The iPhone 4S Battery Drain Mystery!

January 20th, 2012

My brother came from New York to visit with me in San Diego over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  During his visit, he was frustrated by the fact that his brand new iPhone 4s battery could not last through the day!

I did not pay to much attention to his ranting on this subject, but during his 10 day visit, his iPhone battery charge never lasted more than half the day before it was a dead as a stone.     For the Christmas holidays I traveled to New York from San Diego.   During the first day, I noticed that phone had shut off because the batter had gone dead.   Never having experienced that before and, owing to the fact that I have my iPhone 4s wrapped in a case that has an expansion battery pack built in, I concluded that I must have forgotten to charge it over night.

That night I made sure to charge both the iPhone and the external battery case.  Next day, not half way through lunch, I noted my iPhone had gone dead again, burning through both the internal battery and the external battery?   WTF?   My brother started laughing as I now knew exactly what he was talking about during his visit to the left coast.   In my line of work (VoIP Tech Support), being without a cell phone is stress inducing to say the least!  I set about trying to figure out what was different and why my phone could not last a day before running out of battery juice?

What made this all the more interesting was the fact that I travel with an iPad2 as well?  Both devices have the same IOS level? My iPad was also a 3G model, so I concluded that AT&T roaming was not the issue.  After all, would it not effect both devices the same if the issue was related to roaming on the 3G network?  It must be something different about the two devices?   I then set about turning off everything I could think of in the iPhone.   I turned of the most obvious drain, Siri!   I turned off all notifications?  I turned off all the location based applications (so much for running up points on foursquare)! I even turned off the GPS and Bluetooth!

Nothing seemed to work?  I benched marked my iPad2 against my iPhone 4s.  The iPhone battery would be dead in less than a single day.  The iPad with all the applications on, that I had switched off in the iPhone, ran for two days before needing a battery charge.  My wife, who had my hand me down previous iPhone 3G did not have the problem.   The issue seemed to be specific to the iPhone 4s! The iPhone 4s battery gauge looked like the gas tank indicator on a Ferrari, moving from F to E in record time.   Maybe it was 3G data when no WiFi was available?  Nope, I turned that off, even though I did not have to do it with my iPad.   Email notifications were set to manual?

I began to scoure the Internet and could not find a single solution, though I found a recurring theme.  Apparently, when you travel with an iPhone 4s, especially outside of the US, this basttery strangeness is a real issue for everyone.   I can find no statement from Apple on this subject thought the forums seem to be filled with people sharing the same experience.   I am particularly certain it is unique to the iPhone 4s as my iPad did not have the problem nor did the older iPhone 3G?

Magically, on return to San Diego my home turf, the problem just went away.  My battery lasts the entire day with all the applicaitons, notification, Gmaill, Siri and GPS turned on!   Migrating Alpha Pariticles?   I know I am not the only peron to have this experience, so come on Apple, what is the story?

4 responses to “The iPhone 4S Battery Drain Mystery!”

  1. Amber Bees says:

    Thx again for putting this together.

  2. Tino says:

    My wife’s 4s running iOS 5.1.1 suddenly developed this problem, it seemed to be happening with all 3G turned off as we are now in the UKand we did not want to pay roaming charges at the time. Now the phone has been network unlocked by apple, we got a local pay as you go provider, and we restored the phone from her previous version. Might I add I have the same phone same iOS and never had this issue. She also had her phone for nearly 7 months in Canada without the battery issue that has now suddenly appeared. We will try the 3G lock out .. But any other updates?

  3. Johnny G says:

    I have noticed the same problem. I am pretty sure after reserching that it all has to do with the amount of service located in your area. Depending on were your phone is located the battery will drain accordinging. I believe the battery meter doesnt really show you the true signal strenght on the 3g 4g whatever. I work on the road and depending on where i am located my battery will hold power well. I think all we can do is get and external battery supply or a car charger until the iphone 5 comes out.

  4. Phonytony says:

    Yeah So this is my first Iphone (4S). I have been an avid Droid user for years and always had great luck with them (battery, OS, ect). So I decided a week ago March 25th 2012 to take the plunge and get an iphone family plan with my significant other, assuming “what the heck, everyone says the battery life is the best thing about the phone”. From day one this phone has been dog**** battery-wise. Not only is my phone affected, but my girlfriend’s same model phone is the same exact way. So let me get to it already:
    I consider myself a tech-savy person and thought hey I can figure this out, man have I been wrong, along with 98% of 4S users. So the phone came stocked with iOS 5.0.1 I think. After suffering bad battery life for two days, with realistic/perfect charging to condition the battery, I assumed it was either a bad battery or iOS issue. I realized there was an update due for iOS 5.1 that noted bugs and fixes for battery issues. I proceeded to DL and Install once I had a full battery charge, while being plugged in. I thought to myself, “this is great, finally!” but to no avail; the battery life was still terrible… No Gain or Loss compared to before. Let me elaborate a bit…
    *Stock Phone out of box iOS 5.0.1 (03/26/12)
    -Day 1 with 100% charge, everything set to default, wifi off when not in use. I unplug from charger at 515am to get ready for work and lay the phone on my desk downstairs and continue to get ready for work. Leave for work and arrive at 7am, phone is at 88-90% (not even touched yet). By 12pm I leave for luch and I am anywhere between 35-40% on battery with on average 3 websites viewed and maybe, just maybe one phone call made. If I made it home at 4pm without my phone dying I don’t remember.
    -Day 2 (same exact scenario for the most part)
    -Day 3 (same scenario) except this time I was proactive after reading about shutting off all the extra background services, apps, siri, ect, but nothing seemed to help at all! Literally if I saved 1-2% I didnt notice.
    *Upgraded to iOS 5.1 (03/29/12)
    -Day 4. Discovered update that noted bugs and fixes for battery issues and dove in as soon as my phone was at 100% charge. I thought I was finally free form the grips of this…nope. Everything back to default running on 5.1 I had no gain or loss in battery performance. I figured I would again try disabling all the background services listed before, but nothing would help. Sometimes it would drain a lil faster than other, but for the most part I was losing 10-15% an hour at least with the most minimal of use.
    -Day 5. I called Apple and their Sr. Advisor acted suprised, as if she hadnt heard of this issue really , and set me up an appointment with the “Genius Bar”. Sooo I wait for that appointment hoping for a new update or patch to resolve this issue so I would’nt have to drive 2hrs to the closest apple store.
    -Day 6 and 7 resolve nothing other than reading forums and trying to educate myself on the issue.
    -Day 8. (04/02/12) I go to the Apple Store. The “Apple Genius” does a diagnostic scan on my phone and determines the battery and hardware seem healthy, but becomes aware of the giant loss in battery as we sat there for 10mins and it dropped over 10%. He was shocked  and said “this def is not normal”. He proceeded with options, such as “I can wipe the phone clean and give you a new battery or I can just give you a brand new phone”. I wanted to rule out hardware entirely so opted for the new handset replacement so I could start from scratch. So we moved forward and I went on my way back home with my 2nd iphone 4S with the original 5.0.1 on it. Charge conditioned it and didnt put any apps at all on it or upgrades. I wanted to see what the culprit was. It still was draining after giving it a lil use (10mins of soft web surfing and a 4min phone call). I seemed to be in the same boat again and dissapointed. I was right to feel that way because my battery issue was there exactly the same as before, except I had an empty phone I had to start all over with again…
    -Day 9. (04/03/12) Decided to upgrade new handset to 5.1 hoping for the best, assuming it really just needed that bug fix through the upgrade. Pretty much started my work day at 7am with iOS 5.1 on the new handset with no apps or customizations. Battery life still the same. I could not believe it, so again I disabled all the services listed before to see if it would help along with some other troubleshooting I read about over the weekend… Nothing would help. I could not find the culprit! Battery was still draining at an alarming rate.
    -Day 10. (TODAY! 04/04/12) Did my usual 7am-4pm workshift. While at work my battery showed signs of no hope once again, but I decided to get over it for a few minutes and finally use the smartphone portion of my purchase and redownloaded my apps one by one and see how the battery reacted; nothing seemed to help or hinder the battery life.
    So here I am at 8pm trying to help the cause by giving the steps I have taken. Sorry if I have left out important details, but I am exhausted over it, so feel free to reply with extensive questioning. My only hope is to shed some light for apple and its iphone users. Too many places I have read that people werent doing enough or were doing too much, which annoyed me because I could relate to every single one of the issues and I know you guys can to. So enough from you guys who say try this, try that, stop using the phone so hard, swap it out at apple, upgrade, restore from itunes, restore from scratch, put it in the oven, put it in the freezer, because NONE of that has worked for me on any level as of yet. Same for my girlfriends phone. None of these steps have helped my battery life and I know there are other in the same boat which is deflating.
    Currently my iphone 4S is a white 32gb with iOS 5.1 installed.
    I am on Sprint and generally have 4-5 bars of service all the time, including 3G.
    My serial number is starts with DQGH12V*****
    Model MD246LL
    Version 5.1 (9B179)
    Let’s crush this rediculus issue that has gone on for far too long.
    Okay, Important realtime update!
    -Day 11. I went to sleep last night at 1030pm with my phone unplugged at 93% and just woke up at 515am to grab it at 90% and currently at 6am it is still at 90%, this is huge for me, but actually realistic…
    What did I do different? It it basically in tandem with what a few other dudes were saying on here: the 3G.
    I looked on Sprint to see my coverage area (work and home) and it looked good, I am even two houses or so down from excellent service. That said, my phones service bars and data service reflect that considering I get pretty quick upload and download speeds.
    So to the difference:
    Location Services: ON
    System Services: OFF (not that this should be a factor because it never helped before)
    WIFI: ON
    Cellular Data Services (3G): OFFFFF!!!!
    -Nothing else dissabled and bam.
    So with the culprit pointing to the 3G antenna I am going redirect my focus today, but this is the only positive feedback I have been given in the 10 days I have been hammering away at this phone. Apple needs to put us on their payrolls for this?
    With all that said, I have not been able to get any momentum the entire time whatsoever with any troubleshooting tactic until now, with just turning off cellular data (3G). I am even running WIFI and tons of apps to push the phone a lil and it isnt budging battery-wise. Like other have said, this def doesnt “fix” the issue , but it is a slight work around that will set your battery life back to the stone age of good batteries.
    Go ahead:
    Setting>General>Network>Cellular Data (OFF!)
    Now this is redic considering your biggest monthly cellphone plan cost is generally your data, but it seems to me it’s better temporarily than to have a totally dead phone.  I am pretty sure apple has installed some shotty antennas in some of the handsets that is constantly pinging the network hard and it probably has something to do with iOS 5 being 4G ready… This is EPIC FAILURE for this company I think. I think they know it to, but like the original 4S issue it should get solved, but I am sure the flawless iphone 5 will come out then, since they seem preoccupied by it rather than fixing this issue within 6-7 months. I can only hope they knock off $400 dollars at trade in with this phone for the new one at minimum.
    Hit me with any other questions.

    Another update!!!!

    Thanks, I only want to get to the bottom of this like everyone else…
    Another side note. I decided to turn on cellular data (3G) about 5mins ago at work, since I don’t have wifi, to see how’d she hold up. Keep in mind I was at 89% at 7am when I arrived at work. I am now at 81%. I dropped 7% in 5mins with cellular data turned back on. This is def the main issue by far.
    Any thoughts?

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