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10 ways to boost your smartphone's battery life

Robert Strohmeyer | June 6, 2011
These simple tips, tricks, and apps will help keep your mobile juiced up and ready for action.

For all of their power and versatility, smartphones--even the best of them--are cursed with abysmal battery life. Unless you use your phone very sparingly (and who does that?), you're lucky to make it home at the end of the day with enough juice left in the battery for one more call. But with the right apps and a little insight, you can double your smartphone's battery life--and work (and play) longer than ever before.


Though some phones live a little longer than others on a single charge, all smartphones suffer from the same basic problem: They do too much. Any 3.7-volt battery small enough to fit into your phone's tiny chassis stands no chance of lasting multiple days under a steady workload of running apps, browsing the Web, sending e-mail, and doing whatever else phones are expected to do. (Oh yeah, making calls.)

Most smartphone batteries today are rated at around 5 watt-hours, meaning that they can deliver a constant charge of 1 watt to the device over a period of 5 hours. If your phone actually uses 1 watt per hour, and you pull it off the charger at 7:00 a.m., you can expect it to be dead by lunchtime. So the key to increasing your phone's battery life is to reduce the amount of power the handset uses per hour.

One obvious way to reduce your phone's energy draw is to use it less (yeah, right). A more practical approach is to manage the phone's power consumption by turning off unneeded features and turning down adjustable features. Turning off your phone's radios when you're not using them, reducing the screen's brightness, and killing apps that run in the background are among the tricks that can help your phone's battery last longer. They and other tricks and apps will help extend your phone's overall workday by reducing its moment-to-moment energy requirements.

1. Dim the Screen

You love your smartphone's large, colorful display, but it's the battery's mortal enemy. More than any other component of your phone, the display consumes battery life at a devastating pace. Most phones include an auto-brightness feature that automatically adjusts the screen's brightness to suit ambient lighting levels and system activity. This mode uses less power than constantly running your screen at full brightness would, of course, but you'll get even better results by turning your screen's brightness down to the lowest setting that you can tolerate and leaving it there. Even if you do nothing else suggested in this guide, following this one tip will extend the life of your battery dramatically.

2. Keep the Screen Timeout Short

Under your phone's display settings menu, you should find an option labeled 'Screen Timeout' or something similar. This setting controls how long your phone's screen stays lit after receiving input, such as a tap. Every second counts here, so set your timeout to the shortest available time. On most Android phones, the minimum is 15 seconds. If your screen timeout is currently set to 2 minutes, consider reducing that figure to 30 seconds or less.

3. Turn Off Bluetooth

No matter now much you love using Bluetooth in the car or with your hands-free headset, the extra radio is constantly listening for signals from the outside world. When you aren't in your car, or when you aren't expecting a call that you'll want to take via a headset, turn off the Bluetooth radio. (Besides, walking around with a Bluetooth headset in your ear when you're not actually on a call doesn't do anything positive for your street cred anyway.) By turning off Bluetooth when you're not using it, you can add an hour or more to your phone's battery life.

4. Turn Off Wi-Fi When Not In Use

As with Bluetooth, your phone's Wi-Fi radio is a serious battery drainer. While you almost certainly should prefer the improved speed of your home or office Wi-Fi connection to your mobile carrier's wireless broadband for data services, there's no point in leaving the Wi-Fi radio on when you're out and about. Toggle it off when you go out the door, and turn it back on only when you plan to use data services within range of your Wi-Fi network. Android users can add the Wi-Fi toggle widget to their home screen to make this a one-tap process.

5. Go Easy on the GPS

Another big battery sucker is your phone's GPS unit, which is a little radio that sends and receives signals to and from satellites to triangulate your phone's location on the Earth's surface. Various apps access your phone's GPS to provide services ranging from finding nearby restaurants to checking you in on social networks. As a user, you can revoke these apps' access to your phone's GPS. When you install them, many apps will ask you for permission to use your location. When in doubt, say no. (And if a game, screensaver, or wallpaper app asks for your location, you should be suspicious about why it wants that data in the first place.)

6. Kill Extraneous Apps

Multitasking--the ability to run more than one app at a time--is a powerful smartphone feature. It also burns a lot of energy, because every app you run uses a share of your phone's processor cycles. By killing apps that you aren't actually using, you can drastically reduce your CPU's workload and cut down on its power consumption. For Android phones--which are notorious battery hogs due to their wide-open multitasking capabilities--we like an app called Advanced Task Killer, which has an auto-kill feature that polices your apps throughout the day. In iOS, double-tap the Home button until the multitasking tray appears, hold an icon until an X appears, and tap the X to close the app.

 

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