2G Network Shutdown Brings AT&T iPhone Woes

Over the past week or so I've noticed that my iPhone battery has a lower charge than usual at the end of the day. I typically end the day between 30% and 40%, but recently it's been more like 10% to 20%. Noticing a pattern, I looked at my iPhone's battery usage breakdown, and I was a little surprised by what I saw at the top of the list:

iPhone No Cell Coverage.png

"No Cell Coverage" tops the list of my iPhone's biggest battery drainers, responsible for depleting a whopping 34% of my iPhone's seven-day collective charge. I've spent the majority of my time in my apartment over the past seven days. Although my apartment has virtually no cellular service whatsoever, it's not usually an issue for me due to AT&T's excellent Wi-Fi Calling support.

I've had AT&T service on my iPhone and iPad for about 6 months now, and I'd say that during that time my devices show one bar of "EDGE" service about 50% of the time, and "No Service" 50% of the time. But in the past couple of weeks, I've noticed that my devices now show one bar of "LTE" about 5% of the time, and "No Service" about 95% of the time. 

The final piece of this puzzle came from a blog post on AT&T's site [via Engadget]. In it, AT&T announces that they shut down their 2G EDGE network on January 1st, 2017. The timing matches up with the start of my battery issues.

From my experience and the AT&T blog post, I gather that because AT&T shut down their 2G EDGE network on January 1st, my iPhone is no longer able to connect to a weak EDGE signal inside my apartment. Now granted, this weak EDGE signal wasn't useable for data transfer at all. But it was enough to keep my iPhone from performing the battery-intensive process of searching for a cellular signal. Now that the 2G EDGE network is gone, my iPhone is left wasting battery trying to connect to a 3G or LTE signal. 

Aside from AT&T building out their network (hurry up and bring us 5G!), the only other reasonable solution would be for Apple to improve their cellular network searching algorithm. Clearly there is some logic going on behind the scenes: the iPhone shows "No Service" (as opposed to "Searching...") much of the time when cellular service is unavailable. But it's clear to me that it's not as optimized as it could be.

Sometimes, my iPhone doesn't search for service aggressively enough. For example, when I start driving, it sometimes takes multiple minutes before my iPhone switches away from "No Service" and searches for a cell signal. But other times, my iPhone searches too aggressively. When I'm in my home, it's clearly spending some time looking for a cell signal (hence my battery life issues). But in my home I'm connected to Wi-Fi Calling, so a cellular signal isn't necessary. If my iPhone has a strong Wi-Fi connection and is connected to Wi-Fi Calling, it should cease to look for a cell signal until the Wi-Fi connection degrades or is lost. That small step alone would go a long way toward resolving my battery life issues.

I haven't seen much online about this issue. Is anyone else with weak AT&T service in their home experiencing worse battery life in 2017? Let me know on Twitter @joeduvall4

Update (January 26, 2017): After two calls into AT&T and a visit to an AT&T store, I was offered a free AT&T MicroCell. While it's not the most ideal solution, it should at least solve my problem until AT&T's network improves or I move to a new apartment. If anyone else is experiencing this issue, I'd suggest calling AT&T technical support.