Mobile phones have grown incredibly sophisticated, with a growing number performing many of the functions of a full-size computer, as well as some things a desktop computer can’t do, such as navigating with GPS or starting a car. A 2011 Pew Internet Project survey found that 25 percent of smartphone owners do most of their Internet browsing on their phones.
The dilemma is that the more you depend on your phone, the faster you’re going to drain its battery. While screen, processor and storage technology has advanced significantly, lithium-ion batteries haven’t changed much in 15 years. Incremental improvements in battery efficiency have been far outpaced by processing power and screen size and brightness, as well as 3G and 4G radios, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas, HD cameras, GPS and a variety of other hardware, all of which require power.
To conserve battery life on your phone, turn off what you don’t need, optimize what you do and perform a few tasks manually instead of automating them. You can both increase the time between charges and add to your battery’s usable life.
Dim your screen to significantly improve your battery’s life. Your phone’s screen is the largest power draw on the device, and the brighter it is, the more power it draws. Dim it as much as you feel comfortable with. The phone’s automatic brightness setting, which dims the screen in low-light conditions, isn’t as effective as reducing the brightness manually.
Set a short screen timeout interval to black out the screen when you’re not using it. If the timeout is very short, you may have to periodically touch the screen to keep it from timing out while you read content. However, if you mostly use the phone for short tasks like checking email or sending SMS messages -- battery-consuming tasks when you do them frequently -- you'll see significant battery savings when you have a shorter timeout interval.
Reduce the frequency of application updates and syncs. For example, set your social-media applications to update manually instead of automatically, so they aren’t constantly running in the background, or while you’re not using your phone at all. Apple's iCloud also syncs frequently, and you should turn it off when you don't need it.
Eliminate unnecessary widgets and animations. On many phones, the bells and whistles on the home screen may use significant resources, especially if they’re updating news or weather frequently, or using animations where a static image would suffice.
Disable Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS when you don’t use them. Each receiver or transmitter on your phone uses juice even when it isn’t connecting, and both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi periodically search for devices in the background, using up even more battery charge. Some smartphones include a widget that allows you to enable or disable these antennas when they’re not needed. When you’re in an area without 3G or 4G service, consider disabling them as well, to spare your phone the battery-hungry effort of searching for service that isn't there.
Use the Battery Saver or Power Saver mode if your phone’s operating system has one. These features help you to control the functions that sap your battery’s power, including background apps, widgets, animations and screen brightness. Third-party apps like JuiceDefender or Battery Saver for Android may help you conserve even more power.
If your phone uses an Organic Light Emitting Diode screen, use a dark-colored wallpaper as your phone's background. OLED pixels light up individually, so keeping most pixels as dark as possible results in power savings. Unfortunately, this method won't work with LCD screens, which use a backlight that remains at a constant level.
Tips & Warnings
- Phones can vary widely in battery life, and resources such as CNet's battery-life comparison charts can help you select a phone with better power usage.
- You may come across the misguided recommendation to wait until the battery is almost completely discharged before recharging it. This advice is unfounded. Although lithium-ion batteries do have an approximate number of charge "cycles" before they lose charging capacity, a partial charge is simply a partial cycle. For example, if you use 30 percent of your battery's charge and plug the phone in until the battery is fully charged, that usage represents only 30 percent of a charge cycle.
- However, to ensure that your battery is properly calibrated, many manufacturers recommend that you fully discharge and charge the battery about once a month.
- PCWorld: 10 Ways to Boost Your Smartphone's Battery Life
- Microsoft Windows Phone: Battery: Making It Last
- MSNBC Tech Tchnolog: 25 Percent Use Smartphones, Not Computers, for Majority of Web Surfing
- PCWorld: Why Your Smartphone Battery Sucks
- Apple: Lithium-Ion Batteries
- InformationWeek Mobility: iPhone 4S: 4 Fastest Ways To Drain Battery
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images