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How many photos can you take on a smartphone before your battery dies?

I am ditching my "real" camera for an upcoming trip to Spain. I will be using my Pixel 3A smartphone exclusively for photos. With my old camera, I used to take 200 to 300 photos in a day, with one extra spare. I intend to buy a power pack, but I'm trying to figure out how much extra capacity (and weight) I need to carry.

I could just sit my living room and keep snapping and counting photos until my phone battery dies. However, that is not very realistic. There's a big difference between doing that and walking around using your phone in real life, taking photos, viewing them, using Google searches, reading about attractions, checking GPS and maps etc. on the go.

So how many photos can you take on your smartphone before your battery dies?

Thanks.

Posted by
10679 posts

In 2019 I had an older iPhone that was rapidly dying and it would conk out by noon. I got a new iPhone in 2020 and even with navigation with Citymapper, using data for surfing when I stop for a break I've never even come close to running out of battery no matter how many pictures or videos I take. I traveled in April/May to Europe and in June to Yellowstone. Cell service is poor in Yellowstone so there is battery drain due to it searching for a signal but I still did not drain.

I'm not familiar with your phone so just giving you my iPhone experience.

I will say if your phone is older I'd check on battery drain and maybe move up before you travel.

Posted by
784 posts

It does depend on the amount of power to take the photo , as videos use more power and night photos need slightly more power so it seems that’s when I’ve run out of battery power most often— taking photos of lunar eclipses and city buildings at night. Also, very hot or very cold temperatures seem to knock But if you mostly use it in Daylight in average temperatures would guesstimate about 250-300 frames on a battery
charge.

Posted by
5926 posts

There are sooooo many variables, it's an impossible question to answer. Depends on the phone, on the photo settings, other phone settings, environmental conditions, other things your phone is doing (it does the things you explicitly ask it to do, like take photos, but it does other things quietly in the background, like looking for wifi to connect to, looking for GPS satellites, cell towers, downloading app updates, and a hundred other things), depends on the battery capacity and condition, the day's weather...the list goes on.

Best way to find out is to just give it a try -- while you have a fully-charged power bank along for when it does die.

That's one of the disadvantages of replying on a phone -- you can't just swap in a fresh battery, like you can with a real camera. Powerbanks, yeah, that's an option but it's not as convenient as having another charged battery (or two) along for the day. One of the many trade-offs in the mix.

You know the snarky answer to your question...

So how many photos can you take on your smartphone before your battery
dies?

One less than you'll need to get that "shot of a lifetime" (if you're unlucky). 😎

Posted by
732 posts

My real camera battery has a spec rating of about a 250 shots. It took me several day trips with real life trial and error to figure out that I could only get about 100 to 150 shots before the battery would die. And then I bought spare batteries accordingly.

I'm not going to have an opportunity to go through the same trial and error process with my smartphone. Power bank cost and weight increase proportionately with capacity. I'm trying to figure out the right size to buy.

I figured there must be a lot of travelers out there who have already gone through the process that can give me a rough idea based on their own experiences. Even though there are lots of variables with phone models, brightness settings, time taken to compose shots or to review them, etc., but it would still be helpful for me before I purchase a power bank. Thanks.

Posted by
9119 posts

For me using a power bank while using my phone is awkward and inconvenient. After my last trip, in March & April, I decided to buy a phone case with built in battery charger. That way I can easily use my phone while it’s charging. I have an iPhone, but I imagine other phone brands have similar cases. I’m in Scotland now, finishing 3 weeks of a 10 week trip. I’ve used the case just a few times so far. Normally I use my regular case because it’s lighter. I also brought my power bank and I’m using it now to charge my phone overnight because my B&B has inconveniently placed outlets. I’ll charge the power bank while I’m out and about tomorrow.

Posted by
28827 posts

I couldn't answer about a Pixel - I only speak apple

Posted by
732 posts

Nigel, how many photos can you take with your Apple iPhone before the battery will die?

Posted by
15326 posts

Maybe carry a power cable and 2-prong adapter with you. At some point you are likely to stop for a break. If you're at a bar or restaurant, you can ask to charge your phone while you eat. Not ideal, but as an emergency measure . . .

Posted by
2284 posts

I can’t answer the question either, but with my iPhone 12, I do tend to run out of battery during the day more than “rarely”. And yes, video definitely eats up more battery! However I used my phone throughout the day for more than just photos.

One thing I do that really helps is keep my phone in Low Power Mode (I have to make that choice each morning). And of course, I carry a very small power pack if I am going to be inconveniently situated for charging.

Posted by
732 posts

Thanks, anyways.

I borrowed a fast charging power bank today and it charged up my phone from 10% to 90% in about an hour. I figured out the key thing is to find the right fast charging output for my particular phone. FWIW, I am going to buy a USB-C to USB-C 3A output for the faster charging. A USB-A to USB-C 2A output is very slow. With the fast charging, I can quickly charge or top up the phone while having a coffee or on the go between attractions. No need to look for outlet.

The issue is still how much total capacity I will need. I found a 10k mAh power bank which will allow me to charge my Pixel 3a about three times before the bank needs to be recharged. I will just have to figure out on my own how many shots I can get before all my available power is exhausted. I could buy the higher capacity 20k mAh but those power banks weigh close to a pound! I hope the 10k is enough, but I can always buy an additional power pack in Spain if it turns out I have guessed wrong.

I have done the limited film thing in the past, and I don't miss it at all. When I backpacked Europe as a student for 2 months in '83, I carried all my film from home and I had to ration 3 photos per day. So I really had to pick my shots. And, of course, I had no idea how a shot turned out until I got home.

With digital, I have the luxury to snap as many shots as I want, subject to battery life. I should point out that it is more accurate to say that I "keep" 200-300 shots in a day, I actually take more than twice that and delete the bad shots on the go. I always review each shot as soon as I take it. If somebody or something unwanted ends up in the shot or if the horizon is off, I just delete, recompose and take another shot. I may adjust the exposure compensation over several shots before I finally get the exposure or brightness I like. I do this and try to avoid the need for any cropping or post-processing later. That is why it is important for me to get an understanding of the camera phone battery life. Cheers.

Posted by
28827 posts

Nigel, how many photos can you take with your Apple iPhone before the battery will die?

It has never happened. I use my phone to live with so it is always doing something. I always keep a backup charger battery and cable. If the sat-nav sucks the battery down, Waze is particularly good at that, I just pop the cable on for an hour or so and keep going.

I have noticed that Zoom and WhatsApp video calls munch the battery too - but not the camera.

I also take nowhere near as many pics as you appear to. I grew up in the age of Kodachrome.

Posted by
100 posts

I am in London right now and have a Pixel 4a. I have it on all day and am using google maps or taking picturrs and video. I am out the door by 9 and have found that by 2 or 3 pm I am getting a low battery warning. I do carry an Anker portable charger bank. It is a small rod shaped one and it works well and isnt very heavy.

Posted by
271 posts

One thing to think about is that portable chargers are widely available for purchase in Europe (and everywhere else I have been in recent years). So, you could just go with a charger that you think will suit and be light enough, and then get a second one on the road, if you need.

Posted by
1467 posts

I might be repeating something up thread. How old is your phone and more importantly the battery? If it is older perhaps have the battery replaced before your trip?

Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
732 posts

Thanks, Rocket. My Pixel 3a phone is 3 years old. The battery still lasts me all day with normal heavy daily usage. I just loaded a battery monitor app to analyse the current condition and useable capacity of my phone battery. However, even if the condition of the battery is very good, I know that it will still die with all the photos that I will be taking since I will not carry a "real" camera for the first time on a vacation. As I posted above, I just purchased a 10000mAh 7oz. power bank (it should be able to recharge my phone 2 to 3 times) and I have carried out several test charges to figure out how much time I need to charge my phone.

Posted by
31622 posts

You've received lots of answers so far, and I have a few thoughts as well.

How long the battery lasts will depend on the age of the battery and the number of charge/discharge cycles it's had. With a three year old phone, I would expect some degradation of battery performance. Battery drain will be especially high if you're taking a lot of videos. The easiest solution would probably be to use a portable battery pack such as THIS ONE.

The other concern with using a phone for photos and videos is memory capacity. I took a one minute video at a musical concert the other night and it was 115.9 MB. Some of the new phone cameras are 48 MP or more and if shooting RAW (which some are capable of), it will use a lot of memory. At this rate, I may have to upgrade to the new iPhone 14 Pro with 1 TB of memory!

Posted by
732 posts

Thanks, Ken. I am not worried about storage on my phone. As a general rule, I don't shoot videos. I take hundreds of photos in a day. But I will download, review, organize and label them on my laptop at the end of each day while my memory is still fresh. In the unlikely event that the phone storage gets full, I can delete the old photos on my phone to free up storage. My only concern was trying to estimate the minimum battery capacity I would need without adding any unnecessary weight. The particular battery that you suggested is almost a pound which is unwieldy. I have been learning more and more about power banks. That battery only has a maximum input and output of 5volts~2.1amps which is very slow compared to other banks. It would take about 12 to 15 hours to fully charge up that big power bank. And it would be a slow charger for the phone.

Posted by
4725 posts

Pixel 3a user here (but I take maybe 10-20 photos per day when I travel, so not the same usage 😅). A 10 Ah battery should be plenty! I have one, it is already quite heavy, and I can charge my phone several times over with it.
By the way, for fastest charging, don't let the battery dip below 20% or so - the first % are slower to refill than the rest.

Posted by
31622 posts

funpig,

I suggested that particular battery pack just as an example of a higher capacity model. Larger batteries are inherently heavy although LiIon models aren't really hard to carry. That might be the only way to ensure that your phone battery doesn't go flat while you're out touring. My phone by itself weights about half a pound, so the weight of the battery pack wouldn't be a problem.

Posted by
1803 posts

On my Germany trip this year, I took an average of around 50-75 photos a day (I checked my photo library) and I usually start to run low around noon to one. I have an iPhone 12, which is about 2 years old.

I don't really worry about it, though, because I carry an Anker power bank that can recharge the phone with at least 2 full charges and usually more. So I've never actually run out of battery during the day.

Posted by
732 posts

Thanks, Mardee. Useful info, even though our phones are different. At that rate, I may have to recharge approximately 3 times during the day. My new power bank should just be enough. My wife also carries her own power bank but she will not want to help me to take more photos.

Just an FYI, I have been using an app called AccuBattery to analyse the health of my phone battery. According to the app, my 3 year old phone still has approximately 75% capacity which is reasonably good. The app recommends that lithium ion batteries not be charged to 100%. Excessive charging and extra heat causes loss of capacity. It recommends charging only to 80% to extend the life of the battery. In the app, you can set an alarm to go off to remind you to remove the phone from charger.

Posted by
31622 posts

"The app recommends that lithium ion batteries not be charged to 100%. Excessive charging and extra heat causes loss of capacity. It recommends charging only to 80% to extend the life of the battery. In the app, you can set an alarm to go off to remind you to remove the phone from charger."

Based on the information I've seen, most "experts" recommend draining phone batteries to no less than 20%, and then charging to no more than 80%, in order to make them last as long as possible.

I'm using a slightly different method to ensure that I stay within those limits. I recently bought a small accessory device called a Chargie-C which monitors the charge on the phone, and won't allow it to charge beyond the limit that the user sets, such as 80% (there's also a Chargie-A which works with the older USB-A plugs). The unit also allows the user to set a threshold of (for example) 3%. If the charge drops below that, the unit will resume charging back to the target level. I've found this accessory to be very useful as it allows me to use the phone all day and then charge it while sleeping, knowing that it won't go over the level that I've set. The Chargie unit operates in conjunction with an app, which allows communication with the phone during charging. The unit connects between the supplied charger and the phone, so an extra cable is required.

Posted by
732 posts

Ken, that is a very nifty device. I may buy one, but it could be the straw that breaks...

I am already hauling the following:
Laptop, charger, mouse
Tablet (usually, but maybe not this time)
Smartphone, charger
Power bank
Fitness watch, charger
Wireless earbuds
Euro adapter and short extension cord with 3 outlets.
Miscellaneous cables

This "technology tips" question is turning into a "packing" issue for me. I am pretty sure that my hardware weighs more than my packed clothes. And I may need to add a TENS unit to deal with any muscle aches carrying all this stuff. When I was young, I used to haul an SLR camera, camcorder and a baby bottle/diaper bag. But I am not young anymore.

Posted by
31622 posts

funpig,

My packing list is undoubtedly much heaver than what you've described. I take what I feel I'll need and use, and don't give it a second thought. My packing list includes.....

  • a full size Canon 7D dSLR, lenses, spare batteries, lens filters and memory cards. Depending on my goals for the trip, I sometimes add a compact travel tripod. Photography is a main focus of my trips so I want the capability to get the shots I want. Buying a lighter mirrorless camera is not an option as I'm now retired so don't have the ability to buy a whole new camera and lenses. The gear I have works great so I see no logical reason to buy a new camera system.
  • Backup P&S Camera & charger
  • iPhone & charger
  • Netbook & charger. It's an older model and very small & light, but the darn thing is extremely slow! I've thought about taking my Macbook Air but I figure it's safer to take the cheaper Netbook as if it's stolen/lost/damaged, it won't be a huge financial hit.
  • a Plug Adaptor pack which includes adaptors for just about all countries in Europe That's usually carried in my checked luggage, and I have an extra two pin Euro and UK Adaptors in my carry on.
  • A multi-device USB charger (checked luggage) and dual USB charger (carry on).
  • Wired noise cancelling Ear Buds, which I use during flight as well as when roaming around
  • Wired stereo speakers, which are necessary for the Netbook as the built-in speakers are rubbish (checked luggage) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8lyJmDbxsI . They work great with the phone as well.
  • I use a cheap $25 Casio digital dual-time watch, which comes with a 10 year battery.

BTW, the Chargie-C device is extremely small and light. It looks like a USB Memory stick so very easy to carry.

Posted by
732 posts

Ken, I am being somewhat facetious. Somewhat. We are flying Lufthansa which has an 18 lb carry-on limit. Every ounce will count. I am not sure if we can make the limit and avoid a checked bag but we are going to try. I am more concerned about losing that little Chargie. I have lost a few Euro plugs, but those were only a $1 each. My phone is 3 years old, so the phone will become obsolete before the battery wears out. I will probably buy a Chargie when I buy a new phone, unless they build that charge limiting tech into the new phone.

Speaking of obsolescence, what kind of netbook do you have? I have an HP Mini which I dust off for vacations. I love that little netbook because it is plastic, light and cheap. The charger is the size of a Snickers bar. The main reason for the laptop is for downloading all my daily photos so I can organize and label them. It was okay when I was using a camera and downloading directly from the SD card. When I recently tested it with the phone, the transfer by USB cable is unbearably slow. I am planning to pack a faster laptop which has more metal, larger charger and weighs almost double.

Posted by
31622 posts

funpig,

I always check my main bag so not too concerned about weight (within reason of course). The Chargie would be in my carry on with my phone charger so it's not likely it would ever be lost. My phone is also 3 years old, and I've been admiring the new iPhone 14 models, so there might be a new phone in my future.

This is the Netbook I've been using for several years - https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/672329-REG/Toshiba_PLL3AU_00G00C_mini_NB305_N410BL_10_1.html . The Atom processor and Windows Starter just don't have the horsepower to operate quickly. One thing I do like about it is the built-in SD card slot. I insert the card from my P&S camera and it transfers photos very quickly, which I post on a Blog or send to family. Even with a newer smartphone, I will still be packing the P&S along. It's possible that photo management will change on future trips as it's so easy to post or text photos from a smartphone. That would be one big advantage of taking the Macbook Air instead of the Netbook - I could just use AirDrop to transfer photos or videos to the laptop. It's almost instantaneous.

Posted by
732 posts

Ken, that is funny; my HP Mini netbook has the exact same N450 processor and specs as yours. I bought it for our kids in 2010. The hard drive crashed in 2013 and I installed an SSD drive which really sped it up (relatively speaking, of course). FYI, we updated the operating system from Windows 7 Starter to Windows 10 in 2015. I may have had to increase the ram to 2GB. Windows 10 runs perfectly fine on the old netbook. There was no speed difference compared to Windows Starter (both are slow), but the updated OS allowed it to run newer software. You can try updating your OS.

Posted by
31622 posts

If there's no speed improvement with a newer version of Windows, I'm not sure it would be worth the expense and effort to do the upgrade. I'm not really very conversant with Windows stuff so would have to pay someone to do that. It was a cheap computer to begin with, so not really worth the cost.