An Overview of iPhone 4S Battery Life Issues and Fixes

iPhone 4S Battery Drain

Despite being heralded by Apple as the iPhone with the best battery life yet, many users are reporting serious battery life issues with their new iPhone 4Ses. Until Apple releases such an update, however, users are stuck relying on workarounds. We’ve rounded up some of the most popular, and effective, workarounds below.

While Apple as yet to publicly acknowledge any issue, it’s clear from the volume of user complaints that a battery life issue exists, at least amongst a subset of the phones. As we reported previously, Apple has begun to reach out privately to customers affected by poor battery performance, and a number of theories and fixes have been generated by the community, with the general consensus on the issue being that it is software-based, and thus can be fixed via a software update.

Until then, you may want to try the following:

Time Zone

The most popular solution is to disable a feature of the iPhone’s location services that enables the phone to determine and set its time zone automatically. To do this, navigate to Settings > Location Services > System Services and slide “Setting Time Zone” to OFF. Many users report that disabling this feature results in a dramatic improvement in battery life. 

Notification Center

Another group of users are reporting a possible issue with the iPhone’s calendar as it relates to Notification Center. Apparently, calendars with many events are constantly being updated and rearranged inside the Notification Center, whether the user is viewing it or not. This leads to an increase in CPU usage and a resulting drop in battery life.

The only known way to combat this issue is to disable calendars as part of Notification Center. Admittedly, this is not the best option for users who rely on their calendar and find use in the notifications, but if you’ve tried everything else listed here and still have poor battery life, it may be worth a shot. Go to Settings > Notifications > Calendar and slide “Notification Center” to OFF.


A great new feature of iOS 5, Reminders uses geo-fencing to set and remind the user about various tasks and messages. Unfortunately, this means that the GPS radio is frequently checking the user’s location, waiting for the user to enter or leave a predefined location so that it can trigger the reminder message (i.e., “When I leave work, remind me to call my wife.”)

To disable the location feature of reminders, go to Settings > Location Services and slide the Reminders button to OFF. Note that if you haven’t yet used Reminders, it won’t appear in this list until you do.

iPhone Restore

Many users upgraded to their new iPhone 4S by restoring from a backup of their previous iPhone. This practice can often lead to issues and one of the first things that the Apple Store Genii recommend when troubleshooting customer phones is to not restore from a backup unless it’s the only way to save your data.

As a result, many users who initially had battery life issues performed a full restore and, instead of “Restoring from a Backup,” they chose “Set Up as a New Phone” and manually synced their data afterwards. This has resulted in significantly improved battery life for many users, including our very own Dave Hamilton.

Unfortunately, the major drawback to this approach is that while you’ll get all your apps back, your app data will not be automatically restored. If you have a few apps that you really want to restore the data to, you can perform a manual extraction and restoration of the data, as we’ve discussed previously.

Push E-Mail

Not new to iOS 5, push email has long been a suspected source of battery life issues. A balance can be struck between the instant gratification of push email and the tediousness of manual email checking by setting the iPhone to check for email at predefined intervals.

Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data. Set “Push” to OFF and set “Fetch” to an interval that suits you best. The less frequently the phone fires up the cellular radio to check for email, the better your battery life will be.

Old Tricks

For users new to the iPhone, there are many “old tricks” used to preserve battery life that may prove useful.

First, disable Bluetooth unless it is being used. Go to Settings > General > Bluetooth and switch it to OFF.

Second, reduce your display brightness. The iPhone has an amazing bright screen but it’s not always necessary to keep it at full brightness. Go to Settings > Brightness and adjust the brightness slider as low as possible while still remaining comfortable to view. 

Finally, close your unused applications. While Apple designed multitasking on the iPhone to theoretically not affect battery life, there are too many reports of multitasking draining battery life to ignore. To close out unused apps, double-tap the home button to bring up the multitasking tray. Hold your finger down on any of the app icons until they start to wiggle. Then press the red “x” in the upper right corner to close any apps you’re not using. Press the home button once when you’re done.

The one certainty in this entire iPhone 4S battery saga is the uncertainty surrounding the issues. Many users report absolutely no issues are happy with their iPhone. Others have serious issues that can’t be fixed by any of the tips and workarounds listed here. In the end, a not-insignificant number of users are having serious battery life issues and we are all waiting on Apple to publicly acknowledge the issue and resolve it so that the iPhone 4S can live up to its full potential.