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?

3 thoughts on “Does Anybody Really Care About Kindle vs Nook Battery Life?”

  1. Once again, you’re spot on.

    Amazon is worried and it shows. Their Android line isn’t ready yet and they know it will be an also-ran when it comes out against the nook. If they open it up, it will compete against other Android tablets. If they keep it closed, it will look like a nook wannabe. I think they are feeling cornered.

    If they really want to steal the spotlight back on the low end, they should drop the Kindle 3 to $99 and add in epub support for it. Then, to put the icing on the cake, they should start selling epub alongside Kindle format.

  2. I agree, either reader is going to give you plenty of battery life. While the Nook may last longer, I doubt that it will actually give you 3X the battery life in real world usage.

  3. Well, remember Nook is fighting tooth and nail for market share – every feature bullet point counts to them, particularly if its one they can point to as better than Kindle. Its also important for them to quickly erase what was a negative selling point for them, and turn it into a positive one that they can trumpet.

    From a user perspective, the less often I have to plug something in, the better, even if it does approach diminishing returns. They always run out of juice at the worst time possible – my mother just went on a vacation and had forgot her power cable, and guess how much juice it happened to have when she left?

    So, I welcome the battery arms-race and look forward to all the neat e-reader improvements that will evolve. Long live the competition!

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