Android phones are useful, fun, and generally interesting, but when your phone has a battery that lasts all of five minutes, fear can be struck into even the bravest of people at the thought of having to leave the house for a few hours.
“Will my battery survive the day?” – an often-asked question amongst Android owners. With this guide I plan on improving your phone’s battery life by at least a few hours. Results will depend on your phone – its specifications, software version and usage.
Note: Some pieces I outline today require rooting, all of which are grouped at the end.
As with most problems the first step is finding out what is wrong; in our case it’s finding out what exactly it is that’s killing our Androids battery life.
Test your Battery
Testing how long your phone’s battery can last is very useful in determining whether the changes you’re making are indeed improving the matter, or making it even worse! Battery Graph (free, on the Market) is a great application for this.
To see what’s using your battery the most, go to Settings > About Phone > Battery.
While it’s nice to have a big screen on your phone, they’re usually the biggest strain on battery life. We can’t reduce the size of your screen when you aren’t using it, but there are two settings we can change to help reduce its battery usage: brightness and timeout.
It’s possible to change the brightness of your screen, or to set it to automatic. I’ve found while I’m out of the reach of strong sunlight I can make do with no back light, though having the back light on does help visibility. Setting the brightness to automatic will let your phone lower your phone’s brightness when in areas of lower light, such as a dim room.
To change your screen brightness simply go to Settings > Display > Brightness
What about wasting energy on an over-light screen, when you’re not looking at it? It’s definitely energy wasted! Go to Settings > Display > Screen timeout to change the interval before timeout of your screen; you may need to try out a few different times to find one that is suits you.
Turning off Sync
When applications such as Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail are all allowed to automatically sync updates/emails, your Internet connection is left on, waiting ready to request the updates at whatever intervals you have it set to. Increasing the length of time between updates will help improve your phone’s battery life.
Even better is turning off sync completely – meaning your phone will only update when you manually request it to do so in each application. While it’s slightly more effort for updates I found my phone was less of a distraction after changing this! Battery life also increased.
Wi-Fi versus Mobile Connection
Mobile data connections use more battery than Wi-Fi connections as your phone is always looking for a better connection from your carrier, whereas you usually stick to the same Wi-Fi connection for a long period of time. Turning off your data connection when you’re near a Wi-Fi connection, or indeed don’t need Internet connectivity, can vastly improve the battery life of your phone.
You may also have the option to use 2G only, as this uses less energy than the standard 3G internet connection; the only drawback is that it’s a lot slower. But if your Internet speed isn’t something you generally need to worry about 2G could suit you perfectly fine.
Animated transitions, widgets, and live wallpapers can really spruce up and personalize your phone, but they can also greatly reduce your battery life. You may want to find a decent trade-off between the two. I’ve found having more than one home screen can also use a lot of power, as can some elaborate launchers.
Some games and applications can use up vast amounts of system resources, and hence use a lot of battery life. Keep an eye out for games and applications like these as an hour using one of the could leave you without a working phone on a trip away!
To be blunt, don’t use them! Unless you know what you’re doing, and there’s an app you have that constantly wastes your battery life, I recommend not using them. Android is built to have multiple apps running in the background; as long as the app is well-built there shouldn’t be a need to kill it. You’ll only waste more battery life if you kill regularly used applications too as they’ll have to start up again.
There are also many applications that aim to improve your battery performance. The majority of these restrict internet usage and, if you’re rooted, underclock your phones CPU. Performance with these applications seems to vary greatly with different users. In my experience no application worked as well as me simply turning on features as I needed them.
This is a premium application, but there is a free version called Juice Defender (which needs to be installed for Ultimate Juice to work). With Ultimate Juice its possible to schedule when you want your WiFi and data connection to turn off and on. You can also use parameters like location to set your WiFi/Data to turn off and on at certain times or in certain places.
SuperPower is full of different settings to disable and enable WiFi and data connections on your phone. Despite being a great application, it is still in beta and is not recommended for general use yet.
Even when I spent time in each application’s settings customizing it for how I liked it to work, I constantly found simply turning on the features I wanted to be easiest. Though admittedly I did have help from Cyanogenmod Notification power widgets; to set them up (if using Cyanogenmod) is simple: go to Settings > Cyanogenmod settings > Interface > Notification power widget. If you’re using a stock Android ROM you can download an app such as Free Power Widget
If your phone supports features such as GPS and Bluetooth you more than likely don’t use them all the time, and if left on they can be an unneeded strain on your battery, so turn them off if they’re not being used! The same applies for Wi-Fi and 3G support. Power Widget is useful for controlling these features
Options for Rooted Phones
The following require your phone to be rooted. These changes made a bigger difference than all previously mentioned changes. While they require more effort, rooting, I’m delighted I can use them!
With CPU Tuner you can set a min and max CPU frequency with different profiles such as on demand and performance. I’ve found this single change to give me the improvement in my phone’s battery life.
Look out for a full article on CPU Tuner, coming soon.
Cyanogenmod is a great Android ROM with many great extra settings included. It boasts a few useful settings we can use to improve our battery life. And as Cyanogenmod 7 is based on Android 2.3 we get its added battery performance! These useful settings include a section for Performance settings, which allows users of the ROM to change their CPU frequency and lock their home and messaging in memory, something I found helped with my phone’s performance. Combined with the new ext4 file system my phone has gained significant battery boost from changes made in Android 2.3 and Cyanogenmod.
To access these settings simply go to Settings > Cyanogenmod settings > Performance.
Different versions of Android have varying degrees of battery performance; the length of your battery life will depend on the version of Android you’re running. Generally with each new version of Android battery life has improved, and thanks to the change in file format in 2.3 (Gingerbread), I’ve found my battery to last a few hours more depending on usage.
While I’ll sometimes get well over a day out of my phone, I’m still wary of using it too much if I’m away from home for a night or two without the chance of charging, I sometimes even turn it off to save battery life! How long does your battery last? Found any other applications or settings you’ve found useful in preserving it? As hardware and software improve we’ll soon own phones with better battery lives but until them I hope this guide will help your phone’s battery last that extra bit longer!