iPhone 3G With iOS 4 Battery Life / Performance Bug

There’s been various reports of poor battery life in particular with the iPhone 3G and iOS 4. After updating I noticed battery life was reduced for my phone, but not as bad as many others were reporting (I’d say a ~15% reduction in battery life). I did however find what appears to be a fix. It’s quite simple actually.

Plug in your iPhone 3G either to the wall charger or your computer’s USB port and let it charge while on for several hours (overnight should be cool). Power down your phone, then turn it back on. For me this brought the phone’s battery life back to where it was before the update.

Why does this fix work? I’m not sure but I do have a theory. It appears when the OS was upgraded your spotlight database needed to be updated. This requires indexing all the data on your phone. Needless to say all this effort kills your battery. Apple must have some algorithm in place to do this work and preserve battery life but it obviously changed between iOS 3 and iOS 4. By leaving it plugged in it appears to complete the process and by restarting it will make sure that any hanging process on your phone is killed and memory fragmentation is cleaned up. iOS 4 runs tight, swapping kills performance and battery life. This also seems to help performance as my phone doesn’t lag as much anymore (though it’s hardly a speedster like the iPhone 4). It also explains why some people would see different levels of the problem as it would depend on how much you have to index.

Let me know if this fix works for you.

iPhone 4 Teardown Analysis

iPhone 4 Teardown

iFixIt has their traditional teardown posted. After analyzing every picture, a few things are noteworthy:

Stainless Steel Antenna

The stainless steel antenna strikes me as more than just an antenna, but Apple will never admit it. The iPhones before all suffered from the same structural weakness. If dropped so that it lands on a corner or a side, the body flexed putting pressure on the glass and possibly digitizer if the impact was strong enough. This resulted in the shattered glass you sometimes see people walking around with. If the phones land on their backs or faces, they are often fine minus a tiny scratch or two. This is because the sides of earlier models were not very strong. The metal band you see on the earlier models isn’t enough to hold up to the force of a drop from 5 feet. It was a thin piece of stainless steel around what is otherwise plastic. Most of the metal in the previous phones are actually thin EMF shields, not anything structural.

I suspect this new frame also serves to strengthen the phone and prevent this type of damage.

Creative EMF Shielding

The previous iPhones pretty much just had a large EMF shield like we see in most consumer appliances. The new iPhone has a bunch of tiny EMF shields. The advantage to this approach is that they can cram more things into small nooks and crannies. Apple is clearly desperate for every nanometer of space they can get.

No Surprise Chips

Nothing inside circuitry wise is even remotely surprising. Samsung flash memory, Broadcom WiFi, Bluetooth (BCM4329), Cirrus Logic audio codec, TriQuint/Skyworks GSM/GPRS chipset, STMicro accelerometer. The new gyroscope is suspected to be STMicro, which isn’t shocking. There is a Broadcom GPS (BCM4750) chip, same as the iPad. Prior to the iPad, the iPhone 3G and 3GS used an Infineon Hammerhead GPS chip which was questionable in performance. Perhaps this will finally give the performance necessary for eventually making turn by turn directions a reality.

Battery Technology Needs To Improve

It’s becoming clear looking at the iPhone 4 that Apple made the right decision to make the battery non-removable. The hardware and extra material to make it removable would have really bulked up the phone. At this point the battery is by far the biggest single space consumer in the iPhone. Look how dense the circuitry for the phone is in comparison to the hulk sized battery. Apple crammed what a few years ago was a full PC into that sliver on the side of the phone. The rest is largely the battery with glass and LCD in front and various speakers, microphones, cameras and sensors mixed in the otherwise empty nooks.

Apple really needs to find a technology that can offer a higher power density ratio for the iPhone to get any lighter or longer battery life. Custom silicon will help them, but it’s only going to go so far and so fast. It’s becoming obvious that power is a major concern and limitation for Apple engineers. I suspect Apple spends a ton of R&D time and money trying to figure out how to deal with this limitation the best they can from the physical space requirements to power efficiency and software innovations.

Don’t be shocked if Apple either invests or just acquires a company who is doing something interesting in the battery space just like they picked up P.A Semi.

Environmental Stats

Apple hasn’t published their environmental report yet on the iPhone 4. I’m curious how the greenhouse gas emissions changed between the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4. Several things have changed about its composition including the glass and steel frame that should make it interesting. The iPad’s slightly different (and larger) power adapter boasts an 80% efficiency rating. The iPhone 3GS is only in the 70% range. I’m curious if Apple quietly updated the adapter at all or not (I suspect not, but it’s possible).

Image courtesy iFixIt

Phil Plait On Retina Display Resolution

There has been some ongoing debate the past few days about if Apple’s new Retina display is really better than the human eye can detect. Some have even gone as far as calling it false marketing.

Phil Plait, whose background includes calibrating a camera on board Hubble wrote a really great blog post that sides with Apple. I’ve been a fan of Phil’s blog for some time and remember when our websites were hosted by the same provider many years ago. It’s not too math heavy, and as always he does a great job explaining everything. Totally worth reading.

Essentially if you had absolutely perfect eyesight, which almost nobody has, you’d still see pixels, but again virtually nobody does. People will still make silly claims, but remember there are audiophiles who claim they can hear subtle differences that $10,000 worth of scientific equipment can’t detect. Despite humans having worse hearing than a dog, who can’t hear what the equipment can pick up not to mention them being older. So I’d take those claims with a grain of salt.

Initial iPhone 4 Thoughts

iPhone 4Here are my general thoughts on the iPhone 4 since the announcement. Hopefully I’ll be able to check one out in the store soon enough.

  • The “retina” display is the killer feature – I’ve yet to see anyone report anything other than words of astonishment after viewing it. Low resolution displays, poor refresh rates, bad contrast is all hard to read but we’ve all adapted from using technology. Go back to a CRT or monochrome display and you’ll know what I mean. This display is moving forward to the next generation. In a few years you’ll look at an iPhone 3G and wonder how you ever read email on something of that quality without getting a headache. The usability of the extra pixels and the quality will set the standard for future phones.
  • The form factor is strong – I actually think the new form factor is pretty nice. I appreciate the curved design, but it’s a bit out of style and quite frankly I’m not sure that space went to any better use in my pocket. It didn’t make it feel emptier either. Giving that space for more features and battery seems like a good tradeoff. Switching to stainless steel after so much aluminum is interesting. Will we see steel in other products? Or was this simply done because of the radio properties? I believe it was John Gruber who mentioned aluminosilicate glass being used in future products a few months ago since it has better radio properties than the metal backs on the first iPhones and isn’t as fragile and weak as the plastic that has been used on the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3Gs. It also looks pretty nice.
  • Better Camera(s) + Flash + HD Video – This is the runner up killer feature in my mind. The first big win is that the sensor is actually better, not just more megapixels, since megapixels are mostly the stuff of myths. Flash is handy, but in reality without a good sensor it’s not going to make much of a difference anyway. HD Video is interesting, 720p is especially awesome. I suspect the front mounted camera will be more useful to developers than to FaceTime use thanks to the WiFi limitation and people generally hating video chat for practical purposes. It’s still VGA quality, which is impressive. At this point for some people the iPhone 4 will be their primary camera. It’s not replacing SLR’s anytime soon, but Point & Shoot manufacturers should start thinking twice with what’s on the market now. Especially since video is becoming a focal point.
  • FaceTime – We all “ooh and ahh” every time we see video chat, but the reality is people hate it. The technology to do it has existed for almost a generation now in various forms. The reason why we call, email, IM, text each other is because we are either to busy for face to face, or we just want to avoid each other. Don’t take it personally, we all do it either for the sake of brevity, or so that we don’t have to comb our hair and get dressed, shave/apply makeup. I suspect this will be the same thing. If people were really so interested in it, everyone on earth would be using Skype or iChat by now. Almost every IM service has offered video chat at one point, all were pretty easy to use if you have a camera, which costs less than $50 for many years and is plug n’ play with OS’s post 2002 (Windows XP, OS X). How many of you Mac users with iSights built-in fire up iChat and not send an email? People think “Jetsons” then send a text message. It’s convenient.
  • Dual-mic noise suppression – This is a pretty fancy way of addressing the problem, and a pretty nice one. I suspect if Apple exposes the necessary API’s we’ll see some interesting Apps doing some unusual things with the hardware, assuming that API is exposed. If it’s not, there will be some clever hacks for jailbroken iPhones.
  • Finally 802.11n – iPhone 4 supports 802.11n, something that wasn’t advertised very much for good reason. While it’s pretty cool to support, I doubt the iPhone is powerful enough to process that much incoming data in any way that would make it worthwhile. I think the main benefit to connecting over 802.11n is to avoid lowering performance of non-dual-band networks.
  • 3-axis gyro means some good gaming – Game developers will make good use of it. We’ll see some impressive demos pretty quickly, I’m sure Apple gave a few folks a sneak peek so they could start developing. In several months we’ll see some real creative things come out of this.
  • Name is semi-stupid – Apple went from naming models like the “PowerMac 9600″ to only naming generations of machines like the “G3″, “G4″, “G5″. More recently they moved to just “Mac Pro”. Now they are re-introducing numbers, but only for mobile phones? Odd.
  • Apple A4 processor – Faster, lower power. That’s about all there is to say here. It’s the future of Apple mobile at the present time.
  • Plan paradox – Interesting how as the phone gets faster, and can generate more data by way of HD video, and 5 MP pictures the data plans are actually getting smaller. I suspect this will eventually result in either several tiers or a pay as you go scheme. Overall I think there’s a good chance cost per MB will be increasing for most users in the long-term 18-36 months.
  • iOS – I knew Apple would rename the OS since it was getting confusing with the iPad. I would have assumed something more creative than iOS, especially given the Cisco IOS . Guess that’s good enough though. Most users won’t care. A few networking engineers will go insane when Google turns up iPhone blog posts rather than than relevant documentation.
  • Competing with Android – I think Apple did a good job here. The truth is most of the places where Android has a competitive edge are in cloud services and social networking. This is all software. Apple can address this well within a years timeframe if they think that’s hurting their sales. They don’t need to wait until a hardware revision. Apple could ship iOS 4.1 by end of year with those features. I think iOS 4.0 was set in stone a while ago to be honest. It was mostly about developer API’s and iPad. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple does do a 4.1 or 4.5 release more focused on this type of stuff in the near future. I’d put the odds at about 51%. Software is easier to correct than hardware.
  • Google should be thrilled – Google is still the default search engine, most users won’t even think of switching. Apple is also arming it’s customers with HD video and better quality cameras. That means tons more content going onto the web for Google to index and even serve via YouTube. Google can benefit immensely. One person catching an interesting news story on an iPhone video and uploading to YouTube can be huge for them. It can be huge for anyone who gets the video.

iPhone 4 photo courtesy Apple Inc.

Steve Jobs: Thoughts On Flash

Apple today published a letter from Steve Jobs aptly title “Thoughts on Flash“. What’s interesting isn’t so much what he said, but what he alluded to. This letter is about Flash, but it’s also about the future if the iPhone platform strategy. It also alludes to the future importance of WebKit and the open web. Lets walk through this. From his points:

First, there’s “Open”.

Steve is right. Flash isn’t really “open”. The iPhone isn’t either by any means. In fact it’s the most restricted computing platform in the world as far as I know. What he did note is that the iPhone uses WebKit and by proxy the web is the most open platform on the planet. That’s very noteworthy.

Second, there’s the “full web”.

Flash video itself isn’t that great by todays standards. That’s why sites like YouTube are serving HD video in H.264 rather than VP6. H.264, VP8 and Theora are the future. If all 3 or just one will survive remains to be seen. Regardless any of them can be played outside of Flash. The dependency on Flash to build a player is going away more and more each day.

Regarding games, this is a silly point. Almost all Flash games need a keyboard or mouse to work. They would never work with a touch screen. Nor would they scale to fit the screen. They would need to be significantly reworked/rewritten.

This is yet more alluding to WebKit and HTML5 where there are solutions already in place.

Third, there’s reliability, security and performance.

It’s pretty hard to dispute the reliability of Flash. It’s by far the driving force behind things like out of process plugins (OOPP) in Firefox among other browsers. It’s also been subject to lots of security vulnerabilities.

Fourth, there’s battery life.

The WSJ quotes Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen as saying the claims of Flash being battery draining are “patently false” but if you look at a CPU monitor while browsing a page with Flash, you can see the load increase quite a bit. Blocking flash on your browser does speed things up and keep your system cooler. I’m very suspect that Adobe has solved this in cell phones when they don’t even seem to have it under control in Windows.

Fifth, there’s Touch.

I already mentioned that mouse/keyboard interfaces just don’t work on the iPhone. No need to rehash that.

Sixth, the most important reason.

That’s actually a vague header. The reason is that they don’t want a third-party sitting between the iPhone API’s and developers. If that happens, developers are limited to what that third-party decides to implement. At the very most developers on the Flash platform get whatever is supported on all Flash platform (greatest common denominator).

That leaves Apple in a stupid position. They could implement killer features in the iPhone and create amazing API’s to take advantage of the features. But if Adobe doesn’t see a way to support things across platforms, or just doesn’t see the cost/benefit of implementing that feature, developers can’t use it. That marginalizes the product for Apple as well as developers.

Conclusion

I found this very interesting that he closed it like this:

New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

In February of 2007 Steve Jobs wrote another letter on DRM. It’s noteworthy because in January 2009 Apple launched the ability to buy non-DRM protected music. The letter was really a hint at where things were going. He’s repeating the PR strategy that he used then, make no mistake of it.

I have a feeling the day will come where the App Store is deprecated in favor of promoting HTML5 based Applications either directly off the web or packed similar to how Dashboard Widgets are done now on Mac OS X. The App Store will be around for quite some time, but it will eventually morph.

That is why WebKit is so important to Apple. They want to abstract their OS to the point where they can provide very high level hooks into features they want developers to be able to use. The current iPhone App SDK was a solution created by Apple as a way to let developers put applications on the iPhone as an afterthought. The moderation is so that they can keep their security record intact and could shut down a malicious app before trouble becomes rampant. That puts them in the position where they can either approve all content and be viewed as sleazy by more conservative folks, or they can let everything go and accept that reputation. They obviously made their decision. Developers and some geeks hate it, but 99% of the rest of the world doesn’t even know about the process. Nobody wants to know how sausage is made.

The App Store will likely morph to feature Dashboard Widget like applications (not to different from Palm’s WebOS). Apple will still be able to cash in via that distribution point since they can use DRM giving them the only way to actually sell a protected application. You can view them online via you’re browser.

That’s my prediction. The day will come when the iPhone SDK that we know today will be deprecated. WebKit and HTML5 aren’t there today, but the day will come when they will be the tier 1 development platform for the iPhone. Steve Jobs is just laying the groundwork today.

For desktops, other platforms and browsers it’s worth noting that there’s a lot to gain here.

Opera Mini Approved For iPhone

I’ve yet to actually try it myself, but Opera Mini was approved today for the iPhone. While this is the first non-WebKit browser “on” the iPhone, it’s worth noting that the rendering engine isn’t actually on the phone. The rendering is done on a proxy server which is how they save bandwidth and increase performance.

Interesting, but I’d still like to see other rendering engines on the iPhone.

Mark Pilgrim On iPad Freedoms

Mark Pilgrim has a brilliant blog post on the iPad and the freedoms it’s taking away from tomorrow’s programmers. My favorite part:

Now, I am aware that you will be able to develop your own programs for the iPad, the same way you can develop for the iPhone today. Anyone can develop! All you need is a Mac, XCode, an iPhone “simulator,” and $99 for an auto-expiring developer certificate. The “developer certificate” is really a cryptographic key that (temporarily) allows you (slightly) elevated access to… your own computer. And that’s fine — or at least workable — for the developers of today, because they already know that they’re developers. But the developers of tomorrow don’t know it yet. And without the freedom to tinker, some of them never will.

I’m not sure how we got here, but it does now cost $99 to tinker with your iPhone and soon iPad. While your computer is still pretty open, it’s only a matter of time before the iPad can be used for development via Xcode and a new UI builder. Want to share your creation with someone? You need Apple’s permission (App Store) or you can’t easily do so. Back in my day you took a copy of Stuffit (you can use the 30 day demo) and put it on a server with a web page explaining it to the rest of the world.

However the web is still open. This is exactly why HTML5 and the open web is so important. The web is playing catchup to desktop computing and is accelerating. Browsers like Gecko and WebKit are making it more compelling than ever. The iPad like the iPhone is an awesome way to browse the web. Making the web powerful enough to take advantage of the hardware is the near future of personal computing.

Apple iPad Thoughts

So the iPad is now official (like it was yesterday).

The most interesting thing is they bumped the OS version to 3.2. I suspect this summer we’ll see a 4.0 for a much more radically changed iPhone than we’ve seen in the past 2 revisions. Otherwise I think they would have called this 4.0.

Some semi-random thoughts:

  • It’s an oversized iPhone/iPod touch. It’s software really isn’t revolutionary, at least so far.
  • It will be hard to compete with the Kindle. The Kindle’s screen isn’t back-lit hence it’s easier on the eyes. Don’t underestimate this.
  • Typing on a solid surface can’t be that comfortable, especially if you touch type. It works on the iPhone since you use your more padded thumbs. It’s not a laptop replacement.
  • It may be thin and light, but it’s not as mobile as phone. It’s not a mobile replacement.
  • It has the potential to be a GREAT gaming device.
  • It has the potential to hurt netbook sales by serving as a handy “around the house” internet device.
  • It’s wireless pricing and iTunes are combined to make it feel cheap to own/operate but will still get expensive quickly.
  • It’s sold unlocked. They are catching up with Google in that regard. I wouldn’t be shocked if the iPhone is soon sold on similar terms this summer. UMTS/HSDPA.
  • That black bezel will likely disappear once they can shrink the internals in future revisions. It will eventually become closer to the iPhone.
  • Still a mostly closed platform. The justification on the iPhone was security since it’s a safety device as well. Why the iPad?

Apple, Adobe, Flash, and MPEG LA

John Gruber has a great post explaining why Apple has been so adamant about the keeping Flash off of the iPhone and presumably the upcoming tablet device. He’s right that Flash performance is sub par and most people just want video. 99% of the other Flash experiences you see are just ads that suck precious battery life and CPU.

He is also right that third-party plug-ins do cause architectural issues for browser vendors. As of 10/2009 plug-ins accounted for at least 30% of Firefox crashes, a motivating factor for the new plug-in checker.

I will however object to a sentence:

Why? At the core, because Flash is the only de facto web standard based on a proprietary technology. There are numerous proprietary web content plugins — including Apple’s QuickTime — but Flash is the only one that’s so ubiquitous that it’s a de facto standard. Flash is the way video is delivered over the web, and Adobe completely controls Flash. No other aspect of the web works like this. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are all open standards, with numerous implementations, including several that are open source.

Apple isn’t trying to replace Flash with its own proprietary thing. They’re replacing it with H.264 and HTML5. This is good for everyone but Adobe.

I included an earlier paragraph since I think the context is important. H.264 is not like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s patent-encumbered much like GIF was. Your trading Adobe for MPEG LA. The difference between H.264 and Flash is browser/OS vendors can control the implementation. It’s still proprietary technology.

I should note that I’m not a fan of Flash either, as a result there’s none on this blog. Even videos I link to are static images for performance and aesthetic reasons.

Google Nexus One Shaking Things Up?

Google’s Nexus One is now out. Given that they distributed a phone to employees a few weeks ago, this isn’t surprising and we all pretty much knew what was coming for a long time now. Mike Pinkerton (Google Employee, Apple fanboy) has a great and rather candid review of his experience with the device.

Based on everyone’s reviews and looking at the specs it’s pretty obvious. It’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The big advantages the Nexus One has on the hardware side are CPU and a camera with flash. Apple is almost at the end of an upgrade cycle so it’s expected to be beat at this time. Apple’s next revision should catch up or beat in most respects. On the software side Apple could even things out quickly if it were to loosen its tight grip on the App Store and allow things like duplicate functionality. Generally speaking Apple already wins thanks to a more consistent and polished UI.

It’s pretty well-known Google isn’t looking to make money off of hardware, they want to make it easier for people to use Google services anywhere/everywhere. That roughly translates to: “we want you to view more ads”. Google is the King Gillette of the web. I’m pretty sure Google wouldn’t mind putting more apps on the iPhone and getting more eyeballs on ads. Google tried via the Google Voice App but was met with resistance.

The most revolutionary thing about it is how it’s sold directly from Google and will be pretty much feature equal across providers. You can either get it subsidized by a mobile provider (T-Mobile for now, Verizon later) or unlocked at a higher price. I’m surprised they aren’t providing their own subsidy on an unlocked phone to try to rattle the mobile market. Right now the vast majority of Americans buy phones subsidized by a provider essentially locking them into an expensive plan. People go for this because the thought of spending several hundred dollars on a phone is scary. If Google were to make an affordable phone that competed with subsidized phones but was unlocked, providers would need to start offering data plans to compete for those customers and essentially break out of the cycle that the iPhone helped strengthen. The main thing keeping people locked into plans is the phone subsidies these days. If the perceived value of that contract diminished the long-term plans would no longer be attractive and competition of hardware and service would be separate.

Of course the downside to this is Google would be throwing a ton of money to create chaos in the mobile market and likely upset mobile providers enough to march to the FCC and demand action (I doubt that would go anywhere though). Google however did make a mult-billion dollar spectrum bid in the past with the goal of keeping it open. Something they succeeded on despite losing the bid, which is possibly another win since this may have been a bluff to get policy. I’m not entirely sure they really wanted the actual spectrum.

If hardware and service competition were separate the mobile market would accelerate quicker since neither could rely on the other to make up for its shortcomings and keep selling. Each would sell or die based on its own merits.

Google’s said to have more phones in the works. I suspect at least one of those is a cheaper more affordable model that will at least partially attempt to open up the market and untie the cell phone from the provider.