Over the past few weeks, a number of reports have surfaced from iPhone 12 owners noting excessive battery drain on their new iPhones, but now it’s looking like the problem may not be isolated to only the newest iPhone 12 models, with many users now pointing to iOS 14.2 as the culprit.
A thread started about three weeks ago on Apple’s Developer Forums noted a number of severe problems with battery drain following the update to iOS 14.2, across various models running the gamut from the iPhone 6s all the way to the latest iPhone 12 models.
While the initial post didn’t seem to gain much traction at first, over the past week or so it’s blown up to about 40 responses in that single thread alone, all with users declaring extremely poor battery life on older iPhone models after updating to iOS 14.2, and despite being developers, it’s clear from the timeline that they’re not discussing beta versions of iOS 14.2, since the public version has been available since November 5th — before the first post was made.
While some of the problems being reported by iPhone 12 users predate the release of iOS 14.2, it’s possible that this could have also been a problem that existed in iOS 14.1, which shipped on the new iPhone models, but simply wasn’t noticed in that version, since iOS 14.2 was released only two weeks later.
In this case, however, many of the problems being reported by those with older iPhones are even more serious than what iPhone 12 users are seeing. For example:
- An iPhone 6s with a battery that drops to 40% after a five-minute video call and drains completely after only an hour of use.
- Sudden drops from 50% to 20% within minutes.
- Older iPhones suddenly going dead with 20–60% battery life remaining.
- Battery dropping from 70% to 1% in only a few minutes.
- Longer charging times.
- Excessive heat is generated during charging.
- Battery drain of 80% on a half-hour voice call.
What’s Going On?
What’s notable about some of these reports is that they point to the likely possibility that the problem is being caused by a software-level bug in how iOS 14.2 is reporting battery life, as opposed to runaway background processes that could actually be causing battery drain. It’s also not confined to the iPhone either.
For instance, one user reported an iPad mini that powered off at 60% while doing nothing more than reading emails, and when connected to power it showed the battery in red, but as soon as it powered back on it was immediately back at 60%.
Another user with an iPhone 7 Plus reported simply restarting their iPhone manually after it had dropped to 50% from only a half-hour of use, and suddenly found it at 98% after it rebooted.
Further, taking the usual steps to conserve battery, such as closing unused apps, turning off cellular data, and disabling background refresh, don’t seem to make any difference.
It’s important to keep in mind that draining a rechargeable lithium-ion battery completely will actually destroy it, and therefore all modern electronic devices like iPhones and iPads are designed to shut down when the battery reaches a critically low level, which is determined entirely by software. Hence, if iOS 14.2 isn’t reporting battery levels correctly, it can prematurely shut down an iPhone or iPad even if the battery is actually still at almost full capacity.
This appears to be what’s happening here in most cases, and although it’s unclear why it’s only affecting some older devices and not others, it could simply have to do with the age of the batteries involved.
Although it appears that no recent iPhone model is immune to these problems, most of the worst reports are coming from users of older models like the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7.
If you’re thinking this sounds sort of familiar, you’re right, as these are the same kinds of problems that some users experienced a few years ago, back in the days of iOS 9 and the early iOS 10 versions, and in fact it’s the exact problem that Apple was trying to solve that blew up into the “Batterygate” affair — a scandal that led to dozens of lawsuits, some of which were downright insane, and an ultimate payout by Apple of hundreds of millions of dollars to consumers and government regulators for failing to be transparent enough about it.
To be clear, Apple’s choice to throttle the performance on older iPhones as batteries deteriorated was a good thing, and we’re probably seeing examples right now of what would have happened had Apple not taken that step.
However, where Apple was justifiably castigated was in failing to inform consumers that they could simply replace their battery to restore an older iPhone to full performance.
While it’s unlikely that what’s happening in iOS 14.2 is exactly the same problem, it does go to show how complex battery management can be, and while Apple has since implemented even better methods for handling this in recent iPhone models and iOS versions, that likely makes the process even more complicated, leaving the door wide open for a software bug to become a fly in the ointment.
At this point, it remains unclear why some users are affected by this and others are not, and even the age of the batteries may not be the sole factor, as some users who had recent replacements are still reporting battery drain problems after updating to iOS 14.2.
Unfortunately, the only thing that seems certain right now is that if you haven’t updated to iOS 14.2 already, you might want to wait until this problem is resolved, and if you are having this problem, there doesn’t seem to much you can do other then to stay near a charger or carry an extra battery pack or two around with you.