How to improve battery life on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch

This has been the subject of some debate among iPhone users since the first iPhone hit the market back in 2007. There are plenty of tips and tricks to help get the most out of your iDevice, and I will be covering those and a few other things you might not realize.

iPhone and iPad battery tips

First let’s talk about the “advertised” usage stats. The battery life advertised by Apple is not real-world for anyone. Let’s just get that out in the open now. For them, it’s an average of the BEST possible usage in their controlled environment. Sure, they take plenty of things into consideration when testing, but it will always be the maximum average of how the battery performs, and not what you’ll be seeing once you get your iDevice in your hot little hands.

I need to point out that Apple’s iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad generally dominate the market in terms of battery life. There might be a phone or 2 that may have recently inched passed the iPhone, but in general, it’s like it’s brethren, a market leader. There’s no need to bash any competitors over this, we all know it to be true.

So here are the Apple advertised usage results for the iPhone, iPad 2, and iPod Touch (all information has been obtained directly from the Apple website under “tech Specs” for each current iDevice):

iPad 2:

  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music
  • Up to 9 hours of surfing the web using 3G data network

iPhone 4:

  • Talk time: Up to 7 hours on 3G, Up to 14 hours on 2G (GSM model only)
  • Standby time: Up to 300 hours
  • Internet use: Up to 6 hours on 3G, Up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi
  • Video playback: Up to 10 hours
  • Audio playback: Up to 40 hours

iPod Touch 4Gen:

  • Music playback time: Up to 40 hours when fully charged
  • Video playback time: Up to 7 hours when fully charged

Something very important that many people don’t quite register is two little words found in every description- “Up to”. This means that in their testing, Apple discovered that the peak performance average is what you can get “up to”. There are some cases where you will fully surpass it. While it does happen, expect that you will be with the masses in the “not quite there, but close” group. That means you didn’t get “up to” what they did, but again, this is their top-end benchmark as the optimum performance of the iDevice, and it’s not fully expected that you will reach those numbers but maybe on rare occasions, plus you are almost never going to exclusively listen to your music for 40 hours straight, or web-browse for 10 hours, etc. Normal usage is a combination of all aspects and functions of the iDevice resulting in what I call your “usage average”. This varies from person to person, depending on how you use your device.

Now that I hopefully have provided a little clarity about advertised battery life without destroying your warm and fuzzies about your iDevice, let’s talk about how you can get closer to the battery life that Apple implies you can reach.

If you’ve been using an iDevice for the past 6 months or more and have been doing any research online, then you already know the basics of how to optimize your iDevice. For those that are newer to the Apple Mobile Family, I’ll do a quick checklist for you.

  1. Lower your brightness.
  2. Turn off unnecessary radios if you’re not using them regularly
  3. Properly configure email and notifications- If you get work email on your iDevice, you probably use push services. If it’s just personal email and none of it critical, then manual pull or fetch would be better for you. I’ll touch a bit more on this below.

That is the meat and potatoes of it. Marianne Schultz has gone into detail on the above tips in her article maximizing your iPhone’s battery life.

So, what else can you do to increase your battery life? Charge it often. I’m serious! Apple uses Lithium Polymer batteries (not a straight lithium ion!), which perform best when you keep them “topped off”, meaning if you have a chance to charge it, then do it. I generally never let myself get below 45% unless testing due to what seems like unusual battery drainage.
Apple also recommends that once a month you drain the battery down below 10% and then fully (uninterrupted) charge back to 100%. This is more for the battery meter than anything. It helps the meter get a correct reading on the battery and not display inaccurate information.

Here is a way to tell if your meter is off from what your battery can hold. If you connect to iTunes and charge till the battery is reading full on the phone, check to see what symbol iTunes is showing for your phone. I just noticed that even though my phone says charged, iTunes is saying charging. To me, this means it’s time to cycle the battery again. Which I will do as soon as iTunes tells me the battery is full.
Dead iPhone battery

It is ill-advised to drain till “death” because this can actually damage the battery, which is why I said 10%. That being said, there are those on the everythingiCafe iPhone forums that have drained all the way and have achieved great battery life afterwards. I cannot advise this, even if it works. (ok, maybe ONE time when you first get your iDevice, but that’s it.) The battery needs to keep the electrons flowing, so killing it’s a technical no-no, and it’s also not advised to power the phone off for any length of time.

So what else can you do to get the most out of your battery? Well, I would recommend taking a close look at your needs and uses, and plan from there. Remember Apple’s motto that “there’s an app for that”.

For email, I keep it on manual, but I use an app called Push for Gmail, that sends me notifications when I have new mail. It can only be configured for one account, but once you go into the native mail app, any other accounts that are present and active will pull down to your phone, so if you have a primary gmail account, this is beneficial. There are other apps for getting email notifications, just make sure that you pick the one that is right for you.
Since Push for Gmail uses Notifications to tell me about new email, it saves me battery. If I were to use the “push” setup for my Gmail account, then the phone sends out a signal to the server, asks if there is any new messages, and then the server responds. This occurs a number of times per minute, and there is not a way to change the configuration. It’s supposed to simulate real-time email arrival. This also means that your iDevice is transmitting and receiving all the time. Just a small group of bits here and there, but it still requires transmission power through either cellular signal or wifi.

Notifications are sent from either the app company’s server or Apple’s server to your phone. One way, only when there is something to notify you about. This saves a lot of battery, unless you have a ton of apps that use notifications and you are constantly getting interrupted by some new pop-up. (yes, notifications really needs an over-haul as far as how it notifies. Nothing like battling hard in a game and suddenly a pop-up message hits right when you were trying to deliver that killing blow. Most games I play don’t pause when this happens either, so you are going to get stomped till you dismiss the message or view it.)
Another point is to reboot your phone every couple of days. This might sound silly and unnecessary to many people, but it does help, as it cleans up any errant processes that might be “hung” in the background. Yes, unfortunately, this does happen, even in Apple’s iOS, so don’t be fooled into thinking that it doesn’t happen.
Skype on iPhone battery

Here is a quick example to show that it does indeed happen. This past week I made the leap to 4.3.1 from a Jailbroken 4.2.1. I hit a slight snag, getting the 1013 error (which was from a setting in TinyUmbrella to point to the Cydia servers instead of Apple’s) so I restored again, and went through the long process or restoring my profile, music, videos, and apps back onto the iDevice. When it was finished, I launched “Free Memory” and found Skype to be running in the background. I had not used it in over a week, and I keep my task manager clean most of the time, so after a full restore, there is NO reason that it should be running in the background. I launched Skype formally, and then killed it in Task Manager and it completely went away. My point is that sometimes, there are things that the system has devoted power and memory to. Rebooting takes care of most of that.

This brings me to my next point: keeping your Task Manager clean. In fact, whenever you reboot, I suggest first opening Task Manager and closing everything in there. If you don’t, these apps will still be in there after the reboot. Why is keeping the Task Manager clean important for battery life? As I said, apps can get “hung” in processes, and that means that there is processing power and memory being directed or reserved for that app, whether it’s being used or not. This affects battery life. I know that Apple says that apps that are “open” in the task manager are on “hold” and don’t affect anything till you use them, but I have seen enough evidence to argue that point. Not everyone will experience this, as it depends on the apps you are using, but I fully believe that someone with 16 apps in the task manager all the time is going to have worse battery life than someone with the same iDevice and iOS that has 1-2 apps in the Task Manager.

This can be debated all day, and like I said, not everyone will experience this, but I recommend testing it and seeing if it’s right for you. Plus, what harm will it cause keeping the task manager clean? None, and If nothing else, it will save you from flipping through 4 pages of apps that are running, when it might be easier just launching the one you want again from the Springboard.

Someone reading this and other battery articles for iDevices might think that this is all over-board for the “highly coveted” Apple products, and honestly, for many general users it is. But for the growing number of power users out there that NEED their iDevice from dawn to dusk, these are some helpful ideas to squeeze that little bit of extra juice out of your iDevice when it counts.

If you keep it charged often, and eliminate unnecessary data connections, you will definitely increase the time you have to play with your iDevice.

I’ll leave with this little parting story about my greatest battery life I recently experienced. After upgrading to 4.3.1 stock, it seemed like my battery was taking a nose-dive right away. This is when I discovered Skype running in the background. So I reconnected my phone back to my laptop and charged up my missing juice that it seemed to have vanished too quickly. Then, after I was at 100% for 30 minutes or so, reset my usage statistics and then disconnected my phone. I have to stop here and say previously a really good “battery day” was getting about 8 hours of usage before hitting the 20% warning.

iPhone battery

After the update, I hit 7 Hours and 38 minutes by 50%, and 8 hours and 24 minutes by 42%. I’m quite sure that if I had kept going to say, 5%, I would have been very close to hitting 12 hours. However, the next day I tested, I hit 5 hours and 6 minutes by 47%. The only real difference is about an hour more on the phone. The most frustrating thing about battery life is that HOW it’s used is a variable with a large impact. The tips above will help get you the most bang for your buck.

Post battery tips

I just reset my statistics again and pulled my phone off the charger. 2 apps in Task Manager, let’s see how it goes…

Do you any great tip for improving battery life that’s not mentioned in the article? Let us know in the comments or in our iPhone forums.

  • Hawk

    Just as an update to this article, I have conducted a couple tests since writing this, and my last one was by far the best I think anyone can get. I took screenshots throughout the day.
    I can tell you that the apps I was using probably played a decent role, but SimplyTweet, CNN, EIC, MagicMouse, email, and… oh, Wave (game). That was it. All radios are on.
    Here are the numbers: at 91%= 2 hours, 31 minutes. at 77%=7 hours even ( yeah, I was shocked). At 60%=8hours, 36 minutes. at 58%=8hours and 52 minutes. at 52%= 9hours and 26 minutes. 50%=9 hours 43 minutes. 45%=9 hours 55 minutes, and finally when I put it back on the charger: 40%= 10 hours and 19 minutes.
    I don’t know what to say other than not every day is like this. Example would be that right now I am at 83%. and I have 2 hours and 12 minutes usage. Compared to above, that’s a lot worse, but still well within acceptable ranges. I don’t know exactly why I get these marathon runs on battery, but it hasn’t been an isolated incident. I’ve had this happen at least 4 times that I can recall, and each time is better than the one before.
    At this point I am checking to see if there is a possible hardware correlation. There has always been some speculation between wall charging and PC/Mac charging, but I never really paid enough attention to tell a difference. The usage I recorded in the article I know was from charging off my PC, because I had just done the firmware update to 4.3.1.
    The usage I recorded in this comment is from a wall charge.

    • schmoop

      So right now I am at 58% with my usage 2hrs and 27 minutes. I have used my phone mostly for email, texts, weather, a game or two and updates. My task bar is clear. How am I doing?

      • Hawk

        I would say that you are a little on the low side of things, but it really depends on what games, and how you are getting your mail. I can tell you that I will blaze through my battery playing NOVA 2 or Infinity blade. And I don’t play for very long, maybe 15 minutes at most. (my attention span has really shortened)
        It all depends on WHAT you use the most compared to how you use it.

  • Ivan Williams

    Hawk, nicely done with this post! With various changes here and there, I have noticed better battery life…

    Plus, based on statistics, since I’ve had my iPhone 4, it is clear I hardly speak on it (16 hours). I’ve had it since launch date.

    • Hawk

      Thanks man. I’m glad you noticed an improvement!

  • Eric

    What memory tool is that…?

  • Jet

    nice information. i have read a lot of battery saving tips and a glad to have read this post as i learned some new ways to improve battery life of my iPhone. thanks a lot for this helpful information.

    • Hawk Pettengill

      Thanks Jet. Just remember that what you use (especially games or heavy data aps) will greatly affect the rate of usage.
      I just hit 77% on a test I am currently running, and already at 3 hours and 25 minutes. This is a normal percentage to usage for me. I know people here get 3 hours at 50% or lower, but part is always what they use.
      I have SimplyTweet, Magic Mouse, Safari, EIC, and stock sms open right now.

  • Guest

    > It is ill-advised to drain till “death” because this can actually damage the battery,

    Apple (the people that *MAKE* the phone) says it’s full ok… and recommended to drain it 100%… *REGULARLY*.

    Where did you ever hear it somehow “damages” the battery?

    • Hawk Pettengill

      I did research on Lithium Polymer batteries, that’s how I know that draining till the device dies is a bad thing. There are a ton of websites on the subject, from manufacturers and tech specialists. They all say the same thing: it’s not good to completely drain a lithium polymer battery. The battery needs to have electrons flowing (which is why it’s not good to leave a device off for any length of time), and it’s better to top-off the battery often.
      Yes, Apple does indeed recommend draining the battery once a month- to reset the battery meter, not to condition the battery. It’s their simple fix for making sure that the battery meter stays in sync with usage.
      I even drain my battery down pretty low for that reason too, but never till it shuts off, and I do it every couple months. On average, I still squeeze out more usage out of my iPhone 4 than most people by about 3 hours.

  • Bill B

    Dear Hawk,

    Thanks for the great tips, and the link to Marianne Schultz’s article.

    I’d just like to be certain that I understand correctly: it’s best to keep my iPhone 4 topped off, even if it’s just been disconnected from the power source for a brief period?

    The situation is as follows: I work from home, and spend most of my time in front of the computer. However, when I’m running around our property I might just take the phone with me for a few minutes. Or I might be out for an hour or so to run some errands or attend a meeting.

    Under those circumstances, I’m wondering if it is really best to keep topping off the battery when it’s only dropped less than 10%, for example.

    Thanks so much for your time and valuable insights!

    Sincerely, Bill

    • Hawk

      No, you don’t need to keep charging it if all you are dropping is 10%. If you drop 30-40%, then yes, I recommend topping it off, but I’m not telling you to make it a manditory thing either. The phone is meant to be used, so use it. If you have used it and it’s down towards the halfway mark of the battery meter and you have a power source and time, then charge it. Otherwise, you should be able to go for another couple of hours of usage without any real worry.
      I have a car dock by with a pass-thru that is connected to a Griffin AutoPilot. I drive around 45-50 minutes on my morning and evening commute. That’s where I tend to get my “top-off” charge, and I get to listen to my tunes at the same time.
      I also keep a cable at my desk, just in case I actually need it.

  • RemE

    Just a comment, as a super user of lithium batteries. All devices like phone and iPads with lithium batteries have smart chips managing the battery. This is manditory because lithiums can be quite dangerous if not carefully handled in charging and discharging, they can burn like a road flare. Taking an iPad to “Dead” is actually about 10% as the chip reserves that last 10% to save the battery from actual death as it would actually damage a lithium if you were allowed to take it completely dead. So you can run them down, but ALWAYS recharge as soon as possible. Personally I always keep mine topped up, deep cycling lithiums does age them faster than keeping them full most of the time.

  • Anaoy

    Dear hawk,
    My battery level is 80% and my usage is 59 minutes! I hve used my iphone for 1 game and surfing the internet for 20 min on wifi. So how am i going?

    • Hawk Pettengill

      Depending on the game and your signal strength, that sounds about right.
      I have a couple games that eat battery like it’s going out of style, so from when I start to when I stop playing, I usually see a pretty significant drop in percentage.
      Here’s the big thing to remember: Follow the suggestions above and in the other article that I linked to, and you should be fine, but don’t obsess about it unless you aren’t lasting more than 2-3 hours before you hit 5% or so. Just enjoy the device!

  • dhonna

    my sister installed something at setting general but after installing it a apple shutting down and blink with a apple logo and we can’t used the iPod please help me to fix that !! what should i do ??

  • Andrew

    Dear Hawk

    i have an ipod touch 4th gen and my sister tells me to charge when dead but you say below 10% which i used to do but she said charge when dead your killing your batttery!
    i have had my ipod since christmas and my battery gets consumed a LOT i go on youtube watch a half hour video and half my batterys gone! how do i stop this?
    Do you have any tips?
    Do i need i new battery?