Can never be too thin? Battery-life of iPhones getting worse with each generation

“Tests carried out by the Washington Post, CNET, Consumer Reports and Tom’s Guide suggest that iPhone battery-life is mostly getting worse with each successive generation,” Ben Lovejoy writes for 9to5Mac. “Experts believe that’s a trend likely to continue for some time yet.”

“It’s not a problem specific to iPhones, says the Washington Post, but something seen with Android flagships too. ‘For the last few weeks, I’ve been performing the same battery test over and over again on 13 phones. With a few notable exceptions, this year’s top models underperformed last year’s. The new iPhone XS died 21 minutes earlier than last year’s iPhone X. Google’s Pixel 3 lasted nearly an hour and a half less than its Pixel 2,’ [WP reports],” Lovejoy writes. “There is one exception on the iPhone front: the iPhone XR, with its LCD screen, offered the best battery-life of all. But the results otherwise show a gradual decline.”

Lovejoy writes, “Until the oft-promised battery technology breakthrough delivers results, it looks like Apple’s obsession with performance boosts means we can expect a continued gradual decline in battery-life for some time yet.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If Apple made an iPhone model that was the smartphone equivalent of the Panasonic Toughbook — thick, heavy, full of battery, and virtually indestructible — they’d never be able to make enough of them.

As we wrote back in December 2015:

What’d be wrong with slightly thicker iPhone with more battery life and a flush camera assembly?

Yes, we know Apple thinks thinness sets iPhone apart from all other so-called smartphones (actually, it’s the operating system, the software and the ecosystem), but the iPhone 6/Plus and iPhone 6s/Plus are simply too thin to house their camera assembly.

iPhone 6s is 0.28 inch (7.1 mm) thin. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 is 0.27 inch (6.8 mm). The “thicker” iPhone 6s easily outsells the thinner Galaxy S6. Obviously, at this point, the selling point of “thinness” is overrated.

iPhone 6 and 6s has battery life issues for heavy iPhone users (hint: get an Apple Watch. You’ll use your iPhone less and the battery will easily outlast even the longest day).

The law of diminishing returns can also be applied to industrial design. Apple’s eternal quest for thinness eventually runs into issues such as bulging camera assemblies, battery capacity, strength (breakability), etc. – is Apple’s quest for thinness now bordering on the quixotic?

So, is it “you can never be too thin” or is it “thin enough is thin enough?”

SEE ALSO:
What people want most from Apple’s next-gen iPhones: Longer battery life – September 5, 2018
Apple’s design decisions and iPhone batteries – January 8, 2018
Hey Apple, it’s time to give up thinness for bigger, longer-lasting batteries – January 6, 2017
Open thread: What’d be wrong with slightly thicker iPhone with more battery life and a flush camera assembly? – December 21, 2015

31 Comments

  1. Adding “the bump” battery case to my 6 and then my 8 has achieved the toughbook ideal, but between the battery case and the battery replacement program, Apple shot itself in the foot by adding years to already great phones.

  2. The result of obsession to use OLED screen on tiny gadgets like iPhone, and thinness no matter what over function, as exercised by Jony Ive, who has no industrial design flair (but became a highly paid executive early on, and now nobody has guts to let him go).

    1. No industrial design flare ?

      The iphone x and xr series are masterpieces.
      Same with the imac designs and the watch and new ipads and mac mini.
      The beauty is in the subtlety……

      Mind u if you or anyone does not care about his design expressions and are mostly concerned about battery life… hey just slap on a bulky battery case. Problem solved.

      1. Oh, there is a design element to what Ive has done, but it is one of asthetic minimization in form overridirng function. An example is to refuse to put any interface ports on the front of an iMac in an era when USB thumb drives and SD cards are the rage. Another is to have put the “trash can” Mac Pro on a swivel base, allegedly to allow easier access to plug cables in the back…but can’t actually be used because cables prevent it from rotating.

        These sorts of design choices make the product harder to use, which is a losing proposition.

        1. Absolutely …totally Agree.
          My comment was about esthetics…
          Most definitely there are many ergonomic and practical issues that are compromised, both in hardware software and UI ….Some for no good reason other than idiosyncrasy or incompetence by some at Apple……..and i dont hesitate to bring them up and criticize ….

  3. I’d like to see someone really get it “right” with a battery case for the iPhones — and one that also someone comes on and off simply and quickly. There are times that I want the utilitarian aspects of a mobile computing/phone system with me that is protected and has enhanced battery life . .. which is honestly probably like 90 percent of the time. And then there’s that 10 percent of the time where I’m out socially and a thin, beautiful and svelte phone is what I want (basically, the phone all by itself, no case) . . . but I’ve never found that perfect battery case that does that in a way that doesn’t take me 10 minutes to get the dang phone out and doesn’t degrade the case fit and form every time I do it. So…I live with the shoddy battery life and a case that is some compromise of thin and protective but gets me neither of what I’d really like to move between. First World issue, but nonetheless annoying.

  4. Jony Ive’s time has come and gone. His obsession with thinness is hurting the company. Really the whole apple design has been stuck to the same bland grayness where a imac looks like an iphone. But what kind of idiot worries how thin a desktop is and sacrifices function. No wonder apple is down $15 a share today.

    1. The drop in share price since the Q4 results were announced has absolutely nothing to do with Jony Ive and Apple’s design. It has everything to do with Wall Street traders trying to play the market.

      1. Apple lowered expectations for the next quarter and its iPhone sales last quarter actually declined in India. Does this indicate customer joy over Ive’s fashion designs?

        The complacency of Apple is even more annoying than the fanboy defense of lackluster product value. Apple is not firing on all cylinders. Modest Mac updates every 3-5 years won’t cut it. Raping customers for flash memory is not a way to win loyalty. Killing off small screen iPhones is nonsensical. Weak marketing to educate the consumers about Apple Pay and other key differentiators is downright stupid. Abandoning Airport, displays, etc, and dumbing down software shows tremendous lack of courage. Refusing investors complete transparency looks like wallpapering over growing cracks in Apple’s walled garden. Ive has no way to improve the iPhone, faceid and wireless charging isn’t worth the premium to most people.

        Some well heeled socialites may enjoy comparing fashion watchbands and playing games on incrementally tweaked iOS gadgets or snapchatting. Pros already switched back to better hardware. Mainstream buyers are not going to spend hundreds on a watch, over a grand on a phone or tablet or pay the Apple Tax on old Macs. It isn’t obvious Apple has any clue how to move forward from here but thinner is no longer better. Apple needs new design blood badly.

        Ive has been mailing it in for a long time. Worse, Ive isn’t the only dead wood. Cookie’s poor leadership could not identify weak executive performance from most of his overpaid VPs, he acts pleases with shite like crippled AppleTV or HomePod in dead last place. Apple acts like a tone deaf corporation much of the time — more interested in keeping executives rich than pleasing customers. Poor battery life from Ive’s compromised product design is just one of many symptoms.

    2. Apple tremendous success from the first iPod through today has been unmatched in history. ONE of the many reasons for this is knockout beautiful design, that’s been absolutely revolutionary. Johnny Ive has been more responsible for that beautiful design than any other single person.

      He’s respected by designers the world over.

      I AM glad however that he’s not supervising UI anymore, in that I don’t believe that’s his forte.

      But apple shareholders and users owe tremendous gratitude to Ive IMO. And I’m personally thrilled that he’s still with Apple

      1. Initial success of iPads had absolutely nothing to do with Ives. A tablet is a tablet, a square slab of screen. A tablet was marketed a long before (10 years) Apple ever started mentioning it, by none but was Micro$oft. It looked exactly like today’s iPad (what else) but did not go anywhere and they dropped it quickly. Apple’s success of their tablet is not the design of hardware etc, which was exactly the same as M$’s. But what made a huge difference was that St.Jobs launched Apple’s tablet together with useful iOS apps. Then suddenly, it became an extremely useful device. It had far less (almost none) to do with Ives. He may have been knighted by the Queen, but the British have been knighted so many people including pirates in the Caribbeans, such as Captain Drake and Captain Cook etc. They were thieves, taken precious cargos from Spanish Galleys etc, presenting the captured materials of huge value, more than a few times of total UK’s national budget at the time. No wonder they were knighted. Jony Ive was knighted because elevating the name of a British citizen, not because of his particular design accomplishments etc, just like Paul McCartney was knighted. But it was a long time ago.
        Now, I have absolutely nothing personal against British people, knighting or Ives, but I have a bit of a problem in calling Ives as a talented and world renowned designer. And his days were gone a long time ago anyway.

    3. I like Apple products but truthfully, I don’t know why a desktop has to be so thin that airflow is a restriction causing thermal throttling so soon under load. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It appears to be nothing but form over function. I doubt any consumer in the world asked for such a thin desktop. I believe that’s just Jony Ive’s designer pride getting in the way. Apple only uses those hot-running Radeon processors and that just makes it even worse. Trying to stuff high-end processing components into a tiny space never turns out well. I wouldn’t be surprised if most NUCs have better cooling than an iMac.

      I think the thin design makes the iMac a nightmare to repair, if necessary. I don’t believe in building high performance products that can’t fully dissipate heat when there’s no reason to do so.

      The iMac has nothing to do with Apple’s death-spiraling share price but it is a bone of contention for me because I don’t like the way the iMac is designed. I’d like Sir Ive to sit down and explain to me his reasons for designing a desktop computer that thin and difficult to access the internal components.

      1. “I believe that’s just Jony Ive’s designer pride getting in the way.”

        That’s the problem in a nutshell. When you design products too thin to be serviced properly and dissipate thermal issues you place personal design ego over customer satisfaction.

        Time to go…

    4. You had me with you, right until the last sentence. The stock dip has NOTHING to do with Ive’s design aesthetic, and everything to do with Wall Street’s inexplicable hatred of Apple and its business model.

  5. A ruggedized iPhone with superior battery capacity certainly has appeal. I’m content with the look, feel, power, features and battery life of my iPhone Xs. Best phone I’ve ever owned.

  6. I’m not convinced that apple’s battery life is getting worse.

    Many reviewers report excellent battery life, consumer reports tells us that its significantly improved in their tests, and apple says likewise. My experience with the Max has been terrific, and the best battery life I’ve had in many years. (I’ve always gotten a new phone each year in the largest screen size, last year getting the X rather than the 8 plus)

    I think the difference in view comes from testing that focuses on different kinds of activities. Many of the tests which claim battery life is worse may or may not reflect actual user experience.

    We really don’t know which claims most accurately reflect the average user, but personally I’ve been very happy.

    1. I think you have a point. Synthetic benchmarks don’t have the pauses that a normal person performs during the day. So, the benchmark says “it doesn’t last as long”. A human being with the phone says “My last phone lasted all day, this one lasts all day, the batteries are the same to me!”

  7. Just got an iPhone Xr over the weekend. Battery life on this thing is great. In normal usage I haven’t been able to get it to the 50% mark yet — I drove from Philly suburbs to North Jersey with GPS and Waze going the whole way, streaming spotify, and forgot to plug it in to the power jack and had 70% on it.

    The idea that Apple would sell enough big, clunky heavy phones to make it worth offering one is retarded. If people want bigger and clunkier for more battery life they can get a morphie case, and there’s such demand for that product that it took morphie a year to come out with one for the X.

  8. There are not many areas to tinker with on most electronic gadgets. They are mostly square, or no designer tried to think beyond it (maybe a trash can experiment?). It’s not like young group of designers with fresh mind with brilliant flair comes up with stunning design and colour of Ferrari (just an example). Jony found a thinness as his motto and some dull colour variations. When everything is square, the net thing they can tinker with is the thickness.
    So, his next obsession was the space ship and boring British designed office chairs.
    “Product Red”? A big deal….
    “Designed by Apple in California”? And it’s $300 book? Wow! Another big deal… Old brasses making self-admiration of old and used hand.
    He and his group could have broken their boxed-in design obsession and come up with something somewhat new, things like a ruggedized version of iPhone as others say here. Don’t make a humped battery attachment case. Might as well make the entire case a bit thicker and install a larger battery.
    Perhaps all Ive could come up with was a Bondi Blue early iMac, or make a square tower into a round cylinder. Yet, another big deal (and failure).
    Apple, get rid of old complacent and tired brain and put together a group of young designers and give them free thinking so that they can come up with revolutionary concepts that are function oriented. Then, engineers take it over to perfect and incorporateit that no one ever thought before. Computer, laptop, HomePod, tablet and phones, they are essentially all same square no matter who makes them. That’s one of the reason they attack another dimension, the thickness. Nothing else to tinker with.
    But then Tim Cook never waned to do anything that would cost extra, and concentrated on current form of the phone. No win.

  9. Apple trying to promote their image as a luxury/fashion item as one of the strategy to maintain high price is actually restricting themselves to a niche player )phone), although so far, it seems to have been working. But with that promoting really overpricing, that concept is fading away. I am not going to pay a premium for fashion or luxury (let alone status symbol etc) for the products made in China by essentially a gadget maker. Apple, you have money and a pool of talents. We know you can do much better, and you used to do so. Oh, and the one trick is showing the sign of hitting the plateau, which was bound to happen. Are you prepared for the next big step?

    1. Who cares? Aston Martin is also a niche player. But you can’t argue that their vehicles are among the best. This mentality that Apple should be everything for everybody missing the point. It is not about selling the most; it is about making the best.

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