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11/3/2011
12:10 PM
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Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe

The iPhone 4S is one of the year's highest-profile tech products, from a company with a slavish devotion to getting every detail right. How does this happen?

InformationWeek Now--What's Hot Right Now
Apple finally acknowledged Wednesday what iPhone 4S users have been saying for weeks: Something is rotten in the state of battery-ville. The company's mea culpa was limited and, many users immediately noted, late. In a statement to AllThings D, an Apple spokesperson said "A small number of customers have reported lower than expected battery life on iOS 5 devices. We have found a few bugs that are affecting battery life and we will release a software update to address those in a few weeks."

A few "bugs"--and a few weeks wait for a fix. There are two ways to look at these two pieces of information. The first is: Mobile is complicated; wireless networks are constantly changing animals; vendors goof; be patient and all will be better in a few weeks. The second is: This is one of the most anticipated, discussed, planned--and I would assume, tested--products of the year, from a company that has a slavish devotion to getting every detail right. How the heck does this happen?

Based on the comments Thursday in the Apple support community discussion on this topic, the faithful are seeing it the second way.

Consider this comment in that Apple forum from LeftyPBJ: "All I can say right now is that this is completely ridiculous. I've tried to read many of the postings/hints by other discussion board members (which I do appreciate). However, I've had to spend time turning off this setting and that setting and this one and that one ... and changing this one and that one. It's crazy that I have to have a device with 75% of the functionality turned off in order for the battery usage to be at a semi "normal" level."

"Besides shutting off data and phone service, or just shutting off the phone completely ... I don't know what more I can do," he continues. "I feel like I have purchased a device which is MAJORLY FLAWED. I will try to be patient until this "fix" is released by Apple ... but my patience is really wearing thin. I don't think I would be half as annoyed if I could buy a replacement battery to have as a back-up. Since Apple's devices are sealed, I need to make sure I have an adequate charge AT ALL TIMES. Any other phone, you can easily swap-out batteries and have a fully-charged one ready to go as a back-up."

[ Need help conserving the juice on your Apple iPhone 4S? See 4 Fixes For iPhone 4S Battery Woes. ]

I can't help but wonder what the public reaction would be if this were a Microsoft mobile device, not an Apple one.

Apple has done a public relations favor for every phone maker for the next year. The next time battery life on a hot new device stinks, people will now say, "Well, this is hard. Even Apple messed it up."

For now, there are steps you can take to preserve your iPhone 4S battery life and perhaps your mental health. My colleague Thomas Claburn has shared 4 useful tips for conserving iPhone 4S battery life. Also, asInformationWeek's Fritz Nelson points out, you can buy an iPhone 4S battery pack from a company like Mophie.

We'll be staying on the batterygate story as it develops. Some bloggers are already obsessing with comparisons of how Apple handled this compared to the previous iPhone "Antennagate" crisis.

But the truth is, that's inside baseball. Users just want a reasonable explanation of how this could have happened, and a quick fix. Was Apple so up against a wall timing-wise that it pushed a phone with serious, known battery-draining software issues?

By the way, another company made a mea culpa Wednesday and got considerably less grief. Google released, then quickly pulled, its iPhone and iPad app for Gmail, due to what the company called a bug. No word yet on when the fixed version will return to the App Store. In its Gmail Twitter feed, the company said, among other things, "Sorry we messed up."

We have come to expect Google to be in some state of constant beta testing, it seems. Apple, however, has never had that reputation.

Laurianne McLaughlin is editor-in-chief for InformationWeek.com. Follow her on Twitter at @lmclaughlin.

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Geoffster
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Geoffster,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2011 | 8:08:38 PM
re: Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe
I have not experienced any of the battery issues on my iPhone 4S while some of my colleagues have had issues and other colleagues have no issues; so it is not a cut and dried issue or 100% of iPhone 4S users would have it. I expect it is a variety of conditions that cause the issue. All software no matter how good has bugs, the more complex the cause the harder to identify and fix. I am not pardoning Apple nor excusing them, this battery issue is only news because the expectation bar was set so high and the Apple hubris train never helps in such circumstances. Wen it is found out there is no perfect, that bugs happen and the company is Apple let the articles with complaints begin because the media knows having Apple in the headline increases readerships and responses.
ThePrisoner6
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ThePrisoner6,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2011 | 4:36:12 PM
re: Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe
What I find surprising about this Battery issue is that those reviewing the 4s made no mention of it, as though it materialized immediately upon release. The Wall Street Journal review of the 4s, for example, said that on a full charge, the battery on the device lasted all day, every day. Find out what was different about the pre-release review model versus the production line version, and you will find out where the process broke down.
nigebj
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nigebj,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2011 | 4:25:06 PM
re: Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe
Really, you are surprised they missed something in their testing ?

Apple 3G - case cracking, a rampant problem in the white model.
4G the antenna and now 4GS the battery.

Let's face it, it would have been more surprising if there had NOT been a major oversight in the testing.

Everyone makes mistakes, the measure is how you respond to them and whether you learn from those mistakes. Apple still seems to have a way to go on their field test protocols - but at least they usually deal with the problems and are getting quicker to admit them.
YMOM100
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YMOM100,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/3/2011 | 9:27:19 PM
re: Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe
The users are just not holding it right!
herman_munster
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herman_munster,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/3/2011 | 8:46:29 PM
re: Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe
Yes, this is stated in the article...
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/3/2011 | 8:30:02 PM
re: Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe
Thank you for clarifying our tip. And for your sense of humor. Of course we are all human and we all make mistakes. I'm just surprised that a testing issue on this scale would make it through Apple's process. Best, Laurianne
tkeller921
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tkeller921,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/3/2011 | 8:28:52 PM
re: Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe
LOL!!!!!!!!!!!! " This is one of the most anticipated, discussed, planned--and I would assume, tested--products of the year, from a company that has a slavish devotion to getting every detail right. How the heck does this happen?"

You call yourself a journalist? Hello, iPhone 4 antenna issues???

DrGwen
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DrGwen,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/3/2011 | 8:19:38 PM
re: Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe
If anyone was really paying attention to 'the problem' and not the symptom, it might dawn on them that all devices currently running iOS 5 are being affected ... which means iPads, iPods and iPhones.

Which mean that the problem is not in the hardware, folks.

Where the problem is... is in the power management routines in the Operating System... caused by Apple enabling features in the hardware that were previously left 'off' because the functions weren't enabled in previous releases of iOS.

It's touchy to get it 'just right' ... and it can go wrong so easily... and with a major OS release there are thousands potential 'problems' that can come back to bite you.

Thankfully, the problem's been found, the code's been fixed and is being tested, and soon the 'symptom' will go away.

I've run into power management issues on products from almost every manufacturer of laptop, notebook and mobile devices over the years, and I expect to see more in the future.
NeonRacer
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NeonRacer,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/3/2011 | 8:03:06 PM
re: Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe
Laurianne
How does this happen? Well it's Bad News, Good News. Bad News: You can't teach old dogs new tricks...Good News: We are not dogs.

Humans make mistakes...for example your colleague's "4 useful tips for conserving iPhone 4S battery life" has an error in it. Millions of people won't expect perfection, but they might be frustrated by the missing step in that tip sheet.

For those who might be solving battery life with that tip sheet, the Time Zone tip said to change it as "part of the iPhone's Location Services menu (Settings > Location Services > Setting Time Zone)". The correct steps are: (Settings > Location Services > System Services > Setting Time Zone)
ANON1242835692625
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ANON1242835692625,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/3/2011 | 7:07:44 PM
re: Apple Batterygate Mea Culpa Doesn't Soothe
They fixed antennagate and the'll fix this. Anyone who is an early adopter goes through something like this quite often. I have heard moans and groans with every iPhone since the orginal. Nobody is holding a gun to your head making you purchase the phone within minutes of its release, or to purchase an iPhone at all. There is always an Android device . . .BTW, I believe you can return the phone and cancel your contract within 30 days with AT&T. And yes, I have the 4S and yes, I am experiencing extreme battery discharge - I've tried many of the supposed fixes but nothing has really helped that much. I'm getting along by keeping power adapters with me at all times.
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