Skype for iPhone: Eating Up Your (iPhone) Battery Life?

With the launch of a limited multi-tasking capability in iOS4, many applications can be suspended in background or even triggered back into operating if they receive a “push” notification. One common complaint from many Skype for iPhone users has been the excessive battery drain caused when it is running in background. In fact, I have seen statements to the effect that there is no way to “exit” Skype for iPhone – but read on ….

A recent visit to my local Apple Store, where the manager happened to be serving me, and an interview earlier this week about Skype for iPhone 3.0 with Neil Stevens, Skype’s Vice-President and General Manager, Consumer Products, have combined to provide considerations for optimizing battery life.

From an overall iPhone perspective the Apple Store Manager recommended two steps:

  • Shut down any unnecessary applications suspended or running in background; if not required at the moment, they are unnecessarily draining the battery. This step provides a path to exiting these applications smoothly.
  • Turn your iPhone fully Off and then On once a day to remove any lingering, but non-essential, background services that cannot be accessed via an application icon.

iPhone.ClosingApps.311210.180pxFor the former, access the “open” applications by hitting the Home button twice; across the bottom of the screen you’ll find a ribbon of “open” application icons. Press down and hold one of those applications until the icons start to jiggle and have a red “-“ circle in the upper left hand corner – as shown in the image on the right. Press on the red “-“ circle and the application is closed. Now you have a way to “exit” Skype completely but, of course, you will not receive Skype Chat notification messages or receive any Skype calls. (This does not delete the application itself; it simply closes or exits its operation.)

With respect to the latter, apparently some applications can leave traces of background services, such as location-based information, running with the result that they put a drain on the battery even though, for whatever reason, they are no longer required. Simply turn the iPhone Off once a day and then turn it back On to ensure you are only using services required for your “current” iPhone activity.

I tested these steps and did find I would have longer battery life by up to a couple of hours, especially if Skype for iPhone was not running.

When I interviewed Skype’s Neil Stevens about Skype for iPhone 3 in preparation for yesterday’s post, I asked about the impact of video calling on battery life. Neil responded to the effect that video calling itself would not be a significant drain on the battery but rather the most important factor impacting battery life when using Skype for iPhone is the ongoing background presence detection and chat notification services that are needed to keep a user’s Skype activity current.

Neil mentioned that, while most users probably have 20 to 30 Skype Contacts, users with a large number of contacts, such as the author with ~400 contacts, would experience a significant impact on battery life. If a user has multiple chat sessions running, this accelerates the battery drain further. As a result my battery life while operating Skype for iPhone in background is less than four hours.

The only cures for this situation are:

  • cull your Skype Contacts to ensure you only have “active” Contacts,
  • use a separate Skype account for iPhone calls (with call forwarding from your original Skype account) but this then gets into issues of keeping two contact lists up-to-date as well as buying an additional subscription or
  • hope that Skype would develop into the next release of Skype for iPhone the ability to select a Category of Contacts called, say, “iPhone”, such that these would be the only Contacts loaded into Skype for iPhone from an existing Skype account. Frankly since I only have about 30 to 40 regular contacts on iPhone I could live with the latter.

Bottom Line: it’s great to be able to call over 125 million potential Skype contacts on PC’s and mobile devices from virtually anywhere worldwide with 3G or WiFi access. This morning I was given an amusing tour of Salisbury, UK via a Skype video call from an acquaintance’s iPhone 4 as he drove around town (his wife held the iPhone); we even confirmed that mobile Skype video calling works at up to 90 km/h (55 mph).

However, the main outage for mobile Skype video calling is not the availability of the Skype service itself (independently calculated to have had over 99.88% uptime over the past three years) but rather the lifetime of my iPhone battery.

(Note that an acquaintance has purchased the fastmac iV for iPhone Battery charger with an extra light spirce and USB port to obtain longer battery life but they don’t make it easy to purchase if you are outside the U.S. Ensure you get the model appropriate to your iPhone model.)

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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6 Responses to Skype for iPhone: Eating Up Your (iPhone) Battery Life?

  1. PhoneBoy December 31, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    I find the single biggest thing I can do to affect battery life with Skype: make sure I set the app to "Offline" when I'm done using it. That way, Skype itself won't unnecessarily drain my battery by polling the network continually. 🙂

  2. RoeBoeDog February 28, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    for me: I have created a separate account just for my iPhone and do the forwarding trick. It works for me.

    • Jim Courtney March 2, 2011 at 8:20 am #

      That could work as long as the forwarding was from your primary Skype account to the account for your iPhone. But then I would have trouble following, on my iPhone, some of the Group Chats I am participating in.

  3. RandyCarr April 7, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    I give up using it switch to forwarding plus Waiting for group chat support

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