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Attention all who carry iPhones while backpacking: critical info RE iPhone 5
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Jeremy and Angela
(requiem) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: re: iphone 5 and battery drain on 08/23/2013 17:09:11 MDT Print View

I locked my sim, power cycled off twice (if I just turned it off and then back on, I still got texts)

This is interesting; in theory a SIM lock should prevent any cellular data. I noticed a similar battery drain two weeks ago and had done the basic SIM lock along with disabling bluetooth and wifi, and killing any other apps.

On my iPhone 4, that would have been more than enough, but on the 5 I was seeing a few percentage points dropping off at each location check (~20 minutes maybe).

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
re: iphone 5 and battery drain on 08/23/2013 17:46:50 MDT Print View

Do you have any "Notifications" turned on? If so, turn them off, could be part of the problem.
- All are off.

Also, do you have iCloud turned on? Turn all that off too.
- I have it set up, but it is set to iCloudBackup=OFF. Today, the apple genius suggested that I disconnect my account, just in case it's got a bug and is doing something even though it's set not to autosync.

Also check Automatic Downloads in the iTunes & App Stores setting. Turn off "Use Cellular Data" there.
- Automatic Downloads are OFF, and Use Cellular Data is also OFF (although not relevant since Automatic Downloads is already OFF.

I spent an hour at the Genius Bar today. He checked all my settings and I had already done everything on their list to preserve battery life. They offered one lead that didn't pan out. They gave me an inactivated SIM. We already knew that a Locked SIM and a Removed SIM, when there's no signal present, have egregious drain. They hoped that a valid SIM that had never been activated would stop trying to establish a connection. I've tested only for one hour with that dummy SIM, and lost 10% in that hour, just like in the Locked or Removed states. I'm bummed. I had a flicker of hope that we'd find a workaround solution.

I'll go back tomorrow to see my Apple guy with the bad news that the dummy SIM didn't solve the problem. He seemed genuinely interested in the data I was giving him. He had never had somebody come in with "battery drain problems" who had results from actual controlled tests and had isolated factors that make a difference. He has an iPhone 4S, which I've never tested, and he seemed motivated to run tests on his phone to see if it behaves like the iPhone 4 or the iPhone 5 -- I hope he does it!

Right now, it's not looking good. The best I've gotten on an ATT iPhone 5 when no signal is present and Airplane Mode is OFF is a baseline drain of 22% per day. Compared to best case with iPhone 4 of 1-2% per day. Yuck.

Edited by drongobird on 08/23/2013 21:48:24 MDT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: re: iphone 5 and battery drain on 08/23/2013 19:00:55 MDT Print View

The last bit of advice I could offer, if you haven't already done it, would be to hook it up to iTunes and restore iPhone, and then set up as a new phone instead of restoring from backup. This should force a new software install with whatever the latest software is. Don't put anything on it other than what the system installs and test it then. Then start loading programs and test as you go. Might help isolate what's causing the problem.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: re: iphone 5 and battery drain on 08/23/2013 19:33:02 MDT Print View

Power the phone off when you are not using it to check the map.

That is what I do in the RARE instances I take an iPhone.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
re: iphone 5 and battery drain on 08/24/2013 18:24:44 MDT Print View

Had my second meeting today with the Apple Genius.

It looks like the ATT phone is what it is. I'm doing one last ditch test, after doing a Device Firmware Update and before installing any apps or setting up any accounts. Neither Apple Genius nor I think it will help.

So far, it looks like the iPhone 5 with GSM and CDMA (Verizon and Sprint model) is much better than iPhone 5 ATT model. My brother is currently running controlled tests with his Verizon iPhone 5. Ironic since it was the reverse situation for iPhone 4, where ATT phone was great but Verizon phone was not.

I'll update the article when I've got a few hours to do the editing.

I really appreciate the input from folks about their battery drain experiences with different models.


Locale: South West US
Re: re: iphone 5 and battery drain on 08/25/2013 02:37:51 MDT Print View

A recent update to Google maps and Google now (Google search) has been causing a lot of battery drain issues. Apparently those two apps are constantly checking and reporting your whereabouts. The culprit is location services. Go to settings > privacy > location services (or just location - I can't remember exactly) and turn it off for both of the Google Apps. To use these apps you have to turn it on again, which is a pain, but worth it for battery life.

Rocco Speranza

Locale: Western NC Mtns
Iphone 5 battery life on 08/25/2013 17:04:11 MDT Print View

I've had no such problems with my Verizon Iphone 5 battery life.
I installed the IOS 7 Beta earlier this summer. I don't think it hurt or gained me any battery life.

I went on a 3 day trip with my friend hiking the Art Loeb Trail in Pisgah National Forest. The new control center was very useful for turning the phone back on airplane mode. I used my phone as a Camera, phone, GPS using Gaia gps. I recorded a lot of video as shown on my Youtube channel linked below. Battery lasted the whole day even under heavy use.

On a normal overnighter I'd usually be above 50% by time I got out and only so low because I had to use the gps a lot because of the poorly marked trails.

Under my normal daily usage with 4G enabled I drain 1% every 2-3 hours.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
iPhone Battery Drain Results and Info on 08/26/2013 18:51:32 MDT Print View

"A recent update to Google maps and Google now (Google search) has been causing a lot of battery drain issues."
Yep - the Apple Genius warned me about Google Now.
In the testing I did a couple years ago, I found that having the GPS continuously active takes about 5% per hour. Any app that uses GPS will be a drain. Most conservative solution is to turn off Location Services for all apps that you are not actively using while in the backcountry. Also, you'll want to turn off the sneaky Location things:
Privacy->Location Services->System Services (all the way at bottom of Location Services): Everything OFF (except Compass Calibration which is useful when hiking). You really don't need the phone to track your location so it can feed you location-appropriate advertising :(

I've done enough testing, and gathered feedback from enough people, to draw conclusions. I will update the primary article when I get a half day to rewrite things. In the meantime, please spread the word to your friends who care. All advice assumes you will be outside signal range and want to use the GPS. All data assumes you have done all battery conservation measures described in the original post of this thread:

ATT iPhone 4: You should remove the SIM or use the SIM PIN feature to lock the SIM. Result (when combined with all other battery saving steps) is 1-2% drain per day.

ATT iPhone 5: Removing or locking the SIM is a bloody disaster causing drain of 10% per hour when there's no ATT signal -- therefore you must leave the SIM active! This is clearly a bug in the interaction of the hardware, firmware, software, and/or SIM. There's no good solution for using the phone outside ATT signal range and with Airplane OFF. Best option: leave the SIM active and put the phone into Airplane Mode when not actually using GPS. Expect a drain of 22% per day when 1) outside signal range, 2) SIM active, and 3) airplane mode OFF. With Airplane mode ON the drain is reduced to 4% per day.

iPhone 5 with GSM and CDMA (i.e. Verizon, Sprint): They have no problem if the SIM is removed or locked. (I am unclear on their battery drain if the SIM is active and will update the info if I learn more.) My brother did a very controlled test: SIM removed, Airplane mode OFF, no signal, all other battery conservation measures in place -- he lost 1% battery in 12 hours. DanS did a 9-hour controlled test (although didn't disable all other battery-draining features) and had very modest drain. Several people reported modest drain in backcountry usage, although they did not have controlled test results.

If I didn't already own an ATT iPhone 5 I would definitely choose the Verizon model. It is too risky, IMHO, to rely on engaging Airplane Mode every time I want to use GPS.

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
Re: Attention all who carry iPhones while backpacking: critical info RE iPhone 5 on 09/03/2013 17:38:24 MDT Print View

Amy, thanks for this very helpful post. I found exactly what you said to be true - for iPhone 5 and AT&T, you definitely want to use Airplane mode and not SIM lock to get the best battery life. I hope this gets fixed soon.

I have been very happy with Gaia but have not done a lot of testing of competitors.

My wish is for a public domain repository of trail tracks that I could import into Gaia.

Anthony Meaney
(ameaney) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Thanks for posting this on 09/06/2013 07:33:09 MDT Print View

I took my wife's Iphone4 into the back-country for a week and was very happy with the battery life compared to my android (which even in airplane mode lasts about 8 hours :( )

The only battery issue I had was when connecting with the Delorme for texting - that seemed to suck battery life pretty quickly. Otherwise as I was only using it for a camera and kindle having it in airplane mode was fine. Even with the texting after 6 days the battery life was still at 15%!

So I thought about switching to Iphone5 next year when my contract is up. Hopefully some of the battery issues will be sorted out by then.

Peter Bakwin
(pbakwin) - F
iPhone 6 ? on 01/21/2015 16:29:24 MST Print View

I've been using my iPhone 4 with Gaia for a while and it works really well. But, the 4 is getting to be a bit dated. I'm wondering if anyone has experience with the battery life of the iPhone 6 (AT&T) used in this mode (i.e., locked SIM)? I know there was a problem with the AT&T iPhone 5 w.r.t. battery life.

Rocco Speranza

Locale: Western NC Mtns
Re: iPhone 6 ? on 01/22/2015 04:45:56 MST Print View

I posted an update from a 4 day trip here. I have Verizon so I can't confirm if Sim Lock works on AT&T.

Peter Bakwin
(pbakwin) - F
Thx on 01/22/2015 08:54:07 MST Print View

Thx! Missed that 'cause I was on the trail! Posted to the other thread.

petemanteau ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
(petemanteau) - M

Locale: San Francisco
Re: Attention all who carry iPhones while backpacking: critical info RE iPhone 5 on 01/23/2015 08:46:27 MST Print View

On my iPhone 5S I have not noticed rapid battery drain with the SIM pin-locked. I've gone on several multi-day trips, occasionally using GPS and taking pics with the SIM locked. I know you mentioned iPhone 5 experienced the drain; maybe whatever issue is present in that model isn't present in iPhone 5S.

In terms of apps, one to add to the discussion is Bugle. You enter your trip details, your expected check-in time, and select some contacts. If you don't check in by that time, a message will be sent to those contacts (from the Bugle servers, so you don't need to be in signal range) informing them.

Default carrier SIM pins might help.
ATT: 1111 (
TMo: 1234 (

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Attention all who carry iPhones while backpacking: critical info RE iPhone 5 on 01/23/2015 10:23:45 MST Print View

Petemanteau - The substantial battery drain bug occurs with the following configuration: ATT phone, no signal present, SIM locked, Airplane Mode off. Please tell us which carrier you use (ATT, Verizon, TMo, etc), whether you were hiking in an area where signal was present, whether you kept the phone in airplane mode when not using the gsp feature.

petemanteau ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
(petemanteau) - M

Locale: San Francisco
Re: Re: Attention all who carry iPhones while backpacking: critical info RE iPhone 5 on 01/23/2015 14:36:57 MST Print View

iPhone 5S, ATT, no signal, SIM locked, never used airplane mode.

Thru hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail (portions do have service, but I kept the SIM locked the vast majority of the time) over 12 days last summer. Kept the phone on (in above state) to take pictures and every once in a while use GPS (mostly just wanted to make sure my pictures were geotagged) and only charged the phone every other day or so, turned it completely off overnight. Plenty of other 2-3 night shorter trips when I didn't even bring a battery.

I might be going on an overnighter next weekend. I'll test it out now that I'm aware of this battery drain issue.

Peter Bakwin
(pbakwin) - F
Battery on 01/23/2015 20:50:34 MST Print View

Amy's results for the AT&T 5 were so remarkable (8-10% per HOUR!?) that you could easily test your 5S w/o doing a multiday outing. Just put it in that mode overnight. If the test requires no cell signal (how could this possibly matter?) then maybe place the phone inside a microwave oven (making sure that no one uses the oven!!!)?

Did anyone confirm Amy's result for the 5? Maybe she just had a fluky phone??

I wish someone would test an AT&T 6 this way. The bug with the 5 was so amazing that it should be obvious right away if the 6 suffers from the same.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Att iPhone 5 drain on 01/24/2015 06:53:29 MST Print View

Yep, I tested two different ATT iPHone 5's with same results. (FWIW, I spent my career in software development, including QA testing. I've spent many many dozens of hours over the past 4 years testing battery drain in various controlled configurations.)

Yep, the drain is so bad you can easily reproduce quickly at home. Best to test at home in controlled environment.

Yep, there must be NO signal. It makes a difference because the bug occurs when phone goes into taillspin searching. You always drain more battery when phone is busy searching than when it has strong signal, but generally only marginally more.

Our article has info about testing at home using a faraday cage. I had to put phone in metal cookie tin and put tin inside microwave. Microwave alone did not work. Be sure to confirm the faraday cage is working by calling your phone when it's in the cage and SIM is not locked.

PeteM's report is encouraging. It means that the bug has been fixed. Either in the 5s hardware/firmware. Or in a new version of the iOS. I'll retest my 5 with current iOS when I get home in a few days.

I'll try to borrow friends Verizon and ATT iPhone sixes to do some testing. It's not easy to do this because few people want to enable SIM lock feature. However, it's worth finding out prior to purchase.

Ralph Burgess
(ralphbge) - F
Re: Att iPhone 5 drain on 01/24/2015 07:36:28 MST Print View

I think it's worth adding: although huge the drain problem on that particular AT&T/phone/OS configuration may no longer be present, it's not clear whether "SIM lock" will ever work quite the same on AT&T phones. The underlying problem is that iPhone software does not allow backcountry users to set their phone up explicitly in the configuration that we want - i.e. cell functions always off, with GPS chip switched on/off as needed. Locking the SIM on Verizon iPhone5 & 6 has been discovered to have this effect, but this is an empirical workaround that gives us what we want - it is not an intentional design feature. Verizon and AT&T use different wireless technologies - CDMA vs GSM; complicated by the introduction of LTE for data. These technologies have made different use of SIM cards - CDMA did not use SIM cards at all - as I recall the Verizon iPhone4 did not have a SIM? Verizon only introduced SIM cards with the iphone5 - possibly to handle LTE data, I'm not quite sure what the Verizon SIM card does. I've never found a clear explanation of all the details, but certainly AT&T and Verizon configurations are still completely different, and they use SIM cards in different ways.

The real answer would be for Apple to allow all iPhones to be set up for backcountry use. I think Android phones can do this? Perhaps Apple don't want to explicitly allow selective activation of cell functions & GPS functions because it might then be ambiguous whether "Flight Mode" was really switching everything off for airplane use.

Edited by ralphbge on 01/24/2015 07:40:16 MST.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
locking the SIM? on 01/24/2015 07:42:16 MST Print View

Can someone tell me how to lock the SIM? I have ATT and the iPhone 5S.

I can't seem to find this!