Following a flurry of media coverage highlighting battery life complaints for Apple’s 2016 MacBook Pros, we’ve learned an internal investigation by the company has determined there isn’t a hardware flaw to address with the new machines. Instead, Apple is today removing inaccurate “time remaining” battery life estimates from macOS, a move that it hopes will address concerns among users.
There has been a lot of confusion over battery life estimates on the new 2016 MacBook Pros. Some were reporting estimates lower than expected via the macOS battery life status menu which offered an on the fly prediction of remaining juice, but there was a clear misunderstanding about how the feature worked.
Apple didn’t have a ton of public information about how the battery life estimations were calculated, but we’ve talked to those in the know to get the scoop on why they’ve decided to remove it entirely following the MacBook Pro battery life concerns.
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Our understanding is the reason is due to how the latest low-power processors work when switching between various tasks. The inaccurate ‘time remaining’ predictions were unable to keep up with or provide accurate information for users on the newest machines. Apple investigated the battery life complaints extensively over the last couple of weeks and came to the conclusion that batteries in the new MacBook Pros are behaving as expected, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
It’s not necessarily just an issue for the 2016 MacBook Pros, however, but the problem with the inaccurate time remaining estimates in the battery status menu was amplified by the latest processors used in the machines. Modern processors in Apple’s latest MacBooks resulted in the battery life status menu having a hard time keeping up with the CPU when switching between low-power and high-performance modes, which often meant erratic and unreliable predictions.
Features that rely on iCloud syncing in macOS Sierra were other reasons why many new MacBook Pro users were experiencing frustration with battery life on the machines, according to sources familiar with Apple’s thinking.
These include features like Optimized Storage and Spotlight indexing, while other features like facial recognition in Photos can also put a ton of strain on battery when indexing large photo collections. iCloud syncing kicks into overdrive when you first set up a new Mac, especially for users with lots of data, attempting to sync all of your iCloud data in the background when you first start using the machine. Many users didn’t realize this was happening and that it greatly affects battery life initially. It would often take several days for battery life and estimates to normalize with little to no warning to the user. For that reason, many users will likely notice battery life dramatically improving after initial syncing and setup is complete.
Apple clearly thinks the ‘time remaining’ estimates were causing more harm than good for users, so the new battery life status menu will now instead only show a percentage of remaining battery life, like on iOS devices, which should offer an accurate prediction. The change will be introduced for all in today’s macOS update.
Apple’s ‘up to 10 hour’ battery life claims for the machine are, of course, based on a specific setup and machine configuration, so your mileage, as has always been the case with notebooks, will vary greatly depending on what apps you are using and how hard you are pushing the hardware. We were able to get a respectable 8 hours on the machine we tested.
Apple’s release of macOS 10.12.2 today also includes new emoji, wallpapers, as well as fixes for graphics, Auto Unlock with Apple Watch, and more.