It wouldn’t be the launch of a major product without some mention of a scandal. The iPad 3 has been a monumental success for Apple, selling three million units in the first weekend alone. A purported design flaw has emerged in the iPad’s battery meter, which reports the device is fully charged when it’s really only at about 90% capacity. This results in a little over an hour of reduced use time for the new iPad, which is leaving some people understandably frustrated. Though this could simply be a minor error in the way the new iPad calculates current battery levels, some reports are suggesting that Apple may have made this mistake on purpose.
As anyone who has owned a smartphone for longer than a year can attest, the lithium-ion batteries used in most consumer electronics loses capacity over time. In the second year of a two-year smartphone contract, users generally find that they are no longer able to get the same level of juice out of their devices. Obviously, Apple is aware of the lithium-ion problem, and may have designed the new iPad to display the 100% indicator a bit early in order to prolong the total life of the battery.
While this may not exactly be the answer iPad owners want to hear, the methodology, if true, makes a great deal of sense. A number of factors have an influence on the overall life of the lithium-ion battery, but one important factor is how fully-charged a device is kept. Most of us use our iPads for an hour or two out of the day, then leave it sitting out until the next day. Lesser charged batteries degrade at a much lesser rate than fully-charged batteries, as demonstrated by the Battery University table below.
No official word has been given from Apple as to whether or not the battery charge indicator was altered on purpose. If this isn’t the case, we’ll likely see an update pushed to the new iPad to fix the indicator, or at lease make it more accurate since battery indicators are a rough science already. We’ll be sure to update you if or when Apple addresses “batterygate.”