all you see instead of these characters are plain boxes. I realize that this is not high on Amazon’s priority list because there few if any books in the Kindle Store that use these… Still there are books downloadable from the Internet, personal converted documents, web-pages etc. It would be nice not to be limited to English here.
  • Ability to email clippings and highlights (even if only to myself)…. What makes Kindle great is that it’s not tethered to your computer and the only cord you need to plug in once in a while is the power cord. Yet this is not the case with clippings. Imagine, you are reading an article or a book and see a passage that would be very interesting to a friend of yours. Why not add a menu item that would allow you to email it right away using the WhisperNet connection?
  • Ability to cut and paste…. Real-life story: I’m in my car listening to “Book Notes” on NPR. They are running a piece about book by Daniyal Mueenuddin that really interests me so I try to look it up in Kindle Store – no matches… OK, I google for it using basic web and find the article on NPR website. I actually had to find a piece of paper and scribble the name on it so I could then type it in Kindle Store search-box because of my extremely poor memory for names and average spelling skills :) Wouldn’t it be nice I were able to just select the text on the web-page and then copy-paste it into search box. Same would go for book browsing – you can select a single word and it’s automatically put in the search-box but not entire phrase.
  • Better power management. There is no reason why my Kindle 2 should sustain more than 2 weeks of intensive reading on a single charge with wireless turned off and fully drain it in 4 days of hardly any reading at all with wireless turned on given that I only bought 2 or 3 books during this days and have one magazine subscription. I realize that it’s impossible for the device to know if it has something to download (book, magazine or update) without connecting to Amazon servers once in a while but right now it’s doing it way too often. It would be nice to have single menu item that would connect to WhisperNet, check for updates and download them and then turn off wireless automatically. As for magazine subscriptions, they come out on a regular schedule to it should be easy to turn the radio on just once a day and turn it off afterwards.
  • Password protection. It may be a minor thing but still… Kindle can be used to read personal documents that may be sensitive and browse the web (possibly storing authentication cookies). And of course there is a possibility that your 3-year-old would start pressing buttons and order one the $6,000+ books. Or someone may do it as an evil prank…
  • Hack-free custom screen-saver. I can imagine that I’m not the only one who would like to customize my Kindle 2 not only by the means of skins.

What I’m going to do now is email this list to [email protected]. If you feel that these or other features are important to you, you can do the same. From my past experience of working in large corporations I know that massive customer feedback does work sometimes.

What about you? What features would you like to see in your eBook readers?

Kindle Battery Charger – Run Your Kindle On AA Batteries

igo-universal-battery-chargerElectronic gadgets are nice but until Witricity goes commercial there is this annoying need to recharge the things. And even when it does I doubt there will be many Witricity hot-spots in Yellowstone National Park or more remote “in-the-middle-of-nowhere’s”.

It’s not that big of a problem if gadget in question uses regular widely available standard batteries like AA, AAA, C, D etc. But some don’t. Such gadgets turn to useless paper weights once the power runs out if you are away from the power-outlet or just don’t have the proper charger available. This was the case for my iPhone and Kindle. After running out of power caused one too many inconveniences I decided to do something about it.

emergency-aa-battery-charge-extender-for-kindleI found myself another gadget that I never leave home without: iGo Universal Battery Operated Charger along with cables that connect to accessories that I carry. This was a real life-saver for me. Anytime a battery is about to run out in the middle of phone conversation or Kindle refuses to go online because it doesn’t have enough charge left to power the EVDO modem I just plug it in and it works. Because “Kindle battery charger” doesn’t need to be charged itself but runs on regular AA batteries itself I can always get more power. It also proved very handy during trip to Yellowstone National Park – I just stocked up on batteries and had all the travel guides and maps readily available on my Kindle and even internet access in select places.

There are dozens of iGo accessories available so you can pick the ones that go with your gadgets. What iGo did was a pretty obvious yet cool thing. They’ve created a modular power platform. Consisting of power sources (AA batteries, AC for pretty much any country in the world, 12V car) and power connectors for pretty much any device including all standard connectors like mini-B and micro-B USB.

Another device along the same lines is: Emergency AA Battery Charge Extender for the Amazon Kindle 1. This one however is a bit heavier as it takes 4 AA batteries.

Kindle battery woes

Does Amazon have a problem with the Kindle replacement battery? There seems to be a mixed bag when it comes to the Kindle battery, while some people get awesome battery life it seems like others get a raw deal with the battery.

Amazon Kindle battery

Amazon Kindle battery customer reviews

As you can see, the Kindle battery is out of stock which tells my that there is a real problem with the battery and it isn’t just effecting a handful of people. It scores a pitiful 2.5/5 in the customer satisfaction review which also backs up the theory that the Kindle battery is somewhat volatile when it comes to consistent performance.

The reviews paint a worrying picture:

J. E. Link writes:

My Kindle battery failed within 3 months. It is yet another poor quality Lithium Polymer battery manufactured in Communist China. I had hoped that Amazon would have done better with it’s Kindle product. This is not encouraging.

Michael T. Earle

While I love my Kindle, the original battery that came with it only lasted a mere three months (and not real heavy usage) and is now dead and won’t recharge. And now I see Amazon is sold out of replacements!

James Mueller “Gadget Head”

My battery is dead after only 3 months as well. Based on the comments I have read others are having the same issue. Is Amazon looking into this? Are they going to make good on the replacement batteries for customers who have this problem? It’s a shame, the device is great. I hope they don’t let this issue overshadow the device’s good points. Take a lesson from Apple when the iPod had battery issues when it first came out. FIX IT!

When the iPod came out it was plagued with battery issues, it Apple took a long time to fix them and it definitely hurt iPod’s image – its time Amazon learned from Apple’s misfortune. Lets hope its not as as bad as it looks, how is your Kindle battery, have you had to have it replaced?