All iPads If you have a cellular iPad: TURN OFF your cellular radio when it's not in use

mossme89

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jul 2, 2009
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I've had both the wifi only and cellular model iPad 2017 along with a bunch of other iPads before that.

But anyway, some quick backstory. I noticed a significant battery life decrease when going from a wifi-only iPad to a cellular iPad. I realized that even when I was on wifi, having the cellular radio on decreased battery life. In theory, Apple should shutdown the mobile radio during extended standby times (like overnight), but they don't. So recently, when I've been using my iPad at home on wifi, I've been turning off my cellular radio. To do this, I turn on airplane mode, which will disable everything, then turn on wifi. That's it. Battery life has significantly improved, especially with standby drain.

So to clarify, the cellular radio STILL draws noticeable power even when on standby & connected to wifi. Shut it off. Your battery will thank you. I can't believe I didn't figure this out until recently.
 

JustinRP37

macrumors regular
Jun 14, 2016
189
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New York, NY
You should know this would be the case. WiFi you are only transmitting to a WiFi access point. With cellular turned on, you are transmitting to a local tower, which will still be further away than your WiFi. It is the same reason your iPhone will charge faster in airplane mode. In areas of strong coverage, I only notice maybe 5-10% addition battery being consumed. In areas with 1 dot it can be more. Bottom line I think most people are aware cellular uses more battery power than WiFi. Also note that if your carrier supports WiFi calling and you are in an area with strong WiFi but weak signal, then use airplane mode plus WiFi to save a ton of battery.
 

T'hain Esh Kelch

macrumors 603
Aug 5, 2001
5,065
4,349
Denmark
In theory, Apple should shutdown the mobile radio during extended standby times (like overnight), but they don't.

No. Just because that's how you want it, does not necessarily mean that everyone wants it like that. If it turned off the cellular connection, then it would take an extended time for the iPad to gain network access every time the user needed it, which would impact user experience.
 

bensisko

macrumors 65816
Jul 24, 2002
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The Village
I've had Cellular iPads since the iPad 2 and I've never noticed a significant battery drain due to cellular (unless I'm in an area without LTE, but even then it doesn't seem significant enough for me to turn it off). In fact, if I leave the house in the morning with a fully charged iPad Pro and never use it during the day (cellular is always on), I'll notice the battery level is barely touched. Sometimes, with the Mini (which also has cellular) it may be three or four days of non-use before I decide to top it off (the battery might have drained down to the low 90s).

Personally, I think Apple Pencil use drains the battery quicker than cellular.
 

joeblow7777

macrumors 603
Sep 7, 2010
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How much it drains the battery really depends on the strength of the cellular signal available. In other words, how hard the device has to work to connect to it. The same goes for phones. At home where I have a strong signal, I don't even bother to plug in my phone over night as it only loses 0-1% in 7-8 hours of standby. In my office at work where the cell signal is really weak and my phone struggles to maintain a connection, if I don't put my phone in airplane mode with wifi enabled, it can lose 20% in that same 7-8 hours of standby.
 
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ApfelKuchen

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Aug 28, 2012
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Between the coasts
iPhones (and cellular iPads) are designed to maintain an internet connection whenever possible. They'll favor wifi if a connection is available, but if the wifi connection is poor/intermittent, the cellular will reconnect until the device can reconnect to wifi. As noted, cellular requires more power than wifi.

Check your Settings > Cellular for Wi-Fi Assist - if it's on, you'll probably prefer to turn it off.

In theory, Apple should shutdown the mobile radio during extended standby times (like overnight), but they don't.
Push notifications, messaging and email, location services, background app updates, etc. do take place when the things are locked/asleep, even for extended periods like overnight. While you may be fine being incommunicado at those times, not everyone will be.

While it's certainly possible to program the sleep mode to shut off the cellular radio when you're in Do Not Disturb mode, I'm not sure it'd be a good design decision to shut off the cellular radio simply because the iPad is stationary and in sleep mode for a certain period of time (even if that's during traditional "overnight" hours). My iPad is often in that state during my waking hours, and due to my schedule, my "overnight" is variable and non-traditional. Would I want my iPad to "decide" when I'm asleep? Not unless I have input into that decision.

Further, I'd expect that most people connect to charger overnight, especially since that's when automatic iCloud backups normally take place (and being connected to charger is a requirement for automatic backups). Your battery-conserving mode should probably also be conditional on whether the iPad is connected to charger - no need to restrict communications when battery life is not an issue. There's no reason it couldn't be conditional; I'm just pointing out that simple solutions tend to become far more complex when you consider circumstances other than your own.
 

rui no onna

macrumors 604
Oct 25, 2013
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One of the reasons I opted for a cellular iPad is the always on connection and GPS (particularly useful for Find My iPhone). Personally, I don't notice a significant difference in battery life between cellular and wifi modes to lose the peace of mind by potentially disabling location services worth it.
 

Freakonomics101

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Nov 6, 2014
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With very little to no use during the day, my Pro 9.7 Cellular will still be at 100% at the end of the day. I have no issues whatsoever with battery life with the cellular radio turned on while being connected to Wi-Fi. It's rather impressive.
 

bensisko

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Jul 24, 2002
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It's rather impressive.
Especially if you own tablets or devices from other companies. Owning two Samsung tablets and a Samsung phone (purchased for work) makes me really value the batteries of my Apple products. My Samsung devices will drain as a matter of course. If I fully charge an iPad Mini and my Samsung, and let them sit for 8 hours (wifi, no cellular), the battery on the Samsung drains to 85% while the Mini is barely touched.
 
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millydog

macrumors 6502
Oct 21, 2007
385
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Australia
I imagine that there could be a slight difference in battery usage. I use LTE iPads with always on LTE and don't have an issue though. One time, battery life was an issue for me after a restore when I imagine the iPad was reindexing files in the background. So maybe that was a possibility. I've also resolved battery drain issues after a restore or upgrade by resetting network settings. You could try that to see if it helps perhaps.
 
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Southern Dad

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May 23, 2010
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Shady Dale, Georgia
I'm a heavy user of my iPad Pro 12.9" 128 GB AT&T. I've seen others that turn off cellular, dim the display, etc. to try and conserve battery life. I bought this thing with the intention of being able to use and abuse it. I truly love my iPad and use it constantly. I charge with the 29 watt Apple USB-C charger each night. During the day, if at my desk, I'll plug into a 12 watt Apple USB to Lightning Charger. In my car, my iPad plugs in to take advantage of Apple CarPlay. But that said, I've made it all day without using these things, these just keep me at a higher rate of charge.

If traveling somewhere like Walt Disney World, I'll carry a charging block or two to top off during the day. I should also note that I have the AT&T Unlimited Data Plan and rarely use WiFi.
 
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