The killer iPhone 5S feature we’re not going to see is 70% better battery life compared to the iPhone 5. Battery life is the biggest bottleneck for many iPhone users and something we wish Apple would attack as aggressively as possible. We don’t expect Apple to bless the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C with the same magic it bestowed upon its latest MacBook Air models, but we’re hoping for some battery improvements today’s iPhone event.
Drained batteries are more limiting than running out of storage capacity, being in a cell dead zone or even a damaged screen. An iPhone with a dead battery is absolutely worthless until it’s charged back up. Some iPhone users resort to lugging around battery cases or external batteries, but neither are an ideal solution.
The best solution is for Apple to throw a significantly bigger battery into the iPhone 5S, but that’s not going to happen considering that since every iPhone 5 leaked image we’ve seen so far shows that it has the same dimensions as the iPhone 5. Case manufacturers have already shown that the new iPhone will be able to slip inside existing iPhone 5 cases. We’re willing to bet that most iPhone users would welcome the tradeoff of a slightly thicker iPhone for a few more hours worth of battery life. Apple’s obsession with thinness is simply hurting the spec that matters the most in the real world.
Apple publishes pretty accurate battery life specs when it sells mobile gadgets. For example, the iPhone 5 is advertised as being able to stay powered on for up to 225 hours (9.3 days) on standby. In our testing we found that the iPhone 5’s battery can last a full week so long as you use it just an hour a day and leave it on standby the rest of the time. Apple also advertises that the iPhone 5 can play up to 10 hours of video on a single charge. Using the iPhone 5 as a mini entertainment center when sick in bed one day I was indeed able to re-watch almost an entire season of a TV show without recharging.
The problem is that in most instances, iPhone users aren’t interested in simply talking for the eight straight hours that Apple says the iPhone 5 will last for on a single charge. Many iPhone users jump between tasks and apps all day and drain their iPhones’ batteries well before they’re back home. The result is that iPhone users consciously and subconsciously limit their iPhone usage to avoid draining their batteries, essentially turning their iPhones into dumbphones on occasion.
Just because Apple’s likely sticking with the same sized iPhone doesn’t mean the company won’t be able to improve battery life. Back in June Apple introduced a pair of MacBook Air models that feature 70% to 80% better battery than their predecessors that look identical. Much of the improvement was due to Intel’s latest processor technology. Apple’s OS X Mavericks will improve battery life on its MacBooks even further once it’s rolled out. Jumping from seven to twelve hours of battery life clearly changes how MacBook Air users get through a day away from a power outlet.
Any battery life improvements we see in the iPhone 5S are going to have to overcome the power drain presented by new components and iOS 7’s more dynamic animations.
Above is a our video walkthrough of iOS 7 on the iPhone 5. Stay tuned for Apple’s iPhone event which kicks off at 10am PDT / 1pm EDT.