Exploring Supposed iPhone 4S Battery Issues

It seems that I always revisit this topic after any iPhone release, and sometimes even after a new iOS update. This time, I seem to be getting a whiff of more reports than usual of battery drain issues than on a typical major iPhone release. When the iPhone 4S was announced a couple weeks back, it was made clear that standby time had been reduced slightly — more specifically, 200 hours, down from 300 on the iPhone 4. Also, you get 1 hour less on Wifi — 9 hours, down from 10 on the iPhone 4.

In reality, you probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference, yet this can also entirely depend on how you use your device. On Twitter, a lot of people that I follow have been reporting issues with their iPhone 4S’s battery life, however I’ve seen numerous people mention that recalibrating their battery, by doing a full discharge helped a lot. Others reported that doing a clean install, or restore worked wonders.

I decided to do some searching on Twitter, just to gauge the general reaction to these supposed battery problems. The issues vary, but you can see yourself by looking at the search results: https://twitter.com/#!/search/iphone%204s%20battery%20life.

A couple of days ago, Arnold Kim over at MacRumors was also keen to point out about these reports as well:

For tests with 3G Data, Audio Playback, Video Playback, and Video Recording, iLounge found that the iPhone 4S came in under the iPhone 4’s battery life times. For Wi-Fi and FaceTime testing they found it to be similar to the iPhone 4, and on Cellular Calls, they found the iPhone 4S slightly better. Check out their data charts that they provide for a better overview of the impact.

I haven’t seen any conclusive side by side comparison testing between the iPhone 4 and 4S yet. With iOS 5, I noticed that apps can have persistent GPS running at all times in the background, including Apple’s own Reminders app. That clued me into the fact that it’s entirely possible that people are using these apps that keep GPS running, albeit in a special ultra-low power mode. I too have noticed just the slightest hint of reduced battery life on my iPhone 4.

There are only two apps that I have that keep the GPS service running, and that’s Reminders and Foursquare. The latest 4.0 update for Foursquare added a neat little feature called “Radar.” This allows the app to be a heck of a lot more useful, in that it can send you push notifications of places of interest that are near where you’re located. Even with these GPS services running in a conservative low-power mode, there clearly is going to be some sort of performance hit on the battery. After all, you can’t get something from nothing.

If history can tell me anything, it’s that we’ll see a small subset of people complain about battery life for the first couple months after release, and then afterwards it will be as if there was no issue in the first place. I’m simply just not convinced that the battery is all that different from the previous generation. If you think otherwise, do let me know.