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BatteryGate? Apple déjà vu as reports of iPhone 4S battery issues increase

Following the recent release of the iPhone 4S, UK newspaper The Guardian has run a series of articles investigating severe battery drain issues discovered in the latest iteration of the smash-hit smartphone.

In the first of the articles, published a mere week after the global launch of the smartphone, the Guardian questioned why it was that the iPhone 4S had dropped 100 hours of standby time compared to its predecessors — the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS.

Apple, a company famed for its secrecy and recalcitrance to speak with media, as was to be expected, refused to answer “repeated” enquiries. The paper could only quote Apple’s marketing head Paul Schiller who, when announcing the iPhone 4S, said”

You would think if you put a processor that powerful [the dual-processor A5 chip] inside a super-thin phone, one of the things you’re going trade-off is battery life — but the hardware and software teams have worked really hard to get industry-leading battery life as well.

Two weeks later, however, the Guardian uncovered that Apple was aware of the issue with a number of iPhone 4S users telling the newspaper that they had been contacted by Apple. One user said that he had been contacted directly by Apple and asked to install some monitoring software on his device.

In the interim, reports and discussions of the severe battery-drain issue had been seen on Apple’s support discussion boards and social networks.

The third article on the battery-drain issue has, after ruling out suspected causes such as the new “artificial-intelligence” voice-assistant Siri, pointed the finger at a bug in iOS5’s location services system.

The Guardian’s findings on what the problem’s causes are cannot be seen as conclusive. Apple is not confirming that this is the cause or that there is even a problem to begin with. Furthermore, others reporting on “Batterygate” issue point the blame at other systems in iOS 5.

iOs5 is the operating system (OS) which the iPhone 4S runs. The OS was also released as a free download for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (both the 3rd and 4th generations), iPad, and iPad 2, meaning this issue may exist on these devices as well.

In the wake of the release of the iPhone 4 in June of 2010, users began reporting having issues with signal strength when the phone was held in a certain manner. Facing multiple possible US class-action lawsuits for charges including “fraud by concealment, negligence, intentional misrepresentation, and defective design”, the tech giant remained silent for almost a month before it finally answered complaints with a statement from its guru Steve Jobs saying “We are human and we make mistakes sometimes”.

The controversy which was dubbed Antennagate by Jobs himself will, however, possibly always be remembered for his first reported response to the debacle: A characteristically terse reply to a customer’s emailed complaint saying, “Just avoid holding it in that way”.

Author | Mvelase Peppetta

Mvelase Peppetta
Mvelase is a Senior Account Manager at Irvine Bartlett one of the most sought after full service public relations companies in South Africa. Mvelase is passionate about all things digital and the social media landscape, particularly as it relates to the integration of digital public relations management within the traditional... More

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