This doesn’t have to be just about phones; I adore Grace (my Samsung Galaxy S3 who is starting to get a teensy bit nervous about all the fanfare around the S4), but I also have an Asus Transformer tablet. I am happiest with both devices when they actually have charge so I can use them.
With the advancements in Android, there are cooler and cooler things you can do with your phone, from using your flash as a flashlight to turning your phone into a mobile hotspot. Doing these cool things–actively, like the flashlight or hotspot, or passively, like screen brightness or automatic account syncing–drains the battery of your Android device. Today’s post is about how to be aware of these potential drains, and some potential tips and tricks to get more life out of the mobile devices on which we store our lives.
Screen brightness: Basically, the brighter the screen, the more charge it eats up. The dimmer the screen, the less charge. Dim is usually less good for being able to see things, and bright is usually better for such things. However, using your phone in the shadow of tree or building can manage a lot of the affects of a dimmer display in full sunlight, and you often have the option to simply turn down the ambient lighting inside so you can use less charge and still see (and enjoy) your phone. To alter the brightness of your phone, you’ll go into Settings -> Display -> Brightness.
Screen Time Out: The longer your screen is on the more energy you use. Further, the longer the screen is on, the more likely you are to pocket-dial someone accidentally. Set the screen time out to a minute or less to get optimal energy consumption and to protect your friends (and potentially co-workers) from accidental calls, etc. To do this, go to Settings -> Display and set the screen time out there. I recommend doing this in concert with setting the Lock Screen “lock automatically” option (Settings -> Lock Screen -> Lock automatically), so that your phone is secure in the event if falls out of your pocket or gets left behind somewhere.
Wifi: Its not actually being connected to Wifi that eats up the most battery (although, like any function on the phone it eats up some). It’s the constant scanning for a Wifi connection and/or attempts to sign into a Wifi network that is recognized that really eat up the juice. If you are not using Wifi or planning to use it in the next 10 minutes, disabling it can save your phone a lot of energy. To do that, you can either go into the Jellybean notifications pane (which is also available in Gingerbread) by swiping your finger down from the top of the device or by going to Settings -> Wifi. On the notifications menu, click “Wifi” to disable it. On the Settings menu, move the switch to “off” to disable it. Just reverse this when you’re ready to hook up to a friendly Wifi location.
Like Bluetooth (which I’ll go into below), disabling Wifi is a good idea both for energy conservation and security; logging into an unsecured Wifi location alone is unlikely to compromise your Android device, but anything you do on that unsecured Wifi location (or even some you may think of as secure) could open your device to potential vulnerabilities. This also goes for utilizing your device as a Wifi hotspot; it drains a lot of energy from your device and you need to secure the hotspot so that people you don’t know don’t attempt to use the hotspot as a stepping stone into your (or other users of your hotstpot’s) devices. Finally, it still kicking around the courts as to whether or not you are responsible for acts committed on your Wifi connection; if a person uses your hotspot (or home Wifi) to do something illegal, there could be legal implications for you. So, if you do use your hotspot, do it sparingly and with the highest degree of security you can secure. As each Android device may or may not provide hotspot features, and/or have a variety of ways of implementing the hotspot, I recommend taking a read on Google to find the best way to secure your particular implementation.
Bluetooth: Scanning with Bluetooth uses more energy than just using Bluetooth with another paired device, but using a paired device also drains the battery. If you’re not planning to pair your device with another, disable Bluetooth. Not only does this reduce energy usage on your battery, its an extra layer of security; anyone with Bluetooth can try to access your Android device through Bluetooth. Often the codes to pair are numerical only, and can be as little as four digits, which isn’t hard to get past in terms of security. To disable Bluetooth, you can either go into the notifications pane by swiping your finger down from the top of the device or by going to Settings -> Bluetooth. On the notifications menu, click “Bluetooth” to disable it. On the Settings menu, move the switch to “off” to disable it. Just reverse this when you’re ready to use Bluetooth again.
GPS: The way that GPS works is that there is a constant communication going on so that the phone and satellites know where the phone is at any given time. This eats up battery life like crazy. If you aren’t specifically trying to find your way somewhere or utilizing another program that requires it (for example, I have Atooma, my task program, set up to enable Bluetooth if GPS informs the phone I’m going more than 5 mph), disabling GPS is a good way to save battery life. Note, you’ll need to enable it for any of the cool Android navigation options and some apps you have rely/require it. To disable GPS, you can either go into the notifications pane by swiping your finger down from the top of the device and click “GPS” to disable it, or by going to Settings -> Location Services -> and unchecking Use GPS Satellites.
Automatic Account Syncing: If you use Facebook, G+, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social networks on your device, the device is going to connect out occasionally to download the latest information. The more frequently the device does this, the more battery will be drained. The upside to doing this is that when you are ready to look at that information, only a small update needs to occur to get the latest (if you are not looking at the data very soon after the last update). You can disable this in general, and only pull the data when you’re ready to read it, but then you’ll miss out on notifications (such as updates from your friends, party invites through the services, etc.). Instead, pick a longer interval for syncing for each service commiserate with the frequency with which you check (or want to be notified) about the service. As each device’s implementation of each service is slightly different, I recommend looking up the app for each and then exploring the options or settings on each one to set the optimal synchronization time.
Ad Supported Applications: If you like it,
put a ring on it/buy the application. Research suggests that the ads being served to you in ad supported games drain more battery life. So, if you like Angry Birds, buy the ad free version–it will save your battery life.
Other than purchasing games to avoid the ads, there most of the other options mentioned to conserve battery life can be done automagically for you through the magic of other apps. Smart Wifi Toggler (and other apps like it), for example, will turn Wifi on and try a set number of times as specified by you so you don’t constantly have to turn it on and off. There are other tools independent to specific settings, but then there are also general tools useful to any or all the controls; for example, I’ve reviewed Atooma in the past, and Tasker is an old favorite of many Android users. Either can be set to enable/disable, increase/reduce any of these settings to your needs/satisfaction. There are also specific battery saving apps out there like Power Toggles or GO Power which allow for ease of change of just the settings that most affect battery life.
So, try adjusting these settings and see if you can get more time out of your battery life; the only other thing to try is that you can try to keep your battery cooler. With laptops to smart phones (which use lithium batteries), a cooler battery can give a little bit extra battery life when it counts.