Check email and social networks. Listen to music. Hail a car. Make a pot roast (or order one). Find a date. These are all things you can now do on your smartphone, which is pretty amazing. But for all the advances these handheld computers have made in the past few years, there’s one area that still needs improvement: Battery life.
Most of the latest smartphones can last about a day on a single charge, with moderate usage. But on the days that you rely on your phone to keep in touch with the office while working on the go, or staying entertained during your travels or downtime, chances are you’ll find yourself scrambling to plug in to the nearest outlet by early afternoon, if not sooner.
In order to prevent having a dead phone on your hands, here are some tips that can help extend your mobile’s battery life. They apply to all types of smartphones — iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry — though naming and location of certain settings may differ slightly between devices.
Dim the screen
Today’s smartphones feature large, vibrant displays, and it’s tempting to view them at maximum brightness. But by doing so, you’re draining your smartphone’s battery. The auto-brightness setting, which automatically adjusts the screen’s brightness based on the current lighting environment, can also have a negative impact.
For best results, disable auto-brightness and manually adjust the brightness level to the lowest setting that still allows you to view the contents of the screen comfortably. On most phones, you can make these changes by going to the Settings menu and then choosing Display or Brightness. The iPhone and most Android devices also have quick settings for brightness in the notification panel area or control center.
In addition to adjusting the brightness, it’s a good idea to set your screen to turn off after a short period of inactivity. This “Screen Timeout” option is also often found under the display settings menu, or in the case of the iPhone, Settings > General > Auto-Lock.
Turn off unused radios
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and NFC are all great, and have their purpose, but unless you need a specific connection at that very moment, it’s best to turn them off. Many smartphones provide shortcuts for doing so right from the home screen, rather than having to go through the Settings menu.
One note on GPS: Pay attention to which apps want to access your location. I know it’s easy just to hit OK when installing apps (I mean, who has time to read all those permissions?), but it’s worth taking an extra minute or so to consider whether it’s necessary or not. Location-based services can be a huge battery suck, and there’s also the matter of privacy. And while it makes sense for navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze, you may not want it for geo-tagging photos in Instagram or noting your location when you tweet something.
Check your signal strength
You may have noticed that your smartphone’s battery drains more quickly when you have very little to no cellular connection. This is because the phone is constantly searching for a signal, which requires power. If you’re in this situation (say, you’re traveling through the remote countryside), consider enabling Airplane mode until you’re in a better coverage area.
Or if a Wi-Fi network is available, connect to that. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to connect via Wi-Fi whenever available for consuming content, as it not only requires less battery power, but also provides faster data speeds.
Disable push notifications for nonessential apps
Being notified when you have new messages, Twitter mentions or a friend request on Facebook is convenient and useful, but it also affects your battery life, since it requires your smartphone to constantly ping a server to get new information. To save some juice, turn off or don’t allow push notifications for non-vital apps. Getting alerts when you have new work email is one thing, but you probably don’t need to be notified every time your friend sends you a Candy Crush request.
Close apps when not in use
Similar to the tip about wireless radios, it’s a good idea to close any open apps that you’re currently not using, since they may still be running in the background and consuming precious battery power.
Alternatively, you can disable or restrict background data so that certain or all apps don’t run in the background. To do so:
- On the iPhone, go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh.
- On Android, go to Settings > Data Usage > Restrict background data.
- On Windows Phone, go to the Data Sense app > Set limits.
Protect your phone in extreme temperatures
Smartphones don’t do well in very high and very low temperatures. You may not have noticed, but some companies like Apple even list optimal operating temperatures for their devices. Intense heat or cold can cause a chemical reaction in the lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones, resulting in a rapid loss of power. So do what you can to protect your phone in these conditions.
Last, but not least, there are numerous accessories you can get for your smartphone to extend its battery life. For models that have user-replaceable batteries, buy an extra battery and keep it with you, so you can easily swap it out if the first one dies. There are also cases and USB battery packs that can provide an extra charge on the go.
If you’d rather not carry around an extra accessory, there are apps that can help you better manage your smartphone’s power consumption. Some manufacturers, like Samsung, are already integrating these services into their devices. But there are also third-party apps you can try, like JuiceDefender.
There is definitely a need for more advancement in battery technology, but until that happens, making some of these simple and minor tweaks can help you get more mileage out of your smartphone.