Phones

Smartphone Battery Life: 20 Ways to Juice It Up

Manage Your Software

Many of us are loyal to a specific mobile operating system. And applications make your smartphone useful and fun. But both the operating system and the applications drain the battery, so manage them so they sip, not gulp, power.

5. Update your operating system. "The biggest battery drain is the operating system," notes Kristi Lundgren, Motorola's product manager for the company's Q smartphone. She said that vendors tend to improve power consumption from version to version, so update when you can.

6. Use simple ringtones. "Musical ringtones use the phone's processor, which uses more battery," says Derek Meister, who has the title of double agent with Best Buy's Geek Squad. Simpler, standard ringtones don't require such processing power.

7. Push less. Perhaps the most popular smartphone application is push e-mail, which requires your device to check for messages nearly constantly. That guzzles juice, but settings are available on the server side (you'll need to talk with IT) and, often, on the phone itself that enable your phone to check for messages, say, only every 10 minutes or half hour. Admittedly, this will require an adjustment for those who are used to constant communications, but it's worth it in terms of battery savings.

Besides push e-mail, many other applications and Web services such as instant messaging, navigation tools and stock, news, sports and weather checkers periodically update information. "You may not realize that ESPN, if it's set to update every five minutes, will drain your battery," says Motorola's Lundgren. Close these apps and sites when you're not using them.

8. Ease off alerts. Do you really need your phone to vibrate when any old message comes in? Turn off visual or audible alerts for newly arrived messages or, at the very least, be selective so you are notified of messages from only your boss or spouse, for instance.

Manage Your Hardware

In the old days, cell phones had only one radio for making voice calls. Besides a radio to handle regular cellular voice and data services, today's smartphones can also have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and sometimes GPS radios.

9. Turn off unused radios. Switched-on radios use power even if they're not being used. Learn where on your smartphone to turn off each specific radio. On most Windows Mobile devices, for instance, if you press and hold down the Home button, a dialog box appears in which you can easily turn radios on or off.

10. Watch the time. Cellular radios work harder when a lot of people are accessing the network. "Calling at three in the morning uses less battery than calling at supper time," says Cadex Electronics CEO Buchmann. Granted, calling at 3:00 in the morning probably isn't convenient for you or the person you're calling, but if you're an early bird on the West Coast, 7 a.m. might be the perfect time to call a contact on the East Coast.

11. Know where you are. Buchmann notes that radios work harder in areas in which there is a lot of electrical "noise." That means you'll use less power in an outdoor park than in a shopping mall or hospital, where a lot of electrical devices are in use.

Radios also work harder to find signals in areas with spotty or nonexistent coverage. If you are in an area with poor coverage and you aren't expecting messages, turn your radios off.

12. Slow down. Using 3G services such as HSPA or EV-DO requires more power than older, slower 2.5G services such as EDGE or 1xRTT. Not all applications require the utmost speed; you're unlikely to notice much difference between 2.5G and 3G service, for instance, for checking e-mail. Some phones, such as Apple's iPhone 3G, enable you to switch to slower access to save battery power. Learn if your phone has that option, and if so, use it when appropriate.

13. Use a corded headset. Bluetooth headsets have their own radio, which uses up battery power. Switching to a corded headset, which doesn't use a separate radio, and you'll be talking after others' batteries have run dry.

While you may not look as cool, Best Buy's Meister points to one additional benefit. "Some people think you get better audio quality with wired headsets," he says.

14. Use auto shut-off. Some devices, such as BlackBerries, have a setting that shuts off your device at a specific time. "It'll automatically power the phone off at, say, 11 p.m. and turn it back on at 7 a.m.," says Andrew Bocking, director of handheld software product management at BlackBerry maker Research In Motion. "That way, you don't have to remember."

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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