iPhone 4S - The Battery Saga

November 3, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I upgraded my phone to the iPhone 4S. My old contract was expiring, and my old phone was long in the tooth (the WIFI ceased working 18 months ago, the battery would not hold a charge to last out the day, but I nursed it along - don't ever accuse me of trading in my gadgets for the latest fad).

While not climbing into the rarified realm of true Apple fangirl, I am a big user of their products. So when I got my new phone I gleefully left its charger at home the first day - thinking "yippee, I am no longer a slave to my plug!". Which left me completely nonplussed when the battery died just after noon. A six hour charge implied even worse performance than my gimpy, tired, 3-year-old iPhone original 3G. Frowny faces ensued.

It seems I'm not alone. So I decided to do some research and run some tests. Here's a handy chart documenting my results (click to view full size).

Horizontal axis is hours from when I disconnected the phone from the plug. All start at 100% charge. Vertical access is percent battery remaining. In all tests, WIFI and 3G data were enabled.

The blue line is my first test. I followed the recommendations on the forums, and disabled diagnostics and error logging and reporting, turned off Siri, and turned off Find My iPhone. I turned off the location services for compass calibration and setting the time zone. I also disabled all notifications, and killed any app I started right after using it. I think I made one or two calls, and sent about 5 texts during this test. I put the phone in airplane mode overnight as it sits near my head because it's also my alarm clock. That's hours 4.5 through 11.5, and 28.5 through 37.5.

The green line is my second test. I re-enabled Find My iPhone, and Siri, and turned on Twitter notifications. I did make a point of killing apps as soon as I finished using them. I stopped logging data for this test as its trajectory looked similar to test 1. Which made me feel somewhat better about using the phone as it's meant to be used.

The red line is today. Last night before I went to bed, I noticed the battery charge starting to diminish faster than normal. So without turning the phone off, I put it on the charger. Half an hour after it came off the charger this morning, I noticed the phone had lost 7% battery charge, even though it was still in airplane mode, so I started logging again. I turned off airplane mode. Twitter notifications were on. The Facebook, Twitter, and Mail apps were running in the background. Note that I only push Twitter mentions, I do not push Mail or FB updates. [Ed.: In going through my notes, I noticed I killed the FB app at 8:30 AM] I was in meetings all afternoon so I missed the actual point the battery went to zero, but at 6:30 PM, 11 hours after it was taken off the charger, the phone was dead. I made and received no phone calls. I sent and received no texts. A few Twitter notifications came in.

I like Apple products. But I also expect my brand new product to actually be better than the old one I considered broken. Apple says a fix is forthcoming, in a few weeks. It better be, because I've tried the DIY fixes (with the exception of resetting my contacts), but that still gave me today's red line.

Which is unacceptable given my usage. Sorry, Apple. I really like you, but this battery thing bites.

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