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.

iOS 5.0.1 is Now Available, Plugin and Launch iTunes to Download

I am downloading iOS 5.0.1, which I hope will alleviate the low battery life issues that I have experienced since getting the iPhone 4S. I will report back after the update.

UPDATE: Install went flawlessly after downloading 800+ MB update. Let’s see if I can go more than a day and a half to two days before needing to charge.

UPDATE 2: Downloading the iPad iOS 5.0.1 update over iTunes. However, AppleInsider reports here that Apple is also pushing updates via its i-devices wirelessly. I wish that I had thought to check Settings > General > Software Update on my iPhone 4S before plugging into iTunes earlier!

UPDATE 3: It is interesting that the iTunes update is so large, when the AppleInsider images in the link above show the over-the-air update to be only 55 MB. I assume that iTunes grabs the full iOS system install while the over-the-air update contains only the files/changes needed for the update.

Apple and Sandboxing Programs on Mac OS X

It would seem that Apple is moving towards further convergence of iOS and Mac OS X in terms of their control of what gets installed and how those installed programs operate and interoperate within the OS.

One of the security innovations of iOS is sandboxing. To sandbox a program means to run a program within a secure space that limits its access to files on the systems, to other processes running, and to hardware. Essentially, the program is walled off from everything else in the running OS. This is good for security, because a single compromised app cannot bring down the rest of the OS or delete/damage files in the sandboxes of other programs or subvert the OS by direct access to the system hardware.

There are two reasons why sandboxing programs on Mac OS X bothers me:

1) Apple is enforcing these changes through its Mac App Store. Developers need Apple’s App Store more than Apple needs the developers. Apple realizes that a centralized marketplace with its ease of use will encourage users to buy and install programs from the App Store more readily than through traditional boxed software or shareware. It is only another step after making developers build their software to be sandboxed to enforce an install new programs only through the Mac App Store.

2) If all programs eventually must be sandboxed to run on Mac OS X, then the ability to multitask in several programs drawing on a shared set of files will be a pain. Perhaps through iCloud or other cloud services, it will be possible to access files across apps, but I like to have my files stored locally in one place that I can easily locate and backup on my own. This kind of new app behavior will disrupt my workflow to the point that I would have to reinvent the workflow wheel.

We do not yet know if Apple will enforce sandboxing for any application installed on Mac OS X including those not obtained through the Mac App Store, but we do know that Mac App Store developers have until March 1, 2012 to implement sandboxing and submit their apps for approval for additional privileges [read more here on TUAW]. There are already over 500 comments on Slashdot regarding this news here.

Apple Announcements from WWDC 2011: iCloud, iOS 5, and Lion

I missed the big announcements from Apple on Monday, because I went on a two day trip to Niagara Falls with my lovely wife and my emerging cosmopolitan parents. We had a great time in Canada and New York, but it is nice to get caught up with the digital goings-on tonight.

iCloud is probably the biggest announcement: 5GB of free storage in the cloud (Apps, eBooks, purchased music, and Photos are free). If this service really works as well as promised, you will be able to seamlessly access your content across any Apple device (iPhone, iPad, or Mac). More information is available here.

There was no iPhone 5 announcement, but Apple delivered the goods with iOS 5–the next iteration of the iOS platform. The big features include setting up an i-device without needing to own/use a computer and wireless syncing of your i-device data if you do use it with a computer. There will be new camera, gesture, and notification technologies built-in, too. Go here for a rundown of the new features.

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion was given a July 2011 launch date. Perhaps more interesting than the new technologies wrapped into the latest version of Mac OS X is the fact that it will be available for immediate download through the Mac App Store. This means you can purchase and download it over the Internet without needing to buy bits packaged in a cardboard box from the corner store (Larry Ellison’s biggest gripe about software distribution). TUAW, however, offers a guide here on how to burn a bootable Lion install disc after you purchase the installer from Apple.

Other tidbits: iTunes is now available as “iTunes in the Cloud beta” version 10.3 here. Also, iBookstore is now part of iTunes (finally!).

Apple iOS 4.3.3, Fix to Location Data, Now Available

As I wrote about previously here and here, Apple iOS on iPhone and iPad keeps a cache of crowd-sourced location data on your mobile device as well as on the computer that you sync your mobile device with. Today, Apple released an updated version of iOS that allows you to remove this data. Connect your device to your computer, fire up iTunes, and check for updates to download iOS 4.3.3.

Apple Q&A on Location Data, Future iOS Update to ‘Fix’

While I am reading Apple’s Press Release website, I offer their official response to the iPhone tracking revelation: Apple – Press Info – Apple Q&A on Location Data. Short story: the supposed location data is a local cache of crowd-sourced location data that Apple uses to help your iPhone let you know where you are while providing Apple with additional information about location specific resources such as cell towers and wi-fi hotspots. With an update to iOS, you will be able to completely opt out of this by turning off Location Services, and for those of us who use Location Services, a future iOS update will stop backing up the cache and reduce its size.