Will Battery Life Be the Story of iPhone 4 and iOS4?

Some folks are getting their iPhones early, and the big media reviews are already out. Apple’s next gen operating system iOS4 is out as well. Based on what I’m reading I’m wondering if battery life isn’t going to be the story or at least one of the big stories.

Several folks who have installed iOS4 on 3GS and 3G models are reporting bigger hits on battery life. 3G owners seem to be hit worse than those with the 3GS. From limited personal experience I’m seeing battery life decline more rapidly using a 3GS, but I haven’t really been able to determine anything beyond my anecdotal observations. A local friend says that turning off Push on his phone resulted in battery life returning to normal, but obviously that’s not a desirable solution.

I did notice Joshua Topolsky’s statement in his review of the new phone and that aroused my curiosity.

The battery life on the iPhone 4 has been outstanding thus far, exceeding our expectations for longevity during testing. We’ve only had a short time to use the phone, but in the week or so we’ve been carrying the device as our main phone, we’ve had pretty amazing results under normal to heavy use. In fact, we managed to squeeze more than 38 hours — yes, 38 hours — of life out of a single charge using the phone as we normally would. We’re talking calls, some gaming, lots of push email and calendar invites, playing music over Bluetooth in the car, and just general testing (like downloading new apps, rearranging icons, tweaking settings).

I’m anxious to try this out for myself and hear from others about this as well. The reason for my interest here is a simple one. I went on record early after the iPad release stating that battery life was the killer feature of that iDevice on launch. I still think it is. It has become accepted that SmartPhones or SuperPhones or whatever you want to call them have real issues with battery life. That’s accepted as in, oh well, that’s just a part of the game. The iPad changed that for non-phone mobile devices and set a new bar. If Topolsky’s reporting holds up in the majority of cases (face it, everybody uses these devices differently and that usage determines how quickly juice is eaten up) then Apple would really have something to crow about. Intriguingly though, I’m not seeing this mentioned as a major point in the other early reviews. I don’t know if that means the reviewers didn’t have enough time to pass judgment here or what, but I think those kind of numbers are game changing for the Smart/Super phone segment if they hold up.

On the other hand, if 3G and 3Gs battery life is less than expected (as it looks to be) there’s going to be quite a bit of talk about that as well. But then, that puts Apple in a position to say, it is time to upgrade.

18 Comments

  1. Pearson

    06/23/2010 at 7:42 am

    My battery life has really been terrible since upgrading to iOS 4. I have a 3GS. Normally I charge my phone while I sleep, and it’s fine all the next day with heavy push, moderate phone and SMS and some gaming. Since the upgrade, I HAVE to recharge in the middle of the day. The iPhone seems considerably hotter as well.

    Reply

    • Glenn

      06/23/2010 at 3:57 pm

      I have the exact same problem with my 16GB 3G. Drains in half a day forcing me to recharge midday (and again at night). I tried turning off all app notifications last night to no avail. Interested in hearing if a restore works for you Zach.

      Reply

      • Glenn

        06/25/2010 at 6:51 am

        After several days of having to charge twice per day (noon and night), I turned off push email and now I can make it through an entire day with a single charge (similar to before the upgrade).

        Reply

    • Pearson

      06/25/2010 at 7:47 am

      I finally did a full reset and restore on mine, and I have been super vigilant about closing background apps. Battery life seems to be back to normal. Either the reset did it, or there is an issue with the ‘multitasking”. There needs to be an option to disable what is a pretty useless option to begin with.

      Reply

  2. Harry

    06/23/2010 at 10:27 am

    My 3G 16GB has hardly moved since I took it off the charger this @06h00 morning – it’s now 17h30. Definitely looks like improvement. (3G on, Bluetooth on and Wifi off.)

    Seems a tad slower now?!. Generally impressed.

    Something freaky with wifi perhaps?

    Reply

    • Harry

      06/23/2010 at 10:30 am

      Er, make that my battery indicator only dropped one bar…

      Reply

  3. Mike aka C-141xlr

    06/23/2010 at 12:32 pm

    Is it possible that those showing good battery results are closing all the background apps? Every app you close really does not, unless you close it from the multitasking bar. It is still in the background running using cycles and battery power. I have been constantly closing these apps as I found it did decrease my battery and made the phone run hotter which is an indication of increased battery drain. Mine is a 3GS fwiw. They need a method to close an app or send it to the background. With my WinMo devices I had a app that did just that.

    Reply

  4. Ric

    06/23/2010 at 12:47 pm

    Since installing IOS 4 on 2 gen iTouch, the battery has been drained each morning. I have the Touch plugged into a Logitech speaker during the working hours so the iTouch is fully charged when I leave work at the end of the day. Is there some WiFi settings I need to change? Is the new Airplane mode affecting the battery life?

    Reply

    • Zach

      06/23/2010 at 2:03 pm

      iOS 4 on my 2nd gen iPod Touch has the same issue Ric’s has. Fully charged my iPod before I went to bed, woke up and it was drained. Read that if you fully restore the iPod it might get fixed. It wouldn’t let me restore from my last backup even though i just backed it up a few moments earlier. All it did was erase everything.

      I loaded everything back on it and now I’m going to see if that fixed it.

      Reply

      • Zach

        06/24/2010 at 10:31 am

        My battery drained over night again. :(

        Reply

  5. Reuben

    06/23/2010 at 4:35 pm

    My experience of battery life while running ios4 on a 3GS has been just the opposite. Usually I would get the 20% warning by 6pm…for the past two days it has been around 40%..but I’m not running anything in background (that I know of) excepting notifylink to push Groupwise email – that I had before – and perhaps that is the difference

    Reply

  6. Brett Gilbertson

    06/23/2010 at 5:03 pm

    Sorry Sumocat, but l disagree. If battery life was a killer feature, iPhone would never have sold in the first place. My 3GS with (still on old OS) has never been able to get through a day of real use. I had to pay $120 for a battery sleeve just to make the thing work through my working day.

    Reply

    • Sumocat

      06/24/2010 at 6:04 am

      Ironically, you and I are in agreement. We should double-team Warner. :)

      Reply

  7. dstrauss

    06/24/2010 at 6:12 am

    Are you guys leaving WiFi on fulltime? That seemd to be the problem for me. First day, it was draining 5% every 15 minutes and got hot (using push with Exchange Server, connected to office WiFi, not a lot of browsing nor calls). Since turning off WiFi, and relying solely on the 3g services, it actually lasted longer than usual (about an hour +/- per day).

    Reply

  8. Jonathan

    06/25/2010 at 2:20 am

    I charged my 3GS all night, unplugged it at 9am, used safari to come to this website and browse the 4 pages of comments and it has used 10% of the battery! In 20 minutes! Wifi is turned off and have no other apps open Not good enough and as much as I love the new OS, I’m genuinely thinking about rolling back to the previous version ( if possible).

    It really needs to give you an option to close an app when you hit the home button, or choose what apps you want to multitask with. Rather than keep all your recent apps in the multitask bar.

    Reply

  9. Michael

    06/26/2010 at 10:07 am

    I have a 3GS recently updated to IOS4.

    I get at least 3 days between charges and regularly get 4 days.
    I only turn on WiFi when I need it (a one click app or hardware button would be handy!!)
    Push notifications are off.
    I only enable BT when needed too.

    My daily usage averages about 30mins of calls, 40 texts, 1-2 hours on internet or facebook/twitter apps and about 30mins on games.

    I found that leaving BT on when not in use really sucked my battery dry. WiFi did too but not as bad, if I leave Wifi on permanently it would need charged during the second day.

    I have not noticed any significant drop in battery life with IOS4 and this includes lots of extra play on it trying new features, etc.

    I try to leave the iphone to charge for a full 24 hours every once in a while too.

    Reply

  10. Francis Hunt

    06/28/2010 at 3:13 am

    I have upgraded to IOS4 on my iphone 3GS and and have no WiFi on.I have push on for my mail.I charged my phone from an empty battery to full and after five hours it was down to 50%.I made two calls and checked my mail once.Maybe this is why the new iphone has a better battery?It could be a good ploy to get us to upgrade to a new phone.

    Reply

  11. John

    06/28/2010 at 6:59 am

    My problem is my Griffin charger. I turn off my 3GS at night and leave it plugged in but it won’t take a charge. (The phone indicates that it’s charging.)

    The phone will charge in the car and it will charge using the Apple charging block. I don’t want to have to go buy all Apple chargers. Any ideas?

    Reply

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