iOS 13's killer feature will make your battery last longer... but there are downsides

Do you want your battery to be charged to 100% as fast as possible, or do you want your battery to last longer before it needs to be replaced? You decide!
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

I've been dabbling with the iOS 13 beta for a while now and one feature that I think has a lot of potential is the "Optimized battery charging" feature.

The idea of this is that it helps extend the life of your battery by preventing it from being charged to 100% every time it is connected to a charger. This is welcome news for those who plan on keeping their iPhones for longer than a few years.

It took my iPhone 8 Plus less than 18 months of use for the battery to show signs of wear. This is essentially a natural by-product of the regular recharging that the iPhone needs to keep it running.

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It seems that Apple is aware of this battery wear issue, and is building a new feature into iOS 13 that will try to mitigate some of the damage that the regular charging does to the lithium pack.

The new feature, called "Optimized battery charging," will be turned on by default on devices when iOS 13 ships this fall.

Here's how Apple describes the feature:

"A new option helps slow the rate of battery aging by reducing the time your iPhone spends fully charged. iPhone uses on-device machine learning to understand your daily charging routine so it can wait to finish charging past 80 percent until you need to use it."

The idea is that the operating system will fast charge the battery up to 80% and then trickle charge the final 20% in time for when you need it. So, if you charge your iPhone overnight, and usually take it off charge at 7am, machine learning will figure this out and plan a charging schedule so that the battery hits full charge for this time, rather than keeping the battery charged continuously at 100 percent.

The trade-off here, though, is that you might have your iPhone on a charge, but it won't charge beyond the 80% mark.

If you are regular in your habits, then it seems that this feature quickly learns how you use your iPhone and allows you to start the day with a 100% battery. If, however, you are erratic, or you have to get up early one day, there's a chance that your battery will only be at 80%. Not the end of the world, but that missed 20% charge can have a significant effect on how long your iPhone will last.

I can imagine Apple refining the machine learning to pull data from your alarm setting or calendar to better control this.  

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While I think that this is an interesting solution to the battery wear problem, a far better and more effective one would be for Apple to fit the iPhone with a bigger battery, so it didn't require such regular charging.

But for now, this is better than nothing, and if it helps delay that inevitable trip to the Apple Store to get the battery replaced -- or buy a new iPhone -- then it is a good thing. Right now, I think that this is the most exciting feature in iOS 13.

Do you want the maximum battery capacity possible, or a battery that lasts longer before being replaced? You choose.

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