Is Google Now draining your iPhone’s battery?

By , May 1, 2013

Google Now iOS teaser 001

Google’s take on search AI dubbed Google Now went live Monday via an update to the Internet giant’s native iOS Search app.

Today, a number of users took to the Internet to complain about the application’s excessive power drain due to a possible glitch in how it retrieves your location in the background…

According to a thread on the Google Search forums, a number of people are complaining about the battery drain problem and the iOS Location icon being always on, even when the app has been closed.

“I don’t think Google has figured out a way to balance the battery drain and GPS access,” one guy wrote. “Their previous app, Field Trip, is also triggering the same issue, even after the supposed bug fix.”

Another dude said Google Now enables GPS permanently on his device, killing the battery in a matter of hours. “I can get 2 days use on a charge easily on my iPhone 5,” he wrote. “With Google Now running, it was dead in 6 hours.”

But the fact of the matter is that Google Now on iOS doesn’t use GPS at all.

Or, at least so say release notes for the Search app on iTunes:

To provide up-to-the-minute information, Google Now turns on Location Services. Even though the icon stays on, the app has minimal battery impact.

Instead of using GPS, the app receives “passive updates from nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi hot spots,” the search giant explains.

Google Search 3.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 002)Google Search 3.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 004)

Furthermore, Google Now pauses location updates when it senses that your iPhone’s battery is running low. The software also “stays asleep” unless your device moves a long distance. That said, any excessive power drain must be a glitch, per conventional wisdom.

A Google engineer responded on the support forums by re-iterating that “in order to provide you with just the right information at just the right time, your location is updated periodically throughout the day.”

He also said users affected by the battery drain issue can turn location reporting off.

Google Now (turn of location)

Just open settings by tapping the gear icon in the upper-right of the Search iOS app, go to the Privacy section and disable Location Reporting. Note that turning off location reporting will disable traffic updates and location based reminders.

If that doesn’t help, you can always open the Settings app on your device, and deny location services to the Google app in the Privacy > Location Services section.

If that doesn’t help and the iOS Location icon stays on in the status bar, removing the Search app from your device should be the last resort. Additionally, you could also turn off iOS Location Services system-wide by turning the Location Services setting at the top to OFF.

It would appear Google may have been aware of the problem, or at least moved to pre-empt the outrage, as iTunes release notes contain the following disclaimer:

If you see an impact on your battery life, please tell us about it by tapping feedback in the app settings. You can also turn this feature on and off as you like in the privacy section of the app settings.

Interestingly enough, a Google support document states that Google Now does use GPS:

Along with Location Services, Google Now uses Location Reporting to get precise location information. Since Location Reporting has been optimized to use GPS as infrequently as possible, there should be minimal impact on your battery life.

Note the careful wording here.

Google acknowledges there “should” be “minimal” impact on your battery life.

I haven’t noticed any significant hit on my battery life, but have heard from plenty of affected users not to dismiss the issue as an isolated incident.

What’s your battery life like after updating to Google Now?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kenrick88 Kenrick Fernandes

    As it is the iphone 5 battery is bunch load of super duper crap and even after the google now was closed i was shocked to see that the constantly retrieving my location in the background. I refuse to use the app or else my “Super awesome battery life of 5 hours” will be reduced to 2 hours

    • http://twitter.com/MCaudebec Maxim∑

      Location services on any device drains battery quickly.

      • http://twitter.com/JailBreakFiles Jailbreak101

        Turn Off Location Privacy in APP!

    • MarcPhilippeB

      That’s awesome!

    • Markus Hudobnik

      I have over 8 hours of battery life… How do you only have 5?

      • http://twitter.com/williamkako13 William Kosch

        I get 10-12 hours on my iPhone 5. Six months old.

      • http://www.facebook.com/mykelxmonroe Mykel Monroe

        I charge my phone during the night. I use it regularly all day. When I get home at 6pm I’ve got usually 65% left. By the time I lay down to relax and throw it on to charge at around 10pm I’ve still got around 35%-45% left. My phone does not die unless I intend it to which I do once every month. Say I forget to charge it? I will still last me until I get home tomorrow. Idk what the big deal is… I’m not expecting a week long battery life. Do I want it? Fuck yeah. Maybe in 4 years.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mehrabh Mehrab Haque

      I get exactly 7 hours on my 4s how come you have 5?

    • Jon

      You ever think of going to an Apple store to see what’s going on instead of just finding random ways and places to bitch about your phone?

      • Boss

        What if his device is jailbroken? you can’t get it back once on 6.1.3 -_-

    • Qiren_94

      5 hours, lol.
      Mine can last 6 hours even with heavy gaming (I play Real Racing 3 in almost every waking moment I have).

  • mk3s

    I have Google now enabled and even though the constant location icon in my status bar is very unsettling I don’t think my battery is suffering too much from it. I’ll need to use it a few more days to compare to my pre-GoogleNow baseline however.

  • http://twitter.com/Damien584 Damien

    happened to me just turn off setting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001809600195 Nada Tosnas

    Yes, IT IS. I noticed yesterday, even after killing it from the background it continued to locate, had to disable Now, and even after that, so I ended up deleting the app!

  • Charles Indelicato

    I haven’t noticed a battery impact, but I toggle ‘Cell Data’ off frequently, unless I need it, to stay inside my 200MB allotment.

  • http://twitter.com/nate_jung Nathan Jung

    Had location services ‘constantly on’ for these past two days since the update and my battery doesn’t seem affected one bit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.soderholm Aaron Soderholm

    In 2 days, both days I’ve only experienced a 4pt. drop on my iPhone 5. I have a consistent work schedule and leave work with it at 78% on average. With Google Now’s location tracking on it drops to 74% when I leave. Personally I’m surprised it works so well.

  • http://twitter.com/__AF __AF

    Google Now, for me was a heavy drain on my battery. I have since switched Goolge location off in the privacy settings & my battery is back to ‘normal’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Tommyg80 Tommy Gumbs

    Thank you for posting this. This all makes sense now. My batt has been crazy bad the last few days since I downloaded the google App and my location services has been consistently turning on. Good ole Google tracking everything.

    • http://www.facebook.com/PwnHkr Dylan Lane C. Knox

      tracking you so features in google now work right…..

  • http://twitter.com/amad_ahmed01 Amad

    Was thinking about getting it, but i think i love my battery life more.

  • NoName

    BTW… no need for the GogleNowEnabler-Tweak… Google Now is working without it worldwide

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000505454514 Kevin Paterson

    As a jailbroken 4S user, I stopped caring about battery LONG ago. Hiding the battery icon and percentage has alleviated so much stress from my day.

    Having so many benefits is worth the cost of the battery, since it means I spend less time staring into my phone when out. When I do happen to use it, the experience is far better with battery-hogging tweaks and services like Google Now.

    Quality, not quantity.

    • Om Soni

      Hey Kevin! What tweak do you use to get rid of the battery icon and percentage?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000505454514 Kevin Paterson

        I used to use Springtomize 2, but now I use Bolt. This is because I still want to know if the phone is charging when plugged in.

        I also have BatteryPeek set in Activator as Swipe-in from top-right. It shows the battery percentage for a second or two and it disappears again.

      • Om Soni

        Alright thanks!

  • Michael Goldstein

    Immediately noticed battery drain and location icon on all the time. Was horrible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/frank.chacon3 Frank Chacon

    I havent noticed any difference in my battery life. Then again I have access to power from laptop and car so I really don’t care.

  • Gorgonphone

    Okay now here we go again…. google now is BS its over hyped just like the facbook chat heads bs.. people are bored now so anything thing that comes out with some hype is the next cool thing..

    the google now thing what?? just some web search results in the shape of a card???? i tried it and quickly turned it off so google can watch everything im dong

  • Necter

    Duh, isn’t it apparent from the get go. That’s what I first commented on the release date. Despite its veracious awesomeness, it’s a drainer, a battery vampire. It’s no brainer.

  • http://twitter.com/binarydivided Filip Langer

    I’ve noticed a huge battery drain on my iPhone 4 after installing the new update. Turned off location services for the app and now it’s back to normal.

  • ricky_nguyen

    Yes Google Now does drain your battery life on your iPhone 4S and or iPhone 5.

    • http://twitter.com/JailBreakFiles Jailbreak101

      Turn Off Location Privacy in APP!

      • http://flavors.me/mile MILE

        Of course you can turn off location services in the settings but than you can’t use Google Now at all…! It actually requires you to have location services enabled 24/7 even if the app isn’t actively running…

  • http://twitter.com/Jackzzz99 Jack Wong

    Location service on all the time… what the hell is the programmer thinking?

  • http://twitter.com/BCHworth Brandon Haworth

    My google now doesn’t work at all. Says no network connection. On LTE and Wifi. Already reinstalled it and same issue. Frustrating.

  • http://www.livinglearninglovinglife.com/ Amanda

    I installed it last night, right before bed. During the seven hours I was asleep, my battery lost 10% of its charge. I usually only see a 1%-2% drain overnight. I have an iPhone 4.

  • http://twitter.com/dpacemaker David Pace

    This app is always running in the background for me, and my battery level has not suffered at all. I still get roughly 1-2 hours of talk time, and need a charge every other day. Maybe its some of the tweaks people are using, they might not mesh well with Google Now.

  • dedegarrido

    I use SBProfiles…. my battery lasts at max 2 days… I have never had a problem with it; SB profiles is made to save battery! use it to enable/disable your 3G at some circumstances; its awesome!

  • http://flavors.me/mile MILE

    Of course you can turn off location services in the settings but than you can’t use Google Now at all…! It actually requires you to have location services enabled 24/7 even if the app isn’t actively running…

  • Eldaria

    Well if it is anything like Google’s Latitude App, then it is a battery hog.
    I use Latitude, but I do not use Googles App anymore, Instead I use PlaceTrack, originally a JailBreak app, now on App Store, works much better, and do not drain the battery as fast.
    Unfortunatley Google has not opened up the latitude api for check-in and friend status, but I do not use that so much anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/samueltlogan88 Samuel Logan

    My iPhone 5 too has suffered in the battery department with the latest edition of Now.

    What I don’t get is why doesn’t the app use the “not filled in” location triangle. The on that is on, but only active when the app runs.

    Plus, it not like Now sends me push notifications about location based reminders. Why does it need my location when I am not using it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/HertsDonut Hert Niks

    YAY! That fix worked. Now people who are arguing about how much your battery lasts compared to others: every person uses the phone differently. Some receive more emails and other push notifications than others. That means that your battery might last 2 days but someone elses battery might last only 8h.

  • Just Me

    The ONLY fix to the battery drain issue is to UNINSTALL Google Now. The app is malicious and it’s intentional. You can disable the location services within Google itself but once you exit the app, it returns back after you are forced to signing in again.