Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has finally acknowledged what a lot of its customers have been saying: The batteries in the iPhones leave a lot to be desired.
After weeks of growing complaints online, Apple conceded there are "a few" charge-sucking problems with its updated iPhone operating system. The new iOS 5 -- released with much hype several weeks ago -- can cause the batteries to drain more than 15% every hour.
"A small number of customers have reported lower than expected battery life on iOS 5 devices," Apple said in a statement yesterday to AllThingsD. "We have found a few bugs that are affecting battery life and we will release a software update to address those in a few weeks."
In the meantime, the iPhone owners are using the phones more like their old corded cousins than state-of-the-art smartphones. As several frustrated owners claim, you pretty much need to keep them plugged in.
Consumers at the Apple flagship store in Manhattan told IU yesterday the batteries on their phones were draining in as little as four hours, even when the handset was not in use and all the applications on it were closed.
The loudest complaints have come from iPhone 4S owners, perhaps because they just spent $400 on the newest models of the popular phones. But the short battery life is also affecting some -- but not all-- iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS with iOS 5.
As Adrian Kingsley-Hughes wrote after testing multiple handsets, "Something is going on, that's for sure, but it's hard to put a finger on what the issue actually is."
But iPhone users with weak batteries seem to know precisely what's wrong. As one annoyed woman explained, "It's simple. The battery sucks."
So, apparently, has some of the advice owners have received from the techies staffing the Genius Bar, the place in Apple stores where you head to resolve your problems. Some iPhone owners were told just to turn their phones off. CNET blogger David Carnoy wrote that the technician told him:
There was no reason to have your phone on (24 hours a day) unless you were in a profession that required you to be reachable in the middle of the night (on your cell phone). He then went on to explain that this was the mistake that people made, leaving their phones on all the time, and that if I turned my phone off from time to time, I'd get better battery life.
Of course, you can't get calls when the phone is turned off, nor can you use it as an alarm clock, which many people do.
The battery issue is bad for people who actually like to use their iPhones without looking for a way to charge it every few hours. But it could be good news for Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), which is battling Apple for market leadership.
In the third quarter, Samsung managed to take the No. 1 position in the global smartphone market for the first time ever, according to IHS iSuppli mobile market research, a division of IHS (NYSE: IHS).
Between July and September, Samsung shipped about 27.30 million smartphones, up 43.7% from 19 phones million in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Apple's shipments declined to 17.1 million iPhones, down 15.9% from 20.3 million in the second quarter.
Samsung's share of the market in the third quarter rose to 23.2%, up from 17.5% in the second quarter, while Apple's share declined to 14.6%, down from 18.7% in the second quarter. Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at IHS, attributed Samsung's surge to a broad portfolio of products, especially its high-end Galaxy S II line.
Of course, Apple didn't start shipping the new 4S models until this quarter, so it could experience a sales spike in the fourth quarter. Apple sold 4 million iPhone 4S models during its first weekend of availability. And sales are expected to spike again next week when the iPhone 4S debuts in Hong Kong, South Korea, and 13 additional countries.
The question is: Will any of the new buyers return their iPhones because of dissatisfaction with the battery life? Most phone carriers give users 30 days to return a handset for an alternate model, with few or no questions asked.