Apple

iPhone 4 battery life: How much is Apple promising?

We wrote about how battery life is one of the most important fixes needed in the iPhone 4, see how much Apple is promising compared to the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS.

Leading up to the iPhone 4 unveiling at WWDC 2010, I wrote that battery life was the most important thing Apple needed to fix in the iPhone. As we'd hoped, Apple announced that it was putting a larger battery inside the fourth generation iPhone and that the new device would be running on Apple's new A4 processor, allowing the company to squeeze out greater power efficiency between the hardware and the software.

Jobs even paid lip service to both issues in his keynote. He said, "Because we’ve made the battery bigger and the A4 is so good with power management, we’ve improved the battery life."
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Another thing Apple is doing with the iPhone 4 that could improve battery life is integrating the wireless antennas into the new metal side plates. If this works as designed, it could improve wireless signal quality, which would cause less battery drain because when mobile phones don't have a strong signal they try to boost it by pushing more power to the radios.

That said, Apple is also adding features to the iPhone 4 that will likely consume additional battery life, including a higher resolution screen, an LED flash for the camera, and multitasking. That may be why Apple is making only modest promises of improved battery life with the iPhone 4. The chart below compares Apple's published battery life numbers for the iPhone 4 compared to the iPhone 3G (2008) and iPhone 3GS (2009).

If it's any consolation, the hardware analysis site AnandTech said, "Apple's battery life estimates have been ridiculously accurate over the past couple of years. I swear Apple must have my office bugged because my battery life numbers almost always equal theirs and they have no access to my test files."

I'm not quite as confident in Apple's numbers because they are often taken in a vacuum (the audio playback number is only true of you turn off all the wireless radios and just use the iPhone as an iPod). Nevertheless, I agree with AnandTech that Apple's numbers tend not to be as wildly exaggerated as some battery life suggestions we see for other laptops and smartphones.

That means that these numbers are probably fairly accurate, and that the iPhone 4's net gain in battery life will likely not be very significant.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

13 comments
jporter1000
jporter1000

I've found Apple's published battery life numbers to be extremely optimistic. I expect those for iPhone 4 will be as well. 5 hours 3G browsing on a 3GS? I'm lucky to get half that on mine despite turning off half the features.

misceng
misceng

While every report on battery life will give the times it will run between charges there are two other aspects I never see mentioned. Firstly how many times it can be recharged before it fails completely and secondly how the amount of charge it can hold reduces over time. Like travis.duffy@ I do not buy any product for which I cannot personally replace the battery. I am also not prepared as suggested by ddao@ to do a 10 step engineering process to get at a battery. For those not aware of the innards of a sealed product it is too likely to result in its final destruction.

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

One of the many reasons I refuse to own an iphone.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

I agree with you. Apple wants you to get the latest and greatest every couple of years. Do these iPhone batteries will last that long - maybe less if they extend battery life. As well, all this non-battery replacable crap ain't good for the environment!

mbaker
mbaker

There have been times with other smart phones we have used that pulling the battery solved issues that powering the device off and back on would not fix, not sure why. It's unfortunate with the new designe that a replacable battery was not considered. I do know several people who have the iPhone and have not had those types of "battery pulling" issues, so the perception is they seem to be more stable. I don't know for sure, but isn't it something like an $80 swap to get a referbished unit if your battery life has gone south?

bobbyroebling
bobbyroebling

But I've had the 1st gen and didn't have any problems, still have my 3g and I got it when they were released, still haven't had any problems. You shouldn't include that in your reasons, especially if you've never owned one. You should replace that reason with once you buy one app from the app store your locked in.

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

If you hold the home and power buttons long enough the iPhone will shut down, roughly the equivalent of pulling the battery. Sort of like holding down the power button on a stuck laptop. I think you are right about the $80 range - but you can get a kit for around $20. While it can be intimidating to tear into your shiny iPhone it?s not too bad. I?ve taken apart and re-assembled one that was water damaged. Surprisingly it even worked after re-assembly ;)

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

because regardless of how long the battery lasts, as a consumer I demand the ability to be able to swap batteries if I need to. I am on the road for several days at a time. Leaving a phone on a charger is not always an option. I carry a battery charger and a couple spare batteries for my blackberry so I can go at least a week without ever having to plug in my phone. Unlike most iphone users, I USE my smart phone. It is not a toy, i rely on it.

nwallette
nwallette

You can buy a cases with built-in batteries. You can buy reusable commodity battery extenders that use a couple of AAs to charge/supplement your phone. You can use an induction mat to charge your phone every time you set it on your desk. You HAVE options, and many of these are preferable to me than having to keep track of multiple batteries, and ways to charge them outside of the device that I want to be running 24/7. The bottom line is, neither approach is perfect, and both are acceptable if you are willing to try. It sounds to me like you wouldn't want an iPhone even if it was powered by atmospheric energy and never needed a battery at all. So quitcherbitchin. ;-)

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