The one complaint anybody who owns a cell phone has these days is simply battery life. If you do any type of business at all or you’re just incredibly popular, you’ll be the first to complain about your battery life. It’s an age-old problem. Phone batteries seem to die when you need them most. So I ask you.. What are you doing to combat this? I will address how to increase your battery life by a noticeable difference. Why won’t I be specific? Everybody uses their phone differently and it’s impossible to quantify what types of savings you’ll get through the methods applied here. I will, however, tell you the methods will net you a REAL-WORLD gain. You’ll notice it, that.. I promise.
A Brief History
Let’s start with a basic lesson in Physics. After all, you can’t defy these laws unless you’ve built a perpetual motion machine and have a car that runs on water. OK.. Bad joke. Cell phones use batteries. The amount of energy stored in a battery is a direct result of the chemical reaction that takes place within the battery. Over time, ALL BATTERIES lose their ability to hold a charge. Every time you recharge / discharge a battery, you lose a bit of efficiency in the battery. While you may not notice this from day to day or even week to week, I guarantee you will notice this year to year. When you charge a battery, you’re effecting a chemical reaction that causes the battery to chemically store electrons. When you discharge a battery (i.e. use your phone), you’re doing the reverse chemically. The battery is putting electrons out the terminals into your phone! Each Charge / Discharge cycle makes your battery less efficient. It’s just a law of nature.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I think it’s important to discuss phones in general and their usage of power. Most phones today have battery / energy management systems. They effectively have multiple antennae (more than one antenna). Each antenna is used for a different thing. Bluetooth, Wifi, NFC (RFID), Cellular / Data. In the old days (10+ years ago or more), radios had two settings; on or off. If they were on, they would broadcast at full power. If they were off, they wouldn’t broadcast at all. There was one setting. It was “On” or “Off”. Obviously, this wasn’t a very efficient use of the power coming out of a battery. It doesn’t take the same amount of energy to broadcast a signal to another device 1 foot away as it does 1 mile away. Luckily, the designers of the various components and chipsets realized this early on and started working on variable gain antennas (and transcievers). As technology evolved, the device designers got smarter. More sensor technology and new algorithms were developed to maximize performance and efficiency.
The other issue behind battery usage on mobile devices was processing speed. As applications demanded (use of phones and their versatility) and evolved, more powerful CPUs were needed. More memory was required to keep up with the demands of the user. Every new option required a new “component” and as each component was added, more power was used.
The other big thing was heat. Energy is lost through friction and electronics were not the exception. As electrons traveled through those circuits or you streamed that movie, the processors and circuits had to work harder. More electrons were pushed down the circuit pathways. This generates heat. Unfortunately, Energy cannot be created or destroyed. All that heat? Lost power. It also made your phone unbearable to use.
It’s forever evolving, but new manufacturing processes, better refinement and materials quality in the manufacture of these devices and their components and miniaturization actually helped the industry evolve those wonderful gadgets we all keep in our pockets today. Dedicated Chipsets that could do multiple things (process audio, video, multiple forms of radio) were designed and manufactured to exacting standards. Better manufacturing processes allowed smaller scale circuit printing (more circuits on a chip) = better energy efficiency. These were effectively called System On a Chip or (SOC) designs. The advent of these chips make your devices today miserly when you consider how much more they do and for how long on a smaller battery than one would have years ago. The technology is evolving and becoming more efficient with each passing month.
The “Juicy” stuff
OK. Now that I have you all on the same page, It’s important to discuss what can be done. Why was I verbose? It’s better to explain How something works so that you as the end-user of the device can apply some tricks to your phone. It helps the lateral thinkers in the crowd to eek out every little ounce of efficiency when you need it most. (Like at a Convention or On a plane after a 4 hour conference call at the airport).
Radios: Most Cell Phones / Smart Phones today have multiple radios. They’re usually, Wi-Fi, GPS, Cellular / Cellular Data, and Bluetooth. These are the most common. Here’s the thing people. If you’re not using something, turn it off. Disable Bluetooth if you’re not using it. If you’re not connecting via Wi-Fi, turn off the Wi-Fi Radio.
Screens / Display Brightness: The single biggest power hog on any phone. The brighter your screen, the more energy you use. Adjust your screen brightness to the darkest it can be without sacrificing your ability to see the screen. Adjust this frequently. I find that my screen brightness hangs around at 50% of full brightness most of the time. How many hours of extra use did I get out of my phone by doing this little trick? About 10 more.. (yes.. 10 more hours).
Sound: Change your ringtone notifications to something that isn’t 5 seconds long. Something 3 seconds long nets you 40% more power every time that sound is played. A 3 second text message notification multiplied by the number of texts you get in a day can be a hefty savings in power for many of you.
Data Usage: Another power hungry beast. I make it a habit to turn off my data when I know I won’t be using it.. (Like on a plane, Dinner with the Family, Quality Time with my Little Girl). Every little bit counts.
Bluetooth Headsets: I don’t use them. They suck an insane amount of power from your battery and ultimately, a wired headset gives me better sound quality for those long conversations. (You also won’t look so silly in public). [Do an informal poll amongst all your friends and business associates.. You'll be surprised]. I do have my phone paired to my car and I use it when I’m driving as a speakerphone.
Text rather than Talk if you can. It uses less energy, guarantees delivery in most cases and gets the message across quicker. Just don’t do it when you’re driving or operating heavy machinery. A 240 character text message and 240 character reply uses less energy than a 5 minute phone call significantly.
Turn off GPS!!!: This is the other Big Item in the energy black hole on your phone. When you’re not navigating or looking up a restaurant near you, turn off your GPS. It will net you at least a 15-20% gain on your battery life!
Adjust your Screen Timeout: It doesn’t need to be 2 minutes before it goes dark. It can be 30 seconds. The screen timeout resets when you do something each time. In other words, if you’re using your phone, it’ll stay lit. If you’re not, it’ll go dark. A very helpful thing. There’s no reason to keep the screen on for a full 2 minutes of inactivity if you don’t need to. 30 seconds will do. Inactivity is inactivity. Every phone has a button that will turn the screen dark. Use it! When you’re done and before you put the phone in your pocket / purse / briefcase / on your desk, push the button. Turn your screen off. Why wait 30 seconds if you don’t have to?
Microsoft Exchange Users: If you’re a corporate user on corporate email, turn on push notifications. It uses way less power to keep a small connection open to the server than it does to poll the server for new emails every minute. You’ll also get your email faster as a bonus!
Email Configuration for other email accounts: If you’re using POP, switch to IMAP. Set your email client on your phone to download headers only. This will allow you to see what’s in your inbox, but save on your data transfer on emails you don’t deem important or don’t read. When you click on the message in your inbox, it downloads the message at that time. A real battery saver.
Turn off Auto Orientation: This uses the built in Gyroscope on your phone. If you need to switch the orientation of the screen, turn it on to switch it, then turn it back off. One less component running = less energy used.
Screensavers on your phone: Don’t use them. Disable them. It uses much less energy. Another big savings.
Screen Wallpapers: I have one, but I also have the picture reduced to be centered on my phone screen. I make the background black. Why? It takes less energy to show a black pixel than it does any other color. This is a direct energy savings you will actually see. It’s ok to have a picture of your family, dog, cat, boyfriend, husband, bird, etc. It doesn’t need to be huge.
Uninstall Applications you don’t use regularly: Many applications run in the background as a service. This forces your CPU to work harder when you’re not using it. Some applications will even broadcast information to / from the internet. More use of your radio and cpu = more energy used. Believe it or not, but some applications are battery killers. Facebook is a big one. Are you willing to gain 3 more hours on your phone battery life or would you rather be notified that your friend you’ve never met on facebook put 3 sugars in their coffee instead of 2 today? I know I would.
Just following the simple steps outlined above will gain you another 30% on your battery life without affecting your ability to be productive. You’ll notice it almost immediately!
Here are a couple of other things you can do to help with your battery life:
If you’re a power user and you have a smartphone that you use a lot for data / internet, consider getting a phone with a newer processor. They give you more performance and use less energy!
If your phone is over 2 years old, replace the battery. It’s due. You’ll probably pick up 10-20% more battery life. If you can get a Lithium-Ion or Lithium-Polymer battery for your phone, get one. They have less memory effect and will last longer as well as make your phone lighter.
Search for Phone Batteries and Chargers here:
Keep an extra charger with you at all times. If you’re going to be somewhere for more than 2 hours, consider topping off when you can. It’ll extend the usability of your phone for the day.
These tips do make a difference. It could be the difference between receiving that important business or family emergency call you needed or being stranded without the ability to communicate effectively.
Post your comments below to let me know what types of gains you’ve received on your phones! I’d be interested.