Test suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

Test suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

Summary: Software or configurational issue to blame, not hardware.


According to research carried out for me by an iPhone app developer, the battery issue that some iPhone 4 and 4S owners are experiencing is not, as some have suggested, related to the hardware.

The developer, who at this point wishes to remain anonymous, approached me late last week to discuss the issues he was experiencing with one of his two iPhone 4S handset. The problem he was seeing was pretty much along the lines of what others are reporting - rapid drop in battery when the handset is doing little or nothing.

Nothing new there, but what I thought was interesting was that he had two handsets, one that was displaying the battery problem that some people are screaming about, and another that wasn't. He admitted that the two handsets were very different in their configuration and had different apps installed. One was a test bed for apps he develops, the other was his day-to-day use handset. It was his day-to-day handset that was displaying the battery problems.

Both handsets were bought at the same time (direct from Apple for delivery on launch day), both are connected to the same network (AT&T) and both handsets are now running iOS 5.0.1. This to me was strong evidence to suggest that the problem affecting iPhone handsets was not a hardware issue. However, so that we could totally rule out this being a hardware problem the developer took things a step further. He factory reset both handsets and then recovered them from a backup. However, rather than reloading them with their original backup, he swapped them over. He reloading his day-to-day handset with the backup from his development handset, and loaded the development handset with the backup from his regular day-to-day handset.

Would the battery problem stay with a specific handset or swap over with the software?

The problem jumped handsets. Now the handset that was his development test bed (but loaded with the apps and settings from his day-to-day handset) is displaying the battery drain problem. The other handset (the one that was displaying the problem), is showing excellent battery life.

Note: This is a sample of one so bear that in mind. Ideally I'd like to try this with multiple handsets, but I don't have access to armloads of iPhones.

The problem, it seems, is down to software. What exactly (whether it's an app or set of apps, or a setting somewhere), we're still not sure. However, I am now convinced that this problem ISN'T a hardware issue and will eventually be fixed by a software update.

Sidenote: As an aside, I think that iOS 5.0.1 has introduced the battery bug to my iPhone 4. Typically the handset would drop about 3 - 4% battery capacity overnight (around 7 hours). Since installing iOS 5.0.1 I've noticed a much bigger drop of around 15 - 20% with no change in how I'm using the handset. I'll keep a closer eye on this over the next few days and see if the pattern holds true.


Image credit: renaissancechambara

Topics: Hardware, iPhone, Mobility

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  • Thats intersting..

    And it confirms what I have been seeing. I'm thinking there is something wrong with some apps not releasing resources. We have a guy at work who's phone is continually discharging. But if we do a clean install(nothing else on the phone) then it's ok.
    • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

      Shortly after installing iOS 5 on my 3GS I discovered the issue to be with the wireless synch. I have very good battery life untill I enabled the wirelles synch feature in Itunes and synched my phone. After that the drain on the battery life became terrible. I reconnected my phone to the laptop and dissabled wireless synch and the problem resolved and now I have my origianl battery life or slightly longer than what I was getting before iOS 5. Seems the phone is contstanatly looking for my laptop to synch to even when not plugged in when the wireless synch is enabled. Others should try this and see what the results are. I have not found a way of disabiling this feature from the phone settings but inly ny unchecking this feature in Itunes.
      • Actually, only certain ZDNet bloggers troll about it being hardware problem

        @bradmiller@... ... even though it was known right from the start that this is software issue given the fact iOS 5 influenced this way on some of iPhone 4 and iPhone 3Gs devices. Also, Apple itself said that this is software issue.
    • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

      @Johnpford This is why I thought multitasking was a bad idea. Just because Android does it doesn't mean Apple should have followed suit. Not every crammed-in feature from Android is a good one.

      In an environment where anyone with a computer can cobble together an Android or iOS app, it seems unwise to open up resource utilization while the app is no longer running to the masses.

      I'd love to see a services API to run apps in the background, one that constrains their resource utilization.
      • I am with you - no multitasking for iPhone or Winphone 7(.5)/8


        I talked to my son today who has iP 4S. He says he tried to disable everything that he found on the Internet being said should help to no avail. His iP 4S dropped 10% of the charge in 10 minutes when he was playing solitaire... :-(

        He was also saying that after he uses applications they do not quit, so he has to kill them manually. Imagine that! :-( :-(

        From what I see the same is true about Winphone - until they do not do real multitasking like Android does they are good enough. As soon as they start multitasking they will be like any other smartphone on the market.

        This leads me to a thought - do not do multitasking if do not know how to do it right.

        I still have Sony Clie NX-60 PDA with 800x600 screen that I bought quite a while back (to read books). It is AMAZINGLY fast for the device with a 200 MHz CPU. That is where my train of thoughts about multitasking came from.
        Solid Water
    • Ipad too

      My first generation ipad became a battery hog as soon as I installed iOS5. 5.0.1 didn't fix a thing. It's still not the stellar battery consumer it once was.
      I'm still waiting for a fix.
    • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

      @Johnpford I found that the issue, at least for me, is Location Services. I can have all apps closed, the phone totally cold restarted (hold home and sleep until the Apple logo appears then goes away), but until I restart Location Services, it keeps draining the battery.

      @bradmiller@, my WiFi sync doesn't kill the battery at all, even when performing a full backup. Having WiFi N available makes it faster than USB syncing ever was.
  • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

    "But if we do a clean install(nothing else on the phone) then it's ok. "

    In that case it should be relatively easy going forward to determine which installed app is causing the problem.
  • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

    iMessage, turning this off helped the battery life.
    • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

      @mrrps fine turn all feaures off then what is the point of paying top money to apple?
      • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

        @augustus_rome Same as always, not having to deal with also-ran wanna be ill-designed software such as Windows or Android. Duh. And he didn't say to turn off all software, he said to try not running _one_ app.
      • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

        @comp_indiana you mean ill-designed as in it runs your battery down while seemingly doing nothing?
      • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

        Why should I turn it off? I have a smartphone and as a user I expect it to work properly as mentioned. I don't care about platform, whether it is powered by iOS, Android or Windows, it should work as mentioned when it was sold. And as a consumer I expect premium quality because I paid top $ because I was told device wasmade with premium parts and quality of itself as its manfacturer was touting.
        Ram U
      • Reality

        In an ideal world I agree with you 100%. in the real world of software development it's not so simple. It is possible that the culprit is a combination of apps/features that, on their own, are harmless but put together cause a huge problem. Ideally the vendor should catch it, in reality it is impossible to test every possible configuration of software on any given device. That's how the real world is for Apple, Microsoft, Google, HTC (I speak from experience with my HTC phone) and pretty much everyone else out there. If you want a really rock-solid product, wait for the X.1 (not X.0.1) release.
  • I had similar results, but didn't quantify them as nicely.

    I bought a 16GB 4S on Verizon, restored my data from my previous 3GS, the battery lasted 6 hours and the phone was always hot. I went online and tried all the tweaks that were suggested and was able to bring battery life back to normal, even better than my 3GS. After two days I realized I needed more storage so I bought a 32 GB 4S and transferred the 16GB 4S to my wife. Both phones were reset, I restored my 4S backup onto the new 32GB phone. Both of us have had zero battery life issues, she actually goes 3+ days on a single charge and has no over heating issues on the same phone I couldn't keep alive 6 hours. This was done weeks before the iOS 5.0.1 update was made available.
    • We can stress these devices...

      True, but we can also these days so easily load "too much" SW on these devices and we tend to treat them as small portable computers - which they are not. A phone is still hampered by the amount of "energy" one can expect to store inside the "physical volume". That energy just do not last for certain processor/power hungry apps. Just like we can load a Nissan Micra with bags of concrete, it would just not run very well, or far.
      There are more apps out there than there are educated users. I think most Smartphones, by it based on iOS, Android, WP, or webOS, do an amazing job. Competition will push the envelope even further, but in essence, we the users are the beta testers or real test bed - since the combinations of SW/HW are essentially endless.
  • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

    When both the phones are reset, why restore it from a back up ? Just leave them as they are brand new phones and see if there is battery issue on either of the phones (say both phones lose 50% in 6 hours). I would fully charge the phones and then start loading some apps (say 5 apps) on one phone and see the battery after 6 hours. Then fully charge the phone again and load 5 new apps.
    • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem


      Because he wanted to see if it was a hardware or software issue. Since it swapped handsets that pretty much ruled out hardware.
  • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

    That sounds like a very independent and objective source of information... I'm holding out on buying the phone until this is fixed, if it ever gets fixed. One would reckon that development of iOS is done in emulators where memory use is measured, which makes it smell like a hardware problem they didn't anticipated like the last launch of iPhone 4. Moreover if it was for sure a software issue Apple would be stupid not to go live with this information.
    Christian D. H.
    • RE: Tests suggests iPhone battery issue not a hardware problem

      @Christian D. H. whatever the issue apple is sucking us customers dry with below standard devices. sue apple boycott apple products.