So there you are, running from meeting to meeting on a particularly busy day when you suddenly notice your iPhone or Android phone’s battery gauge is deep in the red. It’s too late for sensible battery-conservation tips—you need power for your dying handset now, or at least a way to staunch the bleeding.
We’ve gathered seven tips that’ll help preserve the last precious drops of juice in your phone’s battery, as well as ways to find emergency sources of power while you’re on the road.
1. Turn your handset off and then on again
It’s one thing if your phone’s battery is dying simply because you’ve been using it all day without a break. But if you’re watching your battery gauge drop 5 or even 10 percent in a matter of minutes, something’s up. Most likely, one of your apps or even a core Android or iOS process has spun itself into a furious, battery-draining loop.
One of the best ways to pull your phone out of its death spiral is a hard reboot—that is, forcing your handset to stop absolutely everything it’s doing and restart.
You can do a hard reboot on an iPhone or iPad by pressing and holding the power and sleep-wake buttons until the Apple logo appears.
The method of performing a hard reboot on an Android phone depends on the make and model of your handset. For most Android devices, you can press and hold the power and volume-down buttons for a hard reboot. Or, if your Android handset has a removable battery, try taking it out and putting it back in. Still no luck? Check your device’s documentation or go Google it.
2. Look for a battery-hogging app
If your phone’s battery life is still tanking after a hard reboot, you could always try to pinpoint an app that’s draining more than its fair share of power.
For Android, tap Settings > Battery, then scroll down and check out the list of apps. If you see one that’s been using a lot of juice lately, tap it and tap the Force Stop button to stop it in its tracks.
For iOS, tap Settings > Battery, then look for a culprit in the Battery Usage list. If you spot any battery hogs, you can close the app by flicking up its “card” in the app switcher (double-tap the Home key), or cut off its background activity privileges (tap Settings > General > Background App Refresh, find the app in the list, then flip off its switch).
3. Turn on Airplane mode
Another possible reason for a plunging battery gauge is that you’re in an area with poor cellular service. When that happens, your phone will keep trying (and trying and trying) to establish a connection, and that’s a sure way to drain your battery in a hurry.
If that’s the case, your best bet may be to turn on airplane mode. Doing so will turn off your handset’s cellular radio and stop it from frantically looking for a cellular signal.
For iOS devices, tap Settings, then switch on the Airplane Mode setting, or just flick up the Control Center window and tap the Airplane Mode button. For Android devices, pull down the Quick Settings window shade and tap the Airplane Mode button.
If you don’t like the idea of being out of touch, keep in mind that you can always turn on Wi-Fi after activating airplane mode.
4. Turn on battery-saver mode
Both Android and iOS devices boast a battery-saver setting that’ll shut down most background activities, dim the screen, and enable other battery-preserving features, handy if you’re suddenly dealing with a phone that’s almost out of juice.
For Android devices, tap Settings > Battery, tap the three-dot “overflow” button in the top corner of the screen, tap Battery Saver, then flip on the switch. While you’re at it, make sure to enable the Turn on automatically setting, which activates battery-saver mode when your device’s battery life falls below either 15 percent or 5 percent.
On an iPhone or iPad, tap Settings > Battery, then enable the Low Power Mode setting; you’ll also be prompted to turn on the feature on if your device falls below 20 percent or 10 percent of battery life remaining. Unlike Android’s Battery Saver feature, iOS’s Low Power Mode setting can only be activated manually.
5. Carry an extra phone charger
Everyone wants a phone charger when their handset is about to run out of juice; the real trick, of course, is making sure you have one on hand when you need it.
Go ahead and spring for an extra phone charger, preferably a small, lightweight model, or even a cable that’s small enough to clip to a keychain. Once you’ve got an extra cable, make sure to keep it in your backpack, purse, or briefcase at all times.
The next time your phone is running low on battery life, all you’ll need to find is an available power outlet or USB port and some charging time. Thanks to the fast-charging technology built into the newest Android and iOS handsets, you’ll only need about 10 minutes or so to get a decent chunk of battery life back.
6. Get a portable battery pack
Even a phone charger won’t do you much good if you’re nowhere near a power outlet. In those cases, having a portable battery pack stashed in your knapsack, your pocket, or hooked to your keyring can be a lifesaver.
Many different shapes and sizes of portable battery packs are available; some are as big as hardback books, others are credit-card sized. Price tags range anywhere from about $20 to north of $100, depending on the size of the charger.
Another option is a phone case that doubles as a charger, although such battery-charging cases will add extra weight and girth to your handset, while those designed for a specific handset won’t do you much good if you trade up for a different model.
No spare charger or portable battery pack? Well, you could always try the kindness of strangers, or there’s another option: tracking down a mobile charging station.
You won’t find a free charging station on every street corner, but they often pop up in hotel lobbies, airport terminals, fast-food joints, drug stores, and even department stores.
The best mobile charging stations offer tiny lockers that you can secure with a credit card; just lock your phone in the charging station, go have a cheeseburger, and come back to a charged (or mostly charged) handset.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.