Just can't get enough (talk time) on my iPhone 3G
July 14, 2008 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Got myself an iPhone 3G. To say I'm less than impressed by its battery life is an understatement.

So after getting up at 5:30AM last Friday, getting in line at the Regents Street Apple Store in London at 6:15AM, I managed to get myself a 16GB iPhone 3G. All good, but my concern is regarding the battery life.

Specifically, iPhone 3G owners, what battery life are you experiencing, under what conditions? And what are you doing to maximise battery life?

My number hasn't even ported yet - which means I'm not using it as a telephone at present - and I'm routinely running to zero by the end of a twelve hour or so day, as measured by the telephone itself (Settings->Usage). And most of that time it's just sitting there idle, checking for mail once an hour. I've tried keeping 3G turned off (EDGE only), and don't have Bluetooth, WiFi or Location Services enabled.

But no joy. A very, very short life. And no doubt destined to get even shorter once I start to use it as a phone.

Are any owners here getting much more than twelve hours or so? And how about if you use it as a phone? Does anyone know if those external battery packs that were floating about for the first gen iPhone will be made for this machine? I've googled about, and it seems some other people are also complaining about this, but some noted that full discharge / charge cycles markedly extends the battery life. To what I don't know. I've done two so far, and will keep trying - some folks noted that after three to eight the capacity markedly increased.

I'm seriously unimpressed with this phone - in terms of battery life. Other than that, it rocks, blows my BlackBerry - and any other phone I've ever used - away.

I'm very active in the markets, and really appreciate having a full fledged, always connected browser in the palm of my hand. But that battery?

Thanks for your help!
posted by Mutant to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My friend got one, and he too has been very unimpressed with the batter life. Exactly how much he got I'm not sure, but I don't think it was much more than what you described.
posted by Autarky at 6:08 PM on July 14, 2008

I think you have a dud on your hands. I would take it back for an exchange. As a point of reference, my 1 year old original recipe iPhone gets plenty of daily use, and only needs to be plugged in about once a week. You should certainly be able to last a week if you aren't even making calls on it yet, I would think.
posted by spilon at 6:09 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: I've seen at least one initial iPhone 3G dissection where they've noted that the 3G battery is NOT soldered in like the original iPhone - thereby leading to speculation that after-market batteries might be a possibility down the road. But as for now, I am in the same camp as you: I ditched my Blackberry 8700 for the iPhone 3G and am really shocked at the short battery life. My Blackberry had an extended battery on it and I was on the AT&T network with only EDGE available. That sucker would easily last for a week on a single charge. I've got 3G turned off 'cause AT&T doesn't have a single 3G tower in my entire state and the iPhone is down to 20% by the time I head home at night.
posted by webhund at 6:14 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: Something is wrong. The spec sheet says:
Talk time: Up to 5 hours on 3G; Up to 10 hours on 2G
Standby time: Up to 300 hours
Internet use: Up to 5 hours on 3G, Up to 6 hours on Wi-Fi
Audio playback: Up to 24 hours
If you are getting 12 hours on standby (sitting idle), that's an order of magnitude less than listed. Maybe it's polling the internet and is therefore in "internet use" the whole time?

Sounds like either a dud or an Apple software problem. Maybe both.

I don't have a 3G, but my old model gets charged every three or four days of pretty light use. Phone calls and looking up notes and info.
posted by rokusan at 6:24 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: Don't toss it yet. Prime the battery a couple of times by letting it run completely dead and charging uninterrupted. That'll reset the battery memory (LiIons need this kind of treatment for the first 3 charges). Every review I've read has suggested that use of the phone daily (with decent wear) should only last a day. If you're getting two days, you aren't using the phone all that much. So I think that for heavier users, having a second charger is a necessity.

It doesn't surprise me. I've had two Nokias with absolutely BRILLIANT screens that don't last more than a day per charge. It's the cost of doing business.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:26 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: Gizmodo has an article with a few tips.
posted by aerotive at 6:27 PM on July 14, 2008

BTW, this is exactly why so many screens on phones suck. They're battery hogs, manufacturers know this, and deliberately use inferior screens to counter this. Of course, many manufacturers also allow for user-replaceable batteries.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:28 PM on July 14, 2008

I have a first gen that gets heavy daily use... as a phone, as an email client, web browser, music player, etc. In other words I use the shit out of it all day long.

I have to plug it in nightly.

That used to miff me at first till I realized that I was using one gadget in place of about 5 different gadgets. To me that makes my battery life understandable... but what you're experiencing sounds unreasonable. Get it checked!
posted by matty at 6:30 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: Mine's behaving when on standby; I did about a solid half-hour of IMing with it earlier (forgot my wallet and got stuck waiting to be rescued!) and it didn't seem to consume an inordinate amount of battery. My ex-coworker's, OTOH, is being a complete battery-scarfing fiend and he can't seem to pinpoint a cause. (His also crashes a lot more than mine does-- the only app that reliably makes my phone reboot so far is the free version of Twitterrific, and the devs blame Apple for that.)

You might try the hidden firmware update or a battery discharge cycle to see if you get any better life out of it. At least one person on Twitter reported earlier today that their iPhone's *case* was screwing with the battery life-- the case they have (don't know which model) was holding down the volume buttons and constantly adjusting the volume.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:32 PM on July 14, 2008

Also, for reference's sake, my phone has the 5A347 firmware (the "hidden update"), I disabled push, and I dialed the screen brightness down. I've got a Belkin silicone case and it doesn't exert pressure on the buttons.

I also think that whoever designs a case that actually smashes the buttons on a product needs to go back to remedial industrial design, but that's beside the point.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:37 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: I noticed the full charge/discharge seemed to extend the battery life markedly. It is weird as this is the first device I've noticed doing this. I've had mine since Friday and the first day was absolutely horrible. It seems like I constantly had to recharge it. Saturday was better, and I have yet to recharge it since Sunday. I have everything enabled, I think you'll see a marked improvement with a couple of recharges.
posted by geoff. at 6:39 PM on July 14, 2008

PC World says (via 9to5 Mac) that iPhone 3G's battery life is better than other 3G smartphones in its class. Any relevance?
posted by jroybal at 6:57 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: Yeah, try the full charge/discharge/recharge once. If that doesn't do it, you have a borked phone. If you have all those services turned off and it's still only giving you 12 hours of standby, that's not cool. I have been using mine all day on 3G with push email, Bluetooth, and using the web quite a bit, and it's just now nearing the bottom end of the battery.
posted by joshrholloway at 7:00 PM on July 14, 2008

I also think that whoever designs a case that actually smashes the buttons on a product...

I think that's an old-style iPhone case on a new 3G iPhone problem.
posted by rokusan at 7:14 PM on July 14, 2008

Are you watching any video? Video is an enormous battery drain.
posted by mkultra at 7:20 PM on July 14, 2008

How's the cell signal where you spend the majority of your time? I've previously had an office which had very intermittent cell service. This location just ate cell phone batteries. My theory is that the phone was using more power because it was continuous acquiring a signal, registering itself, losing the signal, and repeating.

My non-3G iPhone seems to do this sometimes when I have long meetings in certain locations which also have bad reception, but this could be the dreaded "confirmation bias".

Another thing I've noticed is that my signal bars jump massively when the phone is on the powered dock compared to when it is on battery power. (Coincidentally I was discussing with someone at the office just today. An increase in available power made logical sense for improved transmission strength, but why it boosted receive strength eluded us...)
posted by bitshift at 7:48 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: Just as a data point, I also just got a 3G. I've been using it lightly for phone and Internet stuff. I seem to burn through about 1/2 full charge in a day.

So, something is up with your phone. Either that, or I totally scored.
posted by adamrice at 7:57 PM on July 14, 2008

Make sure the phone isn't going into roaming or no-service mode inside your building. Cell phone batteries die very, very quickly when they're constantly looking for service.
posted by cnc at 8:16 PM on July 14, 2008

Also GPS (does it have GPS?). My Nokia 6110 Navigator will run itself out of charge in about four hours in my pocket, if I forget to turn off the GPS function before putting it away.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:17 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: This review:
On the downside, as Apple warned, the 3G radio consumes a lot more power than EDGE, leading to a noticeable decline in battery life. I tend to travel a lot and really pushed the battery on my first generation iPhone, but could usually make it through a business day. After a couple of days of testing, it was clear I'll need a portable battery pack to survive my trips with the iPhone 3G. (I ordered the APC UPB10, which looks compact enough to carry in my bag, and unlike some other external batteries can directly recharge the iPhone.)
posted by Class Goat at 9:52 PM on July 14, 2008

CNC is right, by the way. If the phone can't find a carrier inside your building, it will burn the battery trying to search for one.
posted by Class Goat at 9:54 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: That isn't normal. I get about 12 hours from mine but that is with heavy web use for my commute in the morning/evening and listening to music all day with push emall and 3g. Oh and phone calls. I am getting the expected life from what I'm doing with it.

It could be the signal strength issue. If the edge signal is harder to acquire than a 3g signal it could burn up more than a strong 3g signal in standby.

It could be the battery issue. Draw it down and recharge a time or two.

There could also be a hung up process. If the phone is warm when it is just sitting there it is working on acquiring a signal or doing something you can't see that it shouldn't. Like most electonic devices rebooting may help. Hold down the home screen button and top button until prompted to shut it off.

If none of that works take it back and exchange it for a working one. While you're at the shop get and extra iPod-USB cable because once you start isn't it a lot you won't want to be away from a power source.
posted by birdherder at 5:03 AM on July 15, 2008

You might have this info already, but if not: iPhone 3G Battery Tips.

Let us know if you resolve this.
posted by rokusan at 10:20 AM on July 15, 2008

Here's an update: Yesterday by the middle of the day my phone was a little lower than halfway on the battery. I let it almost completely die, and I gave it a full charge overnight. Today, I've been using it about the same as yesterday, if not more, and my battery only has a small sliver gone. That was after my first full discharge and recharge. So it appears that the battery life stabilizes quite a bit after a cycle or two.
posted by joshrholloway at 12:27 PM on July 15, 2008

Response by poster: Ok, many thanks everyone. Since my original post I've gone through two full charge / discharge cycles, and have seen an improvement in battery life. I've also reconfigured my email accounts, and changed everything to fetch. Lots of folks seem to be complaining about push and battery drain.

Last night (second day of use after a full charge / discharge) I got my 20% warning at

Usage: 7 hrs, 2 minutes
Standby: 14 hrs, 7 minutes
Call Time - 14 minutes
Sent 17.2 mb
Received 159 mb

iPhone screen dump here

I got my 10% warning at

Usage: 7 hrs, 31 minutes
Standby: 14 hrs, 45 minutes
Call Time - 14 minutes
Sent 17.5 mb
Received 160 mb

iPhone screen dump here

and the phone automatically powered down after 10% warning during another five to ten minutes of use. What those stats don't capture is perhaps five minutes of Location Services (usually disabled) during three discrete points yesterday (walkabout with Mrs Mutant on a fine sunny day).

Full charge again last night.

So it seems the battery life has increased, and I'm going to engage in a few more cycles. I'm not going to rule out visiting the Apple Store just to get their view - I'm assuming they've got some tools that will drop the iPhone into a diagnostic mode (I know the 5th gen iPods can do this via the trackwheel) and perhaps they can confirm everything's working correctly.

This reminds me of my Compaq iPaq, where I ended up purchasing three chargers so I'd have one nearby always. Oh well, at least at home we've got an iMac in every room so I'll just make sure I've got an iPod charging cable inserted and ready to go.

Some interesting forums / iPhone 3G discussions here -




Thanks for all your help folks! If there are any significant changes I'll make sure to report back.

Take care and thanks again!
posted by Mutant at 5:49 AM on July 16, 2008

Response by poster: Ok, a datapoint for those still following this thread or who happen upon it at a later date.

So yesterday I installed the hidden firmware update referenced by fairytale of los angeles above (many thanks guy), after a full charge discharge cycle.

With the new firmware and a full charge I got my the 20% warning at
Usage 8 hrs 51 min
Standby 11 hrs 50 min
screen dump here.

And the 10% warning kicked in at

Usage 10 hrs 46 min
Standby 14 hrs 21 min
screen dump here.

Now I did have one plus hour of iPod time and perhaps five minutes of Location Services that doesn't seem to be separately broken out, so these results are interesting esp when compared to earlier times.

I've read in some of the Apple forums people claiming they are actually getting better battery life by running 3G (my results to date have it switched off), so today I'm running all day with 3G enabled, and have used it as a phone (gasp!) as well.

I'll report these results back in thread as well.

In terms of the battery packs that I mentioned before, Mophie claims they'll have a 3G compatible device out by September. Some folks have crammed their 3Gs into a Mophie but I'd rather wait. This is probably my top selection for an external battery pack.

Dlink is making an external charger that doubles as a flash drive.

There is also some speculation that Apple will soon ship a replaceable backpanel to the existing 3G case (we know that battery is NOT soldered in, unlike the first gen iPhone) but nothing definitive is on the table regarding this yet.

I'll report back again with results of today's 3G experiment. I plan to full discharge / charge afterwards.

I hope this helps!!
posted by Mutant at 9:28 AM on July 18, 2008

Response by poster: I think this will be the final data point I'll provide in thread; if folks have future queries regarding battery life please do email me for details.

However following the advise in this thread I'm increasingly comfortable with the battery life of my iPhone. To recap:

I have performed six full charge / discharge cycles, and while performance was clearly increasing as a result I had the most significant change in results after applying Apples "hidden" firmware update.

My times are now substantially better than before, even considering I'm running in 3G mode all the time.

Yesterday I got my 20% warning at

Usage 10 hrs 4 min
Standby 16 hrs 17 min
screen dump here.

And the 10% warning kicked in (about one hour later) at

Usage 10 hrs 28 min
Standby 17 hrs 19 min
screen dump here.

Again this overall performance data didn't break out some iPod time (perhaps one hour), App Store browsing (downloaded three apps and updated one), Equity Market monitoring (lots!) and Weather checking.

Subjectively, the full charge/all bars state of the iPhone persisted much longer than before - perhaps half the day. On the other end of the curve, I got much, much more use of the device between the 20% and 10% warnings (no data, only subjective) and the elapsed time to go from the 10% warning to full discharge / shutdown was much, far longer than before (annoyingly so, in fact, as Mrs Mutant and I had been out on the piss and I just wanted to sleep!!).

So many thanks for all the tips and advise upthread. I won't be providing another update in thread, but hopefully this information will help someone else and, as always, I'm available via email.
posted by Mutant at 1:27 AM on July 19, 2008

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