A common complaint from smartphone users, whether they own an Android, iOS or Blackberry device, is how quickly their battery runs out. Moderate smartphone users tell me they typically can't go a whole day without having to recharge their device, while heavy users often can't make it much past lunch without plugging in.
To understand why the battery life of these wonderful devices can be so short, a quick lesson is required. A typical smartphone lithium ion battery, regardless of what device you own, is rated around five watt hours. This means that if your phone is using an average of one watt of energy per hour then your device will need recharging after five hours of use. If you were to consume an average of half a watt of energy per hour then your device will need recharging after 10 hours of use.
Since the size of the battery inside your smartphone is fixed, the only way to extend the time between charges, short of turning off the device, is to reduce your average hourly power consumption.
The good news is there are quite a few ways to reduce your smartphone's power consumption without having to significantly reduce functionality. The following six tips can dramatically increase the time between charges.
1) Turn down and turn off the screen
Studies measuring smartphone power consumption in real life situations have found that screens account for between one-third and two thirds of overall power consumption. Since a brighter screen uses more energy, probably the best way to extend battery life is to turn down the brightness of your screen. Full brightness is really only required when you're out in the sun and can often be too bright under normal indoor lighting conditions. My recommendation is to use your phones auto-brightness function which will adjust the screens brightness based on ambient light settings.
In addition to turning down the brightness, I recommend having your screen turn off automatically after a short period of inactivity. On my Android device, the screen can be set to turn off in as quickly as 15 seconds and as long as 30 minutes. Obviously the quicker the screen shuts off after the last activity, the more useful battery life you will have. I have set my screen to go to sleep after 30 seconds.
2) Turn off Bluetooth
When you activate Bluetooth on your phone, you turn on a radio which is always on and always consuming power. To save upwards of an hour a day of battery power, my advice is to take the Bluetooth headset out of your ear and talk on the phone the old fashioned way. If you listen to music or watch videos on your device, it's best to avoid Bluetooth earplugs and go wired. I find the only time Bluetooth is necessary is when hands-free operation is required – such as when you are making calls while driving. Of course, always remember to plug in your smartphone when you get in your car so you can recharge it while driving.
3) Turn off WiFi
Like Bluetooth, when you activate WiFi on your smartphone, you are turning on a radio receiver and transmitter which is running continuously. When you're on the bus or subway or in public places where WiFi is not available then turning off your phones WiFi radio can greatly extend battery life.
In analyzing power consumption on my Android phone, I found WiFi was the second biggest power drain after the screen. To cut power consumption, I installed a widget on my home screen which allows me toggle Bluetooth and WiFi on and off with a single touch of the screen. Highly recommended!
4) Turn off GPS
The GPS unit inside your phone is a wonderful feature when searching for nearby restaurants or when you are using a navigation app; but it's always-on aspect can make it a significant consumer of precious battery power.
5) Turn off unnecessary apps and notifications
Simply speaking, the more applications and more notifications you are running on your phone, the more energy you are consuming. Applications can be quickly turned on so if you are not using them, then turn them off.
6) When all else fails, pack extra power
If you've implemented all of the suggestions above and still find you can't get through the day without recharging your smartphone then consider buying a portable power pack. Packs are simply portable rechargeable batteries which plug into your smartphone and transfer energy from the power pack to your phone. Most power packs can provide up to an additional four hours or so of extra run time to your average smartphone. As an added bonus, the power packs can also be used to recharge other portable devices, such as an iPod or Nintendo DS. Power Packs from the likes of Energizer and Duracell, which can charge and discharge about 500 times, are available from big-box retailers for between $30 and $40.
Hugh Thompson is a Consumer Electronics enthusiast, writer, Internet Marketing Consultant, and former owner of Digital Home, a consumer electronics news and information website. As a voice for the Canadian consumer, Hugh is a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country discussing the latest in consumer electronics.