iPhone battery life: 3 somewhat inconvenient tips

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

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Tip No. 3: Think you might have an iPhone lemon? Get it tested

The tip: 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 their 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 Wi-Fi 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% 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 get only 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 e-mail at tkaneshige@cio.com. Or follow me on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.

This story, "iPhone battery life: 3 somewhat inconvenient tips" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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