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iOS Update Fails to Silence Battery Complaints

By Rob Spiegel MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Nov 11, 2011 12:20 PM PT

Apple on Thursday pushed out iOS 5.0.1, an iPhone operating system update designed to address problems some iPhone 4S users had reported regarding the device's quickly draining battery.

iOS Update Fails to Silence Battery Complaints

However, the update apparently did not solve the battery-drain issues for everyone, according to many posts on the company's own support forum.

Whereas iPhone users typically expect their phones to easily make it through a full day of moderate use between charges, some 4S users insist that the battery charge falls 1 percent every few minutes. Some users reported that the patch even worsened the problem. Others say that the update did indeed solve the issue and have witnessed a boost in battery performance. And still others claim to have never noticed a problem to begin with.

However, support forums are not an accurate gauge of overall success, since most people who post messages on them are compelled to do so because they are dissatisfied.

iOS 5.0.1 is the first update Apple has delivered over the air. Users don't have to be physically connected to an iTunes-running to find out about the update and install it. Apple did not specify the exact battery fixes in the patch, stating only that it fixes bugs affecting battery life. The update also fixes some bugs with iCloud documents.

Fix the Problem, Fix It Fast

"So far, Apple's iOS 5.0.1 update seems to have partially, but not fully, repaired the battery problem," Neil Mawston, director of global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics, told MacNewsWorld. "This is the second time in two years that Apple has received negative press coverage for battery life problems, and it is not doing the Apple brand any favors."

Apple, Mawston noted, needs to act more decisively to cure this new battery problem, since it is perceived as a pain-point for many consumers and a weakness by rivals.

"Apple needs to fix the battery problem fast and then roll out CEO Tim Cook to explain why it happened, how it was fixed, and why it will not be repeated in the future," said Mawston.

Apple Users Are Passionate

If Apple's fix is not complete, there is certain to be plenty of noise.

"This is a problem because of the outspoken, passionate nature of the iPhone user base," Kevin Burden, VP of mobile device research at ABI Research, told MacNewsWorld. "Most new smartphones with dual-core processors and clock speeds over 1 GHz are not going to deliver the same level of battery life we remember in our phones just couple of years ago."

Battery life issues, Burden noted, are particularly acute given the trend of thinner smartphones, which means smaller batteries.

"This is something that a lot of users are noticing with their smartphones," said Burden. "The whole issue is exacerbated because of the outspoken nature of Apple's cult-like user base." Apple, he also observed, has complicated the problem by never allowing users access to the battery.

Apple's Fix Is Easier Than Android

On the positive side, Apple moved quickly to attempt a battery fix, and it was able to address the problem fast because of the unified product base.

"I think it's good that Apple is addressing the problems head-on," Allen Nogee, principal analyst for wireless technology at In-Stat, told MacNewsWorld. "When you look at Apple's biggest competitor from an OS standpoint, Android, it's not such an easy task for Google to get Android bug fixes into the hands of customers."

The problem with Android is that most of its smartphone manufacturers modify the Android OS for their own use, Nogee said.

"That means that even after Google provides an OS fix, the handset makers still need to test the fix and send it out to operators to disperse to their customers," he explained.

Apple's process is much more streamlined, since Apple sends out a fix directly to customers.

"Maybe the problem is not completely solved in this case, but Apple will hear about it in a matter of hours," said Nogee. "In Android, it's definitely not as straightforward, and that's a problem that Google is grappling with."

Updates Directly to the iPhone

One new aspect of Apple's iOS 5.0.1 fix is that users didn't need to go to their computers to find the fix and load it into their phones.

"It's hard to say how well the update works since it's so early," Chris Hazelton, research director for mobile and wireless at the 451 Group, told MacNewsWorld. "The big thing is that this is Apple's first over-the-air update. You can update your phone wirelessly. That's one of the major aspects of the new OS. It alerts you there is an update and you just click update."

This change is of particular important to enterprise users. It means that company computers don't have to be loaded up with iTunes -- often a burr in the enterprise market. It also means users get a direct alert. They don't have to check iTunes.

"Before, you didn't get a notification on the device, so people would go months [or never] without an update," said Hazelton. "A lot of the iPhone or iPad population would go without an update. So now more people will get he update and do the process more quickly."

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