Apple’s controversial new iPhone 11 design is already taking flak (despite recent improvements), but now the company’s current models have been hit by a much more immediate problem.
Apple’s iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR
In a shocking new report, highly regarded UK consumer advocacy group Which? (equivalent to Consumer Reports in the US) has discovered Apple is overstating the battery life of its iPhones by a massive margin.
“Which? tested nine iPhone models and found that all of them fell short of Apple’s battery time claims. In fact, Apple stated that its batteries lasted between 18 per cent and 51 per cent longer than the Which? results,” said Which? in a statement.
The biggest discrepancy was in talk time. For example, Apple claims the iPhone XR provides up to 25 hours of talk time but in tests by Which? it lasted only 16 hours 32 minutes. Moreover, this discrepancy was limited to Apple. Which? tested a total of 50 models from five brands (Apple, HTC, Nokia, Samsung and Sony) and only HTC fell below its claims (by 5%) while the others outperformed their manufacturer’s claims with Sony standing out at up to 21% higher.
“With mobile phones now an essential part of everyday life, we should be able to count on our handsets living up to the manufacturer’s claims,” said Natalie Hitchins, Head of Home Products and Services at Which? “There are clearly questions here around how long some mobile phone batteries will last and so it’s important to make sure you find an independent source of reliable information when buying your next phone.”
iPhone XS (middle) has a battery which is rounded at the corners and reduced by a notch in the middle. iPhone X (left), iPhone XS Max (right)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Apple has been quick to fight its corner but it has done so in a strange manner. Speaking to Business Insider, Apple said:
“We rigorously test our products and stand behind our battery life claims. With tight integration between hardware and software, iPhone is engineered to intelligently manage power usage to maximize battery life. Our testing methodology reflects that intelligence. Which? haven’t shared their methodology with us so we can’t compare their results to ours. We share our methodology for testing which we publish in detail here.”
But Which? does publish its methodology and it is very simple: “To complete its testing Which? charges up brand new, independently purchased phones to full battery and times how long they last when making continuous calls.” Conversely, Apple’s description of its methodology is vague:
“Testing conducted by Apple in August 2018 using preproduction iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR units and software, on both GSM and CDMA carrier networks. Talk Time tests were conducted over a Voice over LTE (VoLTE) network. All settings were default except: Bluetooth was paired with headphones; Wi-Fi was associated with a network; the Wi-Fi feature Ask to Join Networks was turned off.”
Yes, there’s lots of technical detail here but are these real-world networks representative of typical user experience or in a test lab? Are they continuous calls or a series of calls? Given we have been here before, I’ve asked Apple to provide more information.
Apple iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max batteries
Until then, customers need to be wary. In Apple’s defence, I would argue talk-time is becoming less important in an era of instant messaging but that doesn’t mean the numbers should be off to such a large degree. If you’re a big caller, I’d suggest holding fire until this is cleared up.
And more to the point, maybe that ugly iPhone 11 (and its crazy cameras) is worth waiting for after all.