ICE Cream Sandwich battery screen

By now you've heard a lot of scuttlebutt about the Ice Cream Sandwich battery bug, and how it's affected the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus.  Or not.  Either way, we've heard it, too.  Since we happen to have several of each phones possibly affected, I decided to do a little independent research of my own.  Tested were:

  • 1 Samsung Nexus S (T-Mobile) with the official 4.0.3 update
  • 1 Samsung Nexus S (T-Mobile) with Android 4.0.3_r1 built from source
  • 1 Samsung Nexus S 4G with the official GSM update ported over
  • 1 GSM Galaxy Nexus
  • 2 Verizon LTE Galaxy Nexii

Hit the break for an explanation of what the bug is supposed to be, and the results of our testing.

The Bug

Android OS

Many people think that some issue in the kernel or the code is keeping the phones awake when it should be asleep.  When your phone's screen goes dim, when it's not actively doing something like syncing, it should idle and use very little power.  Based on a number found in the battery settings (open the battery stats and choose Android OS from the list, and check the "Keep awake time") folks think something's amiss, and the phone just won't sleep.  As a first-generation HTC Hero user, I know all about phones that won't sleep.

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There's something to be learned here, even if you ignore any possible bug -- the percentage you see next to what's using your battery doesn't mean what most people think it means.  Think of it as a pie chart, where the entries have to add up to 100 percent.  Even if you've only used 5 percent of your battery, something has used 100 percent of that 5 percent.  Confused yet?  A perfect situation, where a phone is in airplane mode in your sock drawer will have phone idle using 100 percent of the battery.  That's not going to happen, but it helps understand how the battery statistics work.  Just remember, no matter how much or how little your battery has been used, something(s) used all of that juice.  They are reported as having used it.

Our results

It's not that we don't trust second- and third-hand information from the Internet, but we don't trust second- or third-hand information from the Internet if we can verify it ourselves.  The results were interesting. 

Android Central

None of the Nexus S devices tested had any abnormal battery drain, nor did they have a large awake time from the Android OS.  It made no difference if it was the stock OTA, an AOSP build, or even a hacked GSM build on a CDMA/Wimax version.  An interesting aside: An AOSP build seems to have better battery life than the stock OTA update, but I digress.

Android Central

The GSM Galaxy Nexus also showed no signs of this bug.  With 17 hours of uptime, it was showing that the Android OS had used 22 percent of the total battery used, keeping the phone awake a little over three hours total.  That means the phone slept about 14 hours, and all is well.

Android Central

Of the two LTE Galaxy Nexii tested, one seemed fine.  About 12-14 hours of idle uptime, and 39 minutes awake time from "Android OS".  The other, however, had 7 hours of uptime, and 5 hours of awake time from "Android OS" listed in the battery statistics. 

Houston, we have a problem.

At first we guessed that in the case of the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, it may have something to do with freezing or removing Verizon's apps from the system.  They certainly affect the way the Android Market sees your phone, so it was possible that they did something else we didn't know or understand.  The Verizon Nexus without problems had the My Verizon app disabled, the Nexus with the problem had it running.  Don't go jumping the gun just yet, that's been ruled out after freezing it on the phone with the bug -- no difference.  Honestly, it seems like nothing we did made any difference.  Two identical phones, both running bone-stock Android 4.0.2, one has the issue and one doesn't. 

Since it's obvious there is a bug, and it's of the worst kind -- not reproducible every time -- we assume Google is doing something about it, as Paul Wilcox, Google Community Manager has this to say:

If you received an update notification a little while ago but the update isn't currently available for your phone, this is likely the result of Google pausing the update in your area while we monitor feedback. The Android 4.0 update is continuing to roll out around the world so your phone will receive another update notification when it's available again in your region.

All we know for sure is that the people seeing the issue probably really do see an issue, and have brought it to Google's attention.  Wilcox says pretty clearly there that "The Android 4.0 update is continuing to roll out around the world ..." Passed over for some, rolling out for others. But halted?

Regardless, independent developers are hard at work building their own kernel fixes, and you'll find those at the usual places, but we can't say for sure that this is the solution.  We just have to hang tight and wait for the fix, which we hope comes as quick as the EDGE-volume bug did.

4G signal wonkiness, or not

And about those LTE network signal bugs?  There are none.  Read this: Anandtech.  Those guys are real nerds and broke it down.  We can't say anything they haven't, and we're smart enough not to try.

More: Google support