macOS 10.12.2: Battery Fixes?

December 14th, 2016

Some people who bought new MacBook Pros have been complaining about poor battery life. While Apple claims up to 10 hours, there are reports of users getting as little as half that. Some of these reports indicate that the display of estimated battery usage descends rapidly under normal use.

The Tuesday launch of the macOS 10.12.2 update included references to fixes for graphic problems, which appear to make good on the promise from Apple software VP Craig Federighi a few days ago in an email to a Mac user. As you recall, one online blogger made a huge deal of allegedly canceling his order for a 15-inch MacBook Pro and replacing that order with one for the 13-inch model as the result of the fear or expectation of such problems. He also seemed blissfully unaware that similar problems had been reported with the smaller model.

In any case, it’s early in the game, so it may take awhile for the affected users to report on whether the problems have been solved. I’m sure people will want to test the situations where it happens.

One fix not mentioned in the release notes is battery life on the new MacBook Pros. Instead, Apple removed the “Time Remaining” display, apparently under the theory that it only shows momentary and rapidly changing numbers and is thus misleading. Perhaps, but it’s a feature that has existed for a number of years, so why did Apple suddenly decide it had to go?

After all, the allegedly inaccurate display of remaining battery life was as inaccurate for previous Mac notebooks as it was for the Late 2016 models. Or does power management on the new models make it even less accurate that it was before?

As usual, these are the kinds of fine details you will not receive from Apple. So you’re left to theorize, or do lots of testing to see what’s really going on.

In saying that. it appears that there may have indeed been battery life improvements as the result of the 10.12.2 update. As I said, it’s not in the release notes. But published reports indicate that some users are reporting that the problems they experienced previously are gone. Now I suppose the loss of the remaining time display might have caused them to focus on actual battery use throughout the day, rather than a momentary indication.

But users who are reportedly running third-party and more detailed battery life apps claim that the MacBook Pro isn’t discharging as quickly due to lower power consumption. So the battery doesn’t run out of juice so quickly, and it’s more in line with Apple’s 10-hour estimate.

In a statement to Jim Dalrymple’s The Loop blog, Apple stood behind the 10-hour estimate as the result of “lots of testing.”. But evidently nothing was said about any change in the OS that would improve or change the situation. So why are battery apps revealing lower power utilization? Why are people saying that the problems were solved?

Is it a case of the right hand and the left hand being out of sync at Apple? It’s not unheard of for a large corporation to deliver mixed messages, sometimes contradictory statements. But Apple usually is consistent about what it tells the public once the message is nailed down.

Now I suppose it is possible that fixes Apple made for other macOS Sierra problems had the side effect of improving power efficiencies in some areas, and thus battery life. But since Apple isn’t talking, we’ll just have to keep guessing. For the time being, I’ll assume the claims of improved battery life, and the reports of what battery apps are showing, are accurate.

Time will tell what’s really going on, and whether the new OS update delivered a placebo effect for some, or corrected an incorrect estimate of battery life in  apps that measure such qualities. Obviously the best measurement is the stopwatch. Take a fully charged Late 2016 MacBook Pro still running 10.12.1, perform a given set of tests, perhaps using Automator to keep it consistent, and see how long it takes to shut down. Then apply the update and see if anything has changed.

Now Apple lists the conditions under which it tests battery life on the pages that describe its mobile products. I suppose if you follow those conditions, you should be able to approximate Apple’s estimates. But it’s been years since I followed their terms and conditions to measure Apple benchmarks. When I did, it was more about verifying performance claims of new Macs, not so much battery life. For me, so long as the battery seemed to hold on within the range of Apple’s claims, I was pretty satisfied. I never ran into a situation where my Mac portable or iPhone disappointed me, or maybe I have lower expectations than some.

In any case, I do hope that Apple will be more forthcoming about preparing OS update release notes. But that assumes there is a mysterious battery fix that has, so far at least, remained under the radar.

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One Response to “macOS 10.12.2: Battery Fixes?”

  1. DaveD says:

    Excuse me if I am skeptical with Apple’s reason to remove of the battery time in the macOS Sierra update. I don’t recall of any complaints by owners of older Mac notebooks having poor battery life with Sierra. One of the most basic troubleshooting question to ask when a new issue appears is what has changed recently.

    I always thought the battery remaining time is a guesstimate of how long will it last based on the tasks performing at the moment. My measurement of a typical battery life is to use the OS uptime and extract the total time of use starting at 100 percent charged.

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