iPhone 6s battery concerns are overblown, Apple explains why

Concerns over battery differences across iPhone 6s devices are overblown

Apple iPhone 6s iPhone 6s Plus battery controversy Samsung chip
Martyn Williams

Did you hear the bad news? That fancy iPhone 6s you just bought might be a lemon. In case you haven't heard, your shiny new device might have subpar battery performance depending on if its A9 processor came from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) or Samsung.

Just when you thought we finally survived a new iPhone release without some sort of overblown "-gate" scandal comes, well, an overblown story that recently picked up quite a bit of steam mainstream tech circles.

The current 'scandal' is rooted in the fact that the A9 processors Apple packed into its new iPhone 6s models are sourced from two different companies, TSMC and Samsung. This, of course, is nothing new and shouldn't raise any eyebrows. Not only does Apple often source similar components from different companies, but it did the same thing last year with the A8 processor on last year's iPhone 6.

But this being Apple, even the tiniest seed of a complete non-story can quickly blossom into a full-fledged panic.

Battery-related issues pertaining to the iPhone 6s began to pick up steam last Wednesday when an Engadget piece popped up and suggestively asked users if their iPhone "had a good or bad A9 CPU." The report boldly claimed that battery life on iPhones with an A9 processor from TSMC yields about two hours more battery life than an iPhone with A9 processor from Samsung.

From there, the story was picked up by MacRumors and was even tweeted by noted blogger and developer Marco Arment.

The only problem is that the Engadget story wasn't exactly a legit Engadget article. Specifically, it was written by one of the site's community members. Indeed, the tagline above the headline, which was perhaps overlooked by some, reads:

"This post was created by a member of the Public Access community. It has not been edited for accuracy or truthfulness and does not reflect the opinions of Engadget or its editors."

Furthermore, a closer look at the Engadget post reveals that the bulk of its evidence came from a lone Reddit comment alongside some scattered speculation from forum threads. In other words, there wasn't a lot of empirical evidence to truly suggest that iPhone battery life might vary wildly from device to device.

As for the testing done by the Reddit user, there are a number of problems to be had with drawing any bulletproof conclusions. For starters, any number of factors can affect battery life, and we have no way of knowing what steps were taken to ensure a controlled testing environment. Note that when the Reddit user conducted his testing, one iPhone 6s had a SIM card installed, while the other one did not. Additionally, the screenshots that accompanied the Reddit comment suggested that an app using location services was active during testing; which app or apps were in use? We don't know. Was screen brightness uniform between devices? Who knows. Were these devices on the same Wi-Fi network? Perhaps, but how do we really know for sure? Obviously, there are enough question marks here that ultimately make this thread somewhat hard to take seriously.

So, what might happen when we see iPhone's with varying A9 chips tested in a controlled environment? Well, there's actually some video footage of an iPhone 6s Plus with a Samsung A9 going head-to-head against an iPhone 6s Plus with a TSMC A9.

The result? There's basically no difference whatsoever.

Now, what's that you say? The phones in the video above are on two different carriers? Why yes, yes they are. Which goes to show that its hard to take these one-off examples with effective sample sizes of just one all that seriously because users can easily unearth "evidence" to support contrived conclusions. While it's certainly easy to manipulate statistical data, the problem here is that there's not even any data to speak of in the first place.

Even if we put aside glaring statistical holes and all of the various ways one can go about testing battery life on varying iPhones, one would have to suspend disbelief to believe that Apple, even for a second, would ever contemplate putting out a product with subpar performance relative to a seemingly equivalent device released at the same time. The idea is downright preposterous.

If anything, Apple would much sooner release a product with uniformly lower battery performance than it would release a product with wildly inconsistent battery life.

Indeed, product uniformity and consistency is taken with utmost seriousness across all industries. Even when McDonald's sources something as seemingly inconsequential as cheese from a new farm, the company undergoes an exhaustive an extensive series of tests to ensure that the flavor of its products remains exactly the same. To think that Apple wouldn't take similar precautions with its prized iPhone is laughable.

If battery life on your new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus isn't up to snuff with Apple's published specifications, then by all means take it in and see what's going on. Otherwise, it's probably best to stop worrying and enjoy your new device.

Of course, Apple hopefully put this mini-scandal to bed last week when it issued the following statement to TechCrunch.

With the Apple-designed A9 chip in your iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, you are getting the most advanced smartphone chip in the world. Every chip we ship meets Apple’s highest standards for providing incredible performance and deliver great battery life, regardless of iPhone 6s capacity, color, or model.

Certain manufactured lab tests which run the processors with a continuous heavy workload until the battery depletes are not representative of real-world usage, since they spend an unrealistic amount of time at the highest CPU performance state. It’s a misleading way to measure real-world battery life. Our testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable component differences, vary within just 2-3% of each other.

Indeed, all of the subsequent battery tests that sprung up in the wake of batterygate or chipgate (or whatever you want to call it) seemed to put the iPhone through unrealistic testing conditions. As far as real-world usage is concerned, there's probably not much reason at all for iPhone 6s owners to worry.

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