Personal Reflection and Improved Battery Life on iPhone 4S with iOS 8 (Hint: It’s about Twitter and Technology Use)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dynamicsubspace/15304145945

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.

Beware of Fake Canon NB-7L Batteries for the G10 and G11 Sold on Amazon Marketplace

I recently purchased what was supposedly an authentic Canon NB-7L battery for my Canon G11 camera from a seller with high ratings on Amazon’s Marketplace, but after opening the package, I discovered that the battery is significantly different than the stock Canon battery that came with my camera. This and other discrepancies lead me to believe that the battery that I purchased is fake, and I am in the process of returning it to the seller. I will withhold the seller’s name unless there is any problem making the return.

There are several reasons why I believe my recently purchased NB-7L battery to be fake. First, the printing on the new battery appears of substantially lower quality and it is distorted. Also, the new battery has substantially less information on the battery including no serial number.

The following pictures are of the front and back of my real NB-7L battery that was included with my Canon G11 camera.

Real Canon NB-7L Battery Front

Real Canon NB-7L Battery Back

The following pictures are of the front and back of the suspect NB-7L battery.

Fake Canon NB-7L Battery, Front, Printing Appears Cheap

Fake Canon NB-7L Battery, Front, Printing Appears Cheap and Distorted, Note "Made in Japan"

Second, the weight of the real NB-7L is substantially higher (real = 1.8 oz., fake = 1.4 oz. = 0.4 oz. difference) than the suspect battery. I immediately recognized that the suspect battery was lighter when I picked it up.

Real Canon NB-7L Battery, 1.8 oz.

Fake Canon NB-7L Battery, 1.4 oz.

Third, the packaging of the suspect battery looks authentic and it includes a Canon hologram. Do real retail packages have this hologram? I don’t know since I haven’t seen a package on a store shelf. However, I found it troublesome that the packaging includes the words, “Made in China,” but the suspicious battery is marked “Made in Japan.” My authentic battery is “Made in China.” This leads me to believe that the packaging may be real or more faithfully copied than the battery.

Fake Canon NB-7L Battery Packaging

Fake Canon NB-7L Battery Packaging, Hologram Looks Real

Fake Canon NB-7L Battery Packaging, Back

Fake Canon NB-7L Battery Packaging, Back, Close-up of Made in China

I hope to return this battery soon to the Marketplace seller, because I will not settle for anything other than an authentic Canon battery or a battery made by a reputable third party. The problem with using a battery posing as a real, oem battery is that there are potential dangers associated with a fake battery. Modern lithium-ion batteries include microchips that communicate with your electronic hardware, and if these battery chips are fake or send the wrong information, it could do a variety of things ranging from damaging your camera’s internal electronics to inaccurately reporting the charge status of the fake battery. There is also the very real hazard of exploding, overheating, or leaking batteries. Authentic batteries have a slim chance of doing these things, too, but at least with an authentic battery, there is a real party who can be held liable for damages. The fake battery also likely holds less charge due to its lighter weight and potentially less battery cells.

Protect your camera and yourself by carefully selecting and purchasing authentic oem or reputable replacement parts.

If you have more info about fake batteries, please share your stories in the comments.

Another Fantastic Apple Genius Bar Experience

I have had many experiences with Apple’s Genius Bar over the years since Apple first launched its chain of stores nationwide. I took my PowerMac G5 to the Northpoint Mall Apple Store in Alpharetta, Georgia, because I had to ‘pump’ the power switch three times to get it to boot after installing an nVidia 6800 Ultra video card to drive my 30″ Apple Cinema Display (this was not the best experience, but they did make things better–I will write about this in the future and link back). I had the Shadyside Apple Store in Pittsburgh replace the top plate on my 15″ MacBook Pro after the trackpad died (at least it survived the year in Liverpool). And most recently, the Legacy Village Apple Store in Cleveland replaced my 13″ Aluminum MacBook’s power brick after it developed an unacceptably loud electrical cycle hum. In all of these cases, I had AppleCare, which was particularly useful because I have found technical issues usually occur after one year if the device makes it past the first 30 days problem free.

On Saturday, Y and I drove to Fairlawn to visit the new Apple Store in Summit Mall so that I could visit the Genius Bar about my MacBook (5,1, 13-inch, Aluminum, Late 2008). For a few months, my MacBook had developed a nasty habit of shutting itself down hard when the battery reported it still had about 15% power left. I had reset the SMC (System Management Controller), which controls power and temperature regulation, twice. I had also run the Apple Hardware Test on the Applications disc that came with my MacBook, but it reported everything was okay.

I made a late appointment with the Genius Bar so that Y and I could stock up for the current storm at Sam’s Club and grub on sushi and teriyaki shrimp at Sakura. When we arrived at the mall, the Apple Store was hopping with The Beatles playing over the PA and many, many people trying out this season’s sexy technogadgets.

After a waiting about 10 minutes past my appointment time at the Genius Bar, precipitated by an apparently busy repair night, a Genius called my name and we got started on my MacBook. After telling him the things that I had already tried and saying that the battery had over 260 cycles yet it still reported ‘Normal’ in the System Profiler, he used netboot to launch my MacBook from a remote disc that autoloaded a proprietary Apple tech tool that could diagnose different hardware maladies. In my case, he loaded a battery tester that reported everything was okay. Luckily, this Genius was paying attention to something that I had not noticed: the full charge capacity in mAh. My battery was reporting that its maximum capacity was only 3400 mAh, but it should be 4500 mAh. It only had 75% of its normal capacity left, but it was miscalculating how much that amount actually was. This meant that the battery was completely discharged earlier than its on-board microchip was determining, and the computer would slam down in a jolt when there was no more juice to run.

He happily replaced my battery, had me sign a repair form since I’m still covered under AppleCare, and Y and I were on our way home. However, we did have to stop by Williams and Sonoma so that I could get Y a cute soup bowl with handle to replace some bowls that we recently threw out after Y discovered through research that they had unacceptable levels of lead and other heavy metals.

Now, my MacBook works, and Y safely enjoys a bowl of soup–a very good day indeed!

Adobe Flash Will Really Deplete Your Battery

After reading this post on Wired which reposts a review of the new MacBook Air from Ars Technica, I am going to uninstall Adobe Flash from my MacBook. As has been widely reported, Apple decided to not include Flash with the latest MacBook Air. The reason given was that it was better for consumers to download the most up-to-date version of Flash on their own rather than shipping busted out-of-date software from Adobe. Apple and Steve Jobs are waging a war against Adobe’s interactive bloatware, and this recent move with the updated MacBook Air seemed to be another salvo. However, it now seems that Apple was concerned about the loss of battery life as a result of having Flash installed. According to the tests by Ars:

Having Flash installed can cut battery runtime considerably—as much as 33 percent in our testing. With a handful of websites loaded in Safari, Flash-based ads kept the CPU running far more than seemed necessary, and the best time I recorded with Flash installed was just 4 hours. After deleting Flash, however, the MacBook Air ran for 6:02—with the exact same set of websites reloaded in Safari, and with static ads replacing the CPU-sucking Flash versions.

I would like to see if I get some lost battery time back without Adobe Flash’s rapacious need for CPU cycles. Unfortunately, I believe that many sites that I use rely on Flash for interface elements, so I don’t know if I will be able to keep Flash off of my MacBook. Flash could become the zombie app that you just can’t keep down as it hungrily seeks electrons.

Increasing Your Battery Life on a MacBook

Laptop batteries are a fascinating work of engineering. They live, they die, and then they are resurrected. I have always struggled with prolonging each brief recharged life in my laptop batteries ever since my first Powerbook 145B back in 1993.

Now I have a late 2008 aluminum unibody MacBook (MacBook5,1). I am a little displeased with my battery life, which usually tops out between 4-5 hours (I believe I was promised at least 6 hours when I purchased it). However, I have figured out a few things on my own and read others on the net that may lead to longer battery life for your MacBook or MacBook Pro.

  • Power cycle your battery. I do this each time that I use my Macbook. What this means is to run your MacBook off its battery until it goes into deep sleep. Then, plug your power cord in and let it recharge completely. This keeps the battery properly calibrated.
  • Turn off your radios. When I’m on the go, I always turn off Bluetooth, because I don’t carry my wireless Mighty Mouse with me. Also, I only turn on Airport when I plan on surfing the web.
  • Reduce your screen brightness. I lower my screen brightness to the lowest level, which works fine in good indoor lighting.
  • Run fewer concurrent apps. This means not only running fewer apps that you directly interact with, but also keep background running apps to a minimum. If something is eating up processor cycles, then it is eating power from your battery.
  • Streamline your browser. During the school day, I usually only leave Safari open as I go from class to class teaching. Flash is terribly inefficient on MacOS X (I say this, because it is hard to imagine how Flash ads can cause Flash to take upwards of 100% processor use, leading to more heat expenditure, and increased fan use). Make sure Flash is up to date, and install Safari AdBlocker (64-bit) and ClickToFlash to reduce ad trash and invoke Flash when you want it. Also, I only use one tab/window with Safari 4 to reduce its memory footprint and hopefully processor time.
  • Try other browsers. In this article, AnandTech demonstrated that your choice of browser and the things that you browsing will affect your battery life. However, they tested a number of browsers on PCs, and not Macs. Obviously, the underlying hardware on the newer Macs and PCs are similar, but the applications themselves on the two platforms will be affected by the OS, APIs, different library builds, etc. So, I don’t know which browser works best on Macs to increase battery life, but I do hope that someone out there will run a methodical test to determine which browser at the moment saves the most juice. If you do this, please post a comment with a link to your results.
  • Leopard vs. Snow Leopard. I am currently running Snow Leopard, and I do not find an appreciable difference in run time between the two OSs. However, there is a tremendous amount of debate over this issue online. This is something else that requires methodical testing to determine, and I have not found anyone to have done so on a baseline piece of hardware.
  • Be radical. Some folks online have removed their optical drives in order to save a little power, and others swear by SSDs at saving more power than traditional HDDs. My MacBook has an Apple supplied SSD, but I do not have another MacBook identical to mine to compare run times.
  • What did I miss? Leave a comment below.