Concerning: Lower-Performing iPhone 4S Battery Specs Compared To iPhone 4

Apple made higher performance and impressive, new software features the highlight of the iPhone 4S. But can the iPhone 4S’s battery handle the load?

Talking about batteries is just about the most boring aspect of any mobile device. And yet, the battery capacity and performance is the lifeblood of any successful gadget; if the battery fails to perform well, mobile users find themselves eternally frustrated with never having the battery charged when they need it. In this way, the battery pack is the unsung hero of successful mobile designs like the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook: when they perform well, they go unnoticed, but when they underperform, they are decried.

It’s a thankless job being an iPhone battery.

That being said, the state of the iPhone 4S’s battery pack has sort of gotten lost in the shuffle of the iPhone 4S disappointment factor and the passing of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Tim Cook’s iPhone 4S announcement, and Apple’s own website content, gloss over the battery performance simply by stating, “iPhone 4S is quick and responsive, which makes all the difference when you’re launching apps, browsing the web, gaming, and doing just about everything. And no matter what you’re doing, you can keep on doing it. Because the A5 chip is so power-efficient, iPhone 4S has outstanding battery life.”

At face value, that sounds like a great deal: more power and performance, coupled with power efficiency and outstanding battery life. But when you begin to compare the battery specs between the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4, you begin to realize that little was done to improve the battery, in spite of the fact that the A5 chip, iOS 5, and Siri all put a bigger power burden on the iPhone’s battery.

The batteries for the iPhone 4S and 4 share a few of the same specs and performance ratings: the LiON batteries in both models offer internet times of up to 6 hours on 3G, and up to 9 hours on Wi-Fi. They also offer the same video and audio times: 10 hours and 40 hours, respectively. And when it comes to talk time, Apple claims the iPhone 4S is a bit more improved, with up to 8 hours on 3G, whereas the iPhone 4 is only rated as up to 7 hours on 3G.

There is, however, an area where the iPhone 4S actually underperforms the iPhone 4 in batter performance: standby time. Whereas the A4-equipped iPhone 4 can run for up to 300 hours on standby, the beefy iPhone 4S, with its A5 engine, is only rated at up to 200 hours. 100 hours difference is somewhat eyebrow-raising.

All in all, it would appear that the iPhone 4S didn’t get much of a battery upgrade at all — if at all.

But while it is eyebrow-raising, it is not completely unexpected: we had already heard reports that, although the A5 chip may offer a high level of performance compared to its power usage, pound for pound, it does indeed need a lot of juice to run. Because the iPhone 4S is processing like crazy, it will of course drain the battery at a higher rate than the iPhone 4 does. This is proven by the reduction in standby hours between the two models.

I find this concerning: Apple upped the performance on the iPhone 4S, but not the power plant. What are the unintended consequences going to be for the average user? While the company line is that talk time has improved slightly and internet time remains the same on the 4S, is this really going to be the case, or are 4S who are eager to use Siri and other iOS 5 bells and whistles habitually going to find that they get a lot less endurance out of their 4S than they did their 4 or 3GS?

It is worth noting that a similar downgrade in battery performance occurred between the 3G and 3Gs, both of which used the same 1400 mAh LiON battery. While the 3G was rated at up to 10 hours of talk time, the 3GS rates at just up to 5 hours on 3G, a sizable drop.

It remains to be seen if the battery will become an issue on this new iPhone 4S. But it would have been nice if Apple had offered a better upgrade in this department, even if it doesn’t represent the “sexiest” new feature. Perhaps since they were looking to change as little possible on the hardware side of things, they decided that a new battery wasn’t plausible. Let’s just hope a lack of longevity doesn’t ruin the new iPhone experience for us all.

By Michael Nace


2 Responses to Concerning: Lower-Performing iPhone 4S Battery Specs Compared To iPhone 4

  1. Matt says:

    The real problem is that battery technology is not advancing at the same rate as the silicon chip design and manufacturing processes. And a thicker device would not have been a good move.

  2. IphoneMag says:

    Great Answer ;)

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