Walt Mossberg

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Maximizing the iPhone 3G’s Battery

Here are a few questions I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability.

In your recent review of the new iPhone 3G, you mentioned that it had weaker battery life between charges than the original iPhone, but that you learned various techniques to minimize this problem. Can you elaborate?

The biggest battery drain is the fast, but power-hungry, 3G cellular network, which lessens battery life on all phones. So, when you are able to use Wi-Fi instead for data, you can turn off 3G reception using a setting Apple provides. You will still be able to make and receive voice calls over older networks that won’t drain the battery as fast. The same is true in reverse. If you are using 3G for data, turn off your Wi-Fi capability.

Apple has a Web page with many more battery-saving tips at: apple.com/batteries/iphone.html. Turning these functions on and off, and worrying about battery life, however, is a pain. So if you hate the thought of learning and using these techniques, and suspect your usage pattern might push the new iPhone’s battery to its limits, you shouldn’t buy one. At the least, you might want to wait and see if Apple can tweak its software to squeeze more battery life out of the device.

You mention in your article that the iPhone 3G’s battery is not replaceable. Does that mean that, when it can no longer hold a charge, I’ll have to replace the entire phone?

No. Apple has a battery-replacement program for iPhones. If your battery drops to below 50% of its original capacity during the one-year warranty period, the company will replace the battery at no cost. After your warranty expires, Apple will replace the battery for $86. Of course, in both cases, you will have to do without your phone for however long it takes to complete the battery replacement. More details are at: apple.com/batteries/replacements.html.

In your column, you never mentioned the iPod Touch, which I own and use for email, Web surfing and music. Can the Touch be upgraded to the new 2.0 version of the iPhone operating system, and can it use the new third-party applications?

Yes, but with some qualifications. First, while the software upgrade is free for owners of the original iPhone, it costs $10 for owners of the iPod Touch. This has to do with Apple’s interpretation of accounting rules governing the addition of new features to different types of products.

Second, while most of the new iPhone programs available from the “App store” will work fine on the Touch, some cannot because of hardware differences between the two devices. For instance, voice-recording programs won’t work on the Touch, because it has no microphone. The App store indicates which programs are compatible with which device.

Since the new iPhone 3G includes a GPS chip and a speaker, can it be used as an audible, turn by turn, in-car navigation device?

Apple didn’t build such a function into the new iPhone, but some third-party companies are rumored to be trying.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online, free, at the new All Things Digital Web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

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