We’re reaching the point of overload. Our smartphones are doing more. They’re replacing other gadget in our lives, and they’re performing a greater number of everyday functions. That’s the upshot. The overload comes when we have to find ways to power these functions. Battery life on smartphones, particularly Android smartphones, is not very good. In order to power the growing number of functions and services our smartphones can perform, we’ll have to find ways to extend battery life.
Smartphone users wishing to extend their battery lives have only a few options currently. In fact, there are really only two.
1. Extended battery. Most, if not all, smartphones have options for extended batteries. These are larger than normally batteries, so require a special battery door. They can greatly improve battery life, but they also make the phone thicker. It’s a trade-off.
2. Spare battery. Some people opt to carry a spare battery, switching it for a dead one when needed. This is convenient in some ways, but in others it’s a hassle. It means charging both batteries, for one. It also means rebooting while changing.
Some smartphone manufacturers are making an effort to extend battery life. Samsung has said it’s making that commitment in 2012. Motorola has already released the Droid RAZR Maxx, which has a better battery life than the original, and than most smartphones. But it’s a bit thicker, as well.
That seems to be the thing with batteries: the only way to create longer battery life, it seems, is to make the battery bigger. In a way that makes sense. To do otherwise would probably require a completely different battery technology. But for now it appears we are stuck with lithium-ion batteries and the DC power systems that charge them. All we can do is make the most of what we have.
Making the most of a battery
There are a number of things a user can do to ensure the longest possible battery life. These have the potential to make serious impacts, especially for heavy users.
1. Turn off the radio when there’s no signal. When a cell phone doesn’t have a signal, it expends plenty of energy searching for one. Even when it has a weak signal, it’s spending valuable processor power and energy trying to find a stronger one. This is one of the biggest smartphone battery drains. When you’re in an area with no service — underground, most commonly — turn off your radio. You won’t get service, anyway, and you’ll prevent your phone from wasting power searching.
2. Dim the screen. A smartphone’s screen takes plenty of energy to power. Light users might not see a big issue. Heavy users, however, suffer. Since their screens are on more, their batteries drain faster. The easiest solution, other than simply using the phone less, is to dim the backlight. This is usually available in general settings. A dimmer backlight uses less battery. Something around two-thirds brightness can suffice for most users.
3. Manually update apps. There are plenty of apps that automatically update. Many of these apps work best when automatically updating. Unfortunately, this is another battery drain. It means your phone is constantly checking the network, and checking the network consumes battery life. It’s best to leave most, if not all, apps to update only when you want them to update.
4. Turn off vibrate. Yes, the vibration feature on your phone consumes a considerable amount of battery. It only vibrates in spurts, so each spurt might not take up that much. But add them up and it makes a big difference. Turn off as many vibrating alerts as possible and save battery.
Combine these with an extended or spare battery, and even the heaviest of smartphone users can get through a day. Even for normal users, these tips can help save battery life throughout the day. They’ll have to suffice until new battery technology starts powering our smartphones.