Keeping smartphone batteries strong for long

Keeping smartphone batteries strong for long

Desire for longer battery life tops the list of factors considered by consumers when purchasing phones

Keeping smartphone batteries strong for long

Ashlei Temeña’s family trip to Disneyland last Thanksgiving break turned into a nightmare when her smartphone battery hit empty.

Temeña, a San Francisco support technician, had gotten separated from her family and realised she had no way to find anyone. Instead of riding roller coasters, she wandered around searching for the group – eventually locating them four hours later watching fireworks. “It sucked really bad,” she said. “I wanted to throw my phone on the ground by the end of the day.”

Many consumers can relate. Despite the leaps forward in mobile phone technology with crisp, clear screens and faster chips, batteries have made only sluggish progress. That has propelled a desire for longer battery life to the top of the list of factors considered by consu-mers when they purchase smartphones, accor-ding to a 2014 survey by the research firm IDC.

So why is battery technology still underwhelming? “Lithium ion, the technology that most mainstream batteries are based on, improves about 10% a year in terms of the amount of energy that can be stored in a given space,” said Charlie Quong, an executive at Mophie, a battery accessory maker. “But, it is low cost and easily reproducible while being safe – so we’ll be stuck with it for the foreseeable future.”

With that backdrop in mind, we teamed up with the Wirecutter, a product recommendations website, to run an array of tests to determine best and worst practices for preserving battery life on Apple and Android smartphones. Here are eight tips:
Use auto-brightness for the screen: A smartphone’s screen consumes more energy than any other component, so the easiest way to cut down battery drain is to reduce your screen brightness. In an hourlong test, an iPhone 6s used 54% less battery power with the screen brightness at minimum as compared with maximum brightness. An Android test phone used 30% less.

But it’s tough to use a dim screen in bright environments, so most phones offer an auto-brightness mode that automatically adjusts the screen’s brightness based on ambient light. The Wirecutter found that enabling auto-brightness saved a good amount of battery life.

Block power-sucking ads: When browsing the Web, your smartphone also burns through power when it downloads mobile ads on websites. Installing an ad blocker will greatly extend battery life.

Tweak your email settings: Email can have a major impact on battery life if you have multiple email accounts and receive lots of email. Your smartphone can update your email automatically using a technology called push, which brings new messages to your phone the instant they are transmitted. Push can be a power hog because it requires your phone to constantly listen for new messages. To save energy, most phones can be configured to instead check for (or “fetch”) emails on a schedule or only when you manually tell your email app to refresh.

Restrict music streaming: The next tip may come as unwelcome news. Nowadays, online streaming is the most popular way to listen to music, with services like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music – but this method guzzles lots of battery power. In the Wirecutter’s tests, streaming music over a Wi-Fi connection for two hours used 10% of an iPhone’s battery reserves; streaming the same music stored directly on a device over two hours consumed only 5%.

Turn off wireless when reception is poor: You may have noticed that when you’re in a place without good Wi-Fi or cellular coverage, your phone’s battery seems to drain much more quickly. That’s because the phone uses energy searching for a good signal and, if the signal is very weak, trying to get a better connection.

To conserve battery life, disable the phone’s wireless circuitry. Airplane Mode, an option that will turn off all wireless features, is a quick and easy solution in areas with poor reception.

Check the battery usage lists: Consumers can get even better results with a bit of sleuthing. Both the iPhone and Android systems provide a simple way to see which apps are using a lot of battery power. For iPhones and Android phones, open the Settings app and in the Battery menu, there are sorted lists of apps that are using the most energy.
Be on the lookout for apps that are active for extended periods in the background and are using a lot of battery power. Examples include an email app, a news reader or a fitness app. If you find apps using up lots of energy in the background, disable their background activities.

Disable unnecessary location tracking: Watch out for apps that track your location. Your phone’s GPS circuitry, which determines your geographic location for mapping features, consumes a lot of battery power. A run-tracking programme that monitors your precise location for the duration of an hourlong run will lower your battery level. If a location-based app is using a lot of power, especially in the background, there’s a good chance the app is using GPS, Wi-Fi and the phone’s sensors frequently.

Shut off unnecessary push notifications: Both Apple and Google recommend disabling push notifications, which are essentially app alerts, to conserve battery life. Notifications require regular communication with notification servers, and each notification causes your phone to wake up for a few seconds, including turning on the screen, to show you a message and give you a chance to act on it.

If All Else Fails
If you have tried all the above and still struggle to get through the day with your battery, consider buying an external battery. These accessories — which can take the form of a bulky case with a built-in battery, or a separate battery pack that connects to your phone with a cable — can provide power to last an additional few hours at the end of the day, or even to fully charge your phone’s battery.

The Wirecutter tested more than 100 external batteries for dozens of hours to pick a few favourites. Its favourite battery case for the iPhone 6 and 6s is Anker’s Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case, which has enough power to fully charge a dead iPhone and then some, more than doubling the phone’s battery life. For larger iPhones – the 6 Plus and 6s Plus – the Wirecutter prefers Tylt’s Energi Sliding Power Case because the case’s two-piece design makes it appealing.

For Android phones, an external battery pack is a good option. The AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank with Micro USB Cable 2,000 mAh is the best pack the Wirecutter tested that will fit in your pocket with your phone, and it’s less than $10. A great battery pack for the iPhone is the $29 TravelCard, which is almost thin enough to fit in a wallet — with a built-in Lightning-connector cable to charge your phone.

After her stressful day at Disneyland, Temeña bought an external Amazon battery pack. She said the pack could fully charge her phone six times, but it wasn’t ideal because of its bulk. Ultimately, she wishes her iPhone had a better battery. “I don’t understand why a battery wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the other advances they’re putting into phones now,” she said.

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