Define Normal

What’s normal usage with a tech product?

My recent return to the iPhone has quickly reminded me that while there is a ton of power available, the more you use the more you pay. With a mobile device that payment comes in the form of battery life and I am not impressed with the iPhone 3GS so far.

My benchmark for smartphones is one day. One day. Getting up at 6 I want to get back home by 8 on a single charge. That has proven impossible on the iPhone.

This am I unplugged the iPhone and checked mail and the weather before showering. Before I left the house, I did a sync with iTunes (podcasts and some new tunes) and then checked the app store for updates. During the course of my commute, I had the iPod playing while running through safari, email and tweetdeck. I used snapped a picture which I uploaded while walking through Grand Central and then checked in on foursquare a few times as well as I passed by a few spots.

When I got to the office (~8:45) I had 47% of my battery left. That means the iPhone would be dead by lunchtime easily at my current rate. WTF? I checked and I have 8 apps ready to use push notices currently so perhaps that’s having an effect but before those apps were even available I saw. Very rapid drain during the course of my morning trip. A quick check now (on the train home) and I can see I have burned about 25% of the battery since leaving the office a bit over an hour ago. Again WTF?

In discussing the battery and laptop performance issues with various people it seems everyone considers my usage more aggressive shall we say than average. No argument here though I don’t see my usage as that unusual anymore actually given the social environment along with the amount of information we are consuming in the more realtime web.

I believe the iPhone only has a 1200Mah battery which is lower than other smartphones in the general competitve set. My Nokia E71 runs with a 1500 battery and has considerably longer life than the E75 which uses a smaller capacity 1350Mah battery. Cleary 1500 shoul be the standard. All of these devices have 3G, wifi, GPS and run lots of applications – concurrently on the Nokia kit.

Is the iPhone actually a mid-tier product operating through the higher end space with a slick UX? Perhaps … The seductive nature of the experience and the flexibility of the applications make it seems like considerably more which has definitley set my expectations.

10 comments for “Define Normal

  1. 7/8/2009 at 11:16 pm

    Yep, major shortcoming of my 3G iPhone as well. I keep push email, location services and wifi 'ask to join' all switched off just so I can do the daily basics. There's always the $100 mophie juice pack which adds a 1800 mAh battery to the existing battery, but you just shouldn't have to go there.

  2. 7/9/2009 at 12:16 am

    I ordered the Richard Solo 1800 with cable … costs less and comes with more extras like the retractable cable, and wall and car charger options. I burned through two proporta power devices on my nokia phones last year (killed them both). Hoping this thing lasts longer. Apparently it at least offers some smart charging options – doing the phone first before topping itself off when everything is connected and plugged in.

  3. 7/9/2009 at 4:03 am

    This is sad, but oh so true.

    I'm trying to think what smartphone I last owned that would give me reasonable usage… It's tricky because the last phone that I use as extensively as the 3GS was my SE P900, but even then I didn't use the internet that much or play a great deal of video. I guess I got just over a days usage on the P900.

    The N95 would regularly make it through an entire 24hr period. The N82 would do that easily, but again, with a much lower usage rate.

    Here a couple of tricks that I've employed recently to keep the battery going all day;

    1. Turn of WiFi when not needed.
    2. Go to Flight Mode when gaming.
    3. Reduced the screen brightness but 20%

    These all help.

    I should like to see Apple offer an iPhone Pro. Specs the same as the 3GS but with a MicroSD slot and double capacity battery. Sure the unit would be bigger, but the benefit for a power user would be large.

  4. nondual
    7/9/2009 at 4:13 am

    you may also keep an eye on the usage statistics the iphone tracks under “general>usage”. i usually find that according to these stats i pretty much get what apple promises with regard to battery life.
    also, screen brightness is probably the single biggest battery drain factor. turn it down only slightly, and you already get noticeable better battery life.
    having said that, i also would prefer a 1'500mAh batt, even if this means the iphone would end up slightly thicker.

  5. 7/9/2009 at 6:36 am

    just checked … my screen is set to about 50% brightness and auto-brightness is on. 🙁

  6. 7/9/2009 at 6:39 am

    Sad indeed, though there are few if any devces that encourage such constant use.

    wifi actually appears to consume less power than 3G
    just checked … my screen is set to about 50% brightness and auto-brightness is on. 🙁

  7. 7/9/2009 at 1:15 pm

    It's interesting, but I am just as aggresive user as you are Jonathan, and I don't have the same issue on my 3G. HOWEVER, I've learned to tweak a couple of things that have helped immensely.

    1) As counter-intuitive as it may sound, I leave WiFi ON, so that when I get home it is automatically carrying the load of data, not my 3G connection. Because it's reaching 25 feet to my router, not a mile to a tower, this seems to help a ton.

    2) Push notifications gotta go. I know this sucks for some people (not a biggie for me personally) but this is what kills your battery — and to be fair, having a constant connection to something killed my battery on my N95 just as fast. I have my email polled once an hour, and my Exchange calendar the same.

    3) Screen brightness to half. The damn thing is blinding at full anyway.

    4) GPS off unless I need it — not THAT big of deal to go and turn it on before using it (did the same with my Symbian phones for the same reason, it's a real battery killer).

    With all of that, I check email all day, surf constantly, read ebooks for at least a couple of hours per day, play games occasionally, text a average of 200 or so texts a day, snap a pic or two, check my facebook about 6 times a day, update my blog (or at least check stats), etc. My phone comes off the charger at 4AM and doesn't get back on it until around 7 or 8PM usually.


  8. 7/9/2009 at 1:39 pm

    This reminds me of N95-1. It's the uber-phone, but we only gave it enough ram to run one app at a time.

    Why provide the power and yet make it so you have to find workarounds for the device to be used practically – meaning daily.

  9. nondual
    7/10/2009 at 4:12 am

    50% is the factory preset. turn it down 1 or 2 notches (so it's slightly left from the middle), and you already should notice a difference..

  10. nondual
    7/10/2009 at 8:12 am

    50% is the factory preset. turn it down 1 or 2 notches (so it's slightly left from the middle), and you already should notice a difference..

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