What should I expect from an iphone SE with 85% battery capacity?
October 10, 2019 6:18 AM   Subscribe

I just bought a new-used iphone SE in generally good shape. The battery capacity/health indicator says 85% capacity and that it's at "peak performance capability," but it arrived totally drained, gets slightly warm during charging, and seems to drain quite quickly. Is this normal for a phone of this age/condition?

I want to be reasonable about the abilities of a phone that's a few years old, but the battery seems to be draining faster than the ancient, heavily-used iphone 5c that I am replacing (which didn't get warm during charging at all.) The 5c doesn't have the battery health/capacity feature so I can't make an exact comparison.

The phone was a good price, so if I have to replace the battery that's not the end of the world, but before I put money into that (and before I mark the sale as "completed" on Swappa) I'm wondering if this is indicative of something else being wrong. I'd thought that 85% battery health/capacity was generally considered an OK, usable (though not stellar) level, but I watched my battery level drop several percentage points while using it for a few minutes, which seems strange.
posted by needs more cowbell to Technology (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I’ve had iPhone batteries in older phones report in the low 90s and still be “healthy” behave exactly like you’re describing, so my vote is that’s this is expected behavior unfortunately.
posted by cgg at 6:21 AM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Not to thread-sit, but was the issue entirely with the battery, i.e. did putting a new battery in resolve the problem?
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:23 AM on October 10, 2019

I think what you're seeing is normal. Rather than replace the battery, you could consider getting a small external power bank to carry around when you're going to be away from a charge source for a long time.

The warm is just something that happens. Not an indication of any problem with the phone.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:28 AM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Brand new iPhones get plenty warm when charging.
posted by spitbull at 6:34 AM on October 10, 2019

My 4-year-old 6 plus behaves like this. I do the external backup battery thing and always carry a charger.
posted by Miko at 7:12 AM on October 10, 2019

85% capacity is not amazing but it's usable. If it goes below 80% capacity, you may want to turn off "peak performance capability" as otherwise the phone might start shutting down abruptly. The first time this happens, I believe the phone will prompt you to do so.

There's also always the option to replace the battery via a third party, which I imagine wouldn't be that expensive.
posted by adrianhon at 7:14 AM on October 10, 2019

I use an SE whose battery is at 80% capacity. If I don’t actually do much with it then it’ll last until the end of the day. But if I use it a lot then that battery disappears so very quickly that I’m almost convinced I should spend 100s on a new (and, unfortunately, bigger) phone. I really should get the battery replaced, although (obviously) won’t know how much difference it’ll make until I’ve spent the cash... All of which is to say, “sounds normal to me”.
posted by fabius at 7:18 AM on October 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

My iPhone 6, bought when the 6 came out, started draining fast last year, and we replaced the battery to stretch it out another year before replacing it. That was all that was wrong with it, and I found it well worth it not to have to carry an external power bank.
posted by telophase at 7:43 AM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

My SE is doing this right now. It's infuriating, clearly designed to force me to buy another phone.
posted by praemunire at 7:55 AM on October 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

My sister in law just replaced the battery on her iPhone SE that was in about the same state and it's been a huge improvement for a whole $55 (US) at a local phone shop.
posted by advicepig at 7:56 AM on October 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Battery replacement by Apple for an iPhone SE costs $49, can do it at an Apple Store or mail it in.

Before my SE battery went, I could rely on about a day and half of use on a full charge, more like a day if I was browsing a lot.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 7:59 AM on October 10, 2019

You might not need it yet, but definitely do a battery replacement before getting a new phone!
posted by pinochiette at 8:05 AM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

One thing about the warmth: do you have it in a case? I found that My iPhone 7 started having noticeable temperature issues when I switched cases to one with less airflow to the back of the phone (even though it was a normal-looking case that didn’t seem like it would be particularly insulating.)
posted by mosst at 8:16 AM on October 10, 2019

My 6s was at the same battery level last year. The battery would drain quite fast and I had to charge it multiple times a day. I had the battery replaced and it was definitely worth the money. It holds a charge much better now. It's definitely cheaper than buying a new phone.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:36 AM on October 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just (this week) had a battery replacement done on an iPhone SE reporting %85 battery health.

The difference in my case has been dramatic. Battery life is noticeably better but (perhaps more importantly) it’s more reliable. Also it’s faster at somethings as it is no longer set to use performance management.

Running iOS 13.1.2
posted by mce at 8:37 AM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Getting warm during charging is fine and totally expected, but a lot of middle-aged iPhones do have terrible battery life. (I get you, small and ridiculously expensive technical doodad!)

My 6s, bought in late 2015, is at 88% according to Battery Health, and has been there for at least a year, but I have to charge it one or more times a day under what I consider moderate use. I now rarely leave home without this charger. I'm getting a new battery from Apple soon ($65 Canadian doesn't seem exorbitant) and will replace the entire phone next fall when it can no longer use the latest version of iOS.
posted by maudlin at 9:09 AM on October 10, 2019

If you don't want to take it to an Apple store for a new battery, you can try a local cellphone repair place. Odds are there is one closer to you than any Apple store and it may be cheaper.

Or you can do it yourself.
posted by exogenous at 9:16 AM on October 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Take a trip through the Battery use list in Settings to see if anything like Photos is listed as using a bunch of battery.

For the first day or two, depending on your photo library size, the phone will be spending a lot of energy indexing the photos, especially now that iOS has ML-enabled natural language search. (i.e., search for "dogs" will show you dog photos!)

This re-indexing also tends to happen with major iOS updates, so for the first couple of days after a major update, people tend to see what looks like lowered battery capacity, when usually it's just the re-indexing churning through your power.

If you do want to get a new battery, you should get it replaced by Apple, especially if you think you'll be keeping the phone for a while. If something warrantable goes wrong with it (recall, etc.) Apple may not repair it if it has been previously repaired by a third party.
posted by tomierna at 10:08 AM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Part of the battery usage also might be due to the phone trying to update its operating system to the newest version, if you have auto-updates on. The downloads are very large (> 1 GB) and if you aren't in a place with solid, fast wifi, the phone might be repeatedly trying (and failing) to download the update.

If you want to rule that out, you can turn auto-update off in the settings; or just spend the time to update your phone. However the latter is irreversible, and the original seller might have a minor grievance.
posted by meowzilla at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

My 5s (bought in 2014) started doing this earlier this year. I paid apple £45 for a new battery and it is hunkydory now. It was worth the 45 quid/minutes to not have to worry about external batteries/charging points.
posted by halcyonday at 10:54 AM on October 10, 2019

I wouldn't do a battery replacement. My 6S performs similarly, and reports at 90% efficiency. The Apple store people said a new battery wouldn't make any difference.
posted by benbenson at 1:07 PM on October 10, 2019

Response by poster: I only paid $80 for the phone, and I do specifically want an iphone se (I like the form factor and the headphone jack), so I'm happy to throw $50 at it to replace the battery; $130 is currently a competitive price for a used, unlocked iphone se with a brand new battery. Mostly I just wasn't expecting battery life to be quite this bad, so I want to make sure it's not likely something else before I put more money into it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:43 PM on October 10, 2019

I have an SE that I bought on the day of release, March 2016. The battery is at 86%. It's nowhere near as good as it was, but I can always get a day out of it and often two. My usage is minimal though. I read Apple News before bed for 10 minutes, text a little bit, use the torch occasionally and use Siri for timers once a day or so. What I have recently noticed is that it takes a lot longer to go from say 100 to 90% than it does to go from 30 to 20%. I don't know if that's new behaviour or if I've just noticed it as the capacity has decreased.

Getting hot while charging is normal, though it has possibly increased as the battery has worn. Apple also changes charging profiles with iOS updates and, as of iOS 13, charging is tailored to your usage patterns. Batteries don't convert all the charge current into battery charge and the wastage is heat. It's possible the 5C doesn't get as noticeably hot because of the plastic case. Aluminium conducts heat well so you're more likely to be aware of it with the SE.

Worth noting that Apple considers 85% capacity as end of life. This is not as ridiculous as it might sound and 80-85% end of service life is normal for many lithium based batteries. It doesn't mean you can't keep using them, just that it won't be a great experience.

That it was sent to you dead flat is a shame. Leaving any battery flat will reduce its capacity and lifespan; some types more than others. Lithium batteries should be at 50-80% for storage or transport.

The SE is a great phone and I will probably get a new battery for mine within the next 6 months or so.
posted by mewsic at 5:20 AM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

My SE is supposedly at 100% battery capacity and still drains extremely fast. I just got it this March after going to the Apple store because my old SE was acting up and suddenly dying at 30% or even 90% (according to the battery display), and was told the battery was swelling up, so they gave me a new one. Maybe this one has the same issue, because it is draining very fast.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 5:29 AM on October 11, 2019

My SE just started having battery drain issues. I can’t keep a charge for more than 3-4 hours and will likely see about replacing it and waiting to see if rumours of a new SE form coming in 2020.
posted by terrapin at 6:58 AM on October 11, 2019

I was pleasantly surprised to learn recently that the Apple Store will replace iPhone batteries at a VERY reasonable price. I replaced the battery in my iPhone 7 for $49 - totally worth it. You can look up the pricing for battery replacement here - looks like the SE is also $49.
posted by devinemissk at 12:48 PM on October 11, 2019

When my iPhone SE was at "75% capacity" it would drain from 20% charged to abruptly turning off in less than a minute. It was under AppleCare and after they ran a diagnostic on it they replaced it for free. What I would take from that is that the self-reported battery health number is probably an exaggeration.
posted by sindark at 6:24 PM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

More data points: I have an SE and changed my battery in November last year under Apple’s €29 iPhone battery replacement program (ended 31 dec 2018). My battery is currently at 93% capacity. My husband also did the same battery replacement program for his 6s, I want to say March/April 2018, and his is already down to 85% capacity.
posted by romakimmy at 5:15 AM on October 13, 2019

Response by poster: Update a month later: after tweaking various settings (like turning off bluetooth, which I don't use) to match what my previous phone was set to, it seems to be behaving about the same as that phone as far as battery life. I'm punting a little on replacing the battery since I just spent $$$ on an unexpected car repair, but overall I think the phone is fine and there's not anything in particular wrong with the battery or the charging system other than it being a little old. After I get the battery replaced I'll update this again for reference.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:24 AM on November 14, 2019

Since my post above I've had the battery in my iPhone SE (which had 80% capacity) replaced, by a local company, not Apple, for £40. So in case some concrete data helps people weigh up whether it's worth it...

Test 1: Leaving the phone sitting doing nothing, on wifi, for 9 hours.

Old battery went from 100% to 75%.
New battery went from 100% to 97%.

Test 2: Playing YouTube videos over WiFi, with screen at full brightness and volume fairly loud, for 3 hours.

Old battery went from 100% to about 0% (it turned off just after 3 hours was up).
New battery went from 100% to 32%.

I expect I could have repeated the tests and got different results - there are probably a lot of variables. But generally it's been a massive improvement. I no longer have to recharge my phone every day, even when I'm not using it much. And I don't worry about it running out of juice after only a few hours of occasional use when on a train journey or something. "80% capacity" sounds like it's only 20% off perfect performance but, in retrospect, it felt a lot worse than that.
posted by fabius at 10:09 AM on November 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

« Older Coping with disability   |   Help for Newbie to Gym Etiquette Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.