How to reduce iPhone 5 battery and data leakage

**Note: always back up your iPhone before playing around with settings!**

I recently bought an iPhone 5. It was a huge jump up from my old 3GS and I love it: slim and light, super fast and responsive, excellent GPS response and accuracy, the camera is fantastic (the panorama function is fun), I love the retina display, and the extra screen space is great.

But there were two things I wasn’t so keen on. The battery seemed about on par with my 3 year old 3GS (ie, needed to be recharged every day) and my data allowance was leaking away at an alarming rate. (I rarely scratched the surface of my 500MB monthly allowance with the 3GS but my iPhone 5 was consuming 50-100MB a day.) Now, I understand that some of this was down to the fact that it was a new toy and I was probably using it more than usual, but after a bit of research I discovered these were pretty common complaints for both iOS6 and the iPhone 5. I became determined to find a solution.

I collected a long list of tips from a variety of forums, blogs and articles and tried every one. In the end I found…

The two things most likely to help:

FOR BATTERY LIFE: Reset all settings

Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings

“If you’re prompted, enter your Passcode. Wait for the reset to finish then use your phone until it gets down to 0% then shuts off. Then, plug in your iPhone 5 until it charges to 100%. This should help to solve any battery life issues you’ve been having.” [Source:]

I’m not sure why this helps but it seemed to do the trick for me. Combined with setting my phone to airplane mode at night I now only need to recharge once every 3-4 days. You may want to make a note of all your current settings before you reset so it’s quicker to set them back afterwards. Note that it will also wipe all your saved wifi passwords!

FOR DATA LEAKAGE: Delete iCloud account from the phone

Settings > iCloud > Delete Account

(Note that this just removes the iCloud account from your phone, it doesn’t close it altogether. You can always turn it on again in the future if you want to.) See this thread for an explanation and a demonstration of why this supposedly works. Apparently even if you turn off all the settings that could possibly connect to iCloud it will still chew data (sometimes even when you’re connected to wifi!), unless you remove the account from your phone.

The trick is that without iCloud you’ll need to connect your phone to your computer regularly to back up, and you won’t be able to use features like Find My iPhone. (That’s the only iCloud feature I found useful anyway – I use Gmail to sync all my email, contacts and calendar items, Any.DO for tasks and Evernotes for notes.)

If you’re not keen on doing this, or it helps but doesn’t completely resolve your data leak, the only sure-fire guarantee is to turn data off when you’re not using it. It’s a little bit inconvenient at first but you get used to it. Go to Settings > General > Cellular > set to OFF. (This also helps battery life.)

I’ve listed below all the other suggestions I found in case you find any of them helpful. (Some may appear on multiple websites but I’ve just listed the sources where I first came across them.)

click for more tips and advice »

My experience with Android

I poopooed the iPhone when it first came out but have to admit I was a convert as soon as I played around with Alex’s 3GS – I bought my own within 24 hours of doing so. I’ve been a fan ever since and was embarrassingly devastated when I lost my beloved 3GS a couple of weeks ago. I bought a low-end Samsung Galaxy model to tide me over for the rest of our travels, just so I have something for basic communication when Alex and I are separated. (The shop didn’t actually sell any non-smart phones so I just bought the cheapest smart phone they had. It cost less than half the price of my first ever mobile, a good old Nokia 3310. ;) Anyway, doing that has given me a chance to actually play around with Android for the first time.

Now for a big fat disclaimer:

  • I’m certainly no technical expert.
  • This is not a review of Android, or Samsung phones.
  • I understand I’m using a low-spec phone with an old version of Android.
  • Therefore this is not, nor is it intended to be, a fair, equitable or comprehensive comparison of Android vs iOS.
  • ALL it is, is a list of things I do and don’t like about using this phone with this version of Android.
  • This is something of a concession on my part, given that otherwise I never would have given Android a look in.
  • Both operating systems have different things to offer which will appeal to different people, it all depends on what you want in a phone.
  • I guess my ultimate point is: I can now better appreciate why people like Android phones and would prefer them… but I’m still going to buy an iPhone 5 when I get home. ;P

If you’re after a comparison between Android and iOS you can find plenty of proper articles on the subject – this is certainly not one of them!

Things I like about using Android:

  • Easy sync with Google. Everything I do (email, contacts, calendar) is Google-based, so all I had to do when I turned the phone on for the first time was log into my Google account and everything synced automatically. (Of course I had all of this on my iPhone too, but it did take a little longer to set up.)
  • The mail app displays my Gmail labels and I can add and remove them from the phone.
  • I can see all the places I’ve starred on Google Maps (from my computer or on the phone) in one view. (As opposed to only one pin at a time on the iPhone.)
  • Downloadable Google maps for offline use. (I’m hoping when iOS6 gets rid of the native Google Maps app Google will bring out their own that lets you do both of these things on the iPhone.)
  • The map compass seems faster and more reliable.
  • Swype. (Especially since the screen is so small on this little phone that I usually miss the letters I’m aiming for if I try to punch them in individually.)
  • Automatic notification when there’s an update available for an installed app.
  • Wifi availability notification is more subtle and useful.
  • A discreet ‘R’ above the phone signal reminds you roaming.
  • There’s no barrage of pop ups about the fact you have data roaming turned off when you open your email or maps.
  • Links automatically open in the main browser, not a slow half-assed browser built into the app.
  • Widgets.
  • Drawing a pattern to unlock.
  • Having a back button.

Things I don’t like:

  • The screen is so small and low res it makes Alex’s 3GS look like it has a retina display. XD (I know this because it’s a low end phone and nothing to do with Android!)
  • Scrolling can be quite laggy (again, I’m sure this is the phone).
  • The OS design is not as intuitive.
  • There’s no easy backup option as far as I’m aware (eg to a computer or an equivalent of iCloud).
  • You get too much information about each app and in the settings. (I know some people would argue this is a good thing, but because I’m not that techy I’m happy for all this to be hidden behind the scenes like it is in iOS.)
  • No sync with iTunes. (Again, I know many people would consider this as a plus, but I love the way I have everything organised in iTunes.)
  • The SD card dismounts itself randomly, tells me off for doing it (which I didn’t) and then any apps saved to it disappear until the issue is fixed (normally with time or a restart).
  • It’s not obvious if you’ve closed a program or if it’s still running (except for Skype).
  • Can’t zoom in on emails for a more accurate copy and paste.
  • The touch screen buttons sometimes just simply don’t work, no matter how many areas you tap in (once more, no doubt due the fact it’s a cheap phone).

Losing my iPhone

I can no longer be smug about never having lost or left anything behind whilst travelling. A couple of hours after lunch with friends at a cafe in Oslo yesterday I realised I didn’t have my iPhone on me. Normally when this happens I panic for a bit, dig around in my bag and eventually find it in a place other than were I usually put it. The last time this happened it turned out I’d actually left it at our accommodation (which we figured out by using the Find My iPhone app on Alex’s mobile). This time it really was gone.

We tried using Find My iPhone, but it couldn’t detect it. (This only works if both phones have an internet connection, but I had actually connected to the cafe’s wifi while I was there so if it was still there it should have been detected.)

We tried calling it, but it was turned off. (It was on with almost a full battery when I last used it.)

We tried calling the cafe, but no one had handed it in and they couldn’t find it where we were sitting. (Which was a separate floor with hardly any people on it because we were there hours after the lunch time rush.)

It is possible I put it in my pocket when we left the cafe and it got nicked, but I never put anything in my pockets (for that reason) so it’s unlikely.

It is possible I automatically put it back in my bag and it was stolen from there, but highly unlikely as I had my jacket and arm over my bag throughout the rest of the afternoon, and if someone had gotten past both of those without my notice they would still have had to open a flap, open a zip, and move my camera and wallet out the way to get to my phone. (In which case they probably would have just taken one of those then gotten out of there.)

Conclusion: I must have put it on my lap or the seat next to me (I don’t remember seeing anything on the table when we left), just got up without thinking and left it behind, then someone found it and stole it to sell rather than hand it in.

Urrggghhh, cue feeling like an idiot.

Actually, while it’s a real shame and quite an inconvenience, of all the things I could have lost while travelling it’s probably the least devastating. It would have much been worse if I’d lost my wallet (although I don’t keep all my bank cards in it), my camera (as neither of us had downloaded any photos from the last couple of days in Norway yet), or WORST of all, my passport with all my upcoming travel visas in it. I am really disappointed (and annoyed with myself) but appreciate that it could have been much worse (I would rather have lost it the way I did than have been mugged, for example).


  • The phone was only a 3GS and about 3 years old – it would have been much more painful if it was a brand new phone (especially if I was still paying it off!)
  • It was locked with a passcode so whoever has it now won’t be able to access any of my personal information (I’m going to change all my account passwords anyway, just to be on the safe side)
  • It had prepaid a SIM so even if they did get pass the code they couldn’t run up a high bill (I’ve blocked the SIM card anyway though)
  • I don’t mind losing the number because I was going to get a new one on our return to Australia in a few months anyway
  • Just the day before I downloaded a new (to me) to do list app called Astrid and copied over all my tasks from the app I used to use, and Astrid syncs with an online interface, so in the meantime I still have my to do list (PHEW!)
  • I use Google for my contacts and calendar and they were just synced to my phone, so I haven’t lost any of that information either
  • I’m going to see if I can get a cheap second-hand 3GS as a replacement (until I eventually upgrade to the latest model next year) and I should be able to restore everything to that from my iCloud back up
  • Depending on price, I might even be able to get a secondhand iPhone 4, which would mean a bonus upgrade out of this misfortune
  • We stayed with very lovely and generous friends in Norway who not only put us up for 6 nights but cooked for us most nights as well which saved us an absolute truckload of money, so even if I have to buy a new phone I’ll probably still come out ahead

Unfortunately, the loss is not covered by my travel insurance because while I do think it was stolen in the end, it was my negligence that caused it to happen and my policy doesn’t cover carelessness. :P My one consolation is that whoever tries to sell it on hopefully won’t get much money for it: it was only a 3GS and the iPhone 5 is coming out soon which will devalue the 3GS even more, and the back cover was slightly cracked as well. So HAHA, sucker! They probably won’t even make enough money from it to buy a pint of Norwegian beer. :P (Although that kind of make it slightly more annoying because they might as well just have handed it in in that case.)

So, what happens when something you’ve depended on for the last 3 years disappears? The things I miss the most are:

  • (My to do list app would have been number one – and probably had me in a quite a panic – if not for the extremely fortuitous Astrid back up less than 24 hours before the loss)
  • My Secrets: a password protected app that I didn’t use very often but it held all my PIN and internet banking numbers (just in a random list, not linked to card numbers or even bank names) – it just means that because I can’t remember them all I can’t log into some of my accounts now and I might not be able to use my Australian bank card when I need to (I don’t remember the PIN because I haven’t needed it for nearly 2 years), but I have some ideas about how to get around this
  • Access to downloaded emails which included all our travel arrangements (but luckily Alex has a copy of most of these too)
  • Loss of communication (I can’t contact Alex if we get separated)
  • Calculator (funnily enough – of all things!)

(Obviously I realise that any mobile phone, especially an iPhone, is a luxury that a lot of people can’t afford and I could have it so much worse – I still have my health, all my limbs, etc… but it’s still a pain the arse.)

So, yes. I’m off to investigate second-hand iPhones and prepaid Swedish SIM cards.

Advice for first time long term travellers

Pieces of advice proven useful during my first time backpacking.

Take several very large ziplock bags. Use them to pack your clothes in: eg, one for undies and socks, one for tshirts, etc. Seal each about 90% of the way then sit on them to squish out the excess air before closing them completely. It’s a cheap way to save lots of room in your pack and it means when you need to grab something it will slip out easily rather than dragging half your clothes out all over the place along with it.

Get one of those cables with a lock in case you need to secure your pack to something (a bunk bed, a train luggage rack, etc).

Even if you don’t use the cable the extra padlock will come in handy for lockers at hostels that don’t supply free locks.

Take a fine permanent marker with you so you can mark your name and check out date on food you want to keep in communal hostel fridges (usually a requirement).

Bring a one-size-fits-all sink plug. Sometimes it’s nice to have a bath (often showers are in baths anyway) or you might need it to shave or do light handwashing. There won’t always be a plug in the sink.

While a lot of hostels have laundry facilities and you can find laundromats almost everywhere, having that plug, a portable clothes line and a small bottle of handwashing laundry liquid do occasionally prove useful. (Note however that some hostels specifically don’t allow handwashing in sinks or drying wet clothes in rooms.)

If you have the energy for it, shower before you get dressed for bed. It keeps your pjs cleaner and it’s always nicer to sleep in something clean.

If your towel hasn’t dried completely by the time you need to move on keep it in a ziplock bag until you get to your new location and take it out to air as soon as you arrive.

The only time ear plugs have come in handy for me was on an overnight train when the wheels made terribly loud screeching noises in the middle of the night. I’ve never had any problem with noisy dorms or streets, but I’m a fairly heavy sleeper.

I used to pack a rain poncho but was always too embarrassed to use it. Just buy a cheap fold up umbrella if the weather start to turn rainy – and keep it in easy reach.

If you have a fringe take a small pair of sharp hair scissors and trim it yourself. As long as you don’t have a really precise style  you should be able to get the hang of doing it yourself relatively easily. Enough to get by at any rate. You’re backpacking, not entering a fashion show!

Make sure you bring essentials such as prescription medication, but you can buy and replace just about everything else you need (toothpaste, soap, clothes, etc) along the way. It’s half the fun of travelling and they’ll be the most useful souvenirs you’ll pick up! (I still use a cheapie beach towel I got from a stand by the beach in Barcelona 2 years later.)

In the same vein, don’t take one dressy outfit “just in case”. If you end up needing one you can buy it.

Having said all that, sometimes it’s nice to take a little piece of home with you. It’s a cliché, but next time I go backpacking I’m taking a small jar of Vegemite.

Take as few books as possible. Cut down on guidebooks by making good use of free or paid smartphone apps, saving websites for offline use with apps like Read It Later, take scans or PDF guidebooks you can also access on your phone, tear out or photocopy the only pages you’ll need, swap guidebooks along the way with travellers going in the other direction so you only need to carry one at a time…

In general, and anyone that’s ever been backpacking will tell you this: just pack as light as you possibly can! Buy the smallest pack you can get away with and aim to start off with it no more than half full.

Cache iPhone maps to avoid the need for cellular data and therefore avoid huge phone bills:

  • Go to Settings > General > Network, then make sure “Data Roaming” is set to OFF
  • Open the Maps app while you’re connected to your accommodation’s wifi
  • Find the city you’re currently based in. Move the map around, zoom in and out a few levels.
  • This info will now be temporarily stored on your iPhone for the next couple of days (or until you search another area in detail, thus overwriting the cache)
  • Now when you open Maps you’ll be able to view the bits you’ve cached without any kind of internet connection – and the GPS locator will still work (it doesn’t need cellular data)
  • You can also create bookmarks for particular locations on a wifi connection and access them offline along with your cached maps

Sometimes, your accommodation’s wifi just won’t work on your iPhone/Mac laptop/PC laptop no matter how much troubleshooting you do. Try not to rely on having it at your next destination until you’re sure.

If you’ve become heavily reliant on Google Maps but you end up needing to use a paper map, it’s not as bad as you might think! They can you mark you out as a bit of a tourist though: I like to refold mine so only the immediately relevant area is visible at about A5 size. (Messy folds and holes will start to form but it’s quicker to refer to.)

You can often get free paper maps from your accommodation (marked up with recommendations if you’re lucky!).

Take cycling or walking tours on arrival in a new city to get your bearings and see the highlights so you can decide what to go back and see in more detail later on. You’ll often pick up lots of great food tips too. The best kind of walking tours are the “free” ones (for example) – the guides work harder to make sure they’re interesting and you have a good time because they’re working for tips.

You’ll meet a lot of people you’ll want to stay in touch with. If you don’t want to go the whole hog and print up basic little business cards with your contact details on that you can hand out, always have some scrap paper and a pen handy.

Use whatever you can of the local language, even when they use English with you. I think it’s nice.

At the very least, try to learn how to say “thank you” – even if you have to ask the locals how to pronounce it!

Don’t assume a rail pass will be value for money, it depends on your travelling style. Even if you have a pass you often have to pay for surcharges or seat reservations on top.

If you need to buy train tickets and there’s a difficult language barrier, write down what you need with the help of a phrase book.

Take snacks on long train/bus journeys so you don’t have to rely on potentially expensive (or non-existent) restaurant cars.

Take local water transport instead of cruises, eg: Thames Clipper in London, waterbuses in Venice, local ferries in Istanbul. You’ll get the same views for a much cheaper price and I’ve personally never found touristy river cruises that informative (you usually can’t hear the bored guide over the loud speaker system).

Turn around after you’ve walked past a major monument – sometimes that will be the better angle for a snapshot.

Likewise, look up from time to time. You might see something interesting you would otherwise have missed by keeping your eyes at street level.

Coins are very useful! For public transport, laundry, vending machines, tipping, etc. Try to have small notes and big coins.

A money belt is not a bum bag. If you feel the need to use one, only put things that you don’t need to regularly access in it or you’ll just be advertising yourself to thieves. If you do need to access it in public, go into a restroom and do it privately.

Buy some Skype credit so you can make cheap calls to friends and family back home (if they don’t already use Skype enabling you to call them for free) and if you need to make any enquiries or bookings by the phone.

More packing and language tips.

My favourite travel links:

The Man in Seat Sixty-One
Matador Network
Round the World Travel FAQ

1 iPhone, 2 (or more) iTunes accounts

I bought my iPhone 3GS a year before moving to the UK so by the time I arrived I’d accumulated a lot of apps from the Australian iTunes store. Living in the UK I also wanted access to UK-only apps such as transport, banking and special offer apps that aren’t available from the Australian store. I did some research online and found stories from people that had converted their account from one country to another but it meant they were no longer able to update apps that were downloaded from the original store: they were stuck at whatever version was downloaded before the change. Eventually I found out you can sync multiple accounts (from various countries) to the same device through iTunes, so that’s what I ended up doing.

I currently have 3 accounts synced to my iPhone:

  1. My original account (Australian iTunes store)
  2. My new account (UK iTunes store)
  3. Alex’s account (Australian iTunes store)

For the UK store I created a new account with one of my other email addresses and used my UK bank account details. My Australian account is still active as I still have an Australian bank account. I generally leave iTunes and my iPhone logged into my Australian account, but if I want to download an app only available on the UK store all I need to do is log out of the iTunes store and log back in again with my UK details. You are automatically redirected to the UK store where you can then download apps (or music for that matter) the same way you would with your usual account.

You can also sync friends’ or family members’ accounts as anyone can share their account with up to 5 other computers. This so families can share music or apps without everyone having to pay for and download them individually. (I wish I’d figured this out earlier as Alex and I have both bought the same apps on multiple occasions but only one of us needed to have paid for it!) To do this:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Go to the iTunes Store
  3. Click your username in the top right corner
  4. Click “Sign Out”
  5. Click “Sign In” in the top right corner
  6. The person who is going to share their account with you now needs to log in with their details
  7. iTunes will ask if you want to authorise this computer for this account – say yes
  8. Search for apps your friend/family member has already purchased
  9. The button for the app will say DOWNLOAD instead of showing a price – click this and the app will be downloaded to your iTunes at no additional cost
  10. When you sync your device the new apps will be copied over
  11. To get back to your account log out of the other person’s, log back in as yourself and continue using the iTunes store as normal

The only trick with multiple accounts is you can only update apps for the account you are currently logged into. You can do this from your iPhone but I find the easiest way is via iTunes:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Go to Apps (the number displayed next to this will be the total number of app updates are available for regardless of which account they came from)
  3. Click “# Updates Available” in the lower right corner
  4. Click “Download All Free Updates” – this will only download the updates available for the apps you downloaded from the account you are currently logged into in the iTunes store
  5. Go to the iTunes Store
  6. Log out of that account, log into the next one (so if one of the accounts is a friend’s and they don’t trust you with their password – as anyone probably shouldn’t! – then your friend will need to log in for you each time you want to download updates for apps from their account)
  7. Go back to Apps > # Updates Available
  8. Click “Download All Free Updates”
  9. Repeat steps 5-8 until all apps from all accounts are up to date
  10. Resync iTunes with your device

It may seem a bit convoluted at first but once you get used to it it’s not so bad. Enjoy!