The new iPad: overheating and battery life issues

Features Ben Griffin 15:08, 20 Mar 2012

We take a look two issues that have affected a number of the new iPads, overheating and battery longevity

We're always told Apple products 'just work' but as the iPhone 4 and its antenna issue showed, that's not always the case. And it looks as if the new iPad has a few flaws of its own, if the rumblings from tech users are true.

Is it a case of jealous Android tablet fans trolling Apple, though? Is the Internet overreacting to a problem experienced by a small number of users? Did Apple just make another boo boo? Let's find out.

Overheating
A number of users on the Apple support forum are reporting the new iPad gets overly hot in the left corner at the back, which is where the new, larger battery arrangement sits.

It's not quite clear what causes it as some users report merely browsing the Internet is enough to give you sweaty palms, or in some cases, to make it 'uncomfortable' to hold, according to a number of users, and this supposedly happens when the device isn't charging.

In some rare cases, a warning is issued on the device about overheating and it shuts down, though, we've not seen this happen first-hand.

Apple doesn't believe there's a problem, and the response from Apple PR Trudy Muller was a bit like the 'you're holding it wrong' reply Steve Jobs famously said of the iPhone 4S antenna issue.

'The new iPad delivers a stunning Retina display, A5X chip, support for 4G LTE plus 10 hours of battery life, all while operating well within our thermal specifications. If customers have any concerns they should contact AppleCare,' was Muller's statement on behalf of Apple.

What we want to know are the hard facts, but unless we buy a few thousand new iPads, we're not going to know how widespread the issue really is.

Still, the use of a thermal camera has found it runs nearly 10 degrees fahrenheit (33.6 degrees celcius versus 28.3) hotter than the iPad 2 when running GLBenchmark, as you can see in the image below.

And we do have one iPad in the office that runs hot and another that doesn't, which is proof in itself.

The cure
If your device is too hot, there seems to be a number of fixes. Some say to turn brightness down to between 50 and 75 per cent. Bit of a shame with that fancy new Retina Display, but it does seem to work - at least, it did on one afflicted device at the Dennis Publishing towers.

Auto brightness is also meant to help but that would only partly solve the issue, as when your iPad decides to use full brightness you'd end up with the same problem.

Some forum-goers vouch for draining the battery completely before charging it. After doing this once or twice, apparently the issue subsides. We've not been able to test this out but we've seen a few reports of the process doing the job.

It's worth pointing out complaints are coming from users with both the 4G LTE and Wi-Fi-only variants, suggesting it's nothing to do with the former.

Considering you only need to browse the web to see the heat increase, there's not a lot you can do when it comes to use, which would suggest it's more to do with the battery than it is the processor, although we can't prove that so don't take it as gospel.

Of course, you could argue the processor's job of pushing pixels (well, technically the GPU on the processor) around when watching, say, YouTube videos, is a big strain. Therefore, it's the processor's fault, and this goes hand in hand with people saying playing games is another way to enjoy a toasty hand.

Battery life
Apple said you would get the same ten hours battery life of heavy use but we've definitely noticed the new iPad drains the battery at least 10 per cent faster than the iPad 2, which you would expect.

Some are experiencing particularly severe drops in battery life, though, either caused by installing iOS 5.1, checking emails or general use.

The cure
Again, many users say to run the battery out completely before giving it a full recharge either one, two or three times. This may stop you from having an unusually short battery life.

Alternatively, you can swap the unit with Apple and see if another will fare better.

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