Android battery life not all it could be? Try this

Smartphone battery life can be a complicated issue -- but as I learned while troubleshooting my own phone this week, the solution can sometimes be surprisingly simple.

Android Battery Life

Ah, battery life. It's a never-ending struggle we mere humans have with these powerful pocket-sized devices that rule our lives. We depend on them to keep us connected, on time, and even entertained -- but then they have the audacity to go and die on us before the day's over.

There are approximately 7.4 gazillion reasons your Android device's stamina might be falling short (and hey, let's be fair: Finishing early is bound to happen to everyone once in a while). I recently encountered one quiet culprit, though, that was taking a toll on my own phone -- and I thought it'd be worth passing along for anyone else who might be experiencing something similar.

In case you haven't been following along, I recently got myself a Nexus 6P while my wife moved into a shiny new Nexus 5X. I'd spent a fair amount of time living with loaner units of both devices while I reviewed them last year, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect with battery life going in.

But after we'd had our phones for a little while, something seemed very off. We were both running into that dreaded red zone of low energy in the mid-evening hours too often -- far more frequently than I had with similar levels of usage on both devices during my testing period. Something had to be different. But what?

After a bit of Sherlocking (sans the pipe -- I couldn't pull it off), I found the answer: The power-hungry culprit was none other than my trusty ol' friend, Google Photos.

My wife and I probably use and rely on Photos more than any other single service -- largely because of that lump of adorable Jell-O we like to call our daughter. We take an absurd amount of pictures and videos these days, all of which are automatically backed up to our respective Photos cloud storage accounts for device-agnostic organization and safekeeping.

And therein lies the problem: Turns out we'd both set Photos to sync our images anytime we were connected to Wi-Fi, with no further restrictions. That seemed like a sensible setup, as it'd make sure our precious moments were frequently backed up and thus safe from accidental loss and always ready to share. That much is true. But wouldn't ya know it, that level of convenience comes at a cost.

The issue, I realized in a "doh!"-worthy moment of sudden lucidity, is that uploading data to a remote server eats up a fair amount of power -- especially when a large number of photos and (worst of all) videos are involved. Sticking to Wi-Fi only helped us avoid burning through a ton of mobile data but did nothing for our device's poor weary batteries.

The fix was as simple as flipping one switch -- an innocuous-looking little toggle located in the "Back up & sync" section of the Photos app's settings:

Android Battery Life, Google Photos

The difference? Night and day. We're both now getting noticeably better battery life from our respective phones -- much more in line with what I experienced in my earlier testing (when I didn't have Photos backup enabled). Sure, we'll both occasionally see the power needle drop a little low before bedtime and even have to do the occasional quick top-off, but it's more of an exception resulting from unusually heavy use than a near-daily (and annoyingly enigmatic) rule, like it was before. And while having our memories backed up only while the phones are charging isn't as ideal as having them synced all throughout the day, the tradeoff is well worthwhile.

If your own battery life seems lower than it should be and you're using Photos to back up your camera content, I'd strongly recommend giving this setting a look. (That's assuming, of course, that you've already addressed the infamous Facebook Factor of Battery Drainage™. I'd consider that to be the first and most foundational step in troubleshooting any Android stamina woes.)

You never know. You might just find, like I did, that the power has been in your hands all along.

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