Tips for Improving Smartphone Battery Life

11 January 2013

There are plenty of handy little tricks one can learn to improve battery life on a mobile device. All kinds of background apps, widgets and operating system (OS) settings can affect the power consumption rate of a handset. Some of these tips work universally across all smartphones and others a more specific. Be sure to keep an eye out for the ones that will be most helpful to you.

General Battery Saving Tips

One of the more common villains when it comes to surprise battery loss is the use of wireless broadband services. Specifically 3G and, more recently, 4G networks.

Believe it or not using your device’s wireless broadband is a huge consumer of battery power. Of course there’s not much you can do if you need to go online, but be mindful of times where you are in and out of reception range. For example, if on your way to work you find that your connection drops out at regular intervals. Try to avoid apps that make use of your 3G or 4G connection during these periods. Your device will continue to search for a broadband network in order to complete the tasks given to it by the app in question. This can lead to a surprising drain in power.

Another quick tip is to set your WiFi setting to ‘off’ when out and about. Even if you have your phone set up to not notify you every time a new WiFi network is in the area, it will continue to search for and detect WiFi networks that are within range. Turning WiFi off means that this process will stop and battery power will be conserved.

Screen brightness is a more commonly known, but still important factor for battery management. Many users find the Automatic Brightness setting on their smartphone to be annoying and that’s fine. It’s generally easy enough to manually adjust brightness yourself throughout the day. If your smartphone is about to run out of battery it’s a wise precaution to turn that brightness setting right down to minimum until you can find a charger.

You can also turn off Bluetooth and GPS to save power and, if you really want to scrape every last bit of energy, adjust your auto-lock settings so that the phone goes in to standby mode more quickly once you’ve stopped using it.

Tips for Conserving Battery on Android

Widgets have to be the number 1 source of Android-specific battery woes. Android devices have a tendency to come with their Home Screens filled with active widgets. Some of these widgets are fine while others constantly use data, have graphically intense and animated displays and use large amounts of RAM and CPU power to keep running.

We suggest that you absolutely only use widgets that you find make an actual improvement to your user experience. Any widget that is removed from a Home Screen is not removed completely from a device and can always be replaced.

The usual suspects are: Live-updating weather apps, social media streams, Live-updating news widgets and the YouTube widget. Basically anything that has a constant stream of live-updated information is a battery consumer. You may find some of these widgets useful and that’s fine, just be aware that they can consume a lot of battery and make your decision to keep or ditch them accordingly.

Not all widgets are a negative drain on resources, so don’t go crazy and just clear your home screens. But if there are any you find yourself never using it’s a good idea to remove them, even if they don’t fall within the categories above.

Another big power waster on Android is multitasking. Most Android devices will keep apps running in the background if you leave them via the home button. By the end of the day you might find a huge number of apps all still merrily chugging along in the background of your device. This allows the apps you use more commonly to be accessed more quickly, as well as tasks like the loading of pages to be done without your needing to view the process. However, it does use up power and you might find it preferential to shut some of them down.

Jumping on your task manager once or twice a day to clean house is a good way to save power and even keep your device running smoothly, as less of its RAM will be dedicated to background apps.

The biggest culprits with background apps are those that have crashed. If you’re using and app and it crashes or freezes causing you to hit the Home button then it’s a very good idea to go in to your task manager straight away and shut it down. Often your device will dedicate a huge amount of its resources to fix whatever the problem is. Either that or those resources will simply be caught up trying to repeat whatever the failed action was over and over. This can lead to massive battery loss and, in some cases, overheating.

Tips for Conserving Battery on iOS

iOS has some of its own little tricks for power conservation.

Users with an iPhone 4S or, assumedly, anything later will find that disabling Siri actually saves quite a bit of power. You can always turn Siri back on whenever you want to use it so if you find that you don’t talk to your phone that often it’s probably best to disable it until you need it.

Turn off Ping. Ping is kind of like a social media service for music. Most people don’t seem to even be aware of its existence on their devices and it’s been blamed for more than its fair share of battery problems since its release. Some locational services do rely on Ping, but give disabling it a go anyway. If any of your apps suddenly stop working you’ll know why and you can re-enable it again just as easily as you turned it off.

Tips for Conserving Battery on Windows Phone

Windows Phone has its own Battery Saver service built in to the OS. This function is set to off by default, but you can turn it on in the settings menu. Battery Saver does most of its work once you get down to 20% battery or below. At this juncture if Battery Saver is on then your Emails will stop syncing automatically, Live Tiles won’t update and applications will stop running in the background. Email will still sync manually and instead of running background apps WP will use a similar app-switching method that iPhone users are given. If you find that you’re having trouble with battery life then this is a very easy way to manage the problem.

You can also manually set which apps will run in the background and which will not. Not all apps give this option, but most of the better ones do. Go to Settings, Applications, Background Tasks and check the Advanced button. This should provide you with a list of all apps that run in the background. From this view you can only delete apps, but at least you’ll know how many you have going at once. Adjusting an app’s ability to run in the background is managed from the settings menu within the app itself.

As we mentioned earlier tuning WiFi off when out and about is a good idea. This can be done very easily on Windows Phone by pinning WiFi Settings to the Home Screen as a Live Tile. That way you only need a couple of taps, rather than going through multiple menus and screens.

As a Last Resort

If none of these tips help and you simply cannot find any other solutions on the web then you have 2 more options ahead of you:

  • Reset your phone. This is a bit of a chore as it completely erases all of the data on your phone and you’ll have to download all of your apps and re-set all of your personal settings again. You’ll also have to back up anything you want to keep, such as photos, documents or music and all of your social media accounts will need to be resynced. Essentially it’ll be as if you got a new phone and you’ll need to start all over again.
  • Your phone may be broken and covered by warranty. Check with whoever you bought your phone from. Make sure you have your warranty information or at least proof of purchase. There’s a good chance that a faulty battery or malfunctioning battery-management software will be grounds for you receiving a new device.

With any luck you won't have to resort to these drastic measures, but it's always good to know that you have a final point to fall back to if necessary. After all, it's not much good having a device if it can't hold a charge.



Find Better Phones and Plans

Hundreds of cell phone plans unpacked. All the facts. No surprises.

Search 16 Carriers

Compare phones and plans from the following carriers...

Featured Deals

NEW! Samsung GALAXY S7 EDGE: Compare all Carrier Deals

Compare prices for the amazing new Samsung GALAXY S7 32GB Edge

NEW! Samsung GALAXY S7: Compare all Carrier Deals

This hot new phone is available from all major carriers - we have all the deals here

The Best of Samsung GALAXY Range

Compare prices for the GALAXY S7, GALAXY S7 Edge, GALAXY S6, and GALAXY NOTE

NEW Samsung GALAXY S5 - Compare Plans and Prices

Compare plans from all carriers on the new Galaxy S5