Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The iPhone Battery Experiment

I have recently reported on my decision to keep using my iPhone 3GS instead of spending north of $800 on a new iPhone 5. I can already report my attempt at retro smartphoning will not last beyond the upcoming year, not necessarily because my 3GS won’t last but rather because Apple has made it clear its upcoming iOS 7 will not support the 3GS (neither will it support the iPhone 4, for that matter).
Still, in order to be able to happily live the year ahead with my 3GS I thought I would have its battery replaced. The reason is simple: when my iPhone was brand new its battery used to last me 4 days between charges; now it doesn’t even last 24 hours. It’s still manageable because I tend to spend enough of the day at home, not going anywhere, to comfortably charge my phone; however, I still find myself restricting the way I use the phone so as to avoid draining the battery while away.
So I invested $50 in having the battery replaced, an affair that took a technician less than 15 minutes. (You can do it yourself, if you have the tools and the replacement battery, but it’s a bit too tricky for my taste – to the point of not being worth the financial savings.) And now I am here to report how my newly renovated phone feels like!
In one word: it feels the same. Sure, I can tell there’s a different battery in there, but the performance is still, effectively, the same – less than 24 hours of capacity and all. In other words, I have wasted $50 of my hard earned money.
What did I learn from this experiment? I learned that my policies of avoiding battery abuse may be paying off in the sense that my rechargeable batteries tend to last longer than they do with others (disclaimer: better batteries could also explain the phenomenon). More importantly, I caught a glimpse at the side effects of the ever “improving” operating systems running the iPhone. That is, with the hardware being the same, iOS 6 saps the battery three to four times faster than iOS 3 did three years ago. I do wonder what goes on in there to create such a major difference.
Of course, I am to blame just the same: it's not only that the new iOS sucks more battery; a lot of it is to do with me and the way I use my phone. It is fairly obvious there are more uses for a smartphone today then there were three years ago.
In other words: times are changing, but the battery stays the same.

Image by nvog86, Creative Commons license


Uri said...

You must have charged your battery hundreds of times - how could it last the same as a new battery?

I might not expect it to last four days (as you've said - new OS, new usage mode) but at least some difference!

BTW, how's your kindle holding up? How often do you need to charge it?

Moshe Reuveni said...

I know, I'm puzzled too. I can come up with some theories:
1. The new battery is not that great. We've had it before with our Nokias (ancient past), when we got replacement batteries on eBay and they were crap.
2. I'm treating my batteries well. I suspect that during its first two years, my iPhone's battery has been charged just a bit more than 200 times (normally the threshold after which batteries collapse). During its third year, though, it came down to charging once a day.
3. The difference between iOS version really is big. iOS 4 was a major battery drainer, while iOS 5 fixed it a bit.
4. Spotify appears to be a major battery killer. After two hours of listening offline (no wifi or 3G active) my battery loses some 40% of its power and the phone feels hot. Is it buggy? Is it the DRM? Is it the 320kbps rate? I don't know.

As it is, the new battery seems to last 20%-25% longer than the old. I expected more; results do vary.

As for the Kindle: still running at the same rate of monthly charges. However, some times the battery wouldn't charge, a problem solved by using the iPad's stronger charger.
One problem I do have with my Kindle is that it started cracking and the cracks get bigger with time (it's the result of a drop, more than a year ago). Still works well, although I do have my eye on the new model with backlighting...

Uri said...

yeah, it looks very nice. It'll be very interesting to see it in action.