Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The iPhone and Battery Life

Discussion about iPhone and iPad battery life has been swirling about the tech world of late. Specifically, the idea that many Apple products are made in service to an "ideal" battery life has come up in many of the circles I follow. Jason Snell wrote a very nice piece showing how Apple "solves" for battery life in their products based on thinness and size, but I'd like to take that a little bit further.

I read all kinds of tech news throughout my week, and most weekends talk about technology and the science behind it on +Future Chat. I also listen to hours of podcasts on subjects such as these. I hear grumblings about the iPhone and how its battery doesn't last all day.

There are MANY people who say that they wish they had a phone battery that lasted more than a day, or that they are heavy users and find that their batteries get them to the afternoon, but generally not much longer.

The fact is, humans are creatures of habit. We have gotten used to plugging our phones in every single day. If you had an iPhone with twice the battery, and only needed to charge it every other day, I can guarantee that more people would have their phones run out of battery than that happens to now. The only people this wouldn't happen to are people who would just continue to charge their phones every night regardless of its battery level at the end of the day (much like most laptop users, although that MacBook battery life on Yosemite is craaaazy). 

Basically, the use case for a battery that lasts two days is a person who uses a larger amount of battery than average, and so they use a typical "two day" amount of power in just one day. We call these people "power users", and Apple themselves typically haven't served them directly by giving their phones or laptops larger batteries. What Apple does do, though, is pick and choose what they think are the best solutions for those power users, and stock them in Apple stores. Examples I've used (as I like to think of myself as something of a power user) include the Mophie Juice Packs and the Mophie Powerstations. These are basically cases and power bricks that let you extend the use of your phone beyond a normal day of use, and they are wonderful!

I love the way my phone looks without a case, but when my battery gets low, I love being able to either stick it into a case or plug it in on the go, and I immediately don't have to worry about my battery dying. For the extra $80-100, it's a no-brainer to carry a case or battery pack around with you, along with Lightning and micro-USB cables (I have a wireless headphone fetish, some would say).

Now, recently Apple released the iPhone 6 Plus. As Jason mentions in his post, this phone breaks the Apple mould, giving users a significant jump in battery, something closer to a tablet in usage than a phone. In effect, this release tells me that Apple hears that some power users have made enough noise that Apple is giving them an option to have a larger battery, as thus use their phones more.

If you're worried about battery life in your iPhone, or other mobile device because it doesn't last days or weeks, you might be waiting a long time. Battery improvements come incrementally, and something tells me even if we do get the 10x battery power increase many stories promise for the eventual future, all we'll get is a device with a 10x smaller battery. And that's just fine with me!