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  • Seeking Longer iPhone Battery Life

    July 15th, 2016

    There’s a decent market out there for add-on battery cases that extend the life of your iPhone’s battery. One example is a Mophie Juice Pack. So for an extra $99.95, you can essentially get twice as much. Instead of managing 10-12 hours of Internet use on the iPhone 6s, you can get up to 24 hours. Even the latter may not be enough, since you’d have to recharge both batteries to start over ready to go for another day.

    Now comparing battery life with other smartphones may be difficult. Some manufacturers use the specs that seem most favorable. So Samsung claims up to 22 hours of 3G talk time for the Galaxy S7, which may really happen if you do nothing else while talking, and that includes such tasks as checking your email and using Safari. In contrast, Apple claims up to 14 hours of 3G talk time on the iPhone 6s and up to 24 hours of 3G talk time on the iPhone 6s Plus. Apple is also better about actually meeting specs in real world tests than Samsung.

    But it’s not uncommon for iPhone users to consult Apple support information about extending battery life, and a lot of it requires doing less to get more time if there’s no access to a charger nearby. I keep a USB connector and a lightning cable in my car to help on the rare extended trip.

    Other than the iPhone 6s Plus phablet, however, Apple has kept battery life mostly within a similar range over the years. Unlike some competitors, however, Apple has never allowed you to easily pop the case to add a replacement battery. Instead you need to rely on an accessory power case, or access to a power cord.

    Now there are rumors that Apple might include a slightly larger battery in the iPhone 7. This hasn’t been confirmed, but if we assume that the alleged A10 processor and other components will also be more power efficient, it’s possible Apple might extend the battery life of the forthcoming models by several hours. It may not be great shakes, but if you charge the battery less, it will last longer before it needs replacement, and not having to charge as often will certainly make longer trips away from charging facilities less stressful. It doesn’t mean that Mophie and other makers of powered cases have anything to worry about, but even a little more is helpful.

    In the real world, when I go out for the day, my iPhone 6 often needs recharging before I return home, which is why the charging gear in my car is essential. If I plan an overnight stay, I will always bring a charging cable with me.

    In passing, it’s troubling how tethered we are to our mobile gear, and how crippled we feel when the battery runs dry.

    Apple, however, is more interested in selling the thinnest gear on the planet, which means slimmer batteries. In order to extract the most battery life from the ultra slim MacBook, they provide a unique stepped battery that makes it that much more difficult — and costly — to replace. Apple charges $199, same as the MacBook Pro, for that replacement. But you can save $50 or more if you want to go through the drudgery of doing it yourself. It’s $79 on an iPhone, and I would recommend letting the dealer do it for you, although iFixit offers instructions and tools. But the iPhone 6 battery swap instructions contain 27 steps. If you survive the disassembly and assembly processes without incident, maybe you should go into business for yourself. A retail chain, Batteries+Bulbs, advertises $59 for the replacement with, as of the time I wrote this, a $10 discount if you schedule the repair online.

    The main problem, however, is that battery technology hasn’t improved all that much over the years. Gadget makers still have to rely on thicker, heavier batteries and more power efficient parts to eke out more life. While I’ve read reports of new developments in battery technology that might improve things substantially, none of that technology has yet filtered down to the retail market.

    So Apple, Samsung and other companies may improve the situation slightly, but not significantly. I mean, it would be nice for your iPhone to last a week of moderate use before that battery needs to connect to a charging cable. It would also be nice to get a week from an Apple Watch. I say that as the owner of a $12.88 Walmart stainless steel watch that gives me a full year between battery replacements, and no way to recharge. Of course, a simple calendar watch is doing a whole lot less than a smartwatch replete with health sensors, systems on a chip and other electronics.

    Meantime, one can hope that lithium-air, nanowire and other nascent battery inventions will, in the next few years, be perfected enough and affordable enough to make a difference. Meantime, whatever Apple can do to improve battery life would be helpful. Being less obsessive about thin and thinner would help.



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    One Response to “Seeking Longer iPhone Battery Life”

    1. dfs says:

      I agree, Apple designers are obsessed with thinness as a teenage girl. If the company bothered to do any market research, I suspect they’d discover that, given the choice between maximum possible thinness and longer battery life in their mobile products, 95% of us would opt for the latter in a heartbeat. But Apple is careful not to conduct any market research on this subject because this is one thing they don’t WANT to know.

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