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So this year’s inevitable post-launch iPhone scandal is here. In years gone by we’ve seen antenna-gate and bend-gate; this time the internet is awash with talk about ‘battery-gate,’ claiming that around half of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models shipped have significantly worse battery life than the others. Apple has been quick to respond, insisting that the variance shouldn’t be more than around 2-3%, and is based on more than just the chip used.
Here’s the facts: Apple commissioned two companies, Samsung and TSMC, to manufacture the Apple-designed processing chips for its latest batch of iPhones. When you sell 13 million units on opening weekend, sometimes it’s necessary to split the workload. Long story short, word got out that the TSMC chips performed markedly better under strain than the Samsung chips – offering up to 33% longer battery life, according to one report – leading many to believe they may be in possession of a “bad” iPhone.
The tests purporting to reveal inferior iPhone models are hardly extensive, though. In one notable test, intensive benchmark testing using Geekbench showed the TSMC to last an extra 50 minutes before hitting 50% battery life. As Apple is keen for everyone to realise, though, these kind of benchmarks are “a misleading way to measure real-world battery life.” The same tester also tried playing a 60-minute video on both devices, with only a 1% discrepancy in battery life after the hour.
In a statement, Apple explain that a little variance is to be expected: “our testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable component differences, vary within just 2-3% of each other.” This is true even of identical devices with parts sources from the same manufacturers. Two chips from the same factory are not necessarily 100% identical, but all components need to pass minimum performance requirements to make it to the shop floor.
With so many variables to consider, it’s hard to tell for sure what kind of difference truly lies in these processing chips without extensive testing of thousands of iPhones. Luckily Apple does a lot of testing, and is pretty confident that there’s nothing to worry about: “every chip we ship meets Apple’s highest standards for providing incredible performance and deliver great battery life, regardless of iPhone 6s capacity, color, or model.”