Absolute Power


iOS 5 Power Problems

This blog originally posted on the Low Power Engineering Community 3/8/12.

Since the release of iOS 5 along with the iPhone 4S back in October, we’ve finally seen the conclusion of ”antennagate” on the iPhone 4, only to be quickly replaced by “batterygate” as the new biggest complaint of iOS 5 users.

I’ve personally experienced some of the problems reported throughout the user community. iPhones and iPads seem to “hang” while trying to connect or communicate, and the result is battery drain of more than 1% per minute (on iPhone 4S), similar to the power used when streaming a video over a weak 3G connection. I’ve seen this problem occur while connected via wifi as well, with similar results—a warm device and a drained battery within an hour or so.

The common denominator seems to be iOS 5.0, which was patched less than a month after its initial release to version 5.0.1. The top billing on that update read, “Fixes bugs affecting battery life.” But my problems haven’t gone away, suggesting that there were quite a few of these “bugs” floating around in the original 5.0 release. I’ve gotten used to powering down my phone occasionally, which for me has been the only consistent way of resetting it deeply enough to correct the problem. I’ve tried to isolate and reproduce the problem, but haven’t had any luck.

Today will be the rumored announcement of the iPad 3, and if you believe the rumor mill, the long awaited iOS 5.1 update, which again is said to fix the “batterygate” problem. As we’ve discussed frequently, the complexity of today’s smartphones is hard to comprehend, especially because the entire hardware platform and software stack continue to evolve and expand rapidly. Identifying these kinds of problems is extremely difficult, but in our new reality of social networking, information from millions of users can be pooled together to help isolate problems as a community. This kind of “social debugging” is fundamentally changing the way we think about software development. And in the grand scheme of things, life is just one big beta test anyway, right?

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