Apple has only increased the iPhone's battery capacity by 12 percent in six years

Apple has only increased the iPhone's battery capacity by 12 percent in six years

Summary: In six years the iPhone's battery capacity has only increased 12 percent. This a testament to how much more efficient silicon has become over that time.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, iPad, Tablets
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Once upon a time – a little while after the dinosaurs were roaming the earth – the thing that was holding back PCs was Moore's law. You couldn't get enough transistors into a processor to do everything that was expected of the hardware, and it was taking 12 to 18 months for that transistor capacity to double, with resulted a few more megahertz.

Now with processors ticking along at gigahertz speeds, and the silicon having more cores that you can shake a stick of RAM at, processor power isn't much of an issue. Sure, it's nice to have more power, but unless you're doing something like 3D modeling, video rendering, crunching big numbers, or high-end gaming, chances are that most of that power is going to waste.

The shift in focus from the PC to post-PC devices has only hastened the demise of the importance of the processor. With mobile devices, it's not processor power that matters, but power to run the processor and the rest of the device. Being disconnected from a constant power supply puts a lot of pressure on the battery, and as we've moved from nickel-cadmium technology to nickel-metal hydride to the more modern lithium-ion, energy density has increased dramatically. But on the flipside to this is the pressure to make devices as small and as thin as possible, limiting the space available for the battery.

It's a fine balancing act.

While digging through the Apple's FCC filings for the new iPhones, tech site AnandTech came across the battery specs for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. While reviewing these it struck me how little the iPhone's battery capacity has grown in the six years it has been out, and yet how much more the device does.

In real terms, the increase in only 12 percent. The original iPhone came kitted out with a 1400 mAh battery, while the iPhone 5s comes with a 1570 mAh. What's interesting is that battery capacities dropped when the iPhone 3G hit the scene, falling to 1150 mAh, and only increasing to 1219 with the release of the iPhone 3GS.

(Source: ZDNet | Data: iFixit, Wikipedia)

iPhone battery capacity didn't exceed that of the first-generation handset until the iPhone 4 was released, which came equipped with a 1420 mAh battery pack.

During that time Apple has kept the battery usage times for the handset under different conditions pretty much the same, while at the same time adding features such as a retina display and more powerful processors. In fact, that 12 percent bigger battery in the iPhone 5s is driving a 64-bit processor that's 40 times faster than that found in the original iPhone, and a GPU that's a staggering 56 times faster.

That's quite a achievement, and a testament to how much more efficient silicon has become now that we're making more use of mobile and relying more on battery packs to power devices.

Over the same time, the volume of the iPhone has dropped from approximately 81 cm3 to 55 cm3. The weight has dropped from 135 grams to a petite 112 grams.

Since the iPad has been on the market, it's battery capacity has doubled, while the iPad mini has a battery that's more than twice the capacity of the iPhone 5s.

(Source: ZDNet | Data: iFixit, Wikipedia)

 

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPad, Tablets

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29 comments
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  • iPhone Battery

    Very interesting analysis AKH.

    Meanwhile, what the first graph doesn't show is the large regression that occurred between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Even though the battery gained an insignificant 10mAh, the phone lost 100h (33%) in standby time.

    This was likely due to the Retina display that increased the pixel count 4x and the associated gain in GPU power.

    The following model (iPhone 5) only gained back 50h in standby time. The latest ones gained nothing in this department.
    TheCyberKnight
    • You're right

      There was a huge regression between the 4 and 4s, and this is almost certainly down to the screen.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • That's funny,

        considering the screens in the 4 and 4s were exactly the same, but the bezel and ambient light sensor locations are slightly different.

        #lostallcredibility #goodjob

        The reason the standby time dropped is that power management in the A5 SoC wasn't much better than on the A4 in terms of power usage at standby vs power usage while active, yet the A5 is a much more power-hungry SoC than the A4 thanks to a beefier GPU and two CPU cores. Power management was much improved in the A6, which improved the iPhone 5's standby time but not to the iPhone 4 level. (10 mah doesn't equate to 50 hours in standby or 2 hours of talk time.)
        Champ_Kind
        • What a Shame!

          My mistake. The Retina display was indeed introduced with the iPhone 4.

          Meanwhile, it make the comment even more interesting since the iPhone 4S remains a terrible regression that cannot be explained by other significant additions to the hardware except for the A5.

          And considering that the major loss remains at the standby time level, it means that the "dormant" state was terribly inefficient on this SoC.

          And to complement your comment, notice that the iPhone 5S, even with a larger battery (about 130mAh more than iPhone 5), gained nothing in this department. This may be explained by the additional M7 chip that, even if it's low power, needs juice but also means that there were no efficiency gain in standby.
          TheCyberKnight
    • Those numbers don't even tell the truth.

      The iPhone 4s was the last iPhone I will ever try.

      I was lucky to get hours out of that thing before it was crying for the charger.

      Battery life is the biggest area that Apple needs to step things up because some of us actually use our phones and some days my RAZR MAXX HD hits the red so there's no way that dinky battery would hold out for me.
      slickjim
      • And some of us

        Great. Be happy. What's your point? Millions seem to be fine and there are numerous external battery packs and battery cases. So if you have an iPhone and need more power, it is available WITHOUT needing a huge phone and you still get all the advantages the iPhone brings to the table.
        dhmccoy
        • Yeah right.

          I recommend those to people and the Men tend to be okay with them while the women are like, "No way that makes the phone too thick.

          One lady at work plugs her phone in about 1 PM every day. Why should you have to do that? Samsung, Motorola, and even HTC now make sure that their phones will go a good 12+ hours before hitting the red charge indicator.

          I swear, you guys need to stop taking criticism of Apple as a bad thing and start demanding improvement of their flaws in the designs.
          slickjim
          • What are they doing?

            What are they doing to run the battery dead? I use my phone a lot through the day (using outright now even for this) and my battery lasts well over 12 hours... I'm using a iPhone 5. Even my old iPhone 4 was about the same.
            doh123
          • Yeah, I was wondering the same thing...

            How are they running their battery down so fast? I am still using the 4S and I have never once had to charge my phone during the day. I charge it overnight, and that's the only time it touches the charger. I've even used it for two days without charging a few times. It's rare that I drop below 50% battery remaining on any given day. Then again, I'm not a bored teenager texting or tweeting every inane thought that pops into my head to all of my friends. I don't have my phone surgically attached to my hand, either. Maybe they have their screen brightness turned up to "surface of the sun" level settings to light up their houses? I just don't understand it.
            BillDem
          • And I'm wiling to bet

            That woman owns an Android based phone.
            athynz
          • battery

            I don't know what you guys are doing with your phones because I have had a 4S, and now a 5, and the only time I have seen either in the red on battery power was when I let them go uncharged for 3 days + so that the chip could recalibrate. But then I don't play complex games, stream video, or watch movies on the phone, so maybe I am out of step.
            rphunter1242
          • Since you don't know how she is using the phone

            Don't presume the problem is Apple. Find out:
            1) Is she using the phone a LOT? Watching videos, surfing the web, playing games on the way to work. If so, congradulate her on getting her monies worth out of that phone. My kids can wipe out my iPhones battery in a few hourse pulling Youtube videos off the web. That's not a phone defect.
            2) If NOT. There may be something wrong with the phone. Bad battery, problematic apps. Find the problem app and delete it. A bad app can really kill the phone. I had one sucking my battery dry by afternoon, a certain super popular (to reamain nameless) map app. I deleted it, now I go home with 70-80% battery remaining.
            oncall
      • Perhaps you got a defective one

        OR you never bought an iPhone - which given your anti-Apple posts over the years is much more likely. My iPhone 4s lasts 16 hours of almost constant use. Perhaps IF you had actually bought one you should have either taken back to the carrier you bought it from or an Apple Store.

        Speaking of companies that need to work on the battery life of their devices you'd better add every Android OEM to that list... everyone who owns an Android device I know had to have a charger on them, an extra battery, or both at all times. That includes me... I owned a Samsung Galaxy S and an HTC Tbolt and neither one would last more than 5 hours with light to moderate use - one of those people own a Moto RAZR MAXX HD.
        athynz
        • Interesting

          Whatever you are doing that drains your battery enough to need a recharge in 5 hours isn't "light to moderate" use.

          I use my HTC EVO 4G "lightly" during the day and "moderate to heavy" after work and I get 14+ hours from my charge, consistently.
          gevander
    • Standby time

      First, what does a retina display that is not on have to do with the standby time? Standby time is when the display is not on. Second, the earlier standby times were, just like the current ones, estimates. The newer phones are more intelligent about when they turn on what radios, and when they use the processor at full speed. The iPhone 5 even manages to do LTE with no increase in battery drain, something early Android phones had real problems with. Besides, I didn't but a smartphone to not use, and that is what standby means, not being used.
      rphunter1242
    • The screen had nothing to do with it.

      See my reply to AKH on that.

      The battery life had to do with silicon and power management, so you're right in calling out the GPU.
      Champ_Kind
  • What are customers craving for ?

    Brutal number crunching force for 10h or just enough CPU/GPU power to get the job done but steer clear of the charger for 3 days ?

    Let me guess ...

    Keep in mind ... the elite of the "good old" dumb phone gave you one week battery lifetime at moderate daily use.
    EnticingHavoc
    • People want something in between...

      People want great hardware with extremely long battery life. They also want it cheap. Here's the tradeoff: You can have awesome hardware. Or you can have long battery life. Or you can have the phone be cheap. Good devices let you satisfy two of those three goals. With many phones, you only get one out of three. Someday, we might actually see all three in one device.
      BillDem
  • Throttling ???

    Nothing has been said about when the iPhone will start to throttle during game sessions to avoid overheating. The S4 is quite prone to that undesirable effect.

    Only an in depth test will show.
    EnticingHavoc
    • TJ

      Ugh, right. Thermal junctions; a necessary evil. Fortunately, I don't use my phone for gaming but nothing heats it up like using it for navigation.
      Gussy2000