Tuesday, March 18, 2014

IOS / Android and "battery drainitis": some thoughts.

I'll divert away from my fascinating story of Tobias Bass Guitar renovation for a moment, if I may.

I'm an iOS user: there are a few reasons why. I use it because:

  • it's simple to use

  • upgrades are regular and I don't have to rely on networks

  • applecare is pretty good

  • the operating system curtail(ed) the worst excesses of bad programming by bad apps

I use iOS despite being a programmer, and a repairer of tools, systems and mobiles: I've worked in and around mobile software for more than 10 years, most of that as a system test engineer. I have an android phone and an android tablet which I do upgrades/updates to, I've rooted both and have fun with them. But I don't use them as my main devices (I have an iPhone and an iPad and have for several years now). Why?

Well, until recently it was because iOS stubbornly refused to give app developers more power / freedom. This results in a platform which is better for "less savvy" (and for me, lazier) users.

I know Android does work to apps which aren't running, and can free memory, etc, but the multitasking in Android, plus the low level access to system devices, plus Google's apparent disdain for looking after the platform ("throw it at the OEMs and they will come" appears to have been the mantra) has, I think, resulted in an entire OS platform which is "on the back foot" from the point of view of most of the points above. Google are working hard on those points on several fronts.

But I digress. This is about "battery drainitis", something which is prevalent in both Android AND iOS (particularly post-iOS7). Admittedly that Android link is specific to the Camera app, but I've got something to suggest which might help both platforms.

What we need (surprisingly) is Clippit, the hated paperclip from early office versions!

I've been sending tweets out to people who complain that ios7.1 has led to poor battery life, suggesting they upgrade their iPhones again using iTunes (I'm a sceptic on OTA, I think rewriting the OS from scratch just helps to avoid issues with "patching" OSs - I may be wrong there), but I've had an idea for a system-level application which all smartphone OSs which indulge app designers to use onboard devices (think camera, GPS, 3G, Wifi, accelerometer, etc etc).

We need a system battery monitor alerting application. This isn't the same as the Android app which can tell you what application/service is drawing current, it's in addition to it. iOS needs that battery monitoring app, by the way, Apple.

What the alert does is tell you if your phone is losing battery in an "abnormal" way. Say it's sat at idle on your desk, or you're asleep - if your phone loses battery while doing nothing else, and background processes are causing this, and it looks like you didn't intend it to happen (say, using some form of opt-in to say you don't mind an app using a lot of battery power), then the alert will put a notification in place to say that it has seen abnormal battery drain, and point out the culprit.

If your OS platform supports clamping down on apps which appear to ask too much (iOS's "background app refresh" setting, for instance - possibly the worst named settings option I have ever seen, by the way), then a wizard-style app could be launched to help tell you how to maximise your battery life wrt apps which run in the background.

This would certainly help out people who just never seem to read the endless array of advice like this - it simply doesn't occur to people to just google for it... which isn't a sin, but the device itself could help out.

It's just an idea, but something I wanted to explore a little.

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