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Dvorak: iPhone battery dead after 40 minutes

Although John C. Dvorak cited thin margins and Apple’s inability to play the fashion game fast enough in a recent MarketWatch column urging the company to pull the plug on the iPhone, he revealed far different reasons on the latest episode of This Week in Tech (TWiT).

During Episode 93 of the top-ranked podcast, Dvorak said he received information from “a guy at Cingular who’s testing the product.” The unnamed, male Cingular employee told Dvorak “there’s lots of issues.”

“He says the amateur mistake that they made is not having a removable battery,” Dvorak said. “You run 20 minutes and you’re using up half the battery power. You get 40 minutes total talk time. And the interface fouls up constantly.”

Those reasons seem more legitimate to consider ‘pulling the plug’ on a product. So why weren’t they mentioned in his column?

“He’s telling me confidentially and I shouldn’t be telling anybody,” Dvorak explained.

Apparently telling the hundreds of thousands who listen to TWiT doesn’t count as telling anybody.

I don’t know how Cingular runs their ship, but if that tester were working at Apple I have a feeling he’d be fired immediately if anyone found out he was leaking information to Dvorak.

97 Responses to “Dvorak: iPhone battery dead after 40 minutes”

  1. Monty: “Boy there is a lot of Dvorak hatred here. Have we all forgotten that [he] was the only one to predict Apple switching to Intel chips”

    Dvorak was hardly the first to notice the megahertz dilemma, it was a real perception problem for Apple. Going to Intel was always a possibility and the topic was discussed at the time, Marklar was rumored in 2002, a year before Dvorak’s article.

    Moreover, Dvorak had it all wrong. He was just discussing an idea without any insider knowledge. On March 18th, 2003 he predicted that “Apple Computer Corp. [would] switch to Intel processors within the next 12 to 18 months.” Didn’t happen, he never saw the G5 coming. “Apple will announce its use of the Itanium chip,” said Dvorak. The Itanium is not a x86 processor, he’s still wrong. In his mind the transition would “start with the high-end workstations” and the first Intel Mac “[would use] both the Intel and Motorola processors” to make the transition as smooth as possible. All wrong, sorry. “Apple has enough confidence in its hardware designs that it can again risk licensing the Mac OS to the Intel platform.” It’s now 2007, the Mac OS is still not licensed.,4149,939886,00.asp

  2. I guess I’m one of the few who could believe this. Not that it means anything.

    First, the counter-argument that “Well, if the CEO of AT&T hasn’t used one, there’s no way some tester has!” is rediculous. I’ve used Leopard. Our CEO has not. It’s the tester’s job to play with this stuff. It’s not the CEO’s.

    So I have no problem believing there’s some tester at AT&T who has used the iPhone. However, that may not be who’s doing the reporting to Dvorak. It’s probably someone who knows the tester or has heard second or third hand.

    Does the tester’s phone really only get 40 minutes of talk time? I could believe that, too. Why? Because, I assume, the tester is using a phone that has been through the mill. I’ve worked with prototype devices from various companies. They’ve been used, misused, and abused by other testers before I got my hot little hands on them. Because they were prototypes to begin with, they may not have been put together well. They’re perfectly good for testing purposes, but you wouldn’t want to depend on them.

    Remember that the iPhone has the iPod’s built-in battery. So the battery may be screwed up. It’s good enough for testing purposes and AT&T is not testing battery life. They’re making sure that “visual voicemail” works correctly (which can be done in the lab with the device plugged into an AC outlet). So they’re not going to send it back to Apple and lose a week or two of testing time while they wait for Apple to send them one with a good battery. It’s not important for the part that AT&T needs to test.

    So here’s the scenario: Some whiny guy wanted to see the iPhone and got into the lab to talk to the tester. He saw it plugged in and said, “Why is it plugged in?” The tester replied, “Oh, because the battery sucks. I can only get about 40 minutes out of it before it runs out.” The whiny guy then ran back to his computer and composed an e-mail to Dvorak saying, “The iPhone battery sucks! It only gets 40 minutes of talk time!” The whiny guy probably has nothing to do with testing and assumed that the tester got a brand-new shiny never-been-touched iPhone straight from the factory, so he figures that all iPhones must have this problem.

    Remember: Never ascribe to malice what can be ascribed to stupidity.

  3. jbelkin

    Sounds more like the Cingular Treo marketing manager trying to create FUD because that’s where his bonus & dept revenue will be after the iPhone comes out.

    You’re right, I doubt an actual Cingular iphone product manager is going to risk his job blabbing but why wouldn’t the Treo product manager try to talk the iphone down …

    Or perhaps this is all made up also – because Dvorak panicked after realizing he went too far after his last comments – that he had lost all credibiilty in the tech & business market … of course, now you’d have to quesyion his journalism ethics – when someone tells you off the record, apparently it’s only off the record unless it suits Dvorak’s panic attacks of credibility?

  4. BatteryGuru

    I work in the industry, and if I buy an iPhone it will be for research. But being pragmatic, let me say that battery life is an industry wide issue. This is because we all use the same battery technology. So, if a phone is thin, it will have a small, thin battery and get bad battery life. If it has a big, bright screen that is always on (e.g., browsing the Internet, checking e-mail, etc) it will kill battery life. If it has chip set technology such as Bluetooth on it will kill battery. And so on and so on.

  5. The battery life issue is very serious, and I don’t expect Apple will have a solution. I used the Blackjack for a few months at the beginning of the year, and it’s battery life was about the same. Bad enough that I sold the phone, dropped Cingular, and returned to Sprint to get a wonderful clamshell Samsung phone. It’s battery life is great, plays 2GB of music, and I couldn’t be happier.

    iPhone battery life of 40min is a product problem that there’s not much you can do about other that use a yet-to-be-found battery technology.

  6. Maybe it’s a Canary Trap. Apple releases a few test phones with the software programmed to make it appear that the battery is dead after a set time. Some at 40 minutes, others at 30 minutes, etc. That way they can pinpoint where the NDA violator is.

  7. Tedious


    He predicted the Intel switch every year for 14 years (even before the switch to IBM). He gives himself credit for being “right” because everyone forgets everything he says two days after he says it, and the world conveniently forgets that he was also predicting Microsoft was going to Buy Apple.

    Don’t be fooled.
    When Apple did switch to Intel, Dvorak was the most surprised of all.

  8. I work at Nokia and I’ve worked with a lot of prototypes. I can tell you from personal experience that issues like these are always well known internally and many times they get fixed in the 11th hour. That’s why we go through a lot of internal testing to try and uncover and fix these kinds of issues. Just throwing in my two cents about keeping information like this in context.

  9. quote from Monty:

    “Boy there is a lot of Dvorak hatred here. Have we all forgotten that this “KKK member” (?!) was the only one to predict Apple switching to Intel chips, and the one to predict Apple running Windows not long after? Is the hatred because:

    a. He is so good at predicting Apple?
    b. He knows Apple and Apple fans so well that he can get them hot and bothered in about thirty seconds?”

    While I agree that the KKK comparison is a bit extreme, it’s clear that Dvorak fabricates this stuff out of thin air to upset the Mac community and drive hits. That’s how he gets paid, remember.

    There’s simply no way that any “Cingular guy” (wouldn’t that be “AT&T guy”?) has gotten his hands on iPhone for a minute, let alone be testing it full time. And there’s also no way that the talk time is only 40 minutes. Not possible.

    Use logic for a second. Even a company as arrogant as Apple wouldn’t release a product that was so flawed.

    And what are you talking about with the Intel transition? Every rumor site on earth suggested the Intel switch for YEARS before it happened. Dvorak is no better than anyone at “predicting” Apple’s successes and failures. He “predicted” that the Retail division would be a costly mistake. He “predicted” that the iPod would flop as badly as the Newton.

  10. “Don’t post Dvorak’s stuff. He has admitted on camera to pissing off mac users to drive traffic to his site. You’re just helping him.”

    Yeah, 100% agreed, I was going to post something similar.

  11. jfletch

    I have a Win Mobile phone and the removable battery is quite useful: It’s the only way to get the phone to reboot sometimes when it locks up. Now THERE’S a reason to have a removable batery. I suspect that whatever variant of OS X that the iPhone will be running won’t have that problem. I expect uptime to exceed the months of 24/7 uptime I typically get with my OS X boxes. Boy do I hate my phone. Is it June yet?

  12. The president of AT&T got to hold one the other day for his announcement. He told the press it was the first working model he had ever seen, and it was taken away by an Apple employee as soon as he was off stage. And dvorak wants us to believe him that “a guy from Cingular” has one to test? I believe this article more than any other dvorak has written proves not just that he writes to bait Mac users but that he is a lair and possibly has a mental defect. It is becoming more clear by reading his writings that it is possible that he not only makes this stuf up he actually believes it. Maybe a voice in his head is named “a guy from Cingular” and so to him he is writing facts. I would recommend dvorak seek professional mental help soon as these delusions seem to be get worst with time.

  13. Al Feldzamen

    What the iPhone truly needs to succeed, in view of its obvious disadvantages (high price, limitation to Cingular, small memory for music/video, lack of voice dialing, etc.) is a KILLER APP. And it may be that only such an app will save it.

    Such an app could well be DICTATION SOFTWARE (since a microphone is already present, and a stripped down OS X) . . . software that would let a user dictate an outgoing Email, or dictate text that could go into a rudimentary word processor (like TEXTEDIT), and thence to a memory file or, by any one of several means, to a printer if desired.

    Then that device, trademark issues permiting, could be renamed the POCKET MAC !

    And then that software could well be incorporated into LEOPARD, which would give it the boost needed to stand out as more than a slight improvement over TIGER !

  14. This is so funny, you have top exec’s of apples company and their board that haven’t spent more than 30 minutes with the iphone. And he’s talking about “A guy at cingular” ha ha ha this is the funniest story. Here we have a company that has some of the top developer’s & engineer’s in the world designing and working on the iphone, yet they put in the hands of “A guy at cingular” to test. hahahaha i cant stop laughing. Dvorak = Da Vision Of Retarted Ass Koook. lol.

  15. Charlie

    Big deal – no removable battery. How many of you seriously remove the battery on your current phone? I did once, and that was to install my frigging sim card. Never have after that day at it was over 2 years ago.

    As far as dvorak – whatever. I’m still buying one and now I’m doing it to piss him off.

  16. Boy there is a lot of Dvorak hatred here. Have we all forgotten that this “KKK member” (?!) was the only one to predict Apple switching to Intel chips, and the one to predict Apple running Windows not long after? Is the hatred because:

    a. He is so good at predicting Apple?
    b. He knows Apple and Apple fans so well that he can get them hot and bothered in about thirty seconds?

    Come on, guys. His points about the iPhone were good ones (and said before), and the recent news about the Cingular person is certainly true but hardly matters given that the real iPhone is still months away. Is it really necessary to compare Dvorak to a KKK member over THIS?

  17. Considering we know Jobs is using the iPhone personally (and was photographed using one with his family at a soccer game) I highly doubt he would be if he knew it would die so fast, especially since he was seen talking on it in public throughout the entire game.

    Second the phone hasnt been released to Cingulars in house staff, its still being worked on by Apple and the Cingular people havent even touched it aside from a few execs.

    Third we all know how much Dvorak is a controversy whore. He’s the Rush or Bill O’Reilly of the tech world and has been even when he WAS a Apple guy and a writer for Macworld. If someone hit him with a train, only the freaking tech media would blink a eye.

  18. Philip from Australia

    This is why would wait for the reviews before buying.

    Well, I am in Australia… I cannot by in June even if i wanted.

    However, you would check for talk time before buying.

    In any case, as much as I would prefer a removeable battery, my current phone has one. But only one. It may as well be built in.

    Wait for the phone. Read the reviews. And see.


  19. The truth behind this story is obvious: we have a “anonymous source” within Cingular, an employee that should not even be able to touch the iPhone because there is no way Apple lets any average Joe like this “source” do so, tell “Dvorak the Dork” some false iPhone information. Either:
    1. The “source” is an Apple hater/Cingular hater (I wouldnt be surprised, cell phone providers are inherenetly evil and the guy is probably just PMSing that he just had the 100th caller of the day bitch at him on customer support) and is just feeding Dvorak shit because he knows it will draw attention OR..

    2. Dvorak himself is full of shit (I wouldnt be surprised there, either), and he is just trolling for some hits again to his site

    Main thing is, Dvorak: Proof of STFU.

    I’m out.

  20. mdmunoz

    Don’t post Dvorak’s stuff. He has admitted on camera to pissing off mac users to drive traffic to his site. You’re just helping him.

  21. Dvorak is just like the KKK– they exist only to say outrageous things and get attention.

    Why are you giving these silly assertions attention by repeating them?

  22. Grover

    Wow! This is great news! If Dvorak says the interface crashes and the battery only lasts 40min, then it’s certain to never crash and last for days! Hooray!