I really liked my iPhone 4S after I received it on October 14, 2011. It had tremendously long battery life (2-3 days between charges initially), and it had a lot of get-up-and-go for apps, games, and online activities supported by my then-unlimited AT&T data plan. However, my attitude towards my phone soured after 12-18 months. It began needing recharging more frequently and it lost its speed as the years past, new versions of iOS were installed, and new apps were updated.
I long thought that two things were conspiring against my iPhone 4S’s battery life. First, as iOS matured, it increased in complexity and became more feature-rich. Also, it seemed apparent that Apple was optimizing new iOS releases for correspondingly new iDevice hardware and CPUs. Put another way, my iPhone 4S’s A5 processor was not as efficient as the newer CPUs appearing in the iPhone 5, 5S, and 6. Unfortunately, Apple does not make it easy for its phone’s owners to choose which compatible operating system to run on their phone. After a brief period following a new iOS’s release, you cannot downgrade to an earlier version of iOS. This means that after the biggest jump in my experience–upgrading from iOS 6 to 7–was not reversible, because I waited too long to downgrade my iPhone 4S.
The other issue had to do with the nature of lithium-ion batteries. While they are tremendously better than older battery technologies, they suffer from the same problem as those older batteries: the maximum storage capacity of the battery decreases over time due to the number of recharge cycles. I thought that after two years, perhaps my battery needed to be replaced. By this point, I was having to recharge my phone once a day, so it seemed that its battery’s maximum capacity had been depleted. I purchased a battery replacement kit from iFixit.com, but after installing it, I did not see any improved battery life.
In my search for a technological solution to my iPhone 4S’s battery life problem, I was ignoring a bigger piece of the puzzle: my behavior. It occurred to me after uninstalling the Twitter app on my iPhone 4S about a week ago that my iPhone seemed to return to its halcyon days of needing a recharge about every two days! At first, I wondered if it had been the Twitter app that had been sucking the battery dry, but then, I reflecting on what I had been doing during the day differently when I had the Twitter app installed.
Around the time that I got the iPhone 4S, I began using Twitter more than I had in the past. When I used Twitter, I usually accessed it on my phone many times each day. Each time that I would check Twitter, I had to activate my phone (turn on the screen), unlock it, open the app, download data (wifi/less power draw or cellular/more power draw), send a tweet, take a photo occasionally to attach to a tweet, etc. Essentially, I was using my phone more often and the things that I was using it for was drawing a lot of power from the batter (data use, screen brightness high if outside, using the camera).
While I still seem to use my phone a lot (text messaging, web browsing, phone calls, other app use), taking my behavior and phone use as a Twitter user out of the equation seems to have significantly improved my phone’s battery life. Additionally, it has helped me refocus my attention on more important (at least to me) work and reading.
Of course, someone might point out the obviousness of using your phone less will prolong its battery life. However, as we use these technologies (mobile computing and social networking) more as a part of our daily practices, it is easy to miss how the pattern of our use might have changed over time. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that I am using this technology the same now as I did one or two years ago when that believe might not be supported by empirical evidence.
This is why I recommend reflecting on your behavior as a technology user before assuming that there is a technological problem involved in depleted battery life. While we shouldn’t rule out hardware or software sources as the root cause of a quickly discharged battery, my experience reveals how significant our behavior and use patterns (and how those patterns imperceptibly change over time) impact the battery life of our rechargeable devices.
Furthermore, we should all reflect on our technology use for non-technical reasons; meaning that we should reflect on how we use these technologies, what effect our use of these technologies have on our lives and interpersonal relationships, and how do these technologies effect our learning, critical thinking, and decision making abilities. Taking a time out to reflect might improve our human capacity to avoid “plugging in” as often as our devices might require.