By seaempty. Friday, January 7, 2011 8:02:10 AM
One of the biggest complaints people have about their Android phones is the battery life. My first Android phone was an HTC Hero, and I used to have to charge it every other day. That was a bit of a shock coming from a Sony Ericsson C905, which used to last a week between charges. The 2.1 update to the Hero appeared to make the phone less energy efficient, and I was down to one charge a day.
A couple of months ago, I upgraded to an HTC Desire HD, which runs Android 2.2 (supposedly less power-hungry), and has a more efficient processor. I still have to charge once a day, but is this really an issue?
Today's smart phones are energy drainers. With bright displays, apps functioning in the background, videos playing, and not to mention actually making calls, it's hardly surprising that they use more battery than older, more simplistic phones. It appears to me that you have a choice; either limit the functionality of the device, and charge less, or unleash the full potential of the phone, and resign yourself to charging more often.
My view is that as long as my battery lasts a day, I can charge it overnight, and there's no impact on my use. I'm a pretty heavy user of the phone, and my Desire HD usually ends the day with 30-40% of its battery left.
There are several tips to help you conserve the battery, if you're finding that you're having to charge more often than you'd like. Just searching for "Android battery tips" brings up dozens of websites with helpful hints. If you think about it logically, it's easy to find out what drains your battery, and how to address it. Head over to Settings –> About Phone –> Battery use to find out what's been drinking the juice.
For me, the three biggest users of the battery are the display, cell standby, and Wi-Fi.
Most devices have the ability to adjust the brightness of the screen, or if they don't, there are apps available in the Market to do this. Reducing this to 50% will save a great deal of energy, and you should still have a bright and vibrant display.
Most devices also have the option to have the screen automatically adjust the brightness using a light sensor, and I personally prefer using this option, as it ultimately leads to a more dynamic experience, without using much more energy.
Cell Standby relates to the data transfer over your mobile network, and usually kicks in when you're not connected to Wi-Fi. It's important to note that it's a huge energy drain, and the less you use it, the better your battery life will be. This means that you should try to reduce the amount of times your apps update and sync when you're out and about.
I use TweetDeck, for example, and I have my timeline to update every two hours, rather than every 15 minutes. Using less widgets also helps, or just using the ones you want more sensibly. For example, my HTC weather widget updates twice a day, rather than hourly. It's little things like this that help you get a few more hours use.
There may be apps on your phone that you don't use, but still update in the background. Find these and delete them, or at least change the settings. Out of the box, the HTC Desire had syncing set up for news and stocks - two features of the phone that I don't use, so I turned the sync option off. It's worth exploring your phone to find out what's using your data and why.
Wi-Fi is a strange one. Whilst it drains the battery to have it on, constantly searching for access points, it actually using less energy than the cell network to transfer data. Under your Wi-Fi settings, there is an option to have your Wi-Fi never sleep (Settings -> Wireless & networks -> Wi-Fi settings -> Menu -> Advanced -> Wi-Fi sleep policy).
Normally, if you're connected to Wi-Fi, the connection drops when your phone sleeps, and reverts to using the cell network to transfer data. Setting your Wi-Fi to never sleep means that the connection remains constant, and doesn't change to the more power-hungry cell network. It's pretty amazing how much this improves battery life, and when I'm at home, connected to Wi-Fi all day, my battery life almost doubles.
To make this easier, I use an app called "Y5 - Battery Saver". It controls your Wi-Fi using the location of cell towers, and remembers where your known Wi-Fi access points are. When I'm at home it turns my Wi-Fi on, and when I'm at work, with no Wi-Fi access point, it turns it off.
There's an app in the Market called "Tasker" which does the same job (and so, so much more), but it's not free. It does however, give you more control over battery usage, and many people recommend it. I haven't yet tried it out.
What else can I do?
Doing the above should see an improvement in the battery life, but there is more you can do:
- If your phone has the ability to have live wallpapers, they are a big power drain. If you do use them, try and find a more efficient one in the Market.
- Playing games and watching videos are also a big power drains, but there's not a great deal you can do about this. Just bear in mind that if you're going to be away from a charger for the day, it's probably not a good idea to play Angry Birds for an hour, or watch the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings.
- Turn off Bluetooth and GPS if you don't need them, perhaps installing widgets so that you can turn them on/off with a flick of a switch (Android's own Power Control widget is a good example of this).
- Find out what apps are running in the background (Settings -> Applications -> Running services). If there's one there that you don't need, get rid of it (though if you're unsure of what it does, it's probably best to keep it!).
- You'll find some sites giving you tips on hour to calibrate your battery. This usually involves a complex sequence of charging, unplugging, and re-charging your phone, and I haven't found this to make a blind bit of difference.
- If you're a heavy user, maybe invest in a spare battery or charger so that you won't be caught short when you're out and about. Not really a tip to conserve energy, but sensible nonetheless.
Don't be afraid to use your device, but just use it sensibly. Unleash its potential, but keep it in the backyard where you can keep an eye on it. Accept the fact that your smart phone will use more battery than older phones, and get into the routine of regularly charging it.
Using the above tips will help - do you have any more to share? Leave a comment below, and let us know!