I recently configured my iPhone with a new Google Sync account. Using Google Sync requires iPhone 3.0 software and includes advantages like push e-mail and e-mail, calendar, and contact syncing in one setup. The setup uses the Microsoft Exchange account type and allows you to choose what you want to sync. Google Sync works with regular Gmail accounts and Google Apps accounts. For a Google Apps account to work the domain administrator must enable Google sync.

The first day I set up my Google Sync account I noticed my iPhone battery life suffering. Thinking it was an anomaly I ignored it. Now, a week later I'm convinced using Google Sync has dramatically impacted the battery for the worse. I did some research and found a Google help page where they mention Google Sync (ActiveSync) may affect the life of your mobile device battery. Here's a screenshot.

The page goes on to mention how you can set how often your iPhone fetches data by going to the Settings application, then Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and finally pressing the Fetch New Data button. The resulting screen looks like this.

The problem with changing the settings on this screen is they are global. If you turn off Push to save battery life you turn off push for all Mail, Contacts, and Calendar. If you chose a different syncing timeframe, that timeframe affects all accounts. Since I use MobileMe with push enabled this wasn't an option. What Google doesn't mention is you can scroll down on the page and press the Advanced button. This takes you to a screen that allows you to select Push or Manual for each of your individual accounts. What's not clear is if setting an account to Manual not only means data won't be pushed to your iPhone but that you must also manually check for new e-mail and calendar entries. And to be fair, I did not try changing the setting to Manual for my Google Apps account.

Nevertheless, it's been my experience that battery life wasn't just affected by Google Sync, it was obliterated. Over the course of the week I found myself charging my iPhone nearly twice as much as normal. 10% of my iPhone battery would be consumed in under an hour! I decided to delete the Google Sync setup and configure e-mail using a regular Gmail/IMAP setup and calDAV (I wasn't syncing contacts).

To create my Google Apps e-mail account I went into the Settings app and chose Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Then, I pressed the Add Account button and chose the Gmail option.

In the Gmail configuration screen that follows you enter your authentication credentials and choose a description for the account. If you are setting up e-mail for a Google Apps account you enter your full e-mail address including your domain name.

When everything has been entered correctly you press the Save button and Google sets up your account. For your Google Apps calendar, you follow similar steps. From Mail, Contacts, and Calendars you chose Add Account and then the Other option. Under the Calendars section chose Add CalDAV Account. You're presented with a screen that looks like this.

Type google.com into the Server field followed by your Gmail or Google Apps username (full e-mail address), password, and a description for your new calendar. Finally, press Next and if you entered everything correctly your new calendar will be created. Here's Google's instructions for setting up a CalDAV calendar on iPhone in case you need them.

I'm hopeful setting up my Google Apps e-mail and calendar accounts separately - and without Google Sync - will result in better battery life. I've had my regular Gmail account running on my iPhone since and I bought it and have never noticed any problems.

UPDATE: 1.28.2010
It's been nearly three weeks since I wrote this post and got rid of Google Sync. I'm happy to report my iPhone battery life over the last few weeks has been much much better. In short, I recommend ditching Google Sync and using the setup described above to get the benefits of Google apps without the negative affects on battery life.

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This entry was posted by Aaron West on January 9, 2010 at 10:35 AM. It was filed in the following categories: ColdFusion, iPhone, Mobile & Devices. It has been viewed 28144 times and has 5 comments.

5 Responses to Google Sync + iPhone = Battery Killer

  1. @Aaron:

    If you got to the "Advanced" option at the bottom of the screen, you can set apps with different options. You can set each app to use either Push, Fetch or manual. This means you should be able to set Google Sync to manual, without affecting your other apps.

  2. @Dan - Yup! I talked about that setting in the blog post and mentioned that I didn't try it. But thanks for the heads up anyhow.

  3. FYI - I just updated the post with information on how my iPhone battery life has been without Google Sync.

  4. nozebleed

    "Fetching" is much different than "Push". your argument is flawed

  5. Jo Jo

    Thanks for the step by step. I did not want the google sync and I sure did not want anything more drawing on my battery. Now works just the way I wanted it.