Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

Summary: 'Batterygate' continues, even after the battery fix update of iOS 5.0.1 last week. But Apple cannot stand idly by as its users struggle with draining battery life. Or can it?


Apple is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

In the space of just over a week, Apple not only admitted the iPhone 4S had a battery bug, but rolled out a fix that was believed to have solved the problem: one of the fastest bug updates that the company has ever rolled out.

What a wonderful day for the company, and therefore the world.

But complaints amassed once again over the end of last week and the weekend, with many taking to the web to affirm that Apple's bug fix did absolutely nothing for many.

Apple later confirmed this by issuing a statement to acknowledge "a few remaining issues" with the smartphone's battery.

The sugar pill had not worked.

(Source: Flickr, CC)

If we pair comparisons with 2010's 'Antennagate', a quick-fix solution solved the problem for most. The free bumper was in effect a sugar pill for a hysterical hypochondriac condition that the media whipped up into a raging frenzy.

Balance was thus restored but in part only because Apple's reassuring words gave consumers no more fire to fight with.

2011's 'Batterygate' is likely to play out in a similar fashion. Tim Cook can arrive on stage, speak to an audience of the elite press technorati, speak calmly and lovingly into his shirt-attached microphone, and apologetically crucify the company that he only recently took over on the world's stage.

He can then tell the world's media "how much Apple loves its customers" and will do anything to please and appease, and a resolution will be announced to the company faithful.

Should Apple want to take to the extreme and offer a mass recall as it recently arranged with the first-generation iPod nano, it will need to find the fault and initiate the recall of the smartphone in question, at not only great cost to the company in terms of share price and the losses it will suffer in order to do so, but the arguably more important cost to the company's reputation.

Or, Apple can simply do nothing, keeping its faithful customers in the dark, longing for the iPhone 5.

In about a year's time, customers will have almost forgotten the issue with the battery, and after a series of software fixes and mass returns, the silence will be deafening. After all, the media can only go on about quite literally the same story so many times.

If Apple remains steadily quiet, and ignores the pleas of its customers, eventually problems with iPhone 4S will fall silent.

Next year, when the iPhone 5 is announced and subsequently released, it will be by far the most popular smartphone the company has ever sold, with the Apple faithful returning to trade in their bug-ridden iPhone 4S.

Why 'nothing'?

Apple is reportedly working on a new advanced battery chemistry, with the intention of creating a smartphone with enough battery life for the day to run a power-intensive 4G LTE connection.

The supposed iPhone 5, which was thought to have included the 4G technology, was simply not ready to hit the market. According to sources speaking to the Business Insider, the phone was "scrapped" within months of the next iPhone hitting the market, with Steve Jobs reportedly not happy with the design and other features.

But it lacked one crucial component: battery life.

With this in mind, the iPhone 4S was either a fallback option as the company's consolation prize, or it was thrown together seemingly at the last minute, with a few minor changes incorporating existing hardware from the previous iPhone 4 and the current iPad 2.

Apple's intention is all but without a doubt to release a 4G compatible phone, but the company has been hesitant to integrate technology not seen as worthwhile in the present or ever-so-slightly upcoming market.

4G still has to prove itself in Apple's eyes before it releases a compatible device. But the technology for a 4G-supported battery, combined with the slim aesthetics of the iPhone is still a long way off.

The current non-replaceable 1400 mAh battery in the iPhone 4S (virtually the same as its predecessor, with only a 0.05 watt/hour increase according to iFixit) fits in the casing but would never be sufficient for 4G use; it runs out of steam even after only a few hours on 3G under heavy use, some have found.

To be fair to Apple, all modern Lithium Ion batteries are simply not good enough for modern 4G phones, which is why so many need huge, clunky battery packs for 4G smartphones, because you cannot go for a working day's charge without one.

According to current technology in use, the problem of current battery chemistry just cannot be solved when combined with Apple's design aesthetics. The two are in direct conflict with one another.

Apple rolled out iOS 5.0.1 and will in the next few days, or the coming week, issue iOS 5 5.0.2, thought to address the last remnants of an ongoing battery issue. The following update from that will continue to "optimise" the battery, and further updates will continue to use different adjectives to describe improvements, such as "assist performance" and "elongate" battery life.

But Apple knows by this point that all it can do is continue to tweak the software -- the only control that it has over the smartphone en masse once the smartphone reaches the hands of its users -- to cumulatively lengthen battery life.

Even Apple has not yet reached the point where it can defy the laws of physics.

All Apple can do now, beyond a share price dropping feat of recalling its phones from the market, is continually issue bug fix sugar pills.


Around the network:

Topics: Mobile OS, Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

    That's what happens if you don't put a switch manually to choose between 2G and 3G connections. So-called-uber-designers of Apple!
    • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

      Tim Acheson
      • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

        @Tim Acheson #iTroll.
  • Pathetic Analysis

    Since the exact same battery problems arose when I updated my iPhone 4 to iOS 5, this is obviously a software bug that will be fixed, not a cause for recalling iPhone 4s hardware. Moronic analysis.
    • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

      @themeperks --- I suspect the moronic iTards will suck down any amount of excrement that apple chooses to dish out and they will then tell the world how good it tastes.
      • You stay classy my friend;)

        @sackbut ... Just saying...

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

        Very true my friend. this will damage apple's reputation beyond repair. antenagate was the beginning of the end game for apple. they will soon loose their dominance.
      • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?


        Antennaegate was bogus. Apple's software there didn't help, but the whole idea that you could not affect the signal with your hands is Wintarded to being with. You can do that on any phone. It was only an issue at all if you had only 1 bar, and then if you didn't use a case (hardly anyone goes without a case, it just doesn't make sense to buy literally the best phone ever and leave it 'naked'.)
  • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

    I have an iPhone 4S, and I can go the entire day without battery to spare...if you use your phone every minute of a 14 hour day, then that is a different issue altogether smart phone is up to that type of usage. This "gate" stuff is stupid!
    • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

      @Tessa My droid X2 used to be able to handle that but it had other problems.
    • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?


      My WP7 phone lasts 3 days with average use - are iPhone owners really happy with a day?
      • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

        @tonymcs@??? Yeah, we see on internet stats how much people use Win 7 phone. And yeah, it goes in the dock at night, what is the problem with that?
    • You need some reality in your life


      If I used my iPhone 4 every minute it would not make it to hour 7. If I did not-stop calls, much less.
      So, what is your point?
  • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

    Look, you have a more powerful CPU, more powerful GPU, more software running, more services running and only a slight increase in battery capacity and nobody thinks Apple envisioned this happening?

    Look, the battery gets through a day easy with moderate use if you don't run everything they gave you... If you do run it all then yeah, you're going to have some issues.

    Android Phones went through this and aside from HTC they all learned, adapted the battery draining settings, increased battery capacity and now they all run more than 20 hours with heavy use... The iPhone with iOS 5 needs optimizing and that's reality.
    • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

      @Peter Perry - 20 Hours with heavy use....yeah, no one is buying that one.
      • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

        @jonbren Well, I have a Thunderbolt (la creme de la creme of crappy battery) and I always have 4g running and it will last about 15 hours with moderate-light use. If I switched to wifi I could get better but 4g is so fast :) Most days though I'm always near my computer so I can plug it in and never get that low. I have a friend who got the Galaxy SII and he never has battery issues. Of course, I do have the option of adding a battery back if I want (options you do not have with the iPhone or the Razr), although I could not see a situation where I thought I would be away for a charger AND need to use my phone for that long.
      • Same here


        Galaxy S2 and the battery life is a nice surprise.
        BTW: the phone comes with a pretty good power management system.
      • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

        @jonbren Go buy a droid X2, that's what I was getting and I hear similar results from the Galaxy S2... Like I said, HTC not so good.
      • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

        @Dodgson Uh, if 4G is faster than your wifi, then your wifi is really very weak, overloaded, outdated, or all of the above.
    • RE: Apple's 'Batterygate' end-game: Do nothing?

      @Peter Perry

      They've done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it works every time.