IPhone 4S Battery Problem: Apple Promises Fix

Software fix promised for iPhone and other iOS 5 devices.

Nov. 3, 2011 — -- Yes, there is a battery problem with the new iPhone 4S, says Apple. And, yes, we're on the case.

"A small number of customers have reported lower-than-expected battery life on iOS 5 devices," Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison said in a statement. "We have found a few bugs that are affecting battery life, and we will release a software update to address those in a few weeks."

Apple didn't say what the bugs were or go into any other specifics. The problem may not be exclusive to the new iPhone; instead, it may be in the operating system, iOS 5, which the phone shares with other Apple devices.

People who crowded around to buy the phone since last month's release have been reporting that the battery runs down remarkably quickly, sometimes in mid-conversation. You can be talking to someone and --

One thread on Apple's own "Apple Support Communities" site ran to 217 pages as of this morning.

"iPhone 4, ipgraded to ios5, battery life was fine for a week, after that started to go from 100% to 20% in 8 hours, didn't add anything new, can't figure out what happened," wrote one user this morning. "Am hoping that 5.0.1 will fix it!!"

Other technically-minded people have weighed in with their own solutions. Perhaps there's a bug in "Location Services," which tells the phone where it is so that it can give you directions, or steer you to local sellers of things you want. If the phone can't get signals from local cell towers, it sends out signals of its own -- using battery power -- to see if it can get a response.

"We have tested about 5 phones and only found serious battery drain on one," Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies, Inc., which watches Apple closely, wrote in an email. "And on this, when we turn off the location setting for location time changes, it seems to help extend battery life. But this does not [appear] to be an issue on all phones. Only some."

Rob Enderle, another technology analyst, said any new product -- even one from Apple -- is likely to have bugs.

"The 4S is a new phone under the skin," he said in an email, "and virtually every time you make a major change in a device like this the biggest initial risk is that battery life will crater."

Enderle likened Apple's approach to problems to "Fight Club" -- "Rule one: you don't talk about them; rule two: you don't talk about them." That was what Apple did with Steve Jobs at the helm, and it served them well.

Soon enough, he predicted, they will have fixed the problem and people will forget anything was ever broken. But will it work with Tim Cook running Apple instead of Jobs?

"It will be interesting to see if the new Apple can contain bad news as well as Steve Jobs' Apple did," said Enderle.

In the meantime, various bloggers suggest going deep into the menus of iOS 5 and turning off Location Services apps you don't need. Does that solve the problem? Maybe it will take care of the --