iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

Summary: New iPhone 4S owners are complaining about battery life on the new phone. The new notification system can cause the phone to constantly poll the network, if left to its default configuration.

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The new notification system in iOS 5 is a welcome upgrade to the old-school method used by earlier versions. The system is so slick it entices new iPhone 4S owners to let every app on the phone send notifications for virtually every event the app tracks. Unfortunately, as Android phone owners can attest enabling notifications can be the quickest path to the shortest battery life on a new phone.

User forums are already rife with iPhone 4S owners complaining of poor battery life that is shorter than that of earlier iPhones. New owners are already discovering that apps that poll the web frequently for updates of one type or another can quickly drain the phone's battery when outside the comfort of a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Those who have owned smartphones for a while know all too well that battery technology is not as good as it needs to be. Many a user has put a phone into standby mode at night, only to discover the phone battery was almost dead in the morning with no activity.

The problem lies in the fact that for today's smartphone there is no such thing as no activity. Apps are designed to keep in touch with the web, often in the background, to keep the phone user informed of things even when not using the app. Social network apps, Twitter, Facebook, etc., are notorious for constantly polling the web to see if new updates from friends have been submitted. The result is the phone is always checking for them, and that means a hit on the battery.

So what can you do to make your battery last longer? Turn off location-based services, as those are used by many apps to check the network to see where the phone is all the time. Only turn on notifications for apps that are important to you, as that will limit the background polling going on all the time.

The notifications in iOS 5 are easy to access in settings, and the user can turn them off for each app as desired. Some apps place this setting in the app itself, so if an app is sending unneeded notifications check around to find the setting to disable them.

As the settings in iOS 5 makes clear: "Location Services uses GPS along with crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations to determine your approximate location." That's a lot of radio activity, and that eats a battery faster than anything. You can turn locations services off on an app-by-app basis in the iPhone settings to make sure critical apps can use them but nothing else.

The iPhone 4S battery life is pretty good in my experience, but I did turn off notifications I don't need. I also disabled location services for apps that don't need to know exactly where I am, like Twitter. There are other things you can do to spare your battery even further, but these two areas do it for me.

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Topics: Mobile OS, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

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55 comments
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  • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

    Ah yes, battery life vs staying connected. Blackberry users now this too well. It would be nice to be able to control how often email and other services can open the cellphone radioway. The iPhone could probably use a timer instead of just an On/Off slider.
    SinfoCOMAR
  • A conundrum

    Some don't need to be on when you are not using it. An example from the screenshot above: Speed Test does not need to have location based services on when are not using it. Can the app be designed to have it on only when the app is active? Or maybe an option to have the user to have it enabled when the app is active and it will automatically turn off when not. Yea, a switch saying 'on' when app is active or something.
    root12
    • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

      @root12 It will not use it if it isn't active... Speed Test will query for a location either when launched or when the test is run but it does not just sit there asking, "where am I?"
      slickjim
    • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

      @root12

      Yea android does that. GPS enabled doesn't activate till an app requires it.
      westvolusiaguys
      • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

        @westvolusiaguys see, the problem is, nobody cares until it makes it revolutionary way on iPhone.
        pupkin_z
  • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

    Yep, just one more place that Google didn't cut corners and now many Android Phones are better prepared to deal with this.

    I get roughly 14 hours before my battery indicator turns red on my Droid X2 using default settings. My phone can pretty much do everything the iPhone 4s can do and then some (I have VLingo so I can do anything Siri can do pretty much) without worrying about this stuff.

    If my battery weren't enough, I could go ahead and get the 3500phone Mah extended battery.

    Oh and iPhone 4s users? Shut off the stock ticker then scale back the weather App and you will see improvements... also, limit what you're sending to cloud and that will also help.
    slickjim
    • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

      Oh and one more thing, I stated at the beginning of the year that Apple was cheating to get the battery life they got and with iOS 5 it is becoming obvious.

      And yes it is an iOS 5 thing as the iPhone 4 I was using had the battery life change dramatically when the update happened.
      slickjim
      • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

        @Peter Perry You should really stop. First Vlingo does nto even compare to Siri. Second most here dont take you seriouse anyways because of your blind hatred to apple anywas. Really dude give it up already. YOU should really stop posting here and go play over at engadget.
        ROFL you probably just downloaded Vlingo now after Siri came out and some people posted it on forums saying it competes. Now you going to come here and act as if you had it all along and say its the same as Siri. Man you are way to dense and this hatred of yours is down right scary. I think you need to get help.
        illwill112
      • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

        @illwill112. Umm, you cannot refute so you insult.<br><br>Thia post doesn't have anything to do with Hatred towards Apple, I don't hate them... I use a MacBook Air, before that it was a MacBook Pro and then a Mac Mini... I also recently bought an iPad 2 for an iCade setup.

        As for VLingo, nope had that for some time and you're right, it actually works everytime! But as for use, I use the car mode and it works 100% for my needs. It has probably 80% of the features of Siri but is further along in those areas.
        slickjim
      • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

        @Peter Perry I have noticed a battery life change on my 4 since the update but I am pretty sure that for the most part I have been using the phone more since then and I still get at least double your 14 hours before I charge when I get to 30% or 40% battery left.
        non-biased
    • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

      @Peter Perry
      14 hours? thats all? ouch.. and I thought my 4S was bad...
      doh123
      • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

        @doh123 that is with Heavy Use, everything turned on and when the red light indicator hits I have 30% remaining. What this means is I am good for 20 hours of heavy use in any given day.<br><br>Your iPhone with everything turned on will not touch that because the iPhone 4 I was using couldn't come close when running iOS 5 and that's reality.
        slickjim
      • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

        @Peter Perry You seem like such an authority on the iPhone with you spouting about how amazing Android is. I like Android, too, but it doesn't mean I don't gawk at the iPhone. I'd prefer my rock-solid stability on my iPhone 4S over some fragmented OS that comes different on each phone that is launched (and it seems like a new one each week - hmmm). The reality is that you can't cope with the massive influx of Android devices that brings the quality of the OS to a shoddy state on most devices, and fairly functional on the rest. The only "good" Android phone I've seen is the Droid Bionic, and it's smooth as butter.

        Sorry to feed the trolls, ZDNet, but this guy burnt my biscuits with his incessant Apple bashing and trollmongering.
        TSH4Life
      • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

        @TSH4Life@... Okay I am game, name one of these phones you have used which has major issues with Fragmentation and Application Compatibility...

        As for the iPhone, sorry man just speaking the truth but clearly you're upset because their was some basis on fact to what I have said.

        I am sorry if this upsets you guys but unlike most bloggers here I don't believe they should get a free pass.

        The phone has benefits and I never denied that but their approach to managing the battery in the past wasn't designed for this type of notification structure and now it is coming back on them.


        When I shut all the notifications, stock ticker app, limited the sending of Data to the Cloud and what is being sent I got to where I was using between 50 and 60% of the battery through 12 hours...

        With all that stuff on the phone was almost dead within 6 to 8 hours.
        slickjim
      • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

        @Peter Perry [i]Your iPhone with everything turned on will not touch that because the iPhone 4 I was using couldn't come close when running iOS 5 and that's reality. [/i]
        No, that's your reality but not mine.
        non-biased
    • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

      @Peter Perry Is the default setting have the GPS turned on? I hear that is a major problem with some driods.
      SomeGuyNamedJay
      • Not sure about Droids

        @SomeGuyNamedJay
        But on the SGS2 it is and I have great battery life.

        btw - I use my i4 as an iTouch and notice with stock settings it won't last a day of moderate use. I would have expected with no sim I would get much longer life.
        I just turned off all the "stuff" and will see how it does...
        rhonin
    • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

      @Peter Try disabling Siri for a day, extreme impact on battery life. Turn it back on and you can practically watch the battery meter go down :(
      benjitek
  • If only there was an OS that ...

    ... allowed you to decide and control such app actions - for example, allowing you to configure all apps (or any particular app) to only be allowed to "phone home" for data via wifi when available, and not over a mobile connection.

    Oh, that's right, they added that to Android in ICS :-)

    Seriously, good feature, which i would think iOS and WP7 will pick up. (or do they already have it in some fashion, anyone?)
    daboochmeister
    • RE: iPhone 4S: Notifications, Location Services, the bane of good battery life

      @daboochmeister Yes, some apps do have this feature in iOS but it tends to be apps that have a heavy load when "syncing" such as things like Dropbox and Photo transfer apps. Some only allow you transfer data over wifi but as of yet there is no global OS system settings.

      Personally I do not have a problem with battery life because I do not have more than 15 apps loaded onto my phone. I limit even those that are installed as the author states, by turning off location services. I can still get over two days of battery life or more (usually charge at the 25% mark or 50% mark).

      It's still a mobile computer people. Software will get more intelligent but it's also up to the App developers to better configure their software.
      deftdrummer