iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

Summary: Three handsets in a head-to-head drain-off!

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[UPDATE: Apple has released the iOS 5.0.1 update which incorporates a bug fix for the battery drain issue. Download via iTunes or over the air.]

I'm hearing a lot of complaints from iPhone owners, specifically owners of the new 4S handset, who claim that they're not getting good mileage from their battery. But is it the iPhone 4S that's to blame, or iOS 5?

Want to get more from your iPhone battery? Check out these iOS 5 battery saver tips!

Sascha Segan of PCMag carries out a test, putting a new iPhone 4S running iOS 5 up against an iPhone 4 running iOS 4 and another running iOS 5. The results are interesting in that basically there's little difference in the time taken for the battery to run out between the three handsets.

  • iPhone 4/iOS 5 - 6 hrs 55 mins
  • iPhone 4S/iOS 5 - 7 hrs 27 mins
  • iPhone 4/iOS 4 - 7 hrs 29 mins

Here's a timelapse video of the three handsets ... I warn you in advance, it's not that exciting!

Conclusion - It's iOS 5, not the iPhone 4S.

But ... it's not that clear cut. I'm hearing from some iPhone 4S owners who aren't seeing any problems, and others who are seeing their battery literally drain away in front of their eyes. Other people are seeing the same issue on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS with iOS 5, while others aren't seeing any problems at all. Something is going on, that's for sure, but it's hard to put a finger on what the issue actually is. Personally, I think the problem comes down to usage, which means that Apple will have to rely on telemetry sent from handsets to narrow down the cause.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Mobile OS, Mobility

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53 comments
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  • RE: iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

    I have an iPhone 4 with iOS 5. Running CoPilot Live heats it up and dramatically kills battery life. I think it's related to location services-GPS.
    tcsi@...
    • RE: iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

      @tcsi@... I think it's because of those Flash videos that you are watching all day... oh wait...
      tatiGmail
    • RE: iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

      @tcsi@...
      Your holding it the wrong way!
      SplatterFest
      • Not funny, since no one at Apple, including Jobs, ever said that phrase

        @SplatterFest: The actual phrase was that if you experience problems, hold the phone differently. Most of people did not experience any problems with antenna (less than two percentage ever wanted case even when it was offered for free), no matter how they held the phone, so, of course, there was no "wrong way" to hold the phone, and no one at Apple, including Jobs, ever said that phrase.

        It is typical media, which are tabloid, twisted the phrase for cheap way to earn clicks.
        DDERSSS
      • Very funny

        @SplatterFest
        Some people have no sense of humor.
        toddybottom
  • iFail: both!

    Both hardware and iOS may be at fault.
    Tim Acheson
    • It is something hinky for sure

      @Tim Acheson
      Before I turned my i4 into an i4Touch, with iOS5 the phone became sluggish but the battery life was relatively unchanged.

      Similar on my iPad2 - iOS5 introduced a random keyboard issue - Apple wants to replace it but will not redo the engraving (it was a gift). Issue: the keyboard will randomly close when typing.

      Have several peers who have the 4/4S and some have an issue, others not.
      It will be interesting when/if Apple finds the answer.
      rhonin
    • RE: iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

      @Tim Acheson

      Seriously, why do "haters" with no actual experience with the device feel the need to comment?

      As someone that actually has the device for 2.5 weeks now, I'll share my actual usage. Overall, the battery life is actually very, very good. I did experience the battery drain issue last Saturday. There seems to be a software bug relating to location data. Once I experienced the problem, the battery did drain rather quickly. After recharging, it continued to drain. I reboot the phone and all was good again. No problems before that, no problems since. Average every day battery life is certainly better than average for the industry.
      techconc
  • RE: iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

    I was seeing rapid battery depletion with iOS 5 on my iPod Touch. I don't think has anything to do with the hardware, it's the OS.

    For me, the thing that was causing it was having Notifications turned on for Calendar AND having my calendars sync with my work account (which is using Outlook).

    When I opened notifications (swipe down from top of screen), I could occasionally see the calendar section going haywire, posting the same appointments over and over again.

    Turning off notifications for the calendar app fixed my problem (I left everything else as it was: Alerts, Badge App Icon on, View in Lock Screen on).
    jessespears
    • RE: iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

      @jessespears - I had this same issue. It's a conflict with Exchange. The genius' at Apple told me to do a complete restore and setup as new phone (not from backup) and it fixed the problem. Somewhat of a hassle setting everything back up, but now I have notifications w/o glitches and great battery life.
      ski2dy
    • RE: iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

      @jessespears I have an iPhone 4 with IOS 5. I left for work with it this morning at 100%, and used it for reading a story for about 1.5 hours, and had a few text messages, and otherwise used it as normal. I came home with 80% charge. At that rate, I would get several days use. I suspect that the battery drain problem is that people turn on services that they aren't really using, and leave many applications running when they don't need them active. Basic good battery conservation will take care of the problem. I don't often cross time zones, so that feature was already off. No problem here.
      rphunter42
  • Draining battery on a 3GS

    I downloaded iOS5 to my 3GS, and it's definitely draining the battery faster. I turned off the location services setting with no noticeable effect. I rarely use the phone, so usage is not a factor in my case.
    DvdAndrsn
  • RE: iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

    The main difference in iOS5 is how Location Services and the apps that use it, ie, the new Reminders app, have a huge affect on the battery. There seems to be a larger ammount of LS based activity which is keeping the phone more active. If not needed, I turn off location services unless I am doing something that needs it. This greatly extends the battery time.
    adambrannon@...
    • iCloud

      @adambrannon@...
      Don't forget that little drainer.....
      rhonin
  • RE: iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

    I have an IPhone 4 and I could go two days without charging. I installed IOS 5 and now I just watch it drain to the point where there are days I cannot make it through the day. And my usage has not changed. I turned off the time zone feature and a couple of other location services but that did not help. There is no doubt the new IOS is the issue
    jeffreypaulh
  • 4-5 hours on standby!

    What you've tested is not the problem for myself and other new iPhone 4S users. The phone was fine for a couple weeks but starting a couple days ago, I'm only getting 4 to 5 hours on standby! If it's unplugged, the phone battery will be dead in a few hours no matter how little you use it. I've even turned off a number of services and it doesn't help. My best guess is it's an iOS 5 bug thats only affecting a few users. But it's also possible that there's a hardware defect with 4S batteries.
    Z3rian
    • Have you tried to reformat and reinstall?

      @Z3rian
      "The phone was fine for a couple weeks but starting a couple days ago, I'm only getting 4 to 5 hours on standby!"

      I had to do that with my iPhone 4 a few months ago. I had noticed that the battery life had fallen substantially. Reformat and reinstall fixed it. Just restore your iPhone as a new device and that will probably fix it.

      Funny how the very cure that smug OS X users deride Windows for is also required for the iPhone.
      toddybottom
      • RE: iPhone 4S battery drain - Is it the handset or iOS 5 that's at fault?

        @toddybottom
        I attended a workshop at an Apple store over the weekend and was surprised to learn that every application that I had opened since getting my new 4S was open and running in the background, which was basically every app. I had noticed that the speed of the phone had been getting slower. An Apple person showed me how to turn them off. Double click on the "on" button and you get a line of icons along the bottom of the screen which shows you the apps that are open. Hold your finger down on one of the apps to start them jiggling. You get a "minus" sign that allows you to shut off each app. It doesn't get rid of the apps.
        Prime Detailer
      • That isn't quite true

        "every application that I had opened since getting my new 4S was open and running in the background"

        No, they are not all running. That is a history of programs you've used and yes, some may be running, but not all of them are. You can test that by turning off the phone and restarting it. You'll notice that all the icons are still there even though none of them are actually running any more.

        It is a good suggestion and yes, I've done that myself in the past. It did not fix the battery issue for me but it is a good step 1 since it takes less time than a full reformat and reinstall of iOS.
        toddybottom
      • No effect, Toddy. Quit trying to push Windows fixes.

        @toddybottom: Simply put, and I'm sure they'll figure this out, it's the fact that the phone now calls on the network far more frequently than it used to and for longer times. Easiest fix? Change the default calls and give the user the ability to choose his own download frequently.
        Vulpinemac