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How Pokemon Go affects your phone's battery life and data

Just how badly does Pokemon Go drain your battery and monopolize your data plan? Let's find out.

Josh Miller
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Pokemon Go seems to be a huge battery hog. That's not too surprising: Nintendo's smash-hit mobile game fires up your phone's GPS, graphics processor, cellular radio and camera, AND requires you to keep your screen nice and bright so you can see it outdoors...all at the same time.

But just how much battery does Pokemon Go really drain -- and does it wolf down data too?

Let's put it to the test!

External battery packs are the way to Go.

Josh Miller/CNET

The test

In order to make sure we were doing the most apples-to-apples comparison possible, we needed to control for a whole lot of factors. For instance:

  • Screen brightness (brighter = more battery drain)
  • Cell strength (less = more battery drain as phone tries to boost signal)
  • Background applications (we wanted to be sure we were measuring Pokemon Go, not other apps)
  • Different smartphone processors (some are more efficient)
  • Different battery sizes

To start, we decided to do all our testing with a single phone: Rebecca's Apple iPhone 6S.

We turned off the auto brightness setting, set brightness to roughly 80 percent, disabled all our background apps and made sure we walked the exact same route around San Francisco each time to control for cellular strength -- a route that, coincidentally, loops around Google's San Francisco offices.

The route we took

Google Maps

Then we did the route twice more: one run where we browsed Facebook instead of playing Pokemon Go, and one where we simply listened to Spotify with the phone in a pocket. After all, what we really want to know is how Pokemon Go compares with other apps, no? Lastly, we listened to Spotify while playing Pokemon Go to see if there might be a compound effect.

Each run took 30 minutes, and we recharged the phone to 100 percent battery between each run.

The result

On the iPhone, Pokemon Go is definitely a battery hog -- but not a data one. We generally saw under 10MB of data use for a half-hour of play. That's less per hour than I spend on Gmail, to say nothing of streaming video. (A Verizon spokesman said Pokemon Go accounts for less than 1 percent of the total usage on Verizon's network, even though the game is among the top 20 apps in terms of traffic.)

If you're on T-Mobile, the carrier will even waive the charge from your data plan.

The battery results were pretty bad news, though:

  • Pokemon Go = 15 percent battery usage for 30 minutes of play
  • Facebook = 5 percent battery for 30 minutes
  • Spotify (offline playback) = 0 percent for 30 minutes
  • Pokemon Go and Spotify together = 17 percent battery use for 30 minutes

At that rate, you can expect an iPhone 6S to die in under 7 hours of Pokemon Go -- but that's assuming Pokemon is the only app running on your phone! Anecdotally, one of our staffers burned through 45 percent of an iPhone 6S's battery in 30 minutes on a different, uncontrolled run, and my personal Galaxy S7 no longer lasts a full work day if I play any Pokemon at all.

Now that you know that your Pokemon addiction might drain your battery, what can you do about it? For starts, there's the game's built-in battery saver mode.

You might also check out our roundup of five phones with the best battery life, or invest in a battery case or external battery pack for your phone.