Poor coverage: the battery killer

Apple’s mobile devices go out of their way to minimise energy use and eke out the charge in their batteries, but there is one big stumbling block for them: poor mobile signal coverage.

Spend a day in an area with good coverage, with light to moderate mobile use, and you’ll return home with the majority of your battery endurance remaining. Spend just a few hours hopping through areas of patchy coverage, and your battery power can drop quickly to 20% even when you don’t do a great deal.

This is a particular problem when visiting or travelling in more remote and less populous areas. During my recent visit to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, this was the order of the day – there are few districts in the Scottish islands which have as good coverage as even rural parts of southern England, for example. Spend a little time crossing Scotland by train, and it is just as bad.

You can avoid this by putting the device into Airplane mode, disabling its incessant search for signal. But until you revert back to normal mode, your device will then miss all opportunities to connect. A much better solution would be a compromise: less persistent searching for signal, better energy economy, and made more accessible than Airplane mode too.

Another irritant when moving around areas with patchy signal coverage are duplicate notifications. It’s hard to know whether these result from third-pary apps which fail to handle notifications properly, or a problem in iOS 10, but on many occasions the same notifications appeared each time that my iPhone found a signal.

Perhaps devices like iPhones and iPads are only really intended for use in areas with good signal coverage, but I’m sure that plenty of iPhone and iPad users don’t have that privilege.


Several people have pointed out Low Power Mode, and suggested that may help. Yes it does, but not much, because much of the power is being used searching for mobile signal, and using weak signals. Apple’s recommendation for patchy and poor coverage is Airplane mode, as I wrote above. So you can choose to have poor battery life and intermittent connections, or good battery life and no connections at all. There is no compromise.