Android battery life: 10 ways to make your phone last longer

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Android Battery Life

Android phones can do all sorts of cool stuff, but it's practically inevitable: Some nights, you're left disappointed and wishing your device could last just a little bit longer. (Hey, they say it happens to everyone once in a while. And yes, we're still talking about phones.)

If your Android battery life isn't all that it could be, there's no need to fret: A few simple steps can boost your phone's stamina and help you get more out of each charge.

So grab your metaphorical stethoscope and get ready. It's time for us to play Android battery doctor.

Android Battery Life: The Phone Factor

First, know that Android battery life can vary greatly from one device to another. The folks from Laptop Magazine recently conducted a detailed test on battery performance across several current Android handsets.

Their findings? The Motorola Droid X rules the pack, with nearly eight hours of nonstop use per charge. Not far behind is Motorola's Droid 2, followed by the Samsung Epic 4G and HTC EVO 4G. The Droid Incredible comes in last, with only four-and-a-half hours of solid activity under its belt.

Regardless of what you have to work with, though, there are things you can do to make the most of your phone's power. Read on, and let the healing begin.

Android Battery Life Tip #1: Watch Out For Wi-Fi

Unless you're constantly connected to a wireless network, turn off your phone's Wi-Fi function when you aren't using it. Whenever Wi-Fi is enabled, your phone will constantly scan for available networks -- and that eats up your Android's battery in a hurry.

Look in the "Wireless & networks" section of your phone's main settings to make the adjustment. Or, for easy access, install the Android power widget onto your home screen (long press on an open area, select "Widgets," then select "Power Control"). It'll give you a one-touch toggle for Wi-Fi and other important system functions.

Android Battery Life Tip #2: Get Rid of the Bluetooth Blues

Another easy way to improve Android battery life is to disable Bluetooth when you don't need it. You'll find a quick switch for this on the same Android power widget mentioned above.

[Plug in, turn on. Follow @AndroidPower on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to stay connected.]

Android Battery Life Tip #3: Check Up On Your Check-Ins

Android Battery Life

One of the worst offenders when it comes to Android power consumption is the social network check-in. Social networking apps -- both ones you download and ones that come preloaded with your phone -- connect to services on regular intervals to fetch new updates. The more frequent the interval, the more battery power they'll use throughout the day.

Look through the settings of all the social networking apps on your phone, even ones you don't regularly access. For the most effective battery conservation, set the programs to refresh manually -- that is, only when you tell them to do it. If you like having them check in on their own, consider at least raising the interval so they don't connect quite as often. Instead of refreshing every 15 minutes, for example, try setting them to do it every half-hour. Even that small of a change will cut the apps' background processing in half, saving precious power that'll add up to extra minutes of phone usage.

If you have a device with Sense, Motoblur, or another baked-in manufacturer UI, be sure to take a swipe through the settings of that software, too. All of those home screen widgets cause your phone to make frequent connections to various services, and they might be doing it in the background even if you don't have the widgets actively installed.

Android Battery Life Tip #4: Look for Other Syncing Suspects

Social networking tools aren't the only apps that'll drain your battery with background synchronization. While you're on the hunt, tap into the settings of other apps that require Internet connectivity and check to see how frequently they're refreshing. Many news apps -- including the "News & Weather" widget that comes preloaded on many phones -- may be syncing in the background and draining your phone's resources. If you don't need the autosync, disable it.

Another common culprit is Android's E-mail app -- the one that lets you connect to non-Gmail accounts. If you've ever configured an account in that program, open it up and take a peek at its refresh rate. Unlike the Gmail app, the E-mail app doesn't use push notification. That means it has to actually ping your POP server every time it looks for new mail, something that uses up a good amount of power over the course of a day.

Android Battery Life Tip #5: Play App Detective

Android Battery Life Tips

Android has a built-in way to see what's using your battery power, and you might just find some surprises when you discover what's doing the damage. Head into the "About phone" section of your main system settings, then select "Battery use." There, you'll see exactly what apps have what used what percentage of your power since your phone was last plugged in. 

It's normal to see system processes like "Display," "Phone idle," "Cell standby," and "Android system" in the list. What you want to look out for are third-party applications that consistently rank high. Certain live wallpapers, for example, may drain more battery power than you're willing to lose. Some GPS-heavy utilities can also have this effect. And virus-scanning software can bog down your system and chip away at your battery life hour after hour.

(Wondering whether you really need that antivirus software on Android, by the way? Read this for some thoughts.)

NEXT PAGE: 5 More Tips For Boosting Android Battery Life

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

FREE Computerworld Insider Guide: Five IT certifications that won’t break you
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies