Samsung/Google Nexus S Battery and Processor Drain Issue

This turned out to be very long post, go here if you just care for the summary, not the details!

Recently, I obtained my new (company) phone, Google Nexus S. I was very excited, because all reviews, statistics, etc. showed that it must be great, full with newest OS and functionalities device. I got the phone from DeliveryShop, who delivered it to me directly from USA’s BestBuy shops.

The first days I was quite happy pal, I had great, new toy to play with and I had not seen any issues so far. I loaded the phone with many apps, and it was behaving more than satisfactory. Plus, the device is very slick, with nice black, curved design. Very, very nice looking.

After few days with the phone I noticed the first issue: my contacts suddently became very slow to search through. It was taking literally 5-10 seconds after I type the name to get the first (not so narrow) results, and another 5-10 seconds to see actually what I was looking for. It seemed I was not alone: the same issue “My nexus S runs out of battery real fast and slows down on contact search” you can read at the Google Mobile forums (and more than once, actually). I was very astonished why this happens, I was also quite irritated. Come on, they’ve got to be kidding me to wait for more than 10 seconds for search! And on a phone, coming from the considered to be top SEARCH company in the world!

Two days later, however, I had more issues to worry about! My phone battery was draining like crazy. Imagine this scenario: I unplug my phone at 98-100% at 07:30, then I travel to work. When I sit on my desk at 08:15 (45 min later), my battery is at 88-90%. I.e., 10% for 45 minutes. Isn’t that just great?

The contacts issue was bad, but at leats bearable (to a degree). This second thing, however, seemed ridiculous! 4 hours battery live for top-notch 2011 model phone is just a big no-no! And I mean – BIG no-no!

The only thing I could research during the week was the phone’s battery report statistics. I saw that the app, which was draining the battery, was… “Android OS”. Great, isn’t it? And the phone tools so far (the system built-in tool and Processor Monitor Widget) did not give me any more information past that. And just “Android OS” using processor at 100% was not good and detailed enough information to me. I needed to know what’s exactly there, but I had no time to research the issue during the week (I noticed the problem Tuesday).
Additionally (and of course), the phone was getting quite warm. It was good, if I needed ellectrical pillow, but since this was just a phone, it was not good at all. The device was getting very warm just above the “Google(tm)” sign, where the camera was placed.

Three days later, however, my irritation was beyound any imagination. I had to constantly seek power source when I was not on a go. And even then, the phone seemed not to be able to charge well via USB: the battery drain was bigger than the USB charge current in most of the cases, so while connected to USB, the phone just… discharged itself slower! But still discharged! During these two days I ended my working day one time with 8% charge, and another time with just 5% charge. No-no!

So I decided that I have no other choice but to start researching the issue. I could not find better analytics app at that time, so Friday afternoon I just did factory reset of my device, paired it to brand new Google account, dedicated to the phone, and installed the minimum set of applications I needed.

Apart from that, I also installed one of the recommended analysis tools: OSMonitor seemed quite good choice. After I installed it, it showed (on the factory reset phone) that the processor usage is normal. OSMonitor also supported notification icon with the current processor usage, similar to the Windows applications Process Explorer or Task Manager. Which was also good, because just with the power button and lighting my screen I could check if the processor is being drained.

After Friday reset all seemed OK, until… this morning (Sunday morning). I woke up just to find out that the processor is again at 100%, my contacts are slow than hell, the phone is sluggish (what you’d expect from computer with 100% idle time going to some app?) and the battery is being graciously drained. This time I was furious! However, this time I also had the right tool installed!

OSMonitor showed that the processor is being busy with the “init” process. If you’re curious what this process is, Wikipeia has very good article about the “init” process. XDA-Developers confirmed my opinion that by no means the “init” process should constantly be at 90-100% processor usage, so I had my main suspect!

Although I had the suspect, it seemed invulnerable. Killing the process immediately brought it back (which is normal for the *nix architecture), again at 90-100%, hungrier for power and battery than ever. Reboot of the device, however, seemed to resolve the issue. Further digging in the XDA forums showed me that some users actually used this technique to “resolve” their problem, other users just returned the device to BestBuy.

The “resolution” did not work for me, neither did the BestBuy return (although I’m almost sure that if I insist, DeliveryShop would assist me with the return and getting new device). But I did not want that, so I continued my search.

My searches immediately pointed me to the Google Code Issue 13130: The process “/ INIT” uses between 70% to 98% CPU. Although having its root from HTC Legend Froyo devices (Nexus S is with Gingerbread), the issue seemed the same like what I was experiencing. In the discusion there people suggested to turn on USB Debugging option (found at Settings => Applications => Development). Somehow this option mitigated the problem (at least to the major amount of people complaining). My option was not switched on, so I did switch it on.

During my searches I also found information that “Google are aware of this issue, but we’re still waiting for the patch”. Well, daaah! I hope they’re fast enough.

I also found one quite interesting speculation about the possible root cause of the issue: in (archived) Google Nexus One Support Forum they’re connecting the init processor usage with pending alarms. I.e., if you have pending alarm set (which I did not had Friday evening and my phone was OK Saturday morning), then the issue does not arise. If you have any pending alarms set (which I had Saturday evening), then you have quite good chance to see the 100% processor usage on the next morning (which I did see this morning, although my alarm was for Monday). So in case the USB Debugging does not resolve my issue, it seems I have still one shot left: to switch to another “alarm application” rather than the included with the phone. But again, this is just a speculation (but still worth checking).

I hope very much that at least one of the workarounds works for me. I will really hate if I have to return my nice Nexus S phone. I really love the phone and I’ll really miss it!

To Summarize

The issue manifestates with Froyo and later based phones (Samsung/Google Nexus S, HTC Legend) with the following symptoms:

  • The phone discharges its battery very quick, approximately for 4-6 hours in my case
  • The phone gets significantly hot and stays hot.
  • The phone contacts search (or any other activity, which counts on idle processor time) is slowed down a lot

The issue has no official hotfix from Google at the present moment (Feb 20th 2011).

You can try one of the following workarounds:

  • Switch on “USB Debugging”, which you can find at “Settings” => “Applications” => “Development”. This is used for development purposes mainly, but mitigates the issue for most of the people.
  • If you use standard built-in Clock alarms, you must delete them all (turning off might not work!) and use different alarms software.

At the moment I’m trying the “USB Debugging” option only. Will keep you posted (if I have nerve and time) about how it’s going.

But at the moment I can only say (ironically): “Good job, Google”! It was more than five years since I had to spend almost full day trying to fix an issue, which I should not find at all in a high-class device like your Nexus S! By the way, when my wife saw what I was doing, the only thing she cared for was: “No matter how this turns, you will NOT get back from me my phone, right?” (she’s using my Windows 7 Phone, HTC 7 Trophy).

Image (cc) rakh1

17 thoughts on “Samsung/Google Nexus S Battery and Processor Drain Issue

  1. I just know where the problem is, but… you will accuse me of being a hater… You just have too much contacts with microsoft.com in your Address book 😉

    Joking! Just joking 🙂

    But why don’t you try some custom ROM. You have developer phone in your hands, try something, use your freedom. I can’t wait to try cyanogenmod.com for example, but I have to wait for my Nexus S to arrive… till the middle of March…

  2. @yovko: So glad to hear that you ordered also Nexus S 🙂 ! I hope you do not suffer from this bug.

    Regarding custom ROM, I’d like to keep the stock ROM at least for a week, to see if the workaround will work as expected (USB Debugging workaround). After that I will most probably put stable Cyanogen.

    About my contacts, it should *not* be that bad, I’ve got a lot of Linux guys contacts as well (you including :)), so this balances the tree (to a degree). You know, balance is everything for a Libra…

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  4. Hello Doncho,

    Mind that the stable Cyanogen (6.1.1) is Froyo based.

    I’m using Nexus One with CyanogenMod 7.0.0-RC1 (which is based on Gingerbread), and didn’t notice anything like the issues you describe.

  5. @Nickola: You’re absolutely right, I should put there “current RC Cyanogen”. But who knows, maybe until I decide, it’ll be stable for Gingerbread too 🙂

  6. I’m also having this problem. Phone is completely dead after 10-12 hours with medium use, no wifi, no GPS odd web page and a few minutes on the phone. I thought it was because it was new. But its been a week and hasn’t improved. Using OS monitor I have spotted unit at 90% a couple times now. I haven’t got anything to add but just wanted to let you know your not alone.

  7. I’m having the same problems. I don’t know what to do. I might just sell the phone. I have a desire HD as well. Think I’ll switch to that and see if there are still issues.

  8. P.S. Mine is the limited development edition. What a shame. Personally, I blame Samsung. My screen usage is like 36% battery on 56 minutes used with lowest brightness. But I also have the issues with 100% cpu. Seems the alarm software was causing mine.

  9. Hi…. I had tha same problem… my battery drain faster…. \init\ always 70/90%…. BUT…. after upgraded to gingerbread WOWWWWWWWWWWWWW
    I ‘ve used my Nexy for 1 day and 12 hours, always 3G connections, with app updating, 3 hour of talking, about 30 SMS, internet….
    and \INIT\ … go away 😀 😀 😀

  10. Removing all the alarms did the trick for me… Who knows what might be happening under the hood…

  11. After I upgraded to 2.3.3, all went smooth! No issue so far, I’m enjoying my Google Nexus S to the maximum extent.

    Still pending Cyanomod though 🙂 …

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  13. Whoa, I never would have made the connection with the alarm. Today my phone lasted for 6 hours and I was stranded without a cable. I’d expected at least 10 hours. I did just set alarms for this entire week.

    Thanks for all the research.

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