How to maximize iPad battery life – tips for better performance

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battery life - iPad battery with case open
The iPad is mostly a battery with a screen attached.

One of the most under-appreciated features of the iPad is its fantastic battery life. Even with a high-resolution screen and a powerful processor, Apple’s tablet offers a battery life of 4 to 6 (or more) hours in the air–better than almost every other competing tablet. This is a huge advantage in the cockpit, as it’ll last for the duration of all but the longest flights.

But there are a number of things you can do to improve the performance of your iPad battery and keep it in top working condition. First, it’s important to know what type of battery the iPad (and the iPhone, for that matter) uses, and how it works. Like most consumer electronics, the iPad uses a lithium-ion polymer battery, often called a LiPo battery. These are the standard in portable devices now because they have a high power density but are very lightweight. When you think about it, it’s quite impressive how large a battery Apple manages to put into such a slim device.

Another major advantage of LiPo batteries is the way they are charged. There is no “memory effect” like older Nickel Cadmium batteries, so you can charge your iPad anytime you want and even leave it on a charger overnight. The battery will also charge very rapidly, to about 80% in a few hours, while the last 20% is more of a trickle charge and takes longer. This charging pattern is very handy for pilots, especially in the cockpit. LiPo batteries also hold their charge for a long time, so a fully charged iPad that is stored for a month will still have most of its charge.

battery life - Rapid charge iPad battery.
The iPad battery will rapid charge to about 80% which is ideal for pilots.

So far we’ve talked about the “battery life,” meaning how long the iPad will run on a single charge. But Apple also specifies a “battery lifespan,” which is the number of times you can charge and discharge the battery before it starts to lose capacity. The iPad was designed so that, after 1000 charge/discharge cycles, it will still have 80% of its battery capacity. Note that it’s not considered a “charge cycle” every time you plug in your iPad. If you used 20% of your iPad’s battery life every day for 5 days, and recharged it each day to 100%, that would be one charge cycle. So 1000 charge cycles is actually quite a long time (probably years of use for most people).

battery life - iPad battery charging cycle
A cycle does not mean a single charge – it requires a full 100% charging period.

With that background in mind, here are some tips for getting the most out of your iPad’s battery:

  • Heat can permanently reduce battery life, especially if you use your iPad at temperatures higher than 95º F. The cockpit certainly can get that hot, so the best advice is to never leave your iPad in the airplane and never place it in the sun. Also, charging the device when it’s over 95 is even worse, so try to do your charging at home if you often fly in hot conditions. Finally, airflow does help so remove your iPad from its case if it’s getting hot.
  • Cold conditions (below 32º F) can also affect battery performance, but this is a temporary issue. Again, you shouldn’t store your iPad in the airplane on a cold night, but once it warms up the battery should give you normal life.
  • Use your iPad regularly. Lithium-ion batteries are meant to be used hard, so don’t be afraid to use and recharge your iPad often. In fact, if you don’t regularly use your iPad, you should perform a complete charge cycle at least once a month (where you fully discharge the battery, then charge it up to 100%).
  • Keep your iPad updated to the latest version of iOS. In addition to the many new features Apple adds when they update their operating system, they often include fixes and performance enhancements for the battery. It’s a good idea to always have the latest version of iOS.
  • Adjust screen brightness and wireless radio settings for maximum battery life. If you don’t need the screen at max brightness, turn it down–this can significantly reduce battery drain. Likewise, if you don’t need the LTE data service or Bluetooth in flight, turn these services off (here’s how).
  • Use the battery utility in the Settings app to monitor what apps are using battery life. iOS is pretty good about shutting down background apps before they become real parasites, but it’s worth looking at this once in awhile.

One downside to the iPad battery is that there is no way to replace it in the field. If your battery needs service or replacement, it must be sent back to Apple or taken to an Apple service provider.

Want to learn more? One of our most popular articles on iPad Pilot News shares a number of helpful tips on charging your iPad at home and in the cockpit. Also note that the iPad battery does meet the standards required by Advisory Circular 120-76D for use as an EFB. And full iPad battery details are available on Apple’s website.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Agree with all except always installing the latest iOS. Your old device can be ruined for cockpit use by doing so. If you have an iPad 2 and installed iOS 9 (like I did), then you know that changing apps can take 5 to 30 seconds, even if all you want to do is go to settings and change the brightness, let alone get an updated radar picture. Before you install a new iOS, wait at least a month for horror stories to start showing up on iPad forums before you upgrade. My wife’s old iPad 2 and a buddy’s iPad 1 still work fine because they stopped with version 6 (or earlier).

    • Exactly. Well said! Not only that, but a good many solid aviation apps apparently are not being updated and will not run on anything past ios 9 or so, so beware!

  2. El YouTube descarga rápidamente el iPad en iOS 10.2 (iPad Pro 9.7 ) en iOS 11 mejorará ?

    YouTube quickly download the iPad in iOS 10.2 (iPad Pro 9.7) in iOS 11 will improve?

    • Any upgrade you do will make your iPad do everything SLOWER, not faster. See my comment below for details. Don’t do it!

      • So, the translation is pretty bad, what Jorge is trying to say is that YouTube makes the iPad discharge really quickly in iOS 10.2 on his iPad Pro 9.7. He wants to know if upgrading to iOS 11 will make his battery life longer, specifically in YouTube

    • No creo amigo. Las razónes por la cual YouTube consume tanto energía son:
      primero; debida al tamaño de la pantalla, y la resolución, requiere mucho carga para aguantar el uso de ella.
      Segundo; utilize wifi o data celular. Mientras que el data está activo, las antenas siempre buscan el señal para apoyar YouTube, y otras programas móviles.
      Ni importa la OS, YouTube siempre requiere muchos poder y señal.
      Contesto su pregunta?

  3. You couldn’t be more wrong about your recommendation to keep your iPad upgraded to the latest iOS. Each new version is even more bloated than the last, and I guarantee it will turn your working iPad or iPhone into something unusable, as the older hardware cannot keep up with all the demands of the o/s. BTDT, multiple times. It’s part of Apple’s scheme to force you to upgrade your hardware. DO NOT UPGRADE THE i/OS or you will be very sorry – and Apple makes sure that, once you upgrade, you can never go back. And you can’t upgrade just enough to meet an app’s minimum iOS level – Apple forces you to upgrade to the very latest. I’ve had to buy new iPhones because of this. I was forced to upgrade my iPad from 7 to 9 when I had to upgrade my WingX to get it working right again. The iPad has been a sluggish POS ever since.

    • I agree with your comment in general. I will just point out a few things. I know it’s popular to bash Apple when it comes to this. I’d say that if someone has current gen hardware then it’s a good idea for them to keep their software updated. If someone is using an older model, then it’s very likely a bad/horrible idea to update. It isn’t a purely shady tactic on Apple’s part. I understand that each iteration has many changes and innovations specifically targeting the newest hardware. It’s similar to Windows and trying to install the newest versions on older machines. The machines run like garbage because their hardware can’t handle the the newest bloated version with 100 processes running out of the gate. The difference is Microsoft makes it easier to revert back to a previous version. It’s much more difficult to revert an iOS update.

      • And a Pox on Apple for doing it that way! They should at least allow a reversion to a previous version. But it is really simple, after all – never upgrade more than one iOS change past what came installed on your device and you will be OK

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