Apple iPhone power: 20 tips for longer battery life

By Jonny Evans

Even for hard-working Apple [AAPL] employees the long weekend beckons. Many will take to the mountains, others to the beach, some might take time out at a music festival, or fishing by the waters. It's time for rest and relaxation, but, for those who want to stay connected, how do you get the best possible battery life from your iPhone, iPad or other iDevice?

[ABOVE: August isn't far away -- will you be taking your iPhone to Burning Man?]

Diversify

If you're in a vehicle, now's a good time to pick up one of those auto-adaptor iPhone chargers. There's lots of these. Alternatively, perhaps a solar-recharging device such as the excellent Solio makes sense.

It's good to grab a device for recharging your iPhone on the fly. For this you can't go wrong with Mophie's best in class devices, including the excellent Mophie Juice Pack Air.

What's good about the latter is that it works as a handy protective case and also gives you an additional 36-hours of audio playback or 6 hours talk time over 3G, which should help you call the breakdown company when your hired SUV breaks down in the rugged mountain country (assuming you can find a signal), or if you need to get more fuel because someone's "nicked" your diesel, if you're a music festival fanatic.

[ABOVE: Mophie Juice Pack promo clip -- I like the design, build quality and simplicity of these things.]

Handful of hints

Once you've got your grab bag full of charging accessories, it also helps to follow some simple advice:

-- Switch your phone off when you're asleep.

-- Text, don't talk (this reduces battery drain, though if you're in a busy area you do often find texts can take an age to arrive due to the local cell being overused).

-- Switch off Bluetooth if you're not using it.

-- Switch off WiFi if you're not using a wireless network.

-- Switch off 3G along with location services and automated Mail checks if you aren't interested in constant data -- you can always switch it on again if you need it.

-- If you're in an area where you can't get a mobile signal, but want to use your phone in other ways, might I suggest turning your device to AirPlane Mode? (Settings>Airplane Mode>Off/On.) The problem here is that your iPhone will continue to use up power searching for a stable mobile signal, and if it isn't going to find one why not stop the task? Airplane Mode does this for you.

(Another handy tip: when your connection isn't strong, sometimes it helps to enter AirPlane Mode and then re-enter normal mode. This causes the phone to seek a new connection, which might be better than the first.)

These few steps should ensure your iPhone's active when you need to capture that image, those few seconds of video, listen to some tunes, or make that all important emergency call when your nominated driver gets stung in the hand by a wasp and suffers severe swelling and/or apoplectic shock. Can you do more? Of course....here's a few more (and less) advanced tips:

Bright enough

It's a vacation. It's well-known that 72 percent of people check work email during non -business hours, but your sanity and relationships would probably benefit from a business break. Repeat after me: "I am not on vacation to stare at a screen; I am not on vacation to stare at a screen." Got that? Good. Now, in 'Settings'>'Brightness' switch off Auto-brightness and manually change your display brightness to as low as you can go while still being able to read the screen just enough to receive an SMS message, choose a track or make a call.

[ABOVE: Skrillex plays a little dubstep at last year's Lollapalooza Festival.]

Push out

The iPhone's Push function is great if you want an instant notification, but all that background polling for new notifications sucks power a little at a time. Turn to Settings>Notifications and set Notifications to Off. This will save a little power. Now you've done that you might as well switch off Location Services, too (Settings > General > Location Services or use location services only when needed.)

Manage your email

From Apple itself: "Applications such as Mail can be set to fetch data wirelessly at specific intervals. The more frequently email or other data is fetched, the quicker your battery may drain. To fetch new data manually, from the Home screen choose Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data and tap Manually. To increase the fetch interval, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data and tap Hourly. Note that this is a global setting and applies to all applications that do not support push services."

You can also turn off auto-checking of email completely: Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, choose an email account, and set Account to Off. You'll still be able to check your mail manually as and when you need it.

Turn off the EQ

The iPhone's Music app's EQ can decrease battery life when used. To turn it off go to Settings > iPod > EQ and tap Off. That will save you a few more strands of power.

Control time itself

OK, controlling time itself is a tall order, even though it's merely a human construct based on an inaccurate approximation of the sun's position in the hemisphere. Whatever. Your iPhone will occasionally use location services in order to detect if you are in the correct time zone. This only uses a little power, but that little power might be the little power you need, so why not disable this feature? You can achieve this in Settings>Location Services>System Services>Setting Time Zone to 'Off' position. Assuming you aren't crossing any time zones, you already know what time it is, and so does your iPhone.

While you're in there why not switch off 'Location-Based iAds' as well? And 'Diagnostics & Usage', and 'Traffic', the latter assuming you aren't using the traffic function on your phone.

Silence Siri

Well, just a little: Siri isn't much use if you don't have a good 3G connection. It doesn't know this, so if you have the 'Raise To Speak' function enabled on your iPhone it will bounce into action when you raise the phone to your ears. Switch that feature off: Settings>General>Siri>Set Raise To Speak to 'off'.

So there you have it:

Armed with a bagful of recharge cables, a solar power charge system, your Mophie and these tips you should be able to count on your iPhone to be there for you as and when you need it so you can worry about something else: whether that's simply enjoying the glorious beauty of the mountains, the ravaging savagery of a rocky shore, or the phenomenally attractive rubber-clad member of your opposite sex(es) dancing wildly in front of your favorite band during one of this season's outdoor music festivals. Whatever you do do, here's hoping you enjoy this, and many more, long weekends.

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.     

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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