How-To Geek

Lesson 3: Extending Your Android Device’s Battery Life

Android 3

One of the biggest gripes among mobile users—iPhone or Android—is battery life. The status quo for battery life seems to be about a day: from the time that someone wakes up in the morning and unplugs their phone from the charger to the point where they plug it in at night before they go to bed. That’s an understandable and reasonable request.

This all assumes that you don’t have one of those days where you’re talking to people all day or you get into a heated texting discussion with a friend, or you just can’t get off of Facebook.

There are a bunch of different factors that conspire to deprive you of battery life. In this lesson, we’ll talk about why batteries drain so fast, how they lose health, and what you can do to keep it under control.

The Features That Shorten Your Battery Life

Let’s start by talking about the features on your phone that drain the most battery–and how you can eke a bit more time out of your device during the day.

Screen Activity and Brightness

The number one battery killer is the screen. If you go to the “Battery” settings (further detailed in a bit) and tap on the “Screen” item, it opens to reveal its “use details,” including how much of the battery it has thus far consumed, the time it has remained on, and a handy shortcut to the “Display” settings (which can also be accessed from the main settings screen).

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So what’s the best way to defeat this? Well, apart from using your phone less, the best thing you can do is turn the brightness as far down as ambient light will allow.

Head to Settings > Display and tap “Brightness Level”. Move the slider up or down to quickly adjust your screen’s brightness.

You can also set it to “Auto” (or “Adaptive brightness” on some devices) and the screen brightness will automatically adjust to ambient light conditions. Ideally, you want to only set your screen’s brightness to high when you’re in full sunlight or very brightly lit situations.

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Going into settings every time you want to adjust the brightness isn’t very convenient, though. So most of the time, you can quickly access brightness settings on your device by pulling down the “quick settings panel” (pull down from the top of your screen twice) and choosing using the slider.

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Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Location Access, and LTE

Your device comes with a number of goodies that you use daily and probably take for granted. But let’s be clear: you should not. In fact, you should be very much aware of how stuff like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and LTE can decimate your battery life.

Take Bluetooth, for instance. You only really need Bluetooth turned on when you’re actively using a headset, speaker, keyboard, or some other device that requires Bluetooth. If you aren’t doing this all the time.  Bluetooth is definitely great, but it’s only something that you use for specific applications and at certain times. So you can turn it off when you aren’t using it to save some battery.

To turn off Bluetooth, just tap its icon in the Quick Settings menu.

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Then there’s the way your phone sends and receives data. Obviously, if you’re on a tight data plan, you want to use Wi-Fi, but when you leave the house, your phone will automatically switch to its mobile data…while Wi-Fi remains on and inactive. The result is that your phone is constantly searching for a wireless access point, even though you may be driving around running errands.

The best thing to do is to turn Wi-Fi off altogether when you aren’t using it: just pull the Quick Settings panel down and tap the Wi-Fi icon to disable it.

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Finally, there’s a wonderful thing called LTE, otherwise known as 4G. It makes your data really fast so you can stream audio and video without hiccups, or surf the Internet without seeming to wait forever on some things to load. The problem is that LTE not only uses data faster, it also kills your battery faster too.

We can’t recommend turning LTE off as a matter of policy, but you can dial it back if you’re out in the country or somewhere where coverage is spotty. To do this, open your settings and head to More > Mobile networks. On this screen you can perform a variety of tasks, but if you click the “Preferred network type,” you can restrict the phone to the type of network it uses.

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Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and died-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.


Cameron Summerson is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys on the 'net, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, chugging away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

  • Published 11/9/16

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