The iPhone 5’s battery life is greatly reduced depending on the strength of the cellular signal received by the phone, according to extensive testing performed by iLounge Monday. While all cellular devices experience decreased battery life when cellular signals are weak, the relatively few areas with strong LTE signals means that iPhone 5 users may see less than half of Apple’s advertised running time.
iLounge examined both AT&T and Verizon iPhones in a series of tests that looked at Wi-Fi only, voice, and LTE battery life. No tests reached Apple’s advertised running times, but the Wi-Fi only test came closest, at 8.5 hours compared to Apple’s advertised 10 hours with cellular data turned off. Once cellular data was turned on, even if network traffic was being routed via Wi-Fi, battery life dropped to about 5.5 hours.
When routing data via LTE cellular networks, battery life was significantly below Apple’s advertised 8 hours. AT&T LTE browsing lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes, while Verizon LTE browsing fared only slightly better, at 5 hours 15 minutes. As noted by iLounge, the LTE tests were conducted with only two bars of signal strength, and those in areas with stronger signal will likely experience longer running times.
Voice calling time is also down: the AT&T iPhone 5 lasted 6 hours and 15 minutes while the Verizon model lasted 6 hours and 6 minutes, far shy of Apple’s claimed 8 hours of calling time.
Although not able to take advantage of high speed LTE networks, the iPhone 4S beat the iPhone 5’s running time in nearly all areas, which iLounge suggests is something that new or prospective iPhone owners need to consider:
As much as we’d love to be able to say that the iPhone 5 is an “all day” phone, it’s still not: just like most of its predecessors, Apple prioritized new thinness and speed over battery life. Consequently, it’s advisable to keep a charging cable nearby, lest you find yourself out of juice at or before 5pm. This isn’t terribly different from the iPhone 4S, and your mileage will vary depending on local cell tower strength, but it was certainly disappointing for us—battery life is certainly one of the two biggest issues with the iPhone 5.
All cellular devices experience reduced running time in areas of low signal strength, and the relative lack or weakness of LTE signals compared to the 3G signals relied upon by previous generations of iPhones likely plays a large role in the iPhone 5’s decreased battery life. As carriers continue to transition to and expand their LTE networks, many iPhone customers may find themselves with only one or two bars of LTE signal strength in areas in which they previously had four or five bars of 3G strength.
“By replacing some 3G/4G tower capacity with LTE, carriers have reduced signal strength on their older networks, impacting speeds while causing battery drain to be higher. If you live in an area with strong LTE or 3G/4G signal strength, your numbers will be closer to Apple’s claims,” iLounge explains.
Teaser graphic via Shutterstock.