FrankenPhone: Why some iPhones are behaving badly with iOS 6+...

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Oh Steve, where Art Thou?

Since I upgraded my iPhone 4S to iOS 6 (including 6.01, 6.02 and now 6.1), my battery life has gone to hell (and not that the iPhone 4S was that great to start with - my iPhone 4 was much better...and still is) and I have been leaking data like anything - 600%+ increase in metered data usage with no actual usage increase. Yes, I have tried everything from the obligatory resets, turning off updates/notifications, iCloud etc to re-installing the OS and effectively creating a new phone...three times: all to no effect.

Whether in the US, Australia, the UK or wherever I find myself, the data usage and battery drain have made a mockery of the "it just works" mantra.

And the thing is...many users I know are experiencing it...but many are not. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to if your handset will be affected - you just have to try it and see (better still...don't if you are on a good thing). Sure, some people have had luck with resets or re-installing as new, but many have tried all that I have done with a similar result - ziltch. And these are handsets that were working fine with iOS 5 and earlier, so something has happened with iOS 6 that has caused this.

I have gone back to my iPhone 4...which amazingly has had a flawless experience with being upgraded to iOS 6.2, with better than ever battery life and overall performance, though it still lags far behind the 4S in speed terms as well as reception....but it's a relief knowing I won't be looking for a charger by early afternoon.

So...what is causing this? How can supposedly identical phones have such different reactions to the same OS update?

As it turns out, iPhones of the same generation and model type are NOT identical.

Despite outside looking like clones, inside, whilst they may also look similar, the reality is that they source different parts. One obvious example is the screen: if you get enough iPhones of the same model and set the screens up the same way, you will notice subtle tone, brightness and color reproduction differences: it's because some screens are made by LG, some by Sharp, others by AU Optronics and even Apples best friendemy, Samsung.

But it's not just screens: I was initially keen on getting the iPhone 5 but halted when I read a review that said the speakerphone - crucial for me - was found to be much quieter than the one in the 4S. But other reviews said it was far louder. Huh? Maybe it's unscientific opinions of people who perceive loudness differently. Maybe the sounds being played were not right for the speaker (some speakerphones produce certain frequencies much clearer/louder than others) - but how to find out what the truth was. So, a few weeks ago in Seattle I got together eight iPhone 5s in a cafe (not hard to do at all) and ran a test on the same YouTube clip, with all iPhones at maximum speakerphone volume. Whilst I didn't have a decimeter, there was an absolute difference between five iPhones and three others - the five were quite loud, but the three others were quite soft in volume, noticeably softer than my 4S. Hmmmm.

And now I believe I have found a  possible culprit of why some iOS updates go great...and others turn a perfectly good phone into a battery and data chewing nightmare.

Hear me out.

When you install a new iOS version, you are installing a whole bunch of system drivers as part of the update: these control things such as the baseband modem, the RAM, the screen and all the other components: everything that is needed to make the various collection of parts perform as one cohesive whole unit - a mobile phone. Now, clearly Apple tells component suppliers they must conform to a certain specification for their parts, but it is to be expected there would be some subtle, tiny differences, which in the past have not caused major issues...but with iOS 6, there has been some change that has impacted certain iPhones which use some components or collection of components.

I believe that Apple has done something that has been optimized for a certain, specific set of components, and that having an iPhone not using these is causing the problems. This explains many things - it may not be the only reason, but I have some very strong suspicions it could well be the key one.

I've currently got a more detailed investigation happening - stay tuned...