Improving your Smartphone Battery Life: Power Saving Tips and Tricks
May 8th, 2012
Nothing is worse than running out of battery in the middle of the day. In this guide we explore the battery life of phones, ways to extend your battery life and how you should charge your battery.
How long should my phone last between recharges?
Modern smartphones are designed to last for at least a day on a single charge under moderate usage. Typically you’ll need to recharge your phone every night and it shouldn’t be a worry if you find yourself needing to do this.
However, if your smartphone struggles to make it through the day and requires a mid-day power boost, we recommend investigating to see whether a misbehaving applications is causing problems. The power saving tips in this article will help to diagnose issues with your smartphone’s battery life and ways to improve it.
How can I extend the battery life of my phone?
Most phones come with a range of features that allow you to conserve power and ensure your phone can last longer between recharges. The exact features vary depending on your phone, but there are some common tips and features:
- Check for misbehaving applications. If you’re on Android, check for a misbehaving application using our guide to resolving poor battery life on Android.
- Use wi-fi at home if it’s available. It’s a simple law of physics that says that the your phone will consume more power when transmitting information further. Modern smartphones can be continuously transmitting and receiving data and this can eat up battery quickly. If you’ve got good wi-fi coverage at home, enabling wi-fi on your smartphone can substantially improve battery life particularly if 3G coverage is poor where you live.
- Turn off wi-fi if you’re not using it. If you’ve got wi-fi turned on but you’re not connected to a network, your phone will continuously search for wi-fi networks in the background. Even once you’ve left home or work and no wi-fi coverage is available, your phone will still be searching for wi-fi networks in the background. This can eat up a lot of energy so it’s worth turning wi-fi off when you leave the home!
- Turn off 3G/WCDMA if it’s not needed or reception would improve. The more bars you have, the longer the battery on your phone will last. This is because the weaker your phone signal is, the more power must be used by the phone to maintain the connection with the network. If 3G coverage is poor where you live, one possible way of extending your battery life is to disable 3G. As a 2G/GPRS tower will often give a better signal, this will improve battery life. Look for an option to disable 3G/disable WCDMA or for a “GSM only” option.
- Switch off data overnight. Even when you go to sleep, your phone will continue to work in the background by synchronising your e-mails, feeds, instant messages and more. Not only can these notifications interrupt your sleep throughout the night, they can also reduce battery life. Disabling 3G data and wi-fi connectivity overnight will reduce battery drain to near-zero and allow your phone to enter remain in a low-power state for 8 hours a night.
- Turn down the brightness on your screen. The screen is one of the most power hungry features of a modern phone. By reducing the brightness of your phone’s display or using the “automatic brightness” feature, battery life can be extended.
- Turn off GPS. GPS can be a real power hog especially when you’re using your phone indoors. When you disable GPS on your phone, your phone can still use network location to determine its location (it triangulates the signal it receives from different masts). Whilst this might not be accurate enough for turn-by-turn GPS navigation, it should suffice for most tasks.
- Lock screen. When you’ve finished using your phone, get in the habit of locking it. Once the phone is locked, the screen will turn off and the phone enters a low power mode (unless you’ve got wakelocks). One key factor which can significantly affect battery life is how long it takes for your phone to reach the “sleep” state.
- Turn off the vibration feature. It takes quite a lot of energy to vibrate a phone. If you’ve got a touchscreen keyboard which vibrates every time you tap a key, this can drain battery life. Look for an option to disable “haptic feedback” in your phone’s menus.
- Reduce sync frequency. Many smartphones have the capability of automatically synchronising things such as your e-mail, Facebook friends list and profile pictures, etc. Reducing the frequency with which your phone synchronises will reduce the amount of data downloaded and hence the amount of battery consumed.
- Switch network. The better the signal you receive from your mobile network, the longer your phone will last on a single charge. See our guide on how to choose the network with the best reception and use tools such as OFCOM Sitefinder to find the location of nearby masts. You can also obtain some free Pay As You Go SIM cards to test coverage quality on the major networks.
Should I wait for the battery to fully discharge before charging it?
No. You should avoid allowing the battery to fully discharge. Although the lithium-ion batteries in most smartphones can only be charged a certain number of times, a partial recharge will only count as a partial cycle (charging from 50% to 100% counts as half of a charge cycle). It makes no difference to the battery whether you charge it fully in one go or lots of times in small amounts.
Is it possible to over-charge my battery?
No. The charger should automatically cut out once the phone is fully charged. There should be no problem in leaving the phone plugged into the mains even when it is fully charged (most people do this with their laptops all the time). However, there may be energy wastage associated with leaving your phone plugged in.
Are third party/replacement batteries safe to use?
We strongly recommend against purchasing batteries unless they are from a trusted brand and source. Ideally you should purchase replacement batteries from the original equipment manufacturer – your mobile phone maker. It can be incredibly dangerous to use cheap or counterfeit batteries: these batteries often claim a higher capacity than they really have and could lack the necessary safety circuits.
Where can I learn more about mobile phone batteries?
There is a fantastic site called Battery University which really does explain everything anyone could ever want to know about batteries. Mobile phones normally use lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries – your battery should have a label identifying the type of battery. Key guides include:
- The chemistry of lithium-ion batteries (technical!)
- How to charge lithium-ion batteries
- How to charge and when to recharge
- How to recycle batteries
- Dos and Don’ts: Table of best practice for batteries
I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.
Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.