Batteries don't last forever. All too soon, you'll notice your laptop and/or smartphone don't last as long as they used to. To maximise that (sometimes non-user-replaceable) battery's lifespan and also get more juice out of it during the day, follow these top ten tips.
Illustration by Tina Mailhot-Roberge.
#10 Use your laptop manufacturer's battery care tools
Laptop makers such as Lenovo and Sony sometimes offer battery maintenance tools that automatically prevent the battery from being stored at full charge, which can make the battery deteriorate faster. Look for a battery or power management utility on your laptop to see if you could benefit and if the laptop is plugged in for long periods of time and can work without the battery in it, remove the battery.
#9 Keep your phone and laptop cool
Few things cause a battery to degrade faster than high temperatures. Don't leave a laptop, phone, or other gadget in a hot car, make sure your laptop doesn't overheat, and keep your phone from getting too hot. Making your gadgets last longer is a good excuse to turn on the air conditioner.
#8 Turn down the brightness
You'll squeeze more battery life out of your phone by turning the brightness down. Previous tests suggest the difference in battery life between the highest and lowest brightness settings on an iPhone is a few hours. You can automatically dim your iPhone's brightness with Tasker (for Android too). Dark wallpapers might also make a difference. Brightness matters also when you're running on battery on your laptop.
#7 Use battery saving apps
When your phone is almost running on empty, apps that automatically help you prolong your battery life will save your bacon. On Android, Greenify will automatically hibernate battery-hogging apps (it works best for rooted phones but you can use it also if your phone isn't rooted). For iOS, you can find battery-hogging apps using the Normal app. Carat gives you battery life stats for both iPhone and Android.
As an aside, don't bother quitting all your apps in iOS -- it can actually worsen battery life. Similarly, using an Android task killer can make things worse, so you're probably better off not using one (although we like Watchdog).
#6 Choose sleep mode instead of shutdown
When you put your laptop to sleep it still draws some power, which might lead you to think it's better to shutdown your computer. However, in our experience, shutting down and starting up a laptop can actually draw more power than putting it to sleep and waking it. Hibernating saves more battery life than sleep mode, but it takes longer to get back to up and running. How-To Geek has a primer on sleep, shutdown, and hibernate modes to help you decide when to use each.
#5 Calibrate your phone or laptop battery
Your phone and laptop can sometimes lie about how much charge you have left. Calibrating the battery every so often will make sure it's accurate. The process is pretty easy, at least on laptops. (Unfortunately, if calibration doesn't help and your battery life is piddling, it's time to replace the battery, if possible.)
#4 Don't let your phone or laptop run out of battery too often
Modern batteries these days don't need to be frequently fully discharged in order to retain battery life. Instead, charge more often before use rather than letting the battery run down. These shallow charges will help extend your battery's lifespan.
#3 Don't leave your phone plugged in when it's completely charged
In a similar vein, you don't need to charge your battery all the way to 100%. 40-80% would be preferable. If you do charge your gadget to 100%, unplug it so it doesn't stay at that fully-charged, battery-health-eating state. (When in doubt, you might also want to unplug your laptop regularly.) As for rapid charging, while it could reduce battery life, the difference probably won't be noticeable for most people.
#2 Test and monitor your laptop's battery
Batteries can be mystifying with all these do's and don'ts to follow. If you find your laptop battery doesn't hold a charge very long anymore, there are some troubleshooting tips and tools you can try to fix the problem, whether you're on Mac or Windows.
#1 Keep your smartphone and laptop running with some basic battery life tips
Finally, what if you just want your phone or laptop to last all day? An oldie but a goody, our guide to saving your smartphone's battery covers all the basics, from switching off unneeded services and background notifications to using mobile sites. We've got Android- and iPhone-specific battery guides as well, but almost any phone model will benefit from a few basic tips, such as turning off Wi-Fi when you're not using it (Wi-Fi, however, uses less battery than cellular data if you're connected to a Wi-Fi network). These tips generally also apply to laptops.
More specific tips you can try include using a new kernel on Android, paying for mobile apps instead of using their free ad-supported versions (and avoiding the worst battery-hogging apps, including many messaging apps), choosing a battery-life-friendly web browser, and using the best video player and format for longer battery life on Windows.
When choosing a new gadget, remember that battery life is the most important spec.