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Hard and Fast

The secret life of mobile batteries - UPDATED 6.10.2016

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 20-Sep-2016 19:29

Smartphone batteries have been in the news recently, in case you haven't been keeping up. On this mornings Jetstar flight the attendant took extra care to call out that Galaxy Note7 users would have to keep their device off - personally if I had one of these mobiles I would be utterly livid. Just not acceptable in 2016.

Hard choices

I've used iPhones in my line of work for the last few years as my primary device, and androids only as secondary units. The battery life on Apple phones is enough to drive you to despair at times, and as these things get bigger and pack more in, I can't the situation improving much.

I'm not a fan of the bigger screen devices like the 6 and 7 - I think Apple hit the mark perfectly with the iPhone 5 screen size - but you have to use what is reasonably available, and for me that is an iPhone 6.

Over the last year or so, the battery life on this device has become steadily more atrocious, but when I asked ServicePlus to have a look (Apple's agent in NZ), the diagnostics were that things were.... ok.... but perhaps remove the facebook app, which is a notorious hog. I did but that didn't really help..... and my experience continued to reflect that my battery must be munted.

In the weekend I read an article in Forbes, and the author opined that users should skip the iPhone 7 and just replace the battery in their existing iPhones, waiting for 2018 when the iPhone 8 is released (2017 will bring the iPhone 7S). Forbes article

The application Battery Life was mentioned... so I downloaded it and what an interesting app to use. Even though IOS9/10 locked out many of the statistics about the battery that could be read, some elements are still discoverable. Here's what says about my phone tonight:

A munted model

When new, the phone had a battery capacity of 1750Mah. All rechargeable batteries degrade over time, but what is interesting is where mine is at - maximum capacity is now 1100Mah, 37% less than as new.

Of course, the iPhone battery meter tells me how much charge is remaining - OF THE DECREASED CAPACITY - meaning the more I use this phone, the faster it appears my battery is draining, when in fact it has degraded seriously to the point of being nearly unusable. 

I double checked these readings using a Mac app called CoconutBattery, and it's reports are consistent with the above display. The battery has lost a lot of capacity.

So, tricky. 

Technically the iPhone battery reading is correct - 396/1100 = 36% charge. But without an app on the iPhone telling me "your battery is screwed bro", I am left wondering. I don't think it should have degraded this rapidly - I used my other devices which are older, and they havent got anywhere near this level of degradation, some of them are 6 years old and constantly being used. I don't know if it's better to be told I only have 396/1750, given I can never recharge the battery back up to 1750.... but it would have been nice to know.

The device is 2 years old. Arguing over reasonable life of a battery under CGA feels quite the uphill battle. I do wish Apple did make better tools available that acknowledge the limits of technology and help better manage - although if they did, I expect they would a truckload coming back at the 12 month mark as 'not fit'.

Battery Life. CoconutBattery.

You wouldn't think batteries are that interesting.... but it's amazing what you can discover.


UPDATE: 6.10.16

Serviceplus replaced the battery for me under warranty, as a precaution against imminent fail. Great outcome in the end, and excellent service from the wonderful Hilary!

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Comment by Behodar, on 21-Sep-2016 09:55

That does sound like a problem! I've just tried the same "Battery Life" app on my launch-day iPhone 6 and it's still reporting 1700 mAh capacity; it doesn't seem to have degraded anywhere near as much as yours. I use the phone every day and charge it most nights (typically whether it needs it or not), but if I forget to charge then it won't hit the 20% mark until late in the afternoon of the second day.

Comment by allan, on 21-Sep-2016 14:51

Is there an equivalent Android app? Most of the ones in the Play Store appear to be placebo "battery extender" type applications.

Comment by Dratsab, on 22-Sep-2016 00:13

I traveled to Thailand 3 weeks ago on a two week holiday. Both Qantas and Emirates requested that Samsung Note 7 users kept their devices powered down during the flight and didn't charge them.

Comment by Julian, on 22-Sep-2016 11:45

There's a great Windows app called BatteryBar Pro that gives similar stats for Windows machines. I've been using it for several years and the interesting thing is the variability in wear rate across different batteries. My current laptop (Dell e7440) shipped with a battery that was 40% worn out after a year. The replacement battery, which was bought at the same time as the original machine, is only down by 13% in nearly 2 years.

Comment by ZollyMonsta, on 26-Sep-2016 13:18

I have an iPhone 6s+ and the battery is already at 8% battery 'wear' level.  Crikey. Battery is 2500mAh (92%) whereas it was originally around 2725.

Comment by mattwnz, on 27-Sep-2016 00:57

AS the battery is not user replaceable, if it has decreased substantially within a couple of year, you could see if the manufacturer will repair it under the CGA. It is not as though these phones are cheap. That is of course if you purchased it for personal use.

Comment by jonb, on 30-Sep-2016 14:55

Also for windows laptops / tablets - the utility powercfg batteryreport is good.

Just open command line and type in 'powercfg batteryreport'

Author's note by antoniosk, on 2-Oct-2016 21:52

I am still waiting for the phone. No replacement batteries in NZ from Apple, 7 days from sydney, how nuts. i need my phone fixed before I will take up the fight on CGA - I agree on normal wear and tear, but to suffer a 40% reduction in capacity in just 22 months is a bit on the nose. 

Of course proving it will be tricky. The diagnostics tool Service+ uses says everything is fine - clearly it wasn't - and trying to use a 3rd party tool to prove it is equivalent to saying my astrologer said the battery was worn.


Interestingly, of all the phones we've had, only this iphone was one from the 'initial' production run that comes out at launch, and it seems to have died. All the others were purchased quite a few months into their lifecyle (like 4 months down the line). From experience with the far east, components get swapped out all the time and at very high frequency - wonder if it was a sh*t initial battery shipment.

Comment by mattwnz, on 7-Oct-2016 20:09

Did you buy it from the retailer, or from Apple directly. If from a retailer, you should get them to deal with it for you, as they should be easier to deal with and will know the CGA better. Don't get fobbed onto the  repair agents, do it all through the retailer. Repairs have to be done within a reasonable period of time. This sort of thing can benefit from a letter outlining what you want doing to put the matter right and the timeframe.

Author's note by antoniosk, on 7-Oct-2016 21:41

Apple direct. 

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antoniosk's profile

Antonios Karantze
New Zealand

I'm a born and bred Wellingtonian, and have chosen IT and Telecommunications as my industry, as a Commercial Manager.

Credits include but are not limited to:
- The O2 Xda smartphone range, and O2's range of 3G Mobile Internet services
- Numerous TelstraClear Mobile and IP voice products

In my journey through the industry I have worked at
- Bellsouth NZ
- Telecom NZ
- ICO Global
- T-Mobile International (formerly One2One Communications)
- O2 Plc
- TelstraClear
- Vodafone NZ

I'm a fan of technology, and what it can do for people and business... and I enjoy bringing new things to market and seeing them grow. Enjoy the blog, take the time to think about what I write - it's not technology heavy, and is my reflection on life and the people around me.