How long will your expensive new iPhone last?

The more you spend, the longer it will last.

A common question I get from people who've bought a new iPhone is "how long will it last?" For some, it's a signal of how massive an investment the device represented, while for others it's a sign that they are planning for the future.

Either way, it's also a signal that people are aware that tech gadgets don't last forever.

So how long will your new iPhone last?

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If you don't break or lose your iPhone, the most likely way it will die is that the battery will go bad. And how long the battery takes to wear to the point where it has a dramatic effect on battery life depends on which iPhone you've bought and how much you use your new iPhone.

Before I go any further, a quick lesson on lithium ion batteries.

Batteries are a consumable item. They wear out over time. Get used to this.

Standard alkaline batteries (such as a Duracell or Energizer battery) has a lifespan of one charge cycle -- it arrives charged, and you use it once. Rechargeable batteries also have a lifespan. According to Apple, the iPhone battery "is designed to retain up to 80 percent of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles."

But what is a charge cycle? It's not, as you might initially think, the number of times you charge up your device up. It's more complicated than that. Apple explains it as follows:

"For instance, you might use 75 percent of your battery's capacity one day, then recharge it fully overnight. If you use 25 percent the next day, you will have discharged a total of 100 percent, and the two days will add up to one charge cycle. It could take several days to complete a cycle."

Charge cycles

Charge cycles

Apple

Apple doesn't offer you a way to find out how many cycles your iPhone's battery has been through, but a third-party Mac app called coconutBattery 3 will give you access to this information.

coconutBattery 3

coconutBattery 3

I've been testing an iPhone 11 and an iPhone 11 Pro Max in an attempt to work out how long the battery will last.

If we take the 500 charge cycles as the battery lifespan (which may be a conservative estimate, as I've had iPhones go be beyond 800 charge cycles with no ill effects), then we can use the charge cycle count along with the life of the age of the device to work out how long it will last. Note that you can't use the age information provided by coconutBattery because this refers to the manufacture date of the device, not how long the device has been in use.

I'm quite a heavy iPhone user, and I've been measuring how long it takes for me to go through a charge cycle on the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro Max, and the results are quite interesting.

On average, this is how long a single charge cycle lasts me:

  • iPhone 11: 1.6 days
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max: 2.6 days

Now, assuming battery wear of 20 percent over the 500 charge cycles, let's reduce the single charge cycle by 10 percent to get an average over the 500 cycles.

  • iPhone 11: 1.4 days
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max: 2.4 days

This means that the time to hit 500 charge cycles for a heavy user is as follows:

  • iPhone 11: 720 days (or 2 years)
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max: 1,200 days (or 3.3 years)

So, the more you spend on an iPhone, the longer the battery will last. Why? The battery's capacity is bigger, so each charge cycle is bigger.

So, the more you spend, the longer the battery will last, and the longer the gap between buying a new iPhone (or sending the device in for a new battery).

Another consideration is capacity. You need to plan for how much storage space you need, because this is another common reason why people become unsatisfied with their iPhones. This is harder to plan for and depends on how much data shuffling you want to do to the cloud (and how much you want to pay for cloud storage).

I seem to be able to cope with 64GB storage without much effort, but I do cull old data quite aggressively. If you're a data hoarder, this won't work for you.

So, there you go. An iPhone 11 should easily last you a couple of years before the battery becomes an issue, while the chunky iPhone 11 Pro Max should give a good three years of service.

Thoughts?

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