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How To Get Better Battery Life From Your Android Phone

If you have a modern Android phone, you know the pain of turning on your phone at 5pm only to realise it’s deep in a low-battery coma. Here are the simple manual changes, and clever automatic tweaks, that will keep your phone awake and useful for far longer.

There are a lot of different things that can kill your phone’s battery, and often they’re things you don’t even need. We’ve mentioned quite a few of these before, but if you’re having serious battery life issues on your phone, make sure you check each of these settings, features, and customisations to make sure you’re getting the best battery life possible out of your phone.

The Features That Draw Battery Power

There are quite a few settings and features on your phone that will drain battery life, sometimes without your even realising it. To see what I mean, head to Settings > About Phone > Battery > Battery Use. You may see some things there you didn’t realise were battery killers. Here are the settings that are most likely killing your battery, and how to turn them off when you don’t need them.

Your Screen
Your screen, especially if it’s one of the new beautiful Super AMOLED or Super LCD displays, draws by far the most battery from your device. The best way to minimise your screen’s battery usage is to turn the brightness down. By default, your phone should be on “Auto” brightness, which works, but might still uses up more juice than you’d like.

If you head to Settings > Display > Brightness, you can uncheck “Automatic Brightness” and put it on something like 10 per cent. It’ll be a little harder to see in direct sunlight, but you’ll be better off everywhere else. Putting the Power Control widget on your home screen makes toggling between low and high brightness a lot easier, too, so that’s a widget I highly recommend you use if you don’t already. To add it, press and hold on an empty section of your screen, choose Widgets, and pick the Power Control option.

I’d also recommend lowering the Screen Timeout from one minute to 15 or 30 seconds under Settings > Display. If you tend to let your phone sleep automatically (rather than hitting the sleep button when you’re done using it), this will help you save some life as well.

3G Data
Unfortunately, one of the biggest battery killers — especially if you live or work with with bad service — is your mobile and data connection. Your data will use up battery even if you aren’t actively using the phone.

You can turn your data connection on and off using either previously mentioned APNDroid or previously mentioned Quick Settings. Toggle mobile data on when you need it, turn it off when you don’t. If you’re just planning on talking, texting or sending a quick email, EDGE or 2G is more than sufficient. You can turn data back on when you’re browsing and need the extra speed. It seems extreme, but it’ll save you quite a bit of juice.

Wi-Fi: When you have Wi-Fi networks around, use them. They’ll automatically turn off your data connection and use Wi-Fi instead, which is better for battery life than 3G data. However, when you aren’t around Wi-Fi, it’ll actually drain your battery by constantly searching for networks to connect to. Apart from a few choice locations, I don’t use Wi-Fi very much except at my house — so I’ll turn Wi-Fi off with the Power Control widget when I’m out and about.

Bluetooth: Having Bluetooth on kills battery just like Wi-Fi does. If you don’t use a Bluetooth headset, just turn Bluetooth off entirely. Again, you can toggle it on and off from the Power Control widget, so on the occasions that you are using a Bluetooth headset, or transferring files over Bluetooth from your computer, you can quickly toggle it on right from your home screen.

GPS: Everyone hates on GPS as a huge battery killer, but it probably isn’t as bad as the others since it’s unlikely that you’re always using it. GPS only turns on (and drains battery) when you use it for something, like Google Maps or turn-by-turn navigation. Of course, if you use location services with Twitter, Facebook, or other social apps, then it may be turning on more often than you realise. Like the others, it can’t hurt to toggle this one off using the Power Control widget when you’re not using it, and then just turn it on when it’s time to use Google Maps.

How To Automate These Settings

Of course, toggling these settings on and off all the time isn’t an ideal phone scenario that leaves you feeling like you live in the future. If you only use Wi-Fi at home and at your local coffee shop, for example, wouldn’t it be nice if your phone just knew when you were there and turned Wi-Fi on for you? Or wouldn’t it be nice if you could just have Bluetooth on during work hours, when you’re more likely to use that headset?

Automate Any Setting With Tasker
Luckily, you can do all this (and way, way more) with one of our favourite tools, Tasker (or other similar apps like Locale and Settings Profiles). We won’t get into how to use Tasker here, since we’ve already given you a full rundown before, but you can automate pretty much anything you want — like turning GPS on only when you open Google Maps, turning on Bluetooth only when you dock your phone, and scaling back on data usage at night.

If you’d rather not go through the trouble of setting all these up, of course, you can still do it manually. Again, I can’t recommend Power Control or Power Control Plus enough — it makes it so easy to toggle those settings on and off.

Scale Back Data Usage With JuiceDefender
Your other option is to use previously mentioned JuiceDefender. It does all the automation for you, though you can tweak some of its settings if you like. Basically, it manages your data connection as intelligently as it can. It will essentially turn off your data connection and reconnect every 15 or 30 minutes, to see if you have new emails, Twitter mentions, or other notifications to download.

By default, this particular setting probably won’t do a ton unless you’re already using your battery inefficiently. If you have your apps set up to use push notifications or battery-efficient intervals for pull notifications, this shouldn’t save you a ton of battery (more on that below). What is really cool about JuiceDefender is its other features. For example, you can set it to disable Wi-Fi after one minute if it hasn’t yet connected to a nearby network. It will then keep Wi-Fi off for 15 minutes and check again. It can even learn the Wi-Fi spots you connect to most, and just turn Wi-Fi on whenever you enter those areas. It can also turn off data entirely at night and re-enable in the morning, either after a certain time or when you wake the phone from sleep. You can also configure which apps have access to background data, which is nice for those that may be sucking up your data without you knowing it.

It’s extremely easy to set up and use, and you can grab it from the Market for free. However, some of the features (like the Wi-Fi ones) are only available in the $4.81 JuiceDefender Ultimate upgrade, so I highly recommend you grab that too. It’s well worth the price.

Other Things To Try

All that said, there are a few other tweaks I’d recommend, whether you’re using the above settings or not. Here are some extra things you can do to make sure your phone’s getting the best life out of its battery.

Keep It Out Of The Sun
Nothing kills a battery like extreme heat. This is probably common sense by now, but don’t leave it in a hot car, get it out of your pocket when you can, and keep it as cool as possible during the summer. The hotter that battery gets, the faster it will die.

Tweak And Uninstall Data-Heavy Apps
While some apps, like Gmail, use battery-efficient push notifications, others (like the default Email client, Twitter, Facebook and others) poll the server for data every so often to see if there are any new notifications. You want to make sure these are using battery-efficient intervals. You don’t need your Twitter app checking for email every five minutes — every 30 minutes (or more) is fine. These can make a huge difference in your data usage, and will save you quite a bit of battery. Closing these applications when you don’t need them is a great idea, too.

If you have apps you aren’t using, uninstall them. Some apps will try to connect to the internet without you realising it, and it’s best to just uninstall them entirely. Also, get rid of any widgets that are constantly pulling data down, like Facebook widgets, weather widgets and so on. Or, at the very least, make sure you can edit their settings so they only poll for data every half hour or hour.

Turn Off The Eye Candy
Screen animations, live wallpapers, and other eye candy features can get pretty CPU intensive, so if you’re looking to save battery life, turning them off is a great way to do so. You lose some of the “awesome” factor of course, but if you’ve done everything else and still aren’t happy, this should give you a bit more juice.

Don’t Use A Task Killer
We’ve talked about this before, so I won’t get into the whole spiel here, but unless you’re using an old version of Android — like 1.6 — you don’t need a task killer. They’ll harm your battery life more than they’ll help it. If you’ve done everything else correctly, like uninstalling apps that constantly connect to the internet for no reason, quit apps when you’re not using them, or use battery-efficient notification intervals, you don’t need to be killing apps left and right for any reason. Don’t use it.

Wipe Your Battery Stats
If you’re rooted your phone, you’ll want to make sure you wipe your battery stats every once in a while, especially after you’ve flashed a new ROM a few times. This isn’t something you want to do often, but if you’ve flashed a few ROMs since you’ve had the phone and haven’t wiped the stats yet, wiping them now is probably a good idea. Follow these instructions to make sure you do it correctly.

Underclock Your Phone
If you have a new, powerful phone, you probably don’t need all that CPU power it’s giving you. Rooted users can download and install previously mentioned SetCPU, which lets you adjust your CPU’s clock speed. Tone the CPU down a little bit, or even create a new profile that turns it way down whenever your phone is sleeping — after all, why do you need your processor clocking out at 1GHz when you’re not even using it? You can also create profiles that underclock your phone more and more as your battery goes down, so once you get to, say, 25 per cent, your phone sacrifices more performance so it can last as long as possible.

Get A Secondary Battery
Last but not least, there’s no shame in getting another battery for your phone. Most modern smartphones have crappy battery life, it’s just a sad fact of owning one. If you find that, even with the above tips, you use your phone enough that the battery doesn’t last you as long as you’d like it to, it’s time to swallow that pride and just pick up a second battery. They don’t take up a lot of space; you can keep it in your backpack or pocket until your phone dies and then just pop it in to give it new life.

Make sure you’re buying a real OEM battery, though. A lot of places, like Amazon, are selling a lot of knockoffs for super-low prices. They can be tempting, but they can also cause problems — buy directly from your mobile phone manufacturer or carrier to make sure you’re getting a real, high quality battery for your phone.

Hopefully you’ve learned at least a few new tricks for saving battery on your phone today — there are a lot of different things you can do, and it’s up to you to pick and choose which ones work the best for you. Of course, many of you have probably built up your own arsenal of battery tips over the years, so if we didn’t mention one of your favourite battery tricks, be sure to share them with us in the comments.


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