Augmented reality games like the newly-released Pokémon GO and old-favourite Ingress, aren't your typical mobile games. They chew through your battery — and data plan — partially because they constantly track your location via GPS. These tips will help you slow the drain, stay charged and keep comfortable while you play. Illustration by Jim Cooke.
Lower Your Screen Brightness, Kill the Volume and Disable Background Apps
On the day of Pokémon GO's launch, I watched my iPhone 6s Plus's battery plummet from 80 per cent to eight per cent in a matter of two hours of play time. Considering that my phone usually goes almost three days without needing a charge, this was a bit of a shock, even though I was already aware of the issue. The next day, I employed some basic battery saving techniques, and they helped noticeably. I only saw a drop of about 40 per cent in my second session that lasted about an hour and a half.
Start by lowering the brightness of your phone's screen. In Pokémon GO, you have to keep your screen on the whole time while playing, and that's where most of your battery drain will come from. In a Wirecutter test, they found that an iPhone 6s at minimum brightness used 54 per cent less battery than at maximum brightness. A Moto X Pure Edition used 30 per cent less. So, lower the brightness as low as you can go and still be able to see. In fact, if you can lock your phone and turn off the screen between waypoints, you'll save even more battery. Better yet, go into aeroplane mode until you reach your next destination.
You should also turn down the volume, or turn off the sound completely, so you don't waste battery on your speakers or headphones. And it's a good idea to disable any apps you have pulling data in the background, especially if you're streaming music with Pandora or Spotify. Even if they're not currently running, though, apps can use up your valuable energy. Facebook, Google and Apple Maps, and email apps are all usual suspects when it comes to battery-munching background processes.
Most smartphones have a power-saving setting built into their OS, but I wouldn't recommend using it. They will try to save battery by limiting processing power, and that can mess with your game quite a bit. My attempts to use iOS's power save mode with Pokémon GO have led to more technical issues than usual. Fortunately, Pokémon GO has it's own power-saving mode within the game's options. The mode, found in the Settings menu, makes your phone's screen go dark — not completely off — while still running the game whenever your phone is upside down (like when it's in your pocket). Using it should help you save some battery, but we're not sure how much yet.
Get a Solid, Powerful External Battery Pack
No matter what you do with your phone or in-game, ARGs are still going to suck the life out of your battery a lot faster than normal use. There's no way around it. You can, however, always be ready to recharge with an external battery pack. All you have to do is plug your phone in with a USB charging cable, and you'll be back in action in no time.
We recommend the Anker Powercore 13000 ($67). It has two fast-charging USB ports, comes with a Micro USB cable, is roughly the size of a wallet and is capable of charging an iPhone 6s five times over with one charge. Anker has long been a favourite of our readers, and their Powercore series has proved to be excellent. Other great options, as recommended by the Wirecutter, include the EasyAcc 6000mAh Ultra-Slim (approximately $40), which can charge an iPhone 6 twice; and the AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank (approximately $50 plus postage), which can charge iPhone 6s over nine times. Purchasing and using one of these is by and large the most effective thing you can do to extend your ARG game time.
If you're not interested in carrying around an external battery pack, the Nomad Leather Wallets for iPhone let you pack extra power in secret and with class. And if you're planning on capping portals or catching Pokémon during the day most of the time, unleash the power of the sun with a solar-powered charger, like the Anker PowerPort Solar Lite ($127).
When it's time to charge up your phone's battery, put it in aeroplane mode. This will speed up the charging process and get you back to playing faster since your phone isn't using energy to maintain all of its connections and background processes.
Disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi While You're Out Playing
When you have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled on your phone, it's constantly searching for access points and devices, draining your battery in the process. Your phone is on a never-ending quest to find open Wi-Fi networks, authenticate with those networks and re-pair with Bluetooth devices you paired with in the past. This can be especially draining when you're around a lot of places with free Wi-Fi that are all vying for your phone's attention.
Since you'll be moving around a lot, it's best to stick with only GPS while you play ARGs. Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your device, and give your GPS priority. Not only will you save battery, but you'll avoid any potential disruptions that can occur when your phone tries to connect to a network in the middle of an in-game action. Our own Editor-In-Chief, Alan Henry, notes that a certain coffee shop with free Wi-Fi near his train station has messed with his attempts to capture a portal in Ingress on more than one occasion.
Minimise In-Game Actions When Your Battery Is Low
It takes a lot of energy to run ARGs, but it uses up even more when you do certain actions in-game that make your phone request more information or process more data. In Pokémon GO, for example, constantly zooming in and out on the map, clicking on gyms in the distance, ogling the cute 3D models of the Pokémon you've caught and tapping those models over and over to play their adorable noises will add to your battery drain. And when you challenge a gym owner or stumble upon a wild Pokémon, try toggling off the AR since adding your camera to the mix uses more energy.
The same type of rules go for Ingress. No zooming in and out on the map, don't check out a bunch of portals in the distance and limit 3D engine use as much as possible. You don't have to strictly follow these rules the whole time you're playing — you should enjoy these games at their full potential — but these in-game tips will help extend game time when your battery is looking weary.
Stay Comfortable and Carry a 'Pokémon Go-Bag'
Note: Cool fingerless gloves optional.
A battery pack will keep your phone going strong, but you need to take precautions so you don't run out of juice yourself. First, get a good pair of shoes to walk in — I can't emphasise this enough. You don't need to spend a fortune on them, and if you're not sure what type of shoe would be best for you, head to a local running shoe store and see if they will give you a free assessment. Decent shoes will reduce your fatigue and keep you going strong for longer.
Once you're ready to be on your feet, put together a "Pokémon GO-bag", filled with useful items to keep you energised and safe. It's a lot like a regular go-bag, where you can carry your external battery packs and whatnot, but it's specifically tailored to going outside and catching them all (or capping them all). My Pokémon GO-bag is a small backpack with a single strap — in typical Pokemon fashion — and has just enough room for the essentials without being too bulky.
You should pack an easy-to-carry water bottle, like the CamelBak Quick Grip Chill, which stays attached to your hand and keeps your water cold. And don't forget to wear a hat (the greatest trainers do), put on sunscreen and carry some with you so you can reapply every two hours. Also, throw in a portable first aid kit. And it might not be a bad idea to pack a condom or two — because Pokémon are the only things you want to catch.
While you're out and about, take breaks from the sun and step in the shade, or from the cold to warm up. Not only will it help you stay comfortable, but it will also help you save battery life. According to Apple, iPhones have a comfort zone of 16C to 22C. Ambient temperatures that are higher than 35C can permanently damage battery capacity both in the short and long term, regardless of phone type. The same can be said for very cold temperatures as well, so it's also a good idea to keep your phone from freezing. Speaking of cold temperatures, make sure you dress warm and protect your fingers during the winter months since they will be exposed while tapping away. Add a good pair of touchscreen gloves to your Pokémon GO-bag and they will be an absolute lifesaver. You can grab a decent pair for around $20 to $30.
I don't have any touchscreen gloves in my personal kit, but I live in LA, where the sun was born. I do have some portable snacks, though, so you might want to consider packing granola bars or trail mix so you can keep your blood sugar up.