The iPhone iOS4's battery bummer: The power 'vampire'

Following the release of iOS4, many iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch users are reporting a significant impact to battery life.

Users who upgraded to iOS4 are complaining their iPhone and iPod Touch batteries are mysteriously being sucked dry in record time. iOS4's new multitasking feature--a much sought after feature by business users who see the added functionality as a way to stay productive with their iPhone--is getting the initial blame. Whatever the cause, following the upgrade to iOS4, many users are complaining that battery life has been cut in half--or worse--inciting many to dub iOS4 a power "vampire".

One of the most highly demanded and anxiously anticipated features of iOS4 is for business professionals is multitasking. The Apple approach to multitasking is limited, but it still enables apps written to play by Apple's multitasking rules to continue running certain features and functions in the background--which could impact battery life.

A reader e-mailed me to express concern over the impact of iOS4 on his iPod Touch. "I have a relatively new iPod Touch (March 2010, 3rd Gen) and [iOS4] ate my battery while sitting on my coffee table overnight. It was turned off with no music playing!"

The reader also relayed anecdotal evidence that others are experiencing similar problems. "I was out and about during the weekend and overheard a few conversations regarding the issue. One guy was feverishly looking for a way to recharge his unit as he was at work and couldn't get home to remedy the vampire."

Perusing the Apple tech support forums, it seems that many users are concerned about the impact iOS4 has had on the battery life of devices that apparently worked just fine prior to upgrading the OS. It isn't clear, though, whether multitasking is at fault, or if the battery drain is a result of certain, poorly-written apps gobbling up power.

The thread begins with this user post "I just downloaded iOS4 on my 3GS., has my battery life shrunk over the past two hours. I'll admit I haven't had the OS for that long so I don't know how much it's the actual factor, but I've been trying new features and whatnot (minus multitasking much) and it's just sucking away at my battery."

A comment further down the thread states "I called Apple Support and they suggested a full restore. My 3GS was losing around 1% of battery every 2 minutes. There were no apps (other than the phone) that were being multitasked. My 3GS was also running abnormally warm whenever I did in fact multitask. Apple Support told me that these symptoms were "probably normal" but if I wanted I could try a full restore to see if that helped. Knowing that these problems did not exist before iOS4, I decided to try the restore."

And, one more Apple tech support forums user comment explains "Yes, it does burn battery a lot faster in my case. I had it fully charged. I used it for 56 min, basically going through each app to make sure they all work, and I am now down to 60%. At this rate, it will only last 2 1/2 hours!"

There are a variety of speculative theories behind the reported battery issues. Whether it's the multitasking, the wallpaper feature, a flaw in how the OS itself manages or reports battery life, or specific rogue apps that don't play nice with iOS4, the battery drain issue seems to be a very real problem for many business professionals who are used to being able to use an iPhone 3GS on the road all day long on a single charge.

Maybe if the rumors of an iOS 4.0.1 quick-fix for the iPhone 4 antenna reception issue are true, Apple can include a fix to resolve the battery drain issue, or some sort of resolution that will prevent rogue apps from killing the iPhone battery.

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page, or contact him by email at He also tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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