Horrible iPhone 4S Battery Life Is Caused By Software Not Hardware, Here’s The Proof



Photo: Apple

The iPhone 4S has some bodacious battery life problems and no one seems to know what’s going on. Apple themselves have released an iOS update, iOS 5.0.1, to fix the problems, to no avail. Meanwhile, some iPhone 4S owners find their batteries draining at a rate of 10% every ten minutes, while luckier customers can only report the same excellent battery life the iPhone 4 was known for.

What the heck is going on? Are some iPhone 4Ses just defective? Will Apple have to initiate a recall?

Thankfully, no. Although no one knows what the problem exactly is, it has at least been proven to be a software problem… not a hardware problem.

ZDNet had a clever idea. Let’s take two iPhones 4Ses — one that has battery life issues, and one that doesn’t — and give them to an app developer to test them out. Both phones were bought at the same time, both ran iOS 5.0.1 and were AT&T models. In theory, they should both have the same battery drain problems, but only one did. Why?

After getting the two iPhones, the app developer decided to see if it was a hardware issue, so he backed up both iPhone 4Ses and then factory reset them. No dice.

Tthen he had a clever idea: what if I restored the iPhone 4S with battery drain issues using the backup of the one with no battery problems, and vice versa? If the battery drain issue was a hardware problem, the same phone that had the battery issue before should have problems even with a restore of another iPhone’s backup.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, when the iPhone 4Ses were restored with the other iPhone’s backup, the battery drain issues made a jump from between phones!

While this is only a one test case study, it does seem to conclusively prove that battery drain issues under the iPhone 4S are caused by bad software, not by bad hardware. It also seems to explain why some users have reported that complete wipes of their iPhone 4S without restoring from a backup after sometimes solve the problem.

In other words? This problem is something Apple should be able to fix through an iOS update. So when are you going to do so, Cupertino?

  • larrymadill

    My guess is that its something to do with location services. I had to restore iOS 5 a week ago because my iPhone couldn’t complete a sync with iTunes and also location services (at least the indicator) was stuck on all the time, even with location services turned off. After I restored no location service symbol and battery life improved a lot.

  • apluralist

    Dude, this:

        when the iPhone 4Ses were restored with the other iPhone’s backup, the battery drain issues made a jump from between phones!

    is not English.

  • apluralist

    This is a good guess. We have an app that uses significant change notifications and noticed that the behavior in iOS5 is significantly changed. Sometimes it gets the first bead on your location in an instant, other times, it dodders on and on before figuring out where you are.

  • rtruby

    I am not a programer.  How can the software cause problems on the phone?  Isn’t the os the same for both phones?

  • Steve Kahn

    My battery drain issues were resolved by turning off Exchange calendar syncing.  Once I did this my battery life is fine.  This also proves that it is a software issue.

  • Creul

    As my mate is experiencing the same battery life issues and i wasn’t i have already tried this method thinking that it might be software and not hardware. But I’m my case it did not solve anything, he can get about 1 hour on standby while i can easy get 150+(tired it to 142 hours and still had 12% remaining). 
    So his 1 experiment that you say “does seem to conclusively prove”its software, surely my 1 experiment “does seem to conclusively prove” that it isn’t? 

    p.s Sorry about the bad use of english, i will admit I’m not great at it

  • MacAdvisor

    Let’s discuss the difference between evidence and proof. An experiment with a single data point provides some, abet limited, evidence. As we don’t have the causal link between what caused the battery issue to jump between phones and the software each contained, the jump in a single instance provides evidence the problem is software linked, but not proof. If the experiment was repeated several hundred times with many, many 4S phones, then we get to the level of very good evidence. When one knows why the change in software causes the problem to change phones, then one would have proof. 

    There isn’t any proof here, only evidence. 

    While unlikely, the battery problem may have spontaneously changed phones without the change is software. The change just coincidentally happened at the time of the software change. Just because something happens at the same time as something else, particularly once, does not mean the two incidents are related. 

  • Stealth


  • iDaBoss


  • andi242

    I experienced the same issue.
    As 5.0.1 was released I was hoping to get better battery life on my 4S.
    Updated OTA, nothing changed, battery life even got worse (it felt like it did, did not take a stop watch to proof)
    Restored my iPhone with 5.0.1 and restored the settings via iCloud.
    No change according to battery life.

    Then I restored the phone as a completely new one. guess what? at least the battery lasted as long as it did before and slightly better.
    I used the same settings as before (no BT, no iTunes Wireless syncing, no location services)

    It appears that the stand-by mode has been improved, the battery is not failing as fast as it did before.

    5.0 battery life (according to usage info):
    1 day standby
    6 hrs use

    5.0.1 (after “clean install”):
    1 day standby
    7 hrs use

    both got 25% battery left at that point.

    Oh and two bugs were new after OTA Update:
    – no calculation of battery usage
    …another one I don’t remember… :(
    this was fixed after “clean install”.

    Not fixed:
    – iCloud mail ignoring push settings (was set to manual, but mails got pushed anyways)

  • chee1rs

    this needs help

  • Pablo Rodrigues

    People seems very preoccupied by this error! Read this and stop crying for your problematic battery!

    The solution???
    Well, when you restore your iPhone 4S from a backup from an iPhone 4 (I think most people did that), the 4S’s battery lasts a second. When you configure it as a “new iPhone”, problem solved.
    The problem is the iPhone 4 backup, not the iPhone 4S.
    I’ve solved this problem with my client’s iPhones before the unnecessary update.


    P.D.: Of course, if you have push, notifications, localization, etc., on, your iPhone won’t last more than the other iPhone models.

  • aga

    Another bug I have noticed on upgrading to iOS 5.0 on my iPhone4 is the Calendar App icon is not updating and showing the current date! If I open the app it shows the correct date, but the icon still does not update.

    The only reason I have it on my home screen is to quickly check the date. Now it is misleading :(

  • Chris Rose

    I can’t help but wonder what’s really going on here – my wife and I (both heavy users) always get more than 24 hours usage out of our iPhone 4S’ before we run out of battery – in fact we routinely get more than 30 hours between charges – and that means a lot of usage, on the web, transferring files, sending LARGE emails, processing photos, talking messaging, texting – the whole iPhone experience.  Hers: 29 hours, 34% left – mine 26 hours, 15% left (lots of processing and sending photos today)..=*^)

    My wife also keeps hers at 100% brightness, I at about 55%.Are we just lucky or?

  • Geoff

    While reading this article on my iPad my iPhone nicely just shut itself off with no warning or help from me.. NICE! NOT! I’ve done the restore and set up as new three times ( two of which were right back to back to try and purge the bad code) but to now avail. So I sit here and wonder when the help will come down the pipe.

  • Eric

    And people thought the iOS 4.0 update issues last year was in some people’s heads.  Apple may be cutting edge, but they aren’t immune to bugs.  At least now they can admit to it, and let us know they are aware and are working on fixing.  Should have done that last year with 4.0, they would have had less complaints.

  • Ronald Stepp

    please send me your battery backup which fixes the problem.  8 )

  • Ronald Stepp

    “People seems very preoccupied by this error!”

    No shit, I guess people get upset when their phone dies after a couple hours.  Who would’a thunk it?

  • Ronald Stepp

    I love the collapse thread option.

  • RaycerXray

    It seems with each release, whether it be FCP X, OS Lion or iOS 5, Apple is getting sloppier and sloppier with their software. It seems like they’re just pushing stuff out the door and hoping they can fix things later. Pretty sad, compared to what Apple used to put out.

  • gregbraddock

    i have no pity for you guys, my iPhone 4 has ALWAYS drained at about 10% per 10 minutes and this is my second one. I’ve never enjoyed going a day or 12 hours and not having to charge… i talked to a friend today and her phone has been off charge for 2 1/2 days with about 10 hours of usage (she has a 4S). Imagine my jealousy. 

  • Washington

    you are plain and simple lying

  • Washington

    you are using it wrong shut everything off. hold it in your hand so everyone can see the apple logo. that is the correct way to use it.

  • Washington

    apple is sinking get out now. 

  • Washington

    it is simple apple made a mess of their software and hardware. everything made in china, no quality control this time.

  • Floydstyle

    I owned all iPhone models including the 4S which I have right now and I’ve never had a single problem with my 4.  The 4S is a totally other experience.  My battery drains way faster than my old iPhone 4 but not as bad as some complain.

    Gonna try to wipe my 4S entirely later this week and restart from scratch for sure

  • facebook-505899793

    No, that’s definitely English.

    It’s not a complete sentence, but it is definitely English.

  • Ajanjos

    I cant really comment. My battery is going dead….

  • CharliK

    plug it into your computer, restore to factory software, set up as new iPhone. 

    That has cured many folks since the trouble was a corruption in the back up they put on the phone. 

  • CharliK

    one phone might have been set up from a corrupted back up. they might have different 3rd party apps running on them. there’s lots of things in the software that can cause issues on a phone. 

  • James T

    some of you have some F’d up phone issues. I get damn near a full day unless I use it like a gaming machine which it then dumps the power but normal use as a phone, email, texting, bluetooth on, wifi on I can get by on a single charge / day.

  • David Shanahan

    I restored my 4S from a 4th gen iPod touch (iOS 5.0) backup when I first got it and had no battery life issues. Upgraded to 5.0.1 and still no issues. It would be very interesting to know if all those having battery problems did restore their 4S from an iPhone 4 backup.

  • casfian

    Now try to solve my keyboard lagging!

  • Teeo

    Very well, I made a restore from a 3GS, no issues, neither before or after 5.0.1. The battery lasts 1-2 two days, wich in my view, are not bad at all.

  • Honyant

    It is a complete sentence but is grammatically incorrect (the from is redundant).

  • Y.E

    My iPhone 4s is running on 3 days now, 25% left.
    it has to be software, bought it the day it came out.

  • Gunther Weygers

    mine to!

  • Terrence McAtamney

    Nope, it’s hardware. http://macsmind.com/wordpress/

  • anthony kong

    thats nothing new thou…thats why they always have had updates. They advertise less issues not none.

  • Fixitgames

    Incorrect sir. I bought my phone with IOS5 on it, used zero back up from any apple product and I watched my batter go from 72% to 39% in 3 hours using only text messaging. Maybe 60 texts.

  • Vegawhite

    Me too. Calendar app icon not updating properly on my iPhone 4.