Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Physics hurts: the iPhone battery life and how to work around it

Physics is a pain sometimes. Jobs told us 3G was going to suck way more power than EDGE, but some were skeptical (I recall I was inclined to believe him).
AppleInsider | Apple's iPhone 3G battery good for about 3.5 hours of browsing

...While Anandtech's chart shows the Apple handset to last about 30 minutes more than Samsung's 3G Blackjack, the unsettling comparison exists between the iPhone 3G running on AT&T's 3G network and the original iPhone running on AT&T's EDGE network. In the site's tests, the original iPhone lasted 2 hours and 26 minutes longer while browsing over EDGE than the new iPhone did browsing over 3G...
I've found that the battery life on my low end 3G Nokia phone is similarly quite poor, even though that phone has no data services at all. 3G is bad on batteries even when the traffic is voice only; of course 802.11 is far worse.

We know the iPhone will function on EDGE networks if 3G is not available, I wonder if Apple and AT&T will provide an option to use EDGE when power is at a premium. (See comments -- in fact this is available now. So why do only my readers know to mention this?)

Meanwhile, a solid Tidbits review recommends the APC UPB10 Mobile Power Pack USB Battery Extender. These are $63 on Amazon; however there are newish airline regulations about carrying external LiOn batteries. The terminals must be covered and it has to go through security in a bin.

These regs are enough of a pain to make the $10 APC external USB AA battery charger very appealing; I would want to test in a store that it really charged an iPhone however.

At work it's easy to charge a phone from a USB source, on the road it's easy to carry a USB car charger. One does have to learn to treat a power supply the way long distance cyclists treat a shower -- get it while you can.

Update: disabling push email helps tooArs has a in-depth review of accessory battery packs.

Update 7/23/08: More tips, including holding down home key to shut off background tasks.


Dave Walker said...

Gordon -- yes, you can set the iPhone to stick to the Edge network when you don't know when your next (power) meal is coming -- I was flying yesterday (and in rural areas, too) and spent the day on the slower network. Nice to have an option.

Screenshot here.

JGF said...

You'd think some blogger might have mentioned this during all the reviews of 3G battery life!

My readership is small, but elite :-).

Thanks for the comment, I updated the post.