In an effort to spare my lovely bride from the banjo-playing donkey that starts up in her head every time I start droning on about phone battery issues and how I want to sort out my cellular situation, I am going to attempt to get it all down in print here. Love you, sugar ;]
* Battery is still at the forefront of my mind because iOS 7 on the Verizon iPhone 5 isn’t getting any better. Ars Technica repeated their tests yet again and saw only a slight improvement when going to an AT&T phone, and no improvement when disabling cellular connectivity or Background App Refresh altogether. They point out that the new iPhones are not that much better – there’s just something about the iPhone 5 and later that doesn’t work well with their looped-Safari-browsing test. Which test, as they say, makes up for what it lacks in reality with what it provides in reproducibility and consistency across devices.
* In my week out of town, I always had the charger pack attached to the phone, but I only had to enable it once. For the most part, I wasn’t hitting the phone as hard as usual, especially because I was doing all of the driving when I wasn’t tailgating hard or stuck on a plane with no network. I ended up only flipping the switch on the battery pack once, but I also routinely ran the phone below 20% before plugging in for the night. Fortunately, we slept in a house with a Verizon tower in the back yard pumping out a strong 5 bars, so it could have been much worse.
* Before I left town, I hard-wiped the phone and reinstalled iOS 7, setting up from scratch with no restore from backup. While out and about, I upgraded to 7.0.2. I also turned off all of the following: screen animation, Siri raise-to-speak, background app refresh, auto-brightness (set to about 33%), Bluetooth, all system location services save for compass calibration and cell network search, Frequent Locations, and iTunes Store auto-update. The only apps with Location Services enabled are the ones that need it – transit apps, weather apps, and a couple of location-aware journaling apps like Instagram. In short, I’ve more or less disabled almost all the new feature in iOS 7; no slick 2.5D parallax view or self-updating apps or traffic alerts in the Today screen for me.
* With this setup, my phone dropped from 98% battery to 88% battery in a stretch where it only played podcasts for an hour and a half (the actual elapsed time was longer, but I didn’t play continuously). In this iPod mode (but with networking still alive), the battery dropped 1% per nine minutes. After I ran out of podcasts, I disconnected the headphones and only used it to check the usuals – Reeder, Instagram, mail, the like – and in 14 minutes of active use dropped the battery another 6%. Worth noting: an hour of audio playback in airplane mode while traveling only consumed 1-2% of battery.
* The original iPhone review by iLounge found serious issues with battery life in low-LTE areas. In places with only two bars of signal, they found battery life to be effectively halved. Given that I can’t seem to find more than three bars of Verizon LTE most places, that probably doesn’t bode well. I have the T-Mobile nano-SIM, and will probably set it up in a day or two to see what happens when I try GSM with no LTE on the same hardware.
* It’s not lost on me that taking the iPhone from 1136×640 to 1280×720 would mean an approximately 25% growth in screen acreage…which conceivably also means a 25% jump in size of battery. That alone might be a reason to wait for a notional iPhone 6.
* Things left to try: getting through the day in WiFi-only mode (no cellular networking at all), turning off LTE altogether, seeing what happens with the T-Mobile SIM.