Smartphones, not-so-smart batteries
- Tuesday, 10 September 2013 07:48
What’s with smartphone batteries? Poor battery life continues to be the bane of smartphone users. Manufacturers have gotten smarter about using energy-sipping processors and more efficient screens, yet batteries continue to be an achilles heel. In fact, JD Power’s customer survey found that poor battery life has the biggest impact on consumer satisfaction with 4G phones. Regrettably, battery technology continues to drag behind the advances in so many other electronics. We find ourselves stuck with finding ways of making the best of these technological laggards. So we’ve put together some tips for saving smartphone battery life that will see you through the day….or two.
Basic battery saving tips or “turn it off”
Obviously, the top battery saving tip for your smartphone is to turn it off. If you’re in a dead zone, or you need to conserve some battery for later, then you should definitely just turn it off. All of the basic battery saving tips you’ll ever see for smartphones are related to this idea. Maybe you can’t (or don’t want to) turn the device off. In that case, you should turn off some of the functions.
Some of these energy-saving measures include turning off your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, or other connections when you aren’t using them. Don’t allow push notifications for email updates. Don’t connect to a 4G LTE network when 3G will do. You can also turn your screen brightness and volume down. Turn vibrations off. Don’t use widgets or animated wallpapers.
This isn’t as hard as it sounds. A lot of people never switch from defaults, even if they find them annoying, but they really should. Turning off vibration and sound feedback for typing is a good example. You may also find that you don’t really need to know every time a vague acquaintance posts something on Facebook or in a Google+ group that you’re part of. A lot of apps have push notifications on by default and they eat a huge amount of battery juice. They can also constantly distract you with inconsequential nonsense. Location tracking is another feature that is often left on, even although the smartphone owner is not using it. Watch out for apps that want to know your location. If you’re not actually using the smartphone for navigation right now, then there’s very little benefit to allowing location tracking.
It doesn’t have to be a major chore. Many smartphones come with quick settings menus that allow you to turn off features with a tap when you don’t need them. If yours does not give you that flexibility then you can download an app that offers this functionality. Windows phones actually has a built-in Battery saver feature which you’ll find in Settings. But you can various battery saving apps on all the major platforms. Some of the best options can help you identify what is eating your battery and allow you to save juice without having to dig into individual features and do a lot of manual tweaking. I’ve used Juice Defender and Go Power Master. They are free and you can choose preset profiles to reduce your mobile device’s power consumption
Managing your screen
As smartphone screens get bigger, the display is responsible for eating more and more of the battery life. On Android you can go into Settings > Battery, or Settings > About phone > Battery use and see exactly what ate your battery. Invariably, your screen will be top of the list. We’ve already mentioned reducing the brightness level; that will have an impact. You can also decrease the screen timeout. Try to make it as low as you possibly can before you find it terribly frustrating that your screen keeps turning itself off. If you have an AMOLED screen, then you can save battery by using a dark background. The technology turns off pixels when they are black, so if you have predominantly black wallpaper, then you can actually save a lot of juice.
Advanced tips for saving juice
Keep your apps up to date. Developers often release updates for apps and games that offer improved optimization and this can have a big impact on battery life. If you discover a battery hog, then consider removing it. Don’t use task killer apps. Also keep your smartphone as cool as possible. Sitting in direct sunlight on the dashboard of your car will actually drain the battery faster.
Different batteries respond to different charging schedules and they will all eventually degrade. Most smartphones have lithium-ion batteries in them. One thing that many people do which can degrade the battery’s health is to leave it plugged in after it is fully charged. If you’re going to charge your phone overnight, then try to use a charger that shuts off once the battery is full. It’s also best not to let your battery fully discharge too often. Once a month is handy to ensure that calibration is correct (so your phone can tell you accurately how much battery life is left), but in general you want to charge it before it drops too low.
For now, consumers are going to have to attend to the care and feeding of our infant battery technology. Hopefully, in the coming years, the battery industry will make the kinds of advances for which the world has been patiently awaiting.