iOS 8 wants: Battery shaming

iOS 8 wants: Battery shaming

Battery life is one of the most important elements of a modern mobile device. That's why iMore's battery life tips are some of our most popular articles, and why our comments, social feeds, and forums are filled with battery life questions, boasts, and complaints. Apple prioritizes battery life above almost everything else, even making the iPad 3 and Retina iPad mini ever-so-slightly thicker and heavier just to maintain 10 hours of battery life. Yet some apps, especially those that use VoIP like Skype, that use GPS like Google Maps, or those that have rogue processes or other glitches can still chew through power at an alarming rate. That's where battery shaming comes in. Battery shaming was introduced on the Mac with OS X Mavericks and I'd love to see something like it on the iPhone and iPad in iOS 8.

While I still believe iOS isn't for geeks, and Apple rightly focuses on empowering mainstream users rather than catering to power users, I do think Apple has increasingly found ways to balance both.

The iPhone and iPad aren't the Mac nor should they be. Yet Notification Center, Control Center, multitasking cards, and background refresh have shown that Apple's smart about adding more powerful computing features to iOS that are adjacent to, and not in the way of, the main experience.

You can use an iPhone or iPad without ever pulling down Notification Center, pulling up Control Center, activating the card switcher, or being aware of background refresh in any way. However, if you want them, they're only a swipe, click, or Setting's panel away.

The same is strangely true on OS X as well. Whether you credit it to Craig Federighi ushering in a slightly more geek-friendly era of Apple software, or simply the result of a computer's power being molded by modern, mainstream customer needs, OS X Mavericks manages to both simplify and enable power user features, including, remarkably, battery shaming.

If and when your Mac feels like its too warm or looks like it's draining too fast, you can click on the battery icon in the menu car and see just which apps exactly you have to blame for that. (I can only imagine the look on the faces of Adobe, Google, and even Apple engineers when they saw this in the betas and learned it wasn't going to be pulled before production — that their users were going to see their power usage and be able to pressure them to make things more efficient.)

Currently my "Apps Using Significant Energy" are Google Chrome, iPhoto, and Photoshop. Knowing that, if battery life is important to me right this very moment, I can quit them and last a little longer.

And that's exactly why I'd love to see it in iOS. Right now when I suspect an app is draining my battery, either because of excessive demands or a rogue process, I have to poke around and try to figure out which it is. If I can't, I have to kill everything and/or reboot. (Which is why Geniuses sometimes give that advice — it's extremely difficult/annoying to track down which app is misbehaving, and extremely easy/fun to abuse the card toss mechanic.)

If Apple implemented battery shaming on the iPhone and iPad, then whenever my phone was unusually warm or ithe battery was dropping unusually fast, I could simply open Settings, tap General, tap Usage, scroll down, see exactly which app or apps were causing the problem, and kill them just to watch their power drain die. (It's tempting to think about a swipe right to expose a big, red "Quit" button, like the "Delete" button in Mail or Notes, but that's a task killer app and probably not something Apple wants to entertain.)

To be clear, iOS does a terrific job power-managing most apps most of the time, including and especially the just-in-time multitasking of iOS 7. Battery shaming would just for those few times when those few apps weren't being good platform citizens, or something unforeseen happened.

Putting battery shaming in Settings means no one would find it unless and until they stumbled on it or deliberately went looking for it. So, just like Notification Center, Control Center, etc. it would be all but invisible to mainstream customers.

But for me and you — and for the developers forced by the pointed finger of shaming to make their apps as power efficient as possible — battery shaming would be a terrific addition to iOS 8.

What do you think?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iOS 8 wants: Battery shaming


I like your idea Rene. Battery shaming would be great. I would also like to have the option of decide which apps close automatically after a period of not using them. For instance, I check the weather once or twice a day, but I don't want it running in the background and I sometimes forget to close it. There could be a setting where I can choose which apps I want to close automatically after how many minutes of not using them.

What do you think of my idea? Is this already available in jailbreak?

You can choose which apps are allowed to Background Refresh in the 'General' settings to ensure apps aren't running processes in the background as you state.

I like the idea proposed in this post, it would be great to have energy usage data in iOS, then maybe developers will put more emphasis on efficiency (looking at you, Facebook).

Can see this happening and would be good if it does. I tend to look at my battery usage(on Android) to check which apps/services are hogging my apps and if a app for no good reason just stays in the background I tend to just delete them.. I think everyone cares about battery and even non power users would love this feature.

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Instead of a means of telling us what's draining battery, since we know it's most likely the motion processor and GPS, they just need to figure out how to make longer lasting batteries.

Battery usage calculations should be based upon having location, wifi, bluetooth, high brightness always on and always connected to something...but instead they're not. And it's absurd. To know that you really probably will use 1% of battery for every minute of GPS is embarrassing, and makes for an uneasy time. You can't just walk around NYC using GPS. You'd have to put in checkpoints, each being a charging station along the way.

Even on OS X, adding things like this usually ending up creating more misunderstanding especially to regular users. Perhaps a simple notification that only appears if an app is draining more power than usual. Even better is for Apple to provide an API and leave the implementation to developers.

This has already been built into Android for many years along with data monitoring per app as well. Generally people use it to email the software developers and make them improve the products. I think as Apple continues broadens it's lineup of products it is going to have to deal with the same growing pains that Android is already dealing with pretty efficiently. Screen size/resolution issues, different phone/ipad models having different power consumption and behaving differently to certain apps and needing more debugging etc. Sounds like fun times ahead boys, welcome to 2009.

I want apple shamming, stop trying to go paper thin and put a monster battery into a iphone model.

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I'm thinking that if you ditch the iphone and invest in a Z30 where the os already has most of the functions you need without having to resort to a third-party app, then your battery life will be considerably better, like about 300% better