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Nextbit claims to greatly improve smartphone battery life with software

Can software tweaks really solve our battery woes?

Nextbit Robin James Bareham / The Verge

Nextbit has been one of the more interesting smartphone companies of late. Its head-turning Robin has a striking industrial design, but the company hangs its hat on the unique software features it adds to Android. Its initial trick, Smart Storage, promised to eliminate worries about running out of storage by backing up apps, photos, and other data to the cloud and restoring them as needed.

Today, the company is claiming that it will do the same for battery life when the next version of its operating system launches later this year. According to Nextbit, it "can apply the same intelligence we’ve used for smart storage towards making your battery last significantly longer." It will do this by learning "your habits and optimize functions at the system level to ensure you get the most screen time possible." The new feature will work together with the battery improvements Google has already introduced in Android Marshmallow and are coming to Android N.

Nextbit isn't giving specifics on how the new improvements work

Unfortunately, Nextbit isn’t giving specifics on how the battery enhancements work exactly, nor is it giving specific claims as to how much longer you can expect your phone to last between charges. CEO Tom Moss and CTO Mike Chan repeatedly rebuffed my attempts to get more specific information about the feature during a briefing on the announcement, only saying that it will give peace of mind and make it so "you don’t have to worry about running out of battery life."

The two did note that it goes deeper than simply toggling features such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on or off, and they emphasized that it will improve actual screen-on or usage time with a device, as opposed to the Doze feature in Android which is focused on improving standby. Other device makers have largely tried to solve battery issues by putting larger capacity batteries in their phones, but Chan says Nextbit is committed to finding software solutions to these problems.

Nextbit says the new software will be available for the Robin this fall. Those that have joined the company’s recently launched beta software program will have the opportunity to test it before wider release.

For most people, battery life is the number one thing they’d like to see improvement on in their phone, so it’s not a surprise to see Nextbit focus its efforts here. We’ll have to see just how much of a difference those efforts make when the software is available later this year.