Apple's Bungled Battery Feature

Ever since iOS11 came out I had experienced a significant performance issue on my iPhone 6S. Animations and transitions were slow, app loading was noticeably and unbearably slower than iOS10 and my battery was draining faster. Many rumours swirled that others were experiencing this but not all. I did a settings reset which seemed to help a bit but it didn’t feel right and the battery kept draining. Even after point releases which improved responsiveness a bit my iOS10 like performance had not returned.

Then several weeks ago a Reddit conversation started spreading online that presented possible evidence Apple was reducing the performance of their iOS and possibly laptops when the battery life was sufficiently degraded. That day I decided to test the theory by getting my battery replaced at the Apple Store. After all my phone was almost two years old and surely the battery’s charge capacity was severely depleted as I’m a heavy user and I could determine if this rumour was true.

I explained the situation when meeting an Apple Genius and provided the Reddit theory. Her expression indicated that she has heard some wild theories before and although this was new it wasn’t truthful. She politely assured me that the OS isn’t designed to do such things but suggested we run a diagnostic. 

Customers aren’t able to run performance or battery diagnostics on their own phone without third party tools and even then they get limited information compared to Apple. Her results showed something very interesting. My phone was depleting the battery two to three times per day in some cases. After I confirmed with her that I was not using it that heavily and the battery setting statistics also didn’t show an application using a large percentage of the battery she suggested a rogue system process that somehow persisted through upgrades and restarts.

She also let me know that my battery was at 83% health and that Apple won’t even do a replacement unless it’s below 80%.

So I went home and immediately did a local backup, wipe and restore.  And voila! Performance issues were gone. 

Fast forward to a few days ago and headlines decrying Apple for purposefully degrading performance on old phones are appearing after Apple confirms it reduces device performance in order to prolong the battery life when the battery is degraded.

From an engineering point of view, this is perhaps a noble feature. If a customer’s battery is sufficiently degraded you want to do your best to prolong its life and more importantly prevent random shutdowns. It’s also the typical way Apple implements their software. Find the best scenario and automate it. Don’t ask the user to intervene, just pick the most likely and perhaps best for the majority scenario. In this particular case, thinking I have an issue and watching customer blowback on their interpretation of this admission it’s obvious the feature could have been implemented much more elegantly.

If a battery is degrading Apple will show an error in the Battery setting panel. But that’s an area which is buried. Ideally the customer should see a more prominent message indicating an issue with their battery.

Accompanying the message of a faulty battery, the phone should state “Your iPhone will run at a reduced speed in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns”, which is the intent of the feature.

Furthermore, my experience at the Apple Store left me frustrated with the data I have access to on my phone and its battery’s performance. Why can’t I see the number of charge cycles and battery performance history? It would have immediately shown me that my battery was healthy but that something was using up far more power than it should. In addition, an automated benchmark of the system processes should be a warning that something is amiss with the OS. Apple as far as I can tell has no such method on iOS or MacOS to identify out of scope system behaviour that could signal bugs and a poor customer experience. 

The result of this feature being revealed by Apple after the rumour, the lack of clear diagnostic information on the phone regarding the battery and actual bugs causing degraded performance and accelerated battery drain all add up to a miss-managed “feature”. Apple will now have to contend with conspiracy theories when a new OS comes out and probably increased support calls because information about an iPhone battery isn’t easily accessible by customers. 

I hope Apple introduces battery diagnostic tools for the customer in the next release of iOS or sooner. It would have saved me grief and a poor iOS11 experience as well as given their geekier customers a way to calm fears of a battery conspiracy.

Update: Apple posted a message to their customers addressing these concerns. They have reduced the cost of out of warranty battery replacement and this:

"Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance."

Apple Headphone Jack

Companies usually continue to add features to future iterations of a product rather than remove them. They are scared that removing a feature will always be seen as a detriment by the customer and thus result in lower sales. Apple on the other hand is often the first in their industry to make bold moves in removing outdated technologies from their products in order to improve the overall experience.

Boardrooms still have VGA cables as the standard way of connecting to their screens and PC manufacturers continue to provide VGA ports on laptops. It’s a standoff where IT managers and PC manufacturers refuse to improve the video standard despite HDMI (now dated) being on most laptops. Meanwhile Apple has been through two video port evolutions dropping VGA in favour of DVI for video quality and Display Port for thinness.

Apple removed the DVD from all but one of their laptops, again to make their products thinner and lighter. I’ve had a MacBook Air for almost six years and almost never needed a DVD drive.

For ten years the iPod, iPhones, and iPads used Apple’s 30 pin wide dock connector. Apple dropped that for the faster, symmetrical, and smaller lightning format.

The new Mac Book has dropped all ports with the exception of a single USB-C port for charging and data as well as, ironically, a headphone jack. Again, to make the laptop thinner and lighter.

Apple’s goal has always been to make a product line more streamlined and lighter. Every two years the iPhone’s core design is refreshed and it has always been thinner to push the goal of having less weight while maintaining battery life. So why remove the headphone jack?

First, it’s worth noting that the recent stories are based on rumour and speculation. But at some point Apple will push the iPhone to be lighter and that means thinner. So even if the iPhone 7 and 7S won’t remove the headphone jack it will happen at some point. So how big a deal is this?

I suspect based on anecdotal observations that more than 95% of Apple iPhone customers use the standard headphones that come with the phone. So right off the bat the vast majority of Apple customers are not inconvenienced since they get a new pair of headphones that work with the phone.

Second, as Forbes has pointed out, Apple will of course sell an adapter. Will Apple make a profit from it? Of course. Are they redesigning their flagship product so that they can squeeze an extra $10-$15 in profit from less than 5% of their customers. I highly doubt that the small bump in profit is the motivation for the product that derives over 60% of their revenue. 

Power users like myself constantly complain about iPhone battery life. Batteries degrade in performance over time and eventually they don’t hold a full days charge if you’re frequently using it. So we want Apple to make phones with more battery but it sacrifices their primary goal which is a major factor in the smart phone arms race. Weight. Apple will push as fast as possible to loose weight on their portable products so long as it doesn’t sacrifice minimum benchmarks they set for battery, performance and durability. 

What led me to write this post was a petition that is floating around for Apple to keep the headphone jack. Apple sold over 230 million iPhones last year. A petition of 200,000 people sounds impressive but is less than a tenth of a percent of annual sales and half of their two year typical upgrade cycle. The petition also argues that removing a headphone jack will create mountains of waste. The waste is created whether they change the headphone jack or not. Apple already has a recycling program where you can bring it back to them to recycle and in many cases they will give you a store credit. 

If you really want to vote for Apple to keep the headphone jack there is only one way to send that message. Don’t buy it. But I’m willing to bet that Apple knows their customers and eventually you’ll have a new iPhone. 





iPhone App: Need for Speed Underground

At the Apple 2008 Wordwide Developers Conference Phil Schiller gave an impressive demo of Electronic Arts new game, Need for Speed Underground for the iPhone. The game was promised by November 2008 but never surfaced. I waited and waited postulating that perhaps the app was too much for the iPhone to handle and then an announcement came that Apple was developing a special premium game section for the iTunes App Store. nfsu1

It seems Apple has yet to launch the premium section but to my delight when browsing the App Store last week I saw the banner ad I was waiting for and promptly purchased the game I had waited almost a year for $9.99. It did not dissapoint.


I've only played the Need for Speed series on a console a few times but the iPhone version comes as close as possible to simulating the console experience for such a compact device. The graphics are fantastic, includes a story arc to give the game a fun direction and provides levels challenging enough to hold you back long enough but not so hard as to force you to give up.


As you would expect there is a progressive series of street racers and exotic cars that become unlocked as you progress through the game from a Mazda MX-3 to a Viper, Porsche and Lamborghini.


Need for Speed Underground is a definite five star iPhone game and a must buy for racing game fans.



My Top 10 iPhone Apps

Colleen Diamond is contemplating the iPhone switch. She asked me today what my favourite applications were. Here are my current top 10. 10.TimmyMe (Free) If you are Canadian, Tim Horton's is an institution. TimmyMe is a free locator that lists the five closet Tim Horton's to your current location. It will launch the Google Maps app to help you get there. There's also BucksMe their Starbucks version for $.99.

9. Lux Touch (Free) Games are plentiful on the iPhone so this may not be in my top 10 by next week but I am addicted to this iPhone version of the popular board game Risk. It pits you against four other computer players for a battle to control the planet without the annoying dice rolling. The only drawback is that it doesn't yet have a save function so you need to tuck in for about 45 minutes to an hour to win. Just pray you don't get a phone call in the middle of a game.

8. Google Mobile App (Free) There seemed to be very little value to the Google search app versus running Safari and typing into the Google search field, however Google has added an incredibly accurate voice recognition feature. I can often search much faster for items that are long to type or hard for me to remember the spelling. 37.2 degrees Celsius in Fahrenheit. Boom, 98.96 degrees Fahrenheit. Small, but useful. Plus this is a great demo app.

7. AirSharing ($6.99) When AirSharing first came out it was free and there are a bunch of substitutes but I use it more often. Air Sharing allows you to externally upload and browse files on your iPhone, which means that when you're on the go you can view the uploaded documents or share them with others through a web browser on a WiFi network. I use it to store my workout plan when I'm at the gym. I keep losing the paper versions.

6. Remote (Free) Use iTunes at home to play music? Use Remote to control it. Remote is made by Apple as a controller for iTunes on your Mac or Windows computer. It lets you browse your entire library and playlists. I use this so I don't have to run back to the computer everytime I need to change the song or adjust the volume.

5. Evernote (Free)

Evernote requires a bit more commitment than the average iPhone app as you need an Evernote account but it is the world's best note taking system. Apparently Evernote has the majority of its user base on the iPhone and for good reason. The iPhone version is handy and easy to use. It can do text, photo and voice notes. The entries are titled, tagged and uploaded to your online account. If you've taken a snapshot containing text their system will OCR the text as well. This gives you a fully indexed notes repository that you carry with your and can also be searched through the web or through the desktop version. It doesn't seem to translate voice notes but I have Jott and you can hook them together.

4. Shazam (Free)

The party trick favourite, Shazam is like magic. When a song is playing on the stereo, launch Shazam to sample the song for 15 seconds and it will tell you the song name and artist. It then lets you purchase the song right then from iTunes. I use it at restaurants, watching television, parties, clubs and bars to figure out what that song is and to impress the hell out of iPhone lookers.

3. Ace Tennis Online ($2.99)

My top game at the moment. Ace Tennis is a deceptively simple game that I crave whenever I have a few moments. You control your tennis player with your finger or thumb and control the angle of your shot by tiliting the iPhone. You can even play online against other Ace Tennis players, though so far the experience is a little bit sluggish compared to the computer opponent experience.

2. Twitterrific (Free, Premium is $9.99 with an extra theme and no ads)

I may get a lot of alternative suggestions for iPhone Twitter apps from readers but Twitterrific is probably the most popular Twitter client and gets the job done for me. Twitter is just plain addictive and Twitterrific cures the cravings. The iPhone still lacks background push notifications so until then apps like Twitterrific need to be checked regularly to get alerts. Probably best though, otherwise my iPhone would be beeping every 30 seconds.

1. NetNewsWire (Free)

The first application I installed and also the most used. NetNewsWire syncs with the original Mac version through NewsGator's free online service. It's a great way to catch up on my news feeds when I'm away from the desktop.

2.2 Podcasts - Right Order but Download Flaw

The iPhone 2.2 update brought a handful of new features including a few updates to the iPod application. I gladly realized after a day of listening to Podcasts that episodes appear in the order they were downloaded. This means that you can start at the oldest and not have to skip backwards to listen to the next episode in the sequence. A minor update but very welcome.

The most widely covered new iPod feature is the ability to download new Podcasts over the air directly to the iPod. Unfortunately it seems to have one critical flaw. If you don't have at least one episode of your subscribed podcasts left on your iPhone it doesn't list the show preventing you from checking and downloading new episodes. I subscribe to MacBreak Weekly but it's not listed as I deleted the shows from iTunes after having listened to them all.

I've checked the iPod settings and tried to figure out someway to access empty shows but it seems I'll have to conciously keep at least one episode around for each of my subscriptions for now.

Rogers un-connected calls?

For the past few weeks I've noticed a higher percentage of calls to my iPhone on Rogers that go straight to voicemail without ringing the phone. These occur in metro Toronto (at least) with full 3G signal strength. I am sometimes actively using the phone either with data or an application but more often than not the phone is simply sitting idle.

I know that the phone has not received the call as the "missed call" list remains unchanged but I receive the infamous Rogers missed call SMS usually followed by a voicemail.

I thought that this was just me but Jay Goldman had indicated that his wife was having this problem with her iPhone and he thinks that perhaps it's happening to him as well

I wanted to poll the Rogers subscriber base to see if they too are experiencing this and if it's only iPhone related or all phones.

Please comment or tweet me if you've experienced this as well.