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Apple on iPhone 4S Battery Blues: Help Is on the Way

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Nov 3, 2011 9:14 AM PT

Apple confirmed Wednesday that the decreased battery life in the iPhone 4S that some users have been complaining about since the phone's debut last month is due to a bug in the iOS 5 operating system. The company plans to send out a software update shortly to correct the problem.

Apple on iPhone 4S Battery Blues: Help Is on the Way

In a statement to AllThingsD, the iPhone maker confirmed that some users have been experiencing lower than expected battery life in the iPhone 4S since upgrading to the iOS 5 platform. The new operating system, which was released side-by-side with the iPhone 4S, includes behaviors that are apparently draining the battery quickly in some iPhone 4S devices.

The company didn't offer an immediate fix to hold users over until the finalized update is issued, but its support boards have been filled with various suggestions for increasing battery life. The problems haven't been reported on every iPhone 4S, and seem to vary based on what network a user is on.

One of the minor fixes users have found success with is turning off the feature that automatically adjusts to new time zones. Apparently the present version of iOS 5 commands the phone's GPS feature to constantly get a read on which time zone the user is in, which could be contributing to the decreased battery.

Apple said the correcting software will be released "in a few weeks" and didn't respond to MacNewsWorld's request for further comment.

Quality Control

Although the iPhone 4S users reporting the bug are frustrated, glitches seem to be a part of the territory with new smartphones now.

"The complexity of smartphones these days is astonishing, and there will be bugs on every phone, guaranteed," Stuart Robinson, director of handset component technologies and SpecTRAX at Strategy Analytics, told MacNewsWorld.

With Apple in particular, there's not much time between the testing and release phases to work out every kink.

"Apple spends a large amount of time developing their software and each beta version adds new features or fixes bugs. But there's very little time between the final version in test and the release of that version. That means software optimization is a last effort without much testing time," Kevin Tofel, mobile editor at GigaOM, told MacNewsWorld.

Recon Work

This isn't the first time a newly released iPhone has drawn sharp criticism from some early buyers. When the iPhone 4 was released last year, early adopters found that, due to the antenna design, the phone's cellular signal could be significantly diminished if the user holds the phone a certain way. Apple initially responded to the problem with a snappish response not to use the phone in the way that disrupted the antenna. Eventually Apple gave away free iPhone cases, the use of which prevented the antenna problem from occurring.

Despite the frustration expressed on message boards and social media outlets over the antenna problem, sales for the iPhone 4 proved strong.

This time, Apple acknowledged the problem relatively quickly and promised a prompt fix. Compared to its response to the iPhone 4's problems, or to those of competitors such as Samsung, which let quality questions concerning the GPS functions with its Galaxy phones linger for months, Apple's handling of this situation seems to be limiting customer outrage.

"If anything, Apple looks better than its peers simply by quickly addressing the issue. And for most users, their new iPhone isn't running the battery down in such a short time that it's impacting them; the phone simply isn't meeting expectations," said Tofel.

Thanks to the company's marketing and branding skills, Apple customers are known as one of the most loyal bunches out there, and if the so called antennagate crisis didn't put a dent in sales, it's unlikely that the iPhone 4S will see a decrease in its already record-breaking sales numbers because of a fixable battery life bug.

"Competitors may try to use this as a performance benchmark, where they will show what the battery performance of their devices are, but I think in general iPhone users will view this as an issue but not enough to cause them to leave Apple and go to another product," Hendi Susanto, analyst at Gabelli, told MacNewsWorld.

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