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(Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
(Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Maxing out your gadgets on holiday Add to ...

The itch of BlackBerry thumb can be hard to ignore - even when you're on vacation. Here's your guide to keeping your family's gadgets running smoothly when you're far away from civilization (and a power outlet).


If you're taking the cellphone to the cottage, you might find that it dies faster than it would at home. That's because your phone is probably searching for a cell tower to connect to more often and, in turn, using more power, explains Isidor Buchmann, the Vancouver author of Batteries in a Portable World.

Fiddle around with the settings to turn off any connections (Bluetooth, Wifi) you don't need when your phone isn't in use. Minimize frequent auto-checks for new e-mails or text messages. And put it in standby mode if possible. (It will still use some current, but less than if it were fully on.)

And if you can live without playing BrickBreaker or Tetris, that'll help, too.


You may think you can keep your iPhone or iPod Touch running longer by keeping calls to a minimum, but it's actually all the other tasks (using apps, surfing the Web) that drain the battery most, Mr. Buchmann says: "The illumination of the screen, the touch screen, it draws much more current than talking on the phone.

Chances are your iDevice will die before anything else, so consider using solar power when you're away from an electrical outlet. But before you blindly purchase solar cells and an adapter, do your homework.

If you purchase the wrong items, "the voltage could be too high and damage the device," he warns. Take your gadget (and any printed material outlining technical specifications) to an expert to make sure you get the right accessories for the job.

Laptop/portable DVD player

A laptop or portable DVD player can be a lifesaver when it comes to travelling with kids - just ask any parent who's had a Monsters, Inc. DVD handy on a long car trip. But if you've had one for a few years, you've probably come to terms with the fact that the battery isn't what it used to be.

Purchase a car charger for either device, Mr. Buchmann suggests. (Your portable DVD player may already come with one.) If you need your laptop for work or idle browsing, and have no means of recharging the battery, adjust your settings, he adds. "Lower the screen brightness - that draws quite a bit of current."

And reading text on a screen will put less stress on your machine (and your battery) than other more active tasks, he notes. In essence: Save the resource-hogging gaming for when you're at home; indulge only in the simplest tasks, such as checking e-mail and word processing.

Digital camera

Most camera batteries are rated according to how many photos they can take when charged, not how many hours you can keep them on. But Mr. Buchmann says that the way you use your camera can affect how long it lasts before you get the low-battery sign.

Habits to curb if you want that battery to last your entire vacation: Powering it off and on frequently, overusing the zoom, and turning on the flash.

Nintendo DS

When it comes to kid-friendly digital devices, it might be wiser to give a Nintendo DS to your kid than let her toy around with your iPhone. "The batteries are not stressed as long on those," Mr. Buchmann points out. When fully charged, "they'll last as long as a kid lasts."

But when you notice battery capacity is slipping down to the 20-per-cent mark, follow the same rules as for any device with a screen: Dim that bright.

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