by Tom Kaneshige

iPhone Battery Life: Three Tips for Getting More Juice

Jul 21, 20095 mins
Consumer ElectronicsiPhonePersonal Software

The much maligned iPhone battery has led to a few tips on how to improve it. But some tips aren't very user friendly.

The new iPhone’s battery life, or lack thereof, has been a growing concern for users in recent weeks, leading to a smorgasbord of “tips” on how to breathe more life into the misbehaving battery. Sure, most of the tips will save juice—but some solutions don’t prove too convenient.

[ Anecdotal evidence suggests there are iPhone lemons in the market, reports | Apple secrets send one customer on a wild goose chase. ]

Here are the upsides and downsides to the three most popular tips circulating now:

Tip No. 1: Disable Power-Hungry Features

The tip: Turning off power-sapping features such as Wi-Fi, Notifications and Location Services will save iPhone battery life. If you insist on keeping them on, though, make sure the apps that use these features are not left “open”—that is, the iPhone has another app open or is in home. These apps reach out to the 3G radio and consume power.

A more drastic measure:put the iPhone on Airplane Mode to disable all wireless features. This means you can’t make calls, send text messages, surf the web, or check for new e-mail.

The trouble: Turning off features or using them infrequently (such as checking e-mail hourly) saves power, but it doesn’t make sense for most people.

One reader from Japan says that he gets annoyed whenever he reads about this particular tip. In Japan, 3G is the only network, so if he switches it off, there would be no connectivity. It would be like paying for an iPod Touch with a minimum two year contract at $50 a month, he says. As for push notifications, “I use my phone for business, and push mail through Exchange server is essential.”

Tip No. 2: Don’t Forget Your Battery Pack

The tip: Get an add-on product to ease the battery pain. Michael Scalisi, an IT manager, wrote an opinion piece in PCWorld Online about buying the Mophie Juice PackAir. It’s a battery pack in the form of a case for the iPhone. Mophie claims that it doubles the battery life.

The Juice PackAir charges the iPhone. When the Juice PackAir is empty, you’ll start tapping into the battery on the iPhone. An added bonus: The casing covers the iPhone connector and replaces it with micro-USB.

Scalisi, who was running into battery life problems, writes that the Juice PackAir indeed increases iPhone battery life. “Today, I breathe a sigh of relieve knowing that I can use my iPhone the way I like without having to dive for a charger at the nearest opportunity,” he writes.

The trouble: Apple customers with iPhone battery issues will have to fork out $80 for the Mophie Juice PackAir.

“The Mophie Juice Pack Air is little pricy and slightly bulky, but that’s a small price to pay to end my iPhone battery misery,” Scalisi writes.

Tip No. 3: Think You Might Have an iPhone Lemon? Get It Tested

The tip: Determine if you have a “lemon.” What’s the most popular paid utility app in the App Store right now? Answer: myBatteryLife. There seems to be a lot of discrepancy in the battery life of the iPhone 3GS—and it’s a difficult metric to measure given the varying ways that people use their phones. That’s why many users are tracking r iPhone battery lifespan.

And anecdotal evidence suggests there are a lot of iPhone 3GS lemons with poorly performing batteries on the market. How do you know if you have a lemon? How do you know if your iPhone battery is operating within acceptable parameters or not?

Here’s what one reader, Clark Smith, found out: Smith bought an iPhone 3GS last week, and the battery life was abysmal. The iPhone battery, he says, would die by lunch after having powered only about an hour of on-air time, 50 e-mails (40 received, 10 sent), and no text messages. Bluetooth was turned on, and WiFi turned off.

Smith went to an Apple Store and complained. An Apple Genius “plugs my phone into some sort of diagnostic software, makes a funny face, says he’ll be back in a minute, and then reappears with a new phone,” Smith says. When it comes to battery life, the replacement is still not in the category of the Blackberry, he says, but it’s much better than the lemon.

Another reader, Mark Bishop, says Apple Geniuses recently tested his and his wife’s iPhones. Diagnostics showed that Bishop’s iPhone had a bad battery, he says, and that his wife’s iPhone kept unexpectedly resetting, which probably meant it had a bad modem chip. “With that determined, we both walked out with new phones in about 20 minutes,” he says. “Thanks for your article because it motivated me to take our phones back and take Apple to task.”

The trouble: Of course, a trip to an Apple Store can be a nightmare, too. Apple’s notorious secrecy led one iPhone owner on a 120-mile wild goose chase around Los Angeles county in search of a new iPhone 3GS that doesn’t overheat and that holds a charge.

Bishop also says Apple reps told him these interesting tidbits about the iPhone battery:

  • The battery gauge isn’t very accurate – that is, a 100 percent charge doesn’t necessarily mean it’s full, and thus you might need to re-sync the chips on the battery and the device, these reps said.
  • A heavily used iPhone will only get a day’s use before needing a recharge, the reps said. More than a few readers, though, contend that it won’t get half a day.
  • Apple’s advertised times for playing music and videos was an estimate based on best-case scenarios using prototype phones, the reps said.

Got tips for increasing battery life? Send me an email at Or follow me on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline.