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.
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):
- 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
- 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.
- Lower your brightness.
- Turn off unnecessary radios if you’re not using them regularly
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.