Apple says 100% iPad recharge "problem" is by design

After days of silence, Apple tells AllThingsD that the Apple iPad recharge "problem" is actually by design. Dr. Soneira, who found the problem, disagrees.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

When is 100% charged not 100% charged? When it's an Apple iPad 3.

When is 100% charged not 100% charged? When it's Apple iPad 3.

To believe Apple about its iPad 3 battery problem or not to believe Apple is the question. In a story by Ina Fried at AllThingsD, Apple VP Michael Tchao explained that while the iPad--and iPhone and iPod Touch—display as 100% charged before the device is actually 100% charged, it's because they're constantly charging to 100 percent, and then discharging and recharging back up to 100 percent. The point, according to Apple, is to maintain the best possible charge. Dr. Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate, the world’s leading display and display tuning company, who found the battery problem in the first place disagrees.

While Tchao calls this “a great feature that’s always been in iOS,” Soneira doesn't see it that way. He sees it as the Apple VP acknowledging “my point that the iPad is not 100% charged when it says so. It's not the full admission that I would have liked, but it is actually more than I expected Apple would admit to.” In short, he sees Apple spinning how iOS mishandles its battery-powered device reporting.

Soneira concluded, “My essential point is simply that if the new iPad is fully charged overnight then my tests show it will run 11.6 hours, which is 1.2 hours longer than if it just charged to 100% (10.4 hours). This will matter to some users. If the iPad has cell and WiFi and background tasks running then I agree with Apple that it will cycle down and up. My lab tests were in Airplane Mode so that did not happen and I measured the true battery state.”

Besides if this is “normal” for the iPad family then why did an Apple representative tell CNBC that “If you charge it more than [when the battery indicator reads 100%], you could actually harm the longevity of the battery.”? Soneira thinks, “this was a misguided off-the-cuff remark by an Apple representative to make everything sound just fine. But if we take this statement at face value, it unfortunately implies that the new iPad is damaging its own battery.”

So does this matter? I think so.

100% means 100%. It doesn't mean, as Soneira found was really the case with the iPad 3, 90%. Anytime a company starts playing games with such a fundamental and important number as battery charge and its brother, useful battery life, I begin to wonder what's really going on here. 1.2 hours for a tablet, or any other battery-powered device, is a significant amount of time. Then, when you add in Apple's earlier comment about how constantly charging am iPad might damage the battery, you can only suspect that Apple is simply trying to talk its way out of trouble.

Apple needs to explain clearly and simply what's really going on with its batteries. As Soneira suggests, “Perhaps Apple should instead retract the [first] remark and graciously accept my interpretation and rescind their own remarks, which sound like very poorly thought out PR damage control.”

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