So many people look forward to have a iPhone. Some even line up for a few days to get the iPhone on the 1st day. So, do you remember you 1st iPhone Day?
My first full day with the iPhone 3G turned out to be too full. At least as far as the iPhone was concerned. It was just two in the afternoon when the screen displayed the most unwelcome dialog box in mobile computing: low battery: 20% of battery remaining. In my experience, that message’s real meaning is make your last call NOW, because the lights are going out soon. Though it didn’t happen instantly, within a few minutes that gorgeous screen looked like the closing shot of the The Sopranos finale.
I had been enjoying the iPhone 3G. The out-of-the-box price was right — as low as $200, with a two-year contract — if you qualify for the subsidy from AT&T. It was slimmer and sleeker than its predecessor. It had real GPS. And, addressing my biggest problem with the original iPhone, data loaded much faster when a 3G network was available. Most of all, I was itching to try out loads of the intriguing applications from the iTunes App Store, about a dozen of which I’d already downloaded. But there’s no joy in a juiceless phone.
How bad is the problem? No way around it — 3G cellular chips eat energy. But Apple’s Bob Borchers contends that the iPhone team succeeded in extending battery life to an acceptable level. There’s evidence to back this up: The iPhone does best its 3G rivals when it comes to run time.
Nonetheless, battery life is more of a challenge for the iPhone than for its competitors, because Apple’s multitouch darling entices you to actually do the things that burn through your charge like a Roman candle. It’s so easy to surf the Web, play graphics-intensive games, and geolocate your buddies that the iPhone is less likely to hang out in your pocket in standby mode, waiting for a silly phone call.
“iPhone apps are a game changer,” says Tim Westergren, founder of Internet radio company Pandora, whose music app — an early favorite of iPhone downloaders — perfectly illustrates the power problem. When you listen to audio stored on the iPhone, you can indulge in 24 hours of tunes without a recharge. But streaming Pandora will run the battery down in maybe five or six. According to Westergren, Pandora’s growth rate doubled after the launch of the new iPhone — a phenomenon undoubtedly mirrored on thousands of battery meters.
Part of what’s happening is that we have unrealistic expectations from tech in general. We’re so used to technomagic that we routinely expect some chemist or physicist — or clever geek at Apple — to come up with solutions to our problems. But while computing power and storage make advances in logarithmic scale, batteries seem to follow Not Much More’s law. It’s a problem for not just phones but everything from electric cars to hearing aids.
That said, power consumption is not a dealbreaker for the iPhone 3G. Think of it as a chronic condition that requires monitoring and treatment. All over the blogosphere you’ll find the Apple fanboy version of Hints From Heloise: iPhone 3G battery-extension tips. Apple’s own Web page on the subject instructs users to dive into the Settings menu to turn off power-draining features. (The last suggestion is “Turn off 3G,” an odd request for a product whose name includes “3G.”)
But the best advice is to put expectations into perspective. “This is as much a computer as a phone,” says Matt Murphy, who heads Kleiner-Perkins’ iFund, a $100 million initiative that seeds iPhone apps. “You don’t expect a computer to last for 24 hours on one charge.”
Since that first meltdown, by taking battery- extending measures like switching off push mail, data fetch, and sometimes (sniff) 3G, I have only occasionally had a day where I needed to break out the charger before bedtime. One day we’ll get that quantum leap in battery tech that will obviate the annoying trade-off between functionality and juice. Until then, it’s so many apps to play with, so little time between charges.