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What's Draining Your iPhone Battery?

by on December 01, 2020
in Phones and Mobile, Mobile Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps, Tips & How-Tos, Tech 101 :: 25 comments

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If you own an iPhone, there's a good chance you run into battery problems now and again. There are always times you wish you had the battery life to take one more photo, look up the location of a restaurant or make a quick phone call. But the more we rely on our smartphones, the more likely they are to run out of juice when we need them most.

Even downloading an update can sometimes cause battery issues – as with the recent iOS 14 update that increased battery drain for many users.

Thankfully, in most cases it’s possible to optimize how your iPhone uses its battery to fix these issues. And with a bit of awareness about how you use your iPhone and the apps you're running on it, you can curb your phone's battery-draining tendencies. We'll take a look at what types of apps commonly drain battery power and look into ways to keep your iPhone juiced up.

How to find out which apps are always running

The biggest battery drains by far are the apps you're always using. Do you use your phone to check Instagram or your email regularly? Are you always on WhatsApp sending audio or video clips, or have Spotify streaming music? Many apps like this are constantly checking for information in the background, notifying you of new messages or downloading data—which can burn through your battery life even when you aren't paying any attention to them.

You should also be wary of apps that keep your screen active or put a strain on your smartphone's internal processor. Video streaming apps and games might be fun, but they'll cut sharply into your battery life. Video and photo editing apps like iMovie and iPhoto also take a lot of power to run. And using your phone as a flashlight is useful, but keeping the screen or camera flash active can definitely ruin your battery expectations.

Navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze also take a lot of juice while in use – you may have noticed how much navigating an hour-long car ride costs in battery percentage.

And if you’ve signed up for a local track-and-trace app to identify if you've been exposed to confirmed coronavirus cases, your phone may be frequently sending low-energy Bluetooth signals to other phones, potentially also contributing to battery drain.  

You don't have to stop using these apps entirely to keep your battery going, but knowing what's likely to drain your battery is the first step to fixing it. 

Assess your iPhone battery usage

iOS 14 offers a few ways for you to identify which apps may be draining your phone battery, and optimize how the battery is used.

First, see which apps are actually using up the most battery at Settings > Battery. When you scroll down, you can see the percentage of battery used by each app in the last 24 hours (or click to view by the last week).

Tapping on any app will show how much battery drain is from actively using the app compared to how much battery drain comes from the app running in the background. Pay special attention to background use—these are the apps that are draining your battery life without you even noticing.

Next, view all the apps that are allowed to run in the background. That’s fine for apps where you want to be alerted in real-time (say, email or a ride-hailing app), but many non-essential apps, even news apps, probably don’t need this function. Head to Settings > General > Background App Refresh. You can disable all background app refresh or manually deselect individual ones.

Background App Refresh

Finally, get a handle on the overall health of your battery at Settings > Battery > Battery Health. Rechargeable batteries like your iPhone battery degrade over time as their charge is drained and refilled, resulting in a lower battery capacity that may become noticeable in daily use. In the Battery Health menu, you can view the maximum capacity of your battery and whether it is operating at peak performance, plus check that you’ve enabled the Optimized Battery Charging setting, which can help reduce battery aging.

Limit streaming and downloading

Downloading lots of data doesn't just burn through your monthly data plan; it also burns through your battery life as your phone works to download that data. That means anyone concerned about battery life will want to avoid apps that are a major data drain.

The most common culprits are anything that streams video or music: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Google+ Hangouts, Skype and FaceTime. Some services, like Netflix and Spotify, will let you download videos and music to your phone. If you know you’ll be without a charger, download your music and videos ahead of time.

Even services that are mostly text-based, like email and social networks, can be problematic: your phone constantly checks for new email and social networks are packed with photos and videos. (And Facebook even automatically plays those videos.)

Though text-based status updates—including tweets and Facebook posts—are small, photos and videos are larger files, and viewing lots of them will leave you with less battery life. When you're on a strict battery budget, limit the time you spend browsing Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest or other image-intensive websites. And if you just have to stay connected, skip uploading your photos and videos until you have a full battery.

Rethink battery-draining free apps

Though free apps may seem tempting, these ad-supported apps burn at least a little extra battery power to download and display advertisements. In our own experience, apps downloading advertisements was the fourth highest data use on our iPhone—and as we mentioned above, when you're downloading data, your battery pays the price.

If you like an app enough to use it all the time, why not go ahead and pay a dollar or two to buy it instead of making your phone download advertisements every time you open it? Trust us: your battery will thank you.

Don't close apps

Conventional wisdom says that closing apps you aren't using will save you battery life—but most of the time it won't help. Craig Federighi, Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, says there's just no need to quit your apps to save battery life.

The truth is that your iPhone is pretty good at managing multitasking without your help. Apps "running" in the background usually aren't really running—they're frozen, waiting for you to fire them up again. The only exception is apps that are designed to do things in the background, like navigation apps giving you turn-by-turn directions or your email client keeping tabs on new mail.

However, there are other, easier ways to prevent applications from burning battery in the background. You can turn off notifications, location service and background refreshing, all of which can help minimize an app's battery use. Why bother closing apps when you can just tweak some settings—and never have to swipe through apps to shut them down?

Keep your phone face down

When notifications are allowed on the lock screen, the iPhone screen will light up when one comes through, using battery each time. But if you keep your phone face down (or in a bag) its ambient light detector detects no light and the display won’t turn on, allowing you to have notifications – minus the distraction (and battery drain). 

15 settings you can change to save your iPhone battery  

There are lots of things your phone can do that will cause your battery to drain faster—and you might not even use some of them. Here are some common battery culprits and how to disable them if and when you don't need them.

1. Reduce screen brightness

Keeping your screen brightly lit at all times can be a massive battery drain. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness, and set the brightness slider to the lowest level you're comfortable with. Then enable Auto-Brightness, which automatically makes the screen darker or lighter in response to current lighting conditions.

Selecting the Dark (versus Light) appearance for your phone background can also save a significant amount of power

You can also reduce screen drain by setting your phone's screen lock to kick on as quickly as possible, reducing the amount of time the screen is needlessly lit. Also in Settings > Display & Brightness, you'll find Auto Lock, which locks your screen when you haven't used your phone for a certain period of time. For maximum battery life, we recommend putting it at the lowest possible setting: 30 seconds.

iOS 14: Auto Lock screen

2. Turn off Raise to Wake

Available on iPhone 6S and newer, the Raise to Wake feature wakes up your phone whenever you pick it up. It's handy, but as we've already mentioned, having the screen turned on is one of your phone's biggest battery drains—and if you want to turn it on, it just takes a button press. Turn it off by going to Settings > Display & Brightness, and then toggling off Raise to Wake.

3. Turn off notifications

While it's handy to get notifications when an app wants to tell you something, it also means that your iPhone is always burning battery life to track what the app is up to. Even worse, a lock screen notification lights up your screen for a minute to show it to you—and as we noted above, keeping the screen lit can be a significant battery drain.

Turn off notifications for individual apps under Settings > Notifications. When you first install them, many apps want to notify you about everything—we suggest disabling most of these notifications so you only get the notifications that matter.

To configure notifications for individual apps, scroll down the list of apps and click each app to see what kind of notifications it sends. If you don't want any, move the slider from green to white next to Allow Notifications to turn them off. If you want some notifications, you can choose whether you want to play sounds, show notifications on your lock screen, and whether to show a banner or an alert when your phone is unlocked.

The fewer apps sending you notifications, the better your battery life will be.

iOS 14 Notifications

4. Turn off vibration

Each time your phone vibrates for an alert or phone call, it drains a little of the battery. If your phone is already sounding for alerts and phone calls, having vibrations enabled is an unnecessary battery sink.

Head to Settings > Sounds & Haptics to toggle whether your phone vibrates on ring, on silent or not at all.  

5. Turn off location services

Location services are terribly convenient, letting apps know where you are and providing useful, location-specific information, from offering directions to looking up local restaurant reviews. However, keeping your iPhone's GPS running can go through your battery power very quickly. You can tell when something on your phone is using location services by the arrow icon that appears in your menu bar at the top of the screen. If you'd like to save battery life, you have several options where location services are concerned.

Close apps that use location services when you don't need them. Common culprits are map and navigation apps and services that provide you with location-based information, like Yelp and Google Maps.

If you don't think an app needs access to location services, you can disable it entirely or limit when the app can use location services. Just open Settings > Privacy > Location Services, and find the apps you don't want to access location data. Click on the app and then specify whether you want it to never access location information, only access location information while you're using the app, or always access location information.

Turn off location services

In our opinion, the only apps you want with full access to location information, even when you aren't using the app, are navigation and weather apps. This lets navigation apps give you turn by turn directions even when they aren't on screen and lets weather apps notify you a thunderstorm is headed your way.

You can also disable location services entirely if you aren't using them (or just want to save some battery power). From Settings > Privacy > Location Services, move the slider by Location Services to the off position.

6. Turn off background refresh

Chances are the apps on the top of your list of battery drainers are the apps you want to use all the time, and there's often no way to get around their battery burden. However, some apps—particularly those that run sneakily in the background—may surprise you.

If you find that you don't need apps like Facebook and Kindle checking for updates in the background, you can turn off these background updates off. Head over to Settings > General > Background App Refresh to manually toggle off each app's auto-refresh. Even if an app doesn't appear on the list of apps using your battery power, it's worth going through the list and turning off background app refresh for apps that don't need to update constantly.

Background app refresh

7. Turn off automatic downloads

Another battery drain is automatic downloads from the App and iTunes Stores. Under Settings > App Store and Settings > Music/Books, you can choose to have music, apps, books and software updates downloaded automatically. While this is certainly handy (presuming you want your iPhone to automatically download the new album you bought on your Mac), checking for new content and downloading it when you're on the go puts a strain on your battery. For the best battery life, toggle all of these off and just remember to manually download any new content.

Turn off automatic downloads

Even if you do want to automatically download new content, you should probably make sure the Use Cellular Data option is disabled. Without it, your phone will only update over Wi-Fi which is typically less of a battery drain—and less of a data drain, to boot.

8. Check your email less frequently

Many of us use our phones to check our email, but how often you check your email can make a big difference to your phone's battery. The iPhone lets you set up new mail to be "pushed" to your phone immediately (although not all email services support this) or be "fetched" from the mail server at certain intervals.

Because push means a constant connection, you'll get better battery life by fetching mail at intervals—and the less frequent the interval, the better your battery life. To change how often your phone checks your email, go to Settings > Mail > Accounts > Fetch New Data. For best battery life, turn Push off and reduce your Fetch interval or set it to Manual. If you really need mail from a specific account fast, you can also enable Push-only on the accounts you choose from this menu.

iOS 14 email fetch

9. Use Screen Time to limit certain apps

As well as providing scary information on how much time you spend on your phone, Screen Time can also be used to set time limits on app usage. If you find that certain battery-loving apps are taking up a bit too much of your time – say, email or TikTok – limiting how long these can be accessed per day can help save both battery and mental focus.

Swipe right on your home screen for the Screen Time widget (or head to Settings > Screen Time), then tap through and scroll to Most Used for the apps that are taking up the most time per day or week. To set a time limit on any battery-hoggers, select the app and scroll down.

Screentime settings

10. Disable Bluetooth

If you don't use any Bluetooth accessories, turn Bluetooth off under Settings > Bluetooth. You can also swipe up from your home screen to bring up a mini settings menu, and click the Bluetooth icon to shut off Bluetooth—which is a lot easier if you want to turn Bluetooth on and off as needed.

iOS 14 Bluetooth

11. Disable WiFi

If you aren't using WiFi, it's best to turn it off to preserve battery life. Otherwise, your phone will constantly check for available WiFi networks, draining your battery in the process. You can disable WiFi under Settings > Wi-Fi  or by swiping up from your home screen and tapping the WiFi icon. Just don't forget to turn it back on again when you need it or you'll regret all that data use when you see your next wireless bill!

12. Turn off Siri’s voice activation

If you don’t often ask Siri to do things like set timers or open apps, you’ll probably save some battery by toggling off the setting for the app to listen for the sound of your voice saying “Hey Siri”. You’ll still be able to use Siri by pressing and holding the right-side button on your iPhone.

Head to Settings > Siri & Search to select how you want access Siri.

13. Turn on Airplane Mode (in certain situations)

If you're in an area with poor cellular service, your phone will constantly hunt for a connection... and your battery life will plummet. If you know you're in an area without service, just turn on Airplane Mode to shut down cellular access and save your battery power. This disables a lot of other connectivity-related battery drainers, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but if you need either of these you can enable them even with Airplane Mode on.

Enable Airplane Mode in Settings or by swiping down from your home screen and tapping the airplane icon. If you need to use WiFi or Bluetooth while in Airplane Mode, just click their icons to turn them on.

14. Turn off AirDrop

AirDrop is a great way to wirelessly share images and other data between your Apple devices. You can just tap a photo in iOS to quickly send it to your Mac or a friend's iPhone—so easy! But when you don't need to share things, it can use up your battery life in the background while it stays alert for file transfers. Toggle it off by swiping up from your home screen tapping on AirDrop, and then selecting Receiving Off. If you want to send or receive files later, simply repeat the process.

15. Turn on Low Power Mode

When your battery gets down below 20 percent (and again at 10 percent), you'll get a low battery warning and the ability to go into Low Power Mode. In Low Power Mode, you phone will automatically stop or reduce mail fetch, background app refresh, automatic downloads and some visual effects.

However, if you know you need to save battery life, you can manually turn on Low Power Mode. Just go to Settings > Battery and switch on Low Power Mode. Even though you'll lose some phone features, you'll still be able to do most things you need.

In iOS 14, you can also automate the setting of Low Power Mode. Go to Shortcuts where you can create this automated action based on the battery reaching a particular level.

Select Create Personal Automation, the scroll down to see the battery-related triggers. We suggest selecting Battery Level, dragging the slider to the battery percentage at which you want to enable Low Power Mode (go higher if your phone’s battery is draining faster), and selecting Falls Below. Then, hit Next > Add Action and type in a search for Low Power Mode. You’ll be able to add the action Set Low Power Mode and toggle whether you want it to activate with or without notifying you first.  

iOS Automation

16. Turn off Fitness Tracking

Newer iPhones have all sorts of cool fitness tracking features, which can be great if you care about fitness tracking and don't already have a Fitbit or other tracker. But if you don't care about the iPhone's fitness features, it's monitoring your motion all the time to track steps. If you don't need it, turn it off by going to Settings > Privacy > Motion & Fitness and tapping Fitness Tracking to toggle it off. Here you can also toggle on or off specific apps that are allowed to access sensor data.

Turn off Fitness Tracking

Keep charged!

Instead of waiting for your battery to run dry, plug it in when you're at your desk at work or in the car—so be sure to keep a spare charging cable and a car charger with you just in case. Even a few minutes worth of charging could make the difference.

Updated on 12/1/2020 with iOS 14-specific battery saving tips.

[Image credit: ymgerman / Shutterstock.com, Apple]



Discussion loading

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So wrong

From LA on March 21, 2014 :: 10:14 am

By reading the first paragraphs of your article only one thing came to my mind: “You just don’t have any idea how iOS, Notifications, and Background app refresh are working”. Most of the notifications come from the Apple servers and not from the app itself. Thats’ why closing or having let’s say Facebook app does not have anything to do with the notification. There are very limited number of apps which send you notifications locally and that’s the case if they are really running in the background which you can manage through background app refresh in Settings. Other solutions that you have provided are just shutting down services which make your smartphone like a normal phone. Seriously what’s the point of turning wifi off on a smartphone?? Turning off notifications?? What about buying a Nokia 6600 from 2000?

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Can't agree more

From JY on May 01, 2014 :: 3:54 pm

It’s like save fuel, don’t drive!

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Solution

From Androidian on March 26, 2014 :: 10:39 am

Why don’t turn off your Iphone or throw it over the window?

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Thank you

From Kaye swain on April 01, 2014 :: 9:05 am

Thanks for a great guide. While I would rarely turn all these off of my main iPhone, there have been times when I didn’t have a way to recharge it and vitally needed the phone to stay working and HAVE turned off everything I could.

Plus, I have my old phone still working as a grandkid phone with games, audio books, and music for them. But it is also my backup phone AND I enjoy listening to it on long drives to save my primary iPhone. Sometimes I also like to listen to it at night if I am having trouble sleeping. And THAT phone loses power faster than my newer phone. This guide will be especially helpful for keeping that running - especially at night.

I really appreciate the tips and the two new-to-me apps. Again, thank you smile

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Nice article.

From askapache on May 07, 2014 :: 6:57 pm

Very well written and very thorough.  Another tip:  every once in a while close every single running app, and then power off your phone and power back on, then close all apps again. That will keep things even more minimal, from a low level operating system perspective.

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yep.

From psy on July 17, 2014 :: 12:28 am

Yep. And this why I would never buy an iPhone.

I have my lovely Samsung android and I am always armed with four extra batteries. This means I can have every app in the world running at full pelt with the screen as bright as a button and I’ll never be left with a dead piece of plastic in my pocket and no way to communicate.

Sorry iPhone, you suck.

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None of this will make a difference.

From Jake on August 24, 2014 :: 2:42 pm

I’m sorry, but this article is way off base.

With few exceptions, iOS apps DO NOT run in the background. The exceptions are apps that play music and apps that download files. In all other cases, apps will be suspended immediately when you leave them by locking your phone, going to the home screen, or switching to another app.

iOS is very strict about this. Pulling up the list of recent apps and swiping them away does nothing that affects battery life.

Turning off Bluetooth will save some battery. Turning off wifi might or might not, depending on what you’re doing and what the cell service is like where you are.

Sigh. Do your research next time. Please.

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very profession and useful

From Yi Chuangneng on October 20, 2014 :: 10:51 pm

very profession and useful

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some bad app will waster lot of power

From iphones1955 on January 16, 2015 :: 3:14 am

as the title, some bad app will waster lot of power,i sure,i have the experience install the bad app in iphone,that make my power down fast,so the best way is to uninstall the bad app!

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Phone battery usage

From Carolyn on March 04, 2015 :: 7:54 pm

Checking my battery usage and “phone” is listed with the word Audio underneath it. Does anyone know what that stands for?

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I would guess music

From Josh Kirschner on March 06, 2015 :: 11:46 am

Taking a little bit of a guess here, but are you streaming music or playing other audio in the background? Is it possible that something is playing and you don’t realize it because the volume is turned down?

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No, I checked my music

From Carolyn on March 22, 2015 :: 6:49 pm

No, I checked my music already. That shows up under music icon. I was thinking FaceTime audio or the audio option in messages. I can’t re-create it though. Thank you grin

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Clueless

From Nick Donnelly on October 07, 2015 :: 11:40 am

This guy clearly doesn’t know how iOS works (as the first commenter says).

You do not need to close apps to save power - it will have the reverse effect and harm your user experience - ignore this article, and this whole website.

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We've updated that section

From Josh Kirschner on October 07, 2015 :: 2:08 pm

You’re correct. The information in that section was not accurate. We’ve updated the recommendations to make it clear that app notifications and background app refresh are the appropriate ways of reducing app power usage, but shutting them down.

These recommendations were taken from our recent story on saving battery power on iOS, which replaced this dated one. You can find the new story here: https://www.techlicious.com/tip/how-to-make-your-iphone-ipad-battery-last-longer/

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Path is incorrect

From James Butler on October 14, 2015 :: 5:11 pm

In the article this sentence contains a bad path:
First, check out what’s actually draining your battery by going to Settings > Battery. When you scroll down, you can see the percentage of battery used in either the last 24 hours or 5 days.
The correct path is Settins>General>Usage>Battery under iOS 7 at least.

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You're right, it isn't the

From Suzanne Kantra on October 14, 2015 :: 5:34 pm

You’re right, it isn’t the correct path for iOS 7. I chose to updated the paths to be correct for iOS 9, since most iPhone users have upgraded to that. I’ll check the others and make a note where older versions of iOS may have differences.

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Thanks

From Rick on March 10, 2016 :: 10:39 am

Valuable article. Thanks for it.

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Thank You

From Britton Murry on February 21, 2017 :: 10:19 am

I usually lose battery like every 30 seconds no joke.  So far I’ve tried most these things, and it seems it’s starting to work. Thank you for the tips, I think notifications were my problem!

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Erroneous instruction

From Rick S on October 30, 2017 :: 1:10 pm

In your 2cd section “How to find out which apps are draining your battery”, You say: Go to Settings>Battery and scroll down…... WRONG.
You can’t see drain percentages of apps unless you already have Low Power Mode on.

And hey, spell check please.

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My iPhone 7 running iOS

From Suzanne Kantra on October 30, 2017 :: 3:23 pm

My iPhone 7 running iOS 11 shows battery percentages when I’m not in Low Power Mode. Which version of iOS do you use? And, do you have “Battery Percentage” turned on?

Thanks for the heads up on the spelling errors. They have been fixed.

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Erroneous Instruction

From Rick S. on October 31, 2017 :: 9:16 am

Hi Suzanne,

Your article doesn’t specify what ios your info is based on.
Only at the end of your article it states: Updated on 03/16/2015 with iOS 10-specific battery saving tips. So, it’s not based on ios 11.
I’m running 10.3 and still I have to enable Low Battery Mode to see app battery drain percentages.
And yes, I have Battery Percentage turned on.

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App activity

From Nic Bingley on December 31, 2020 :: 4:36 am

I can’t see App Activity on my phone, only battery usage. Any idea why?

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Battery Life

From Lauren on November 01, 2017 :: 11:09 am

I recently updated my phone and now the battery charge drains very quickly. I have checked my battery usage and I consistently get “flashlight” draining my battery at a ridiculous rate. Today it is 16%. I don’t even use my flashlight. Any tips?

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Check to see if you have a app called "flashlight"

From Josh Kirschner on November 06, 2017 :: 10:53 am

Is it possible you downloaded an app at some point called “flashlight”? Perhaps this app is draining your battery through adware or some more nefarious activity.

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Thank you

From Sam on December 02, 2020 :: 9:17 pm

To the author for writing this helpful and knowledgeable article and for just by her gracious demeanor making it even more obvious that most people who own IPhones are socially inadequate and spend too much time on their phones alone. I bought an iPhone this past year and speaking from experience I think Apple programs something to make the owner become antisocial and rude, hence my comments and decision to go back to Android. Thank you all for helping to get me back to having a life!

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