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Comparing 7 iPhones: Battery (Part 1 of 2)

iPhone 4S, 5, 5S, 6+, and 6S+ running GeekBench 3 battery test

Battery life is something most smartphone users take a big interest in, sometimes more than the raw performance. What good is a fast phone if you can't use it long enough without recharging? For iPhones, this is especially important because you can't swap out the battery without disassembling. So I decided to test this as the time allowed.

Now, each of my iPhones had been used for wildly different lengths of time, so the level of remaining battery capacity would be different as a result. This would obviously affect the tests, so I checked the capacity using iBackupBot, as you can see here.

Device Design (mAh) Actual (mAh) Ratio
iPhone 6S+ 2725 2800 102.8%
iPhone 6+ 2855 2800 98.1%
iPhone 5S 1550 1400 90.3%
iPhone 5 1430 1400 97.9%
iPhone 4S 1430 1300 90.9%
iPhone 4 1420 1347 94.9%
iPhone 3GS 1200 1075 89.6%

Fortunately, batteries were mostly in good condition, having 90% or more capacity left. The brand new iPhone 6S Plus actually had slightly more than it should. Still, the difference is non-negligible. So the results of my battery tests would be normalized to the design capacity to make the comparisons fair. The 6S Plus results would be lowered a bit while the others would be boosted, all according to their respective ratios.

For a heavy-load scenario like playing a game, I used the battery test included with GeekBench 3. This is available for version 3.3 and higher, so iPhone 4 and 3GS, which can only run lower versions, had to be left out. With this test, airplane mode was turned on and the low power mode was turned off. To see how much effect the display backlight has, the test was run with both lowest and highest brightness settings.

Normalized battery duration of the iPhones measured by GeekBench 3

Screen iPhone 4S iPhone 5 iPhone 5S iPhone 6 Plus iPhone 6S Plus
Dimmest 04:34:10 03:12:50 02:57:20 05:01:20 07:54:00
Brightest 03:15:30 02:56:10 02:44:20 03:56:40 04:20:30

With the screen brightness lowered, iPhone 6S Plus pulls ahead of all other previous generations. It's an impressive feat, beating the 6 Plus at the second place by about two and a half hours. The gap significantly narrows with full brightness, but it still manages to stick around slightly more. Considering that this is done with 5% less design capacity, it's certain that the 6S Plus is quite efficient despite all the enhanced performance.

Meanwhile, the battery capacity of the Plus series is so large that it has enough power left over even after driving a bigger backlight and much more screen pixels. Overall, the Plus series lasts noticeably longer than the predecessors. Curiously, the 5 and 5S don't show much difference in regards to the screen brightness compared to the other models. It seems the characteristics of the screen used for these devices were different.
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