Getting more out of less — that seems to be the way of the world right now. There’s only so much of anything, and we want to make it last, right? Can we get more life out of our phones so we don’t have to charge them as often? Can we make them run longer so we don’t get stuck without them?
The short answer is a resounding YES, but how much more we can get out of a phone battery is still up for discussion. Still, no matter how long your phone’s battery life lasts, there are ways that you can definitely make it last longer. Let’s take a look at some different ways.
Limit Apps Running in The Background
Any app that is running in the background is using processing power. That means it’s drawing electricity from the battery. Often, when we “close” an app we aren’t really exiting it and closing it out. It just sits there in the background, continuing to run, checking for signals, watching your compass, pinging servers, and goodness only knows what else. Android is pretty good at managing these apps and automatically closing out ones that aren’t used for an extended period of time. But you want total control.
How do you kill all these power-sapping apps? You could use an app killer, but app killers are a bit controversial. If the app is something you actually use frequently, killing it all the time will consume more energy, because it takes more energy to start it from scratch, instead of just firing it up while it’s still the device’s RAM. So, let’s look at the built-in method instead.
On non-Samsung devices, simply tap the multitasking button and swipe the offending apps to the side. Some manufacturers will have a Kill All button of some kind along the bottom of the screen. For Samsung devices, the process is a bit different.
Press and hold the Home button on your Samsung Android smartphone — or if you’re on a newer device like the Galaxy S5, tap on the multitasking button where the menu button used to be.
You’ll see a list of apps, like in the picture above, and you’ll also see a button that looks like a pie-chart. Tap on the pie-chart. Now tap on the Active applications button at the top of the screen. There’s the list of all the active applications on your phone. To end any of them, just tap on the End button. A warning screen will ask you if you want to continue because you may cause errors. The odds of that happening are quite slim. It’s that easy!
You may want to use an app like Tasker or Llama to turn apps off and on depending on the time of day or where you are. Yes, it means Tasker or Llama is always running, but if it can shut off two or more apps, that’s a net gain. For more information on Tasker, Erez has some things to say in, Tasker For Android: A Mobile App That Caters to Your Every Whim. Llama is a little less powerful, but still a very capable app. You can learn more about Llama from another article by Erez.
For those apps that you want to keep running in the background, make sure you update them when needed. Sometimes, these updates include improvements in energy usage, making them more efficient.
Don’t Phone Home
Apps like email and contacts are going to be the apps that you allow to continuously run. You can save energy by tweaking these apps, though. Go into your settings and change how often they sync with your email service. Instead of every 5 minutes, maybe you only really need it to sync every 30 minutes. Or change what is synced. When you do this, it’s like you’re eliminating surfing a number of websites in terms of power savings.
Tap on Settings, then Accounts, then select the account you want to adjust. In this picture, we’re adjusting what Google services are synced. I don’t use Google+ on my smartphone, so why should I sync it?
Only Use What You Can Use
Major phone functions like WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS all consume battery power when running. If you’re somewhere and there’s no WiFi, or you aren’t using Bluetooth or GPS, turn them off! These services are constantly polling for routers, nearby Bluetooth devices, and GPS satellites — whether these things are available or not. That uses power.
To shut these functions off, most Android skins allow you to just swipe from the top of your screen to show the all the functions like WiFi, NFC, and such. If the function is highlighted, that’s means it is on. Just tap it to turn it off. If your device has a Power Saving Mode, try turning that on! Newer devices likely have a Quick Settings panel adjustable by pressing the icon in the upper right corner of the notification bar. Shown below, it is three squares with an arrow-like icon for Samsung devices. If all else fails, head into the Settings menu.
Your phone is an even worse offender when you’re in an area with no cell service. (I think they call that the wilderness.) Your phone will constantly poll — or call out — to try to find a cell tower to which it can connect. This takes a tremendous amount of energy! If you want to test this, next time you go camping (or to most of rural Canada) go ahead and leave your phone on. On standby, I guarantee it will die in just a few hours, compared to maybe the day or two you get out of it in an urban area.
Apps that use Location Services can use a combination of GPS satellites and wireless networks to estimate your location. If you don’t need your apps to be location aware, you can shut the Location Services off for your Android. Go into Settings, More, and then Location Services. When you get there, uncheck the box that reads Access to my location.
Paint It Black
Your phone uses power to run programs and services, we’ve established that. An even bigger consumer of energy is the screen. Screens take light and light, even from a touchscreen, takes a lot of power. By adjusting the brightness of your screen to be just a few notches lower, you can add many precious minutes to your battery run time. Change the brightness by swiping down from the top of the screen to show the brightness bar. Uncheck the Auto box, and slide the slider to find your preferred balance of brightness and power saving.
Another tip is to use a simple black screen for your lock and main screen. This works only for AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screens, which many Android devices have. The way that the screens work is to light up different pixels that are one of 3 colours – red, green, and blue – to create the impression of a specific colour. When the device wants to show a certain shade of black, it simply does not light up any pixels. Less light equals less power. Here’s a close-up of an AMOLED screen:
You can download a black wallpaper I made for you here. To install it, make sure you move the file to a folder on your phone. Go into Settings, My Device, then Display. Tap on Wallpaper. Here you have a choice of changing the Home screen, Lock screen or both. Tap on whatever suits you. Navigate to where you saved the black wallpaper and choose it.
Look at how much of your screen does not require lighting now!
On the same train of thought, lower the time for your screen to automatically turn off. If it’s set to 5 minutes, maybe set it to 1. That’s a dramatic saving right there.
It should be obvious, but it has to be said, live wallpapers and screen widgets suck energy like a leech. By constantly changing, they are constantly turning pixels on and off and using processing power. Don’t use them if you want to save power… just don’t.
Even worse is the flash or LED light on an Android phone. If at possible, don’t use it. You can literally watch your battery drain if you turn it on and leave it for any length of time.
Another huge power sucker is the vibrating motor in Android smartphones. Electric motors are terribly inefficient with power usage, having to create motion against friction and also wasting some energy as heat. If you don’t need vibrations on, turn them off. This includes for notifications such as the phone ringing, and haptic feedback. Haptic feedback is when your Android twitches a little when you touch a button.
Keep it Cool, or Warm
Did you know that temperature can affect the life of a battery? If you live in the northern climes, you know that. There’s something you can do about it. Don’t allow you battery to get too hot or too cold.
Being cold increases the battery’s internal resistance to electricity flow. This decreases the battery’s capacity or run time. Heat, while it decreases internal resistance, causes undue wear and tear on the battery. It’s like how heat breaks things down. Frequently being in warm temperatures will break down the battery and it will take less and less of a charge, decreasing the run time. Eventually the battery will just completely fail. Room temperature is an ideal operating temperature for batteries.
Bigger Is Better
There’s only so much energy you can squeeze out of the battery that came with your Android. If you can’t fit more gas in the tank, get a bigger tank! There are many types of battery boosting packs out there, some which also act as a phone case, so you don’t have to carry two devices around. With some of these boosters you could easily double or triple your runtime on a full charge.
Fill’er Up Please
Whenever you can, plug your Android in to charge. That old story about how you should drain a battery completely before recharging it just isn’t true for the batteries you’ll find in modern electronics. You can top it up anytime and not damage your battery at all.
Although this doesn’t necessarily add battery life to your Android, it can easily make the difference between having a phone you can use and an expensive paperweight.
Turn the Phone Off
This is not the answer you are looking for. However, when your phone is completely off, the draw on the battery is very little. Infinitesimal even. Unless you’re expecting an emergency call in the middle of the night, turn it off when you go to bed. Or just turn it off whenever and enjoy the people that are right there with you.
Keep Stretching Out That Battery Life
Applying any combination of these power saving measures is going to make a difference to how long your Android will run on battery power. Like driving a car, the more you learn about how it works, the better and more efficiently you can use it.
Do you have any battery saving tips for using an Android? Which of these tips do you get the most out of? Let’s us know, we’re all in this together.