I think I figured out what the “S” stands for in the iPhone 4S. Now, to be clear, I love my new iPhone 4S. I talk to it even when there isn’t a human on the other end of the line. Sometimes it talks back. But one thing that literally sucks about my iPhone 4S is its battery life. And I’m not the only one complaining.
Today, my iPhone died after about 8 hours—not even enough to get me through a full day without recharging (and this is typical). This was not 8 hours of constant use (unless you count the constant pinging of notifications, which may be the culprit). It was 8 hours total from the time I unplugged it in the morning and took it with me until the screen went black at around 4 PM. According to the specs, the iPhone 4S is supposed to get 200 hours of standby time, 8 hours of talk time, and “up to 6 hours” of Internet use on 3g. During the day, I made half a dozen calls less than 5 minutes each, used the Internet for an hour on the train (email, Twitter, light Web browsing), and then maybe another 90 minutes throughout the day.
So that comes to a total of 2.5 hours of Internet usage and 30 minutes of phone calls. The rest, in my mind, is all standby. Except maybe it isn’t since the phone is constantly bleeping with notifications and emails. And that may very well be the problem. There are many theories out there, but the ones which ring true to me are that notifications and location-based apps are the big battery drains.
The iPhone 4S has a really great new notification center where you can see recent notifications from all your apps with an always available pull-down screen. I have about a dozen apps that feed into that notification center, including Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, Skype, Google+, Foursquare Instagram and text messages. I have an equal number with location-based services turned on. Sure, I could turn these off and I probably will. But what’s the point of having a state of the art mobile computer in your pocket if you have to disable its best features?
No, what I’d like instead is for Apple to fix this mess. I don’t know how, perhaps through an update or new rules imposed on app developers. Maybe limit the number of times an app can ask for a location update when it is dormant. Or if notifications are the problem, make it easier to manage which notification you get by app. I don’t need to know every time somebody likes one of my Instagram photos or tries to add me as a friend on Facebook or Foursquare. I could cut out more than half of my notifications—and maybe a big chunk of the battery drain—if there were better granular controls to mute the noise. Better yet if there is a technical solution Apple can impose and I don’t have to do anything.
Battery life is one of those things you don’t notice until you don’t have it anymore. And I’m noticing it big time.