iPhones are great products, amazing even, but if you’ve ever owned an iPhone you know how bad the battery life tends to get after half a year of ownership. If you are unlucky enough to buy a second-hand iPhone already several years old, you can bet that the battery life will be poor.
This is not necessarily Apple’s fault, although their push to make the phones thinner and thinner does not help. Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Polymer batteries, like the ones used in most smartphones these days are a good compromise between safety and capacity. They do tend to combust rather violently if punctured, shorted, or mishandled in any way, but if you don’t take a screwdriver to your device you will most likely be fine.
Older battery technologies like NiMh wouldn’t have been very well suited for our demanding tasks even though they are a bit more stable. Sometimes the battery drain you experience is caused simply by age, sometimes you’re just using the device wrong. Let’s delve into this and see how you can improve your battery life.
Battery cycles explained
All rechargeable batteries are consumables and have a limited lifespan. If you feel that the iPhone you bought brand new in the box a year ago doesn’t seem to hold a charge like it used to, you’re not going insane. It actually doesn’t hold as much charge. Li-Ion and Li-Po batteries have a limit on how many times they can be charged and discharged before they can no longer hold the same amount of charge (mAh) that they could from the factory.
To keep track of this limit, the battery has a digital counter which keeps track of cycles. A cycle is when you charge and discharge your battery from 0% to 100%. With every cycle, you wear out the battery further.
iPhone batteries (the genuine ones at least) are designed to be able to retain 80% of their capacity at around 500 cycles, according to Apple. Of course, the age of the battery also impacts its capacity.
Let’s say you bought a brand-new sealed iPhone 7 which is now several years old. Even if the device is brand new and has basically close to 0 battery cycles, that battery will never be able to hold the same charge it used to when the phone was new and just released. The chemicals inside the battery do age and with aging, they lose their capacity to hold a charge properly.
TIP: You can navigate to Settings > Battery > Battery Health and check the status of your battery. The percentage shown there tells you how much charge the battery can take relative to when it was new. Anything that is not 100% means the battery is already degraded. Anything below 80% means your battery will likely not get you through a full day.
How to reduce your iPhone’s Battery Drain & Increase Battery Life
There are several things you can do to ensure that the battery drain decreases. Decreased battery drain results in less stress on the battery and fewer charges, so it improves the battery life. But that’s not the only way you can help your battery stay good for as long as possible.
Sure, even with the most precautions, the battery will still age and lose performance eventually, but not as fast. If you are careful with it, you can very well have the battery hold a good amount of charge up to the point you change your device anyways.
TIP 1: Don’t leave the phone in your car or any hot or freezing place.
If it’s something Li-Ion and Li-Po batteries hate, that is extreme temperatures. Leaving your phone in the car on a summer day where the car can get toasty is a recipe for disaster. The heat degrades the battery pretty fast. A few episodes like this and your battery will already have lost a good chunk of its capacity.
Your phone’s screen is black, which absorbs the heat even more because it absorbed all wavelengths and reflects none back. Leave the phone in direct sunlight and you may find it untouchable hot when you come back. That can severely damage both the battery and other internals such as the display.
The same thing applies to freezing temperatures. These batteries don’t like the cold either and it affects the chemicals inside almost as much as the heat.
TIP 2: Don’t sleep with the charger plugged in at all times.
It’s fine if you do it once or twice every now and then, but it’s usually a bad idea to keep the battery at 100% for long periods of time. It stresses the battery and causes it to wear prematurely.
Sure, the charger itself will cut out once the maximum capacity was reached, so your phone won’t just blow up from overcharging like it used to be the case with Ni-Mh phones sometimes, but your battery will still stay at 100% the whole night.
Modern iOS versions have a toggle called “Optimized Battery Charging” which reduces the battery aging by learning from your daily charge routine so the device can wait to charge past 80% until you need to use it. If your iOS version has this toggle, switch it on. You should find it in Battery Health on Settings.
TIP 3: Lower your volume and your screen brightness
Many people prefer their display to be set at maximum brightness with auto-brightness turned off. And yeah, it looks amazing. iPhone’s display is such a great panel that it’s a pleasure to watch something on it.
The problem is that the screen is one of the biggest power hogs in your device. The brighter the screen, the more battery it uses which will deplete it faster and prompt you to charge it much more often. This increases the cycle count and speeds up the aging of the battery.
The same thing applies to the speaker’s volume. Listening to music at maximum volume may sound great but it will wear down the battery faster.
TIP 4: Avoid fast chargers
Yes, they are very popular nowadays with their nice lightning bolt icon that makes it look like they are blazing fast. They do charge your battery faster, but that’s the problem. The faster you try to charge the battery the more you degrade it.
Apple doesn’t care because they sell battery service for a nice premium so the faster your battery needs service, the faster they make money, but fast chargers are not a good idea if you want to prolong your battery life as much as possible.
TIP 5: Disable Hey Siri, Auto-Updates, and Vibrations
Hey, Siri is a nice feature. You just say “Hey, Siri!” and Siri activates to listen to your command. However, for this feature to work, your microphone must always be on and the device must always run the software that listens to what you say and catch one to the magic “Hey, Siri”. This, of course, uses the battery even more. I’d argue that’s a privacy issue too, but not in this post.
Automatic updates are downloading new iOS versions in the background for you to install. This has the effect of keeping the phone connected to the internet, downloading and de-compressing the update which takes even more of the sweet power juice. Disable the automatic updates in Settings and do your updates manually. Same with Application updates.
As for vibrations, the vibration motor does take some battery to run and it’s not really necessary. This is more of a personal preference but if you can, turn it off.
TIP 6: Favor slower Cellular Data modes such as 3G and LTE over 4G and 5G.
Yes, the websites may load a bit slower, but 4G and 5G are known for killing the battery. If you go all day with 4G / 5G enabled you will severely lower your battery life. To browse Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Discord, etc. you don’t need anything more than 3G or LTE. This may not be a possibility for everyone, but whenever you don’t need blazing fast speeds, turn it down to 3G / LTE.
If you have a WiFi hotspot nearby, turn the Cellular Data connection off completely leaving only the calls / SMS to come through. WiFi will always be a bit less power-intensive than Cellular Data.
TIP 7: Manage your iCloud
If you use an iCloud account, it’s very likely that it backs up automatically every video, every photo, every Safari search history, every app data file, contact, etc. Do you really need it to do all that?
Backing all that up to the cloud keeps your device constantly connected to the internet and doing work in the background which munches your battery like crazy. It’s your decision, as different people may have different needs, but at least disable the synchronization of what you don’t need. I am sure you don’t need your Safari browsing history synchronized to the cloud.
TIP 8: Enable Low Power Mode
This built-in mode available in the Control Center allows your device to disable non-essential features while still allowing notifications to come through and so on. It’s particularly useful if you have very little battery left and you want it to last as much as possible.
Another thing you can do is to disable Location Services if you don’t use it (this will hinder Find My though). Keeping the GPS on at all times consumes the battery every time it pools for a satellite.
Preventing unexpected shutdowns
By default, your iPhone has a built-in feature that will apply some drastic power management limitations if the battery has degraded past a specific point and the device has detected an unexpected shutdown.
A healthy battery must be able to sustain peak performance. If during peak performance the device suddenly shuts down, the battery management system catches that and it will apply some limits to slow down the degradation of the battery even more.
You can disable those power management limitations in the Battery Health section of the Settings but I do not recommend it. If your device triggered them, it means your battery is basically toasted and you should consider either replacing the battery in an authorized Apple service or getting a new device.
Here are some of the power management limitations your iPhone may apply after the battery cannot maintain peak performance anymore:
- Applications take longer to launch.
- Lower frame rates while scrolling.
- Backlight dimming (you can slide it back to the maximum in the Control Center)
- Speaker volume is lowered by up to -3dB
- Gradual frame rate reductions in some applications
- During the most extreme cases, the camera flash will be disabled as visible in the camera UI
- Apps refreshing in the background may require reloading upon launch
DO NOT attempt to replace the battery yourself
Apple is known for pairing its components with one another. It’s a form of DRM if you want, and while it wouldn’t prevent your device from booting with an aftermarket battery, the quality will be garbage.
Batteries you can find online, with some exceptions, are either complete Chinese garbage that will leak, puff up and catch fire after a few months, or they are genuine USED Apple batteries pulled from dead devices. The Apple batteries would work but they already have cycles so you are replacing a dead battery with another soon-to-be-dead battery. It’s not worth it.
eBay batteries are almost always garbage so don’t even think about it.
iFixit makes rather good quality iPhone batteries, but they may not be properly detected by iOS in Battery Health so the phone will still tell you to service the battery. I have tested iFixIt batteries in the past and while they do work well, they don’t last nearly as much as the genuine Apple components.
The best you can do is to go to an Apple Store and ask for a battery replacement. If your phone is under warranty they will do it for free. Otherwise, there will be a $60-80 fee depending on the device, but you at least get a genuine Apple battery that the device actually recognizes, and they will install it for you.
Newer devices are pretty hard to open up anyways. You need pretty specialized tools and even then, you risk damaging the waterproof seal or other components. Long gone are the days when swapping a battery required just to peel off the plastic back.
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Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash