The iPhone has always been pretty good about battery life, particularly in terms of standby time, but something changed recently—and in a big way. Reports are all over the Web about how iPhone 4S owners in particular have noticed vastly reduced standby time compared to older iPhones, on the order of 10 to 15 percent reductions per hour, although other people are saying they don’t see a problem at all.
It turns out there is something to this story, though: Apple has confirmed that a bug in iOS 5, not the iPhone 4S itself, is responsible for the poor battery life many people are seeing, and said that a fix is in the works. It turns out that the iOS 5 bug means you’ll also see the problem with an older iPhone, or possibly even an iPad or iPod touch, if you install the new OS on it.
Already have iOS 5? Here are six things you can do right now to boost your iPhone’s battery life.
1. Set time zones manually. This time around, by default, iOS 5 tries to auto-adjust your time zone based on repetitive calls to the GPS radio, which is a huge battery drain. For now, turn this off: head to Settings -> Location Services -> System Services (which is located all the way at the bottom) -> Setting Time Zone. Note that this setting isn’t in the Date & Time section, which makes it tough for people to find.
2. Disable location services when not needed. You can also disable all Location Services, which is a good rule in general for conserving battery life, but you’ll need to re-enable it for GPS navigation and other tasks as necessary.
3. Disable as many notifications as possible. Notifications were a battery drain with earlier versions of the OS; I usually kept them turned off on test handsets, and saw several days of standby time on a charge even with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS enabled. The new iOS 5 has a completely different notification system, with an Android-style pull-down bar at the top that collects multiple notifications and organizes them. In the process of adding this, Apple removed the global notification toggle in the Settings menu, so you can’t just disable them all in one shot anymore. You can, however, disable app notifications, while leaving important ones (such as text and voicemail) intact. In other words, you can turn it back into an approximation of the original system, which separated call notifications from app notifications automatically.
To do this, head to Settings -> Notifications, tap a given category (Phone, Messages, Reminders) or app (Walgreens, Zillow, and so on), and toggle Notification Center at the top to Off. The fewer notifications you enable, the more standby time you should see. While you’re in there, note that you can change the way they appear; you can return a given notification to an alert window in the center of the screen, the way it used to be, instead of with the new bar on top.
4. Check for e-mail manually. E-mail is another perennial battery drain; normally I set all accounts to receive updates manually (i.e. when I load the app), instead of at a set frequency or via “push.” The same goes for Facebook and Twitter updates; if the app is constantly refreshing them in the background, it’s hitting the radios and consuming power, and you’re not even reading them.
5. Check for software updates. Right now, iOS 5.0 is still current, but be aware that there’s a different procedure now: You can check for OS updates right from the phone, instead of using a USB cable and syncing with iTunes. Head to Settings -> General -> Software Update. Apple recently sent iOS 5.0.1 to developers, according to BGR; updates include bug fixes for battery life, among other things. Keep an eye on PCMag for the latest news on iOS updates as well.
6. Some minor things can still help. Finally, you can still do all the usual, old-school things to improve battery life, such as reducing screen brightness, disabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and so on. The only one that really helps here, in my experience, is screen brightness, but you need it cranked to see the Retina Display in bright sunlight. This was never a big issue with the iPhone, though; the above tips, plus an eventual bug fix from Apple, should resolve the vast majority of battery life issues with iOS 5.