Did Apple Improve the Rechargeable Battery on the iPhone 4S?

Apple’s new iPhone 4S uses the same form factor as the old iPhone 4, while boasting some powerful, new components. But did they increase the power of the battery to handle the new performance levels?

This week has been a disappointment for Apple fans worldwide. The announcement of a refreshed iPhone 4S instead of an iPhone 5, together with the death of Steve Jobs, has cast an unusual pall over the usually optimistic glow of Apple. For iPhone users, the death of Steve Jobs perhaps helps to put Cupertino’s decision to merely refresh the iPhone into better context, assuming that his passing will undoubtedly have some short term negative consequences on the image of the company he helped to make so successful.

In spite of the disappointment,  the iPhone 4S is an impressive new iPhone, to be sure, much in the same way that the 3GS improved on the 3G’s design performance-wise. The inclusion of iOS 5 and iCloud, as well as Siri and the A5 processor, all make the iPhone 4S the most powerful, versatile iPhone ever.

Granted, iPhone users really wanted a larger screen more than anything: most of the iPhone’s natural competitors all boast 4″+ screens, and many expected the next iPhone to be an “iPhone 5” with a larger screen and new form factor. But that’s not what we got. Perhaps one of the reason — from a technical perspective — why Apple was reluctant to increase the iPhone’s screen size this time around was their unwillingness to overhaul the rechargeable better on the iPhone?

From our observations, the iPhone 4S not only borrows the form factor of the iPhone 4 — it also uses essentially the same LiON rechargeable battery pack. Comparing the battery specs for the iPhone and iPhone 4S side by side, they read almost the same: talk time on the 4S up to 8 hours on 3G, up to 14 hours on 2G (GSM), which is a one-hour increase from the iPhone 4 for 3G; video playback up to 10 hours; and audio playback up to 40 hours.

There are, however, some areas where the iPhone 4S has seen a reduction in its battery performance as well. Whereas the iPhone 4’s specs for internet use boasts up to 6 hours on 3G and up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi, the 4S is rated at up to 6 hours on 3G, and up to 9 hours on Wi-Fi. And while the iPhone 4 offers 300 hours of standby time, the iPhone 4S only features “up to 200 hours.”

Why has Apple gone backwards with battery technology on the iPhone 4S?

The answer is simple: they have sacrificed battery power for performance. The A5 chip, iOS 5, and the new Siri Voice Assistant technology all sap the iPhone 4S of its battery juice, in spite of Apple’s impression LiON technology. In particular, the A5 chip really puts a lot of pressure on the battery while the iPhone 4S is on, which is why there is such a dramatic difference in standby times.

It remains to be seen what the unintended consequences will be for the iPhone 4S with less rechargeable battery power. It very well may be that the 4S will have significant rechargeable battery issues, in spite of the fact that Apple is boasting of the A5 chip’s ability to run on a moderate amount of power. And because the iPhone still does not allow users to easily replace the battery, having spare rechargeable batteries for the iPhone 4S is still not an option.

Only time will tell.

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