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Some iPhone 4S owners report that their devices lose power too quickly.

Thomas Claburn

October 28, 2011

3 Min Read

Apple's iPhone 4S, as did its predecessor, has a problem. The highly successful iPhone 4 suffered from what was initially believed to be an antenna design flaw and was subsequently explained as a math error in Apple's software. The iPhone 4S, off to a start that suggests it may be even more successful than its antecedent, suffers from what appears to be poor battery performance, likely from a software bug.

The scope of the battery issue isn't clear: Apple did not respond to a request to provide more information about claims from iPhone 4S users about poor battery life. But the growing thread of complaints about poor iPhone 4S battery life on Apple's iPhone support forum--1,327 replies and 100,349 views as of 1:32pm PT on Friday, and 1,384 replies and 101,567 views an hour later--suggests more than a handful of Apple customers are dissatisfied. As the owner of an iPhone 4S myself, I can attest to the fact that the phone's battery drains faster than it did when I was using the iPhone 4. [ What can iOS 5 do for you ? Check out 10 Innovative iOS 5 Apps. ] Users report situations like finding 20% less power after leaving the phone unused overnight, 10% loss of power in 15 minutes of iMessage usage over WiFi, and 50% power loss in three hours without use. According to a report in The Guardian, Apple engineers have been contacting some iPhone 4S customers and asking them to install performance profiling software. iOS 5 already includes a capability to report diagnostic information to Apple, with user consent. Presumably, the standard diagnostic routines do not provide data that Apple engineers need to identify the issue. Speculation about the source of the power drain has suggested a number of possible culprits related to iPhone 4S features: iCloud, Siri, Location Services, Bluetooth, Calendar/Reminder Sync, and automated diagnostic transmissions to Apple, among others. In general, anything that utilizes network connectivity is going to drain more power than an app that just runs locally. Some users report being able to improve battery performance by disabling various network access and location data settings, and restoring only necessary services. In my case, my battery performance is poor and I have not enabled iCloud, so iCloud isn't a suspect for me. To undo the brand damage of "antennagate," Apple went all out, jettisoning an executive whom it fought to bring over from IBM, holding a press conference to correct misapprehensions about its antenna engineering, and publicizing its antenna laboratory. If Apple isn't able to identify and resolve the battery issue fairly quickly, the company may get to repeat the ritual. It will be interesting to see whether CEO Tim Cook handles things differently than his predecessor. It's possible that a week or two from now, there could be a iOS 5 update that reconfigures whatever has been misconfigured and the incident could be largely forgotten.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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