November 02, 2011

Article at Hydrapinion

Battery dramas fuel finger-pointing – but are they pointing the wrong way?

So, it's over 16 hours since I unplugged my brand-spankers iPhone 4S, and it still has 62 percent battery charge.

I have not, to be fair, set the battery on a course to self-destruction by loading 30 games and network-intensive social-media apps at once. Nor have I watched scads of movies in a row while furiously texting and browsing the Net to look up in-movie references.

No, I have, mainly, sent a number of messages, made some phone calls, done some Twitter reading on Tweetdeck, and tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to engage Siri in a bit of raunchy dialogue; I haven't had this many rejections since high school.

By all accounts, I'm among the lucky ones. If online reports are to be believed, the iPhone 4S is sucking down power like a WAG at an open-bar awards night – and doing it within minutes. The SMH, for example, quotes an anonymous Apple Store employee who says battery life on his phone was "dropping 10 per cent an hour even with non important location settings, Siri, Bluetooth, and other features switched off."

We may expect batteries to last for days, but they all wear out eventually. How quickly, however, is something we can control.
All batteries wear out eventually. How quickly, though, isn't entirely out of your control. [Pic: CC BY-SA 3.0]

Horses for courses, I guess, but I have Siri, Bluetooth, WiFi, Google Web mail, and iCloud set up, and nothing seems to have gone feral on my battery life. Which begs the question: what are those suffering bad battery life doing so wrong?

A post at Computerworld may shed some light: "It's getting to the point where a lazy blogger can't get through a night without their Sleep Cycle app lapsing into the land of Nod at about the five hour mark," journalist Andrew Birmingham noted.

Which is interesting, because Sleep Cycle specifically recommends that users run it through the night with the phone plugged in. Even older iPhones would struggle to run nearly any app for six to ten hours while continuously reading the phone's motion sensors and collecting data on the user's movement.

So, is the problem the phone, or what people are expecting it to do?

Some observers are suggesting the issue is not so much with the iPhone 4S hardware, as with iOS 5. This is entirely possible: any major software update invariably includes bugs small and large, and there's no reason to assume iOS 5 is any different. There is also, by the way, no reason to assume that other mobile OSes – Google's Ice Cream Sandwich, for example – will be any better.

It's always interesting to see how quickly users are willing to rush and attack the new device for which they slept out overnight, often failing to consider that it may be their own usage patterns causing the trouble. Vendors promise battery life based on observed milliamp draw mixed, one would assume, with the results of real-world testing – but every smartphone user worth his or her salt knows that closing non-essential apps, turning off unused wireless features, disabling location services for all but frequently-used apps, and other tricks can extend battery life.

It's also important to consider that the network may well be the problem: Mrs Carry, for example, recently brought her Optus-connected iPhone 3GS overseas and found the battery repeatedly running down within an hour while trying to lock onto a carrier signal. The phone, which was running iOS 4.2 and not the version being blamed on the iPhone 4S, simply tried over and over and over again, burning through precious battery power within about half an hour – but it then returned to normal battery consumption after it was brought back to Australia and its home network.

We love to blame technology for our problems, but it's also important to consider the implications of the way we use it. And while time may prove that iOS 5 needs a bit of tweaking to run optimally, there seems to be a lot of jumping-to-conclusions going on in this particular instance. As Eric Clapton famously pointed out: it's in the way that you use it.

How has your battery been going? Perhaps you've gotten battery problems on other platforms? And what tricks have you found to extend its life?

[HY03] [Original here]