iOS 11 battery life

How well do iPhone battery saving techniques actually work?

If you’re like me, as soon as you updated to iOS 11, your battery life tanked. It seems unfair; like you, I am a responsible iPhone owner. In the four years I’ve had the phone, I’ve never shattered the screen, never had any part replaced, and was careful about overcharging my phone even though the lithium-ion batteries in the iPhone are said to be overcharge-proof. Still, can’t be too careful, can we? I only ever left it to charge overnight by accident. But still, with iOS 11, the battery life was awful. Now, true, in iOS 11, when you turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from the control center, they are technically still on, and that’s a battery drain, but I was ahead of the curve there and started turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from settings. Still, nothing doing – the battery seemed determined to lose charge no matter what. So I read up on extending my battery life and decided to take you, dear reader, on the battery life journey with me.

For the tests, I saw how long it took my battery to go from 100% to 1% using different battery-saving techniques with my normal usage. You guys can test it, too. All you have to do is go to Settings > Battery and scroll down to where you see “TIME SINCE LAST FULL CHARGE.” Logically, if you charge your phone to 100% and let it go to 1%, the time since last full charge will be the total time it took to drain your battery.

Here are my baseline stats:

Usage – 3 hours 57 minutes, Standby (i.e. when the phone’s not in use) – 26 hours 37 minutes. So, not amazing, but still better than I expected getting into this.

Let’s see how well common battery-saving techniques actually work.

UPDATING SOFTWARE


This is recommended by a lot of websites, and somehow, I always hope that in the next update, something new will solve my battery issues. The idea is that you update, and some magical zeros and ones tell your phone to be more frugal with its power.

Yeah, no.

When I tested this, I came out with a usage time of 4 hours and 33 minutes and a standby time of 25 hours and 25 minutes. So on first glance, yeah I did have more usage time, but if the update were actually to have fixed something, I would have expected both usage time and standby time to increase.

AIRPLANE MODE


The next obvious fix is turning on airplane mode, but let’s be honest here, we want to use our phones for phone things, so this fix is like a quick weight-loss solution that suggests cutting off one of your legs. Technically yeah, it helps. But how about no.

LOW POWER MODE


Another obvious fix – I usually leave my phone on low power mode now and it hasn’t changed my life in any drastic way. But when I tested it, something seemed off. I got a usage time of 4 hours and 39 minutes and standby time of 19 hours and 39 minutes. So that meant my post-update test and my low-power-mode test had results that were essentially the same. It could even be said that the low-power-mode test performed even worse, considering its standby time. Now, full disclosure, while I was running this first test (which took place over the mentioned 19 hours), I did end up reading some news on my phone and surfing Instagram and Facebook, things I don’t usually do. I also had a two-hour-long WhatsApp conversation – again, an unusual occurrence. So I decided to retest it. The next test came back with a usage time of 4 hours and 18 minutes and a standby time of 30 hours and 1 minute. That seemed more reasonable, but still odd, so I tested it one more time. The third test showed a usage time of 3 hours 44 minutes and standby time of 40 hours 11 minutes. See the handy chart:

iPhone battery life

 

THAT’S KIND OF WEIRD BUT I THINK I CAN EXPLAIN


What became clear was that low power mode doesn’t so much affect the usage time as it does the standby time, which makes sense when you think about it. Low power mode doesn’t keep you from draining your battery by mindlessly surfing Instagram out of boredom. Low power mode only really affects background processes like email fetch, background app refresh, and automatic downloads.

So what does that mean? Well, low power mode is good at making it seem like your battery life is being extended, and by my tests, the standby time did increase, but calling that “battery-extending” seems disingenuous and misleading. The unspoken understanding that seems to exist between user and low power mode is that the magical setting will extend the time that an iPhone owner can use their phone. After all, the iPhone is a tool for use, not a sculpture or a paperweight. You want to call people, read the news, and google the name of that actor who was in both Space Jam and Jurassic Park (Wayne Knight, by the way). Low power mode won’t extend your collective time for those actions. Instead, it will let you not use your phone for longer. But that’s not necessarily helpful, is it?

Conceivably, if you didn’t use your phone at all, the standby time would extend even more.

WAIT! BUT THOMAS! THERE ARE OTHER THINGS WE CAN DO TO SAVE OUR BATTERIES!


Yeah, I know, but going through every small method would be a waste of time. The minutiae of settings suggested in articles all across the web are mostly covered in low power mode and, well, I don’t imagine changing just a few of those minute settings would change battery longevity all that significantly, considering how the settings-changing juggernaut of low power mode was actually ineffectual at extending usage time.

SO WHAT DO WE DO?


Eesh. Guys, this article didn’t go the way I was expecting.

The only thing I can say I learned over my tests was this: if you want your phone’s battery to last longer, don’t use your phone. But that’s super lame, I know.

Another suggestion before we go nuclear: you can get your battery replaced. At a certain point, your battery will just be old, my friend. This option is not as expensive as the upcoming nuclear option and could extend your device’s operational life significantly.

Finally, the nuclear option: get a new phone. The world moves at a breakneck pace now, and your once-high-tech phone may need to be sent to the farm, as my parents said the final time I saw my first dog, Timon. It doesn’t make your memories together any less valuable now that it’s old and can’t hold its charge. If anything, the temporality of togetherness is what makes relationships so sweet. Relationships with phones, you might be asking? Especially with phones.

iPhone battery extender

But hey, if you do get a new phone, we always have your back with CopyTrans Shelbee, the quick and easy way to back up and restore your iPhone without iTunes. 😉


UPDATE


So after posting this article, we got curious about one thing: how would changing the brightness on your phone affect battery life? Powering a bright screen should drain battery life quicker, no?

But there was a hiccup: the phone I had done all the previous tests on had died. Sparx, my good old 5S, was sadly sent to the farm after a long and treasured life. Here was another opportunity, though. Let’s see how well a new iPhone 6S compares to the older model.

Time for some data:

iPhone 6S battery life

So what can we gather from this? Well, first things first, if we compare the baseline stats with the dimmed screen stats, we can see that dimming the screen doesn’t have any significant effect on battery life. In fact, comparing the data, it almost seems like dimming the screen actively harmed battery life, as both usage and standby time decreased. The story is the same for the low power test versus the low power and dimmed screen test – usage and standby time both decreased, if much more visibly and dramatically for standby time. So, again, sorry guys, but I don’t have much good news here, either. Your battery life is basically consistent regardless of what you do.

What else does this chart tell us? That the findings from my 5S tests are consistent across models; there is a set amount of usage time that does not extend dramatically. Further, compared to the 5S tests, the 6S battery does perform better, so there is a bright side that a new phone will have better battery performance.

Let’s end the update on that note: if you do take the aforementioned nuclear option, it might actually work.