Will Battery Life Be the iPhone 7’s Biggest Weakness?

Tony Zhan checks out his new iPhone 6 Plus outside the Apple store in Pasadena, California on the first day of sale, September 19, 2014.

Source: Robyn Beck/ AFP/ Getty Images

Better battery life has been on the top of most iPhone owners’ wish lists as new generations of Apple’s smartphones come and go. But the company has repeatedly prioritized a thinner, slimmer silhouette over a bigger and better battery, and Apple’s head designer seems to have ruled out the possibility of changing that strategy for the iPhone’s next major release, the iPhone 7.

In an interview with The Financial Times, as noted by The Week, Jony Ive shared his philosophy on the design of Apple products. “The best products are those where you have optimised each attribute while being very conscious of other parts of the product’s performance.” But when questioned further about the performance of the iPhone, Ive all but rules out sacrificing the aesthetics of the next iPhone for substantial gains in battery life. From Nick Foulkes, writing for The Financial Times:

Talking of performance, when the issue of the frequent need to recharge the iPhone is raised, he answers that it’s because it’s so light and thin that we use it so much and therefore deplete the battery. With a bigger battery it would be heavier, more cumbersome, less “compelling.”

Apple is expected to launch the iPhone 6s this fall, followed by the iPhone 7 in 2016, though The Week notes that some sources claim that both new models will be released this year. Battery life remains a weakness for many smartphones. Some struggle to last the day without recharging, especially for users who are on their phones all day. While screen size and processor power have increased dramatically over the past few years, battery chemistry hasn’t progressed at the same pace.

So that necessitates a compromise on the part of smartphone makers like Apple, who have the choice of either building slim phones with adequate battery life, or integrating a more powerful battery into a thicker handset. The Week notes that though the iPhone 7 is presumably 18 months away from its release, design work on the phone has almost certainly already begun. Ive’s comments indicate that the company will continue to prioritize a slimmer iPhone over one with a longer-lasting battery, at least when it comes to the next generation of the phone. As for the iPhone 6s, which is expected to enter production within the next few months, this year’s release is expected to retain the same dimensions of the current models. It’s therefore likely to include a similarly sized battery.

Some think that the choice to forego a better battery in favor of a slimmer iPhone won’t be a decision that the average customer protests, especially if it can last through a day of moderate to heavy use. But many were disappointed when rumors that the iPhone 6 would get a substantially larger battery proved to be untrue. The modest increase in battery capacity that the iPhone 6 did get — from 1560mAh to 1810mAh — didn’t noticeably extend the time between charges because the larger screen drew more power. But the iPhone 6 Plus drew praise for the 2915mAh battery that it accommodates thanks to its larger size.

Among the rumors that have circulated so far about the iPhone 6s are that it won’t sport many high-profile design changes and that at its launch, Apple will kill the iPhone 5c. Some less-probable (but still possible) rumors hold that Apple will introduce an iPhone 6s mini for consumers who want a smaller iPhone, that the iPhone 6s could sport a waterproof casing or components, or that the iPhone 6s will feature a built-in SIM card.

Rumors hold that the iPhone 7 could feature an upgraded camera and/or image stabilization system. Features expected in future versions of the iPhone include a sapphire crystal display and an improved TouchID sensor, and industry watchers’ wish lists for the iPhone 7 often include a Force Touch display, wireless charging, and a sapphire display in addition to better battery life.

After news broke that Apple had once again foregone a better battery in favor of a thin iPhone 6, numerous bloggers, industry watchers, and regular tech consumers criticized Apple’s obsession with slimming down its products. Customers’ fear of dropping and shattering their iPhones — or simply bending them by placing them in a pocket — increase as iPhones get thinner and their screens less cushioned from a fall.

Most consumers aren’t clamoring for a thinner iPhone, but would prefer one that will last through a day of heavy app and email use, or one that has a better chance of surviving one of the falls that inevitably happen with an object we carry everywhere. Hopefully, if not with the iPhone 7, then at least with future generations of the iPhone, Apple will take the hint and realize that even the most streamlined aesthetics, without top-of-the-line performance to back them up, don’t make for the optimal version of a device.

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