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Issue #682: August 16-22, 2020

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Q: Interesting article on location services (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. #680a – Special to ION Magazine, August 2020). Thanks. Might want to write about how Siri is sucking batteries dry. It is also spying on us. I turned Siri off in each app and iCloud and it pretty much resolved the issue. Although today I looked and Siri represented 60% of battery usage even though I have not used Siri in days.

 – Herman R.
City Withheld

A:  You’ve got it, Herman! I’d be happy to offer some commentary on the relationship between Siri and battery usage.  For the rest of you, if you missed the article to which Herman is referring, I can only assume that you don’t receive ION Magazine – a special monthly insert to most Gannett news publications.  Fear not!  Like all issues of It’s Geek To Me, you can always find it in the column archives on my website.  The site is, of course, free.  You can read current and past articles, and ask questions of your own.  But there’s lots of good stuff in ION besides It’s Geek To Me, so check it out if you have the chance.

Herman, you are absolutely correct about Siri causing your device to burn through its battery faster.  The main cause of this is the feature that allows you to say “Hey Siri” and give a command or ask a question without ever having to touch your phone.  For this to work, it means the device is constantly listening to the audio picked up via its microphone.  From the perspective of the phone this consists of using its computer processors to digitize the audio.  It then uses further computer power to analyze the audio to “listen” for the phrase “Hey Siri.”  While the amount of power used by this process is relatively small, performing it constantly every second of the day and night adds up to a lot of power over time.

Besides the “Hey Siri” function, if you take the time to look at the individual app settings within your phone’s setup, you’ll find that Siri is deeply integrated into your phone’s operation.  Drill down into the settings of just about any app, and you’ll find an entry labeled “Siri & Search.”  Going one step farther, you’ll find that unless you take positive steps to stop it, Siri spends a lot of time watching what you do in your various apps.  Herman calls it “spying” while Apple calls it “learning”.  You can decide for yourself, but however you feel about Siri watching as you use your phone, as long as you allow Siri to do this, whenever you’re interacting with your device Siri is also hard at work.  This causes her to use more computing power, which naturally uses more of your phone’s battery.

There is no single place you can go in your settings to disable this – it must be separately controlled for each app (thanks, Steve).  Depending on how many apps you have loaded, configuring this could take a while.  Fortunately, it only has to be done once.  If you decide to try this, I’d be interested in hearing some feedback on whether you think it improved your battery life, and by how much.  If at least a few people respond, I’ll report the results here.  Meanwhile, don’t forget that I’m actively seeking new reader questions for the column.  So, hop on over to ItsGeekToMe.co (not .com!) and click on the “Submit a Question” link. 

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