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Lesson 3: Extending your Android Device’s Battery Life

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One of the biggest gripes among device users is battery life. Devices and batteries are not created equal and 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.

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’s a bunch of different factors that conspire to deprive you of battery life. So we’ll talk about all that, such as the very nature of the batteries in your devices, and why they eventually wear out. Also, there’s the conditions under which your battery must operate, which can also quickly sap it dry.

Then there’s your apps, which directly affect not only device performance but battery life in the process. Think of it this way, if you have an app that depends on constantly updating itself to update you that is going to quickly drain your battery.

And this discussion wouldn’t be complete, of course, without a look at how you are using your screen. As we’ll show you later, you screen is the number one battery killer. Adjusting its brightness and timeout length can reduce battery drain, of course, so we’ll teach you exactly how to accomplish that.

Help! My battery keeps dying!

There are times when it just seems like you never have enough battery and when everyone else’s battery seems to have the same problem. This happens more often than we care to think about. In fact, if your device is more than a year old, and you use your phone or tablet a great deal, then it’s probable that you can’t even get a full day’s use out of it.

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Batteries are a fickle thing and most people don’t know the first thing about what makes them fail. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever be able to create a perfect environment that is conducive to long life. Just using your device, such as jogging with it and streaming music on a hot day, will drain wear on the battery more, but there’s not a whole lot you can do other than not use it, which defeats the purpose of having it in the first place.

Still, simply knowing that temperature extremes (not just heat, cold kills batteries too) means that you’re more aware and can take actions to extend their life. Remember, all batteries die given time, but the way you use your devices can impact how much longer they live just as much as how quickly they wear out.

Maximizing Battery Life – Things to remember

If you want to really get the most out of your battery, we suggest you read our full article on battery myths. In any event, you should be at least aware of the following facts so as to better treat your batteries with tender loving care.

Extreme temperatures kill

If you’ve ever lived up north, then you know that when the temperatures drop below freezing, car batteries start to fail. Similarly, in hot desert climates, car batteries face a similar fate. In fact, a whole subset of the car batter industry is devoted to higher performing batteries that continue to operate under extreme conditions.

The batteries that come with your phone, tablet and laptops are different from the lead acid beasts in your car or truck, but the conditions under which they operate best are similar.

Device batteries start to suffer once the temperature dips to or below 0°C (32°F), and they can operate for a time at 70°C (158°F) to 90°C (194°F) without permanently damaging the battery but, keep in mind, that’s the upper limit.

“But oh,” you say, “there’s no way it gets that hot where I live!” Well, yes, that is true; however, there’s other factors to take in to account. First of all, your device produces heat – the screen, the CPU, along with pretty much every chip in there. Then, of course, your device is enclosed in a case and that case is often protected by another one. Then there’s other factors like where you store it – in your pocket next to your body, or in your car on a hot day. Even using GPS and mapping for an extended period can make your device uncomfortably hot.

On the other hand, cold can be just as brutal and just as adversely affect battery life, though unless you leave your phone or tablet exposed to cold for long periods, it’s a bit easier to avoid the same problems as with heat.

Shallow, not full discharges

Lithium ion batteries are different than the old NiMH and NiCd batteries, which had a “memory” and had to be fully discharged before being charged again. Of course, this is highly impractical because who wants to start their day on a 20 percent charge and then have to wait while it completely discharges before putting it in? No one, that’s who.

Lithium ion batteries skirt that limitation. You can discharge your device’s battery to 70 percent or 40 percent or 25 percent and charge it with no ill effects. You can charge your battery at 95 percent if you want, and it won’t matter. That said, we recommend charging your battery when it gets between 40 and 70 percent.

If fact, you should charge your battery regularly and try not to let it drop below 20 percent and never discharge it completely, if possible.

If your battery does fully discharge, charge it

Discharging a Lithium ion battery down to zero won’t kill it, and you don’t face an emergency situation where you have to rush to plug it back in but, you shouldn’t go for long periods of time without charging it to full. For example, you don’t want to go on vacation and leave your phone at zero because when you do plug it back in, it might not hold a charge.

Store your devices at 50%

Similarly, charging your device to full, and then storing it, can have detrimental effects. While we don’t think many of you are ever going to need to worry about this, at least not nearly as much as you might fully discharging your device, if you do intend to go on an extended trip such as several months and you’re leaving it behind, it is best to store your device at 50 percent.

To Unplug or Not to Unplug

There’s a bit of debate on this. While it’s generally acceptable to leave your laptop plugged in, it’s probably not a great idea to leave your phone or tablet constantly plugged in. The general consensus is that leaving your device plugged in once it reaches 100 percent is detrimental to battery life. You can avoid leaving your phone on charge by investing in something like a socket timer, which turns off power to the socket after a predetermined amount of time.

For everything else, you will need to take a concerted effort to maximize your battery’s life. How-To Geek already has a thorough guide to maximizing your android phone’s battery, but we’re going to go ahead and reiterate and update many of the things that guide details.

Screen activity and brightness

The number one battery killer is screen activity. If you got to the “Battery” settings (further detailed in a bit) and click 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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In the display settings, there are some things you can adjust to have an immediate impact on battery life.

Brightness

There isn’t much to this, and it should be fairly easy to figure out. Move the slider up or down to quickly adjust your screen’s brightness.

You can also set it to “Auto” 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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Note, you can quickly access brightness settings on your device by pulling down the “quick settings panel” and choosing “brightness.”

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Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Locations, 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, completely decimate battery life.

Take GPS for instance. Realistically, you only need to use GPS when you’re doing stuff that is location oriented. If you want to use Google Navigation you most definitely need GPS. If you want to tag your photos where they were taken, GPS is usually a must. But, honestly how often will you do that?

You can turn off GPS in the “Location settings” or simply use the quick settings to tap the “location” icon. On the Samsung Galaxy, you can accomplish this by pulling down the status bar and tapping “GPS” at the top.

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You can adjust location battery consumption even further in its settings.

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Tap the “Mode” button to gain further battery savings.

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Born and brainwashed an Ohio State Buckeye, Matt now lives a warm, snow-free life just north of the Texas/Mexico border. He fancies himself a modern-day jack-of-all-trades; favorite conversation starters include operating systems, Android, BBQ, quantum physics, and roller skating.

  • Published 04/23/14