I was lucky enough to attend both days of the Pie Festival in Celebration, FL this weekend. I like pie. I like all-you-can-eat pie even better. Top it off with some of the hottest Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Maseratis and even K.I.T.T., and you have a full weekend of good food and plenty of fresh air, albeit 20 degrees above normal. Also….a full weekend out on the town with a cell phone in need of charging.
I love my phone. I’m sure most of you do. In fact, I’m willing to bet that users of mobile phones would rather forget their wallet than leave their house without their phone. Don’t believe me? Leave your phone at home the next time you have to go out. Go on. I dare you. Can you do it? I thought not. The problem we face as users (and this problem is multiplied for us users of ‘smartphones’) is that little thing inside called a battery. It needs to be ‘fed’ power like a new born baby that needs to eat every time it wakes. How many times have you been out and realize that your battery is running low and you need to charge it? Well, unless you’re at the Orlando airport with those neat charging stations or maybe Innovations at EPCOT where they also have some charging stations, you’re pretty much out of luck. You’re probably one stage beyond that if it’s an emergency and then you’re just plain SOL. Not the situation you want to be in.
How many of you choose a phone because of the battery life? OK, now how many of you choose phones by price/features? I’m going to take a stab at an answer and bet most people go by the second question. Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not unrealistic to do the latter and expect ‘decent’ battery life to at least get you through a whole day, but come on; battery life is NOT our priority here. Smartphone use is growing at an astounding rate as feature phone usage declines (http://bit.ly/hQoLeb). Smartphone use is up because of the many features they possess that we used to either perform with a laptop or with several different devices. These days, the smartphone can be your mp3 player, your gateway to the internet to check movie times, get directions and navigation, make deposits to your bank account, update and check Facebook statuses, and even play games (Angry Birds anyone?) With all of these great features, one essential function suffers greatly: battery life. It’s no secret that the more a phone can do, the more power it’s going to need. This is true across the board. Whether it’s Android, iOS, or Windows, they all require more power than the feature phone we are replacing. The problem is how do we know how much time we have on that battery?
Sure, we can go with the manufacturer’s rating, but what goes into that number? What determines that this phone has 4.5 hours of talk time and that phone has 6 hours? It’s akin to how we look at the sticker on a new car and see the fuel economy rating; It’s suggested what it will get, but in reality, there are so many factors that can affect that number. A more detailed battery life report for a number of devices can be found here at CNet – http://cnet.co/gzpGIt. Again, remember that this is an estimate of TALK time. If you’re using your smartphone for more than talking, and I know you do or you wouldn’t need a smartphone, then your battery life will suffer and can be much less. The bigger question is what can you do to maximize your battery life to get as much usage out of it while you’re on the go?
I use my Android device non-stop. I’m always on it checking work email, reading tweets or Facebook updates, checking in to Foursquare, and everything that I can think of. I have 153 apps (yep, you read that right), and I love to multi-task. REAL multitasking, not that lame attempt that Apple implemented in the latest incarnation of the iPhone and iOS. You better believe that my battery life probably suffers. The funny thing is I don’t mind. I’m a power user and proud of it. I do have a few things I do to get the most use out of my phone, however. Just remember, YMMV (your mileage may vary for those of you not familiar with that acronym):
- Charge your phone whenever possible – If you’re at work, in the car, sitting in the doctor’s office, or anyplace that you will be idle for a spell, put that phone on the charger. With the batteries used today, you no longer need to worry about overcharging your phone or shortening the battery life from such frequent charging. Top it off while you can so that you get as much usage out of it while you’re away from a power source.
- Know your apps and what needs to access the web – You know all 153 apps on your phone (well, my phone in this case)? Most of them use the internet in the background while it’s in your pocket or your purse. Make sure to go into your apps and turn off they sync feature or configure your apps to only update when you access them. This can greatly decrease the number of times an app tries to access the internet and download updates. The upside here…you also save on data usage. Another bonus.
- Turn down your screen brightness – You know that beautiful retina display on your iPhone 4 or the super amoled screen you have on any of the Samsung Galaxy S line of phones? Well, at full brightness to see that gorgeous screen, you’re just sucking down power. Dim your screen to the point where you can still see it comfortably enough to use it. Better yet, enable the auto-brightness feature so the sensor on the phone can detect the ambient lighting surrounding you. There’s no reason whatsoever to have the brightest setting if you’re sitting indoors surfing the net. Along with this, lower your setting for when the screen times out. The shorter the screen is on, the more battery life you save.
- Use Wi-Fi whenever possible – In case you didn’t know, using 3G/4G sucks up more juice than being on Wi-Fi. If you know there’s a Wi-Fi signal nearby, especially if you’re stationary for a bit, use it. Again, the benefit of not using your data plan comes into play here. The potential downside is if you have your phone set to scan for new hot spots constantly. This can be just as detrimental and will contribute to a shorter battery life.
The next time you go into your wireless providers retail outlet or are complaining on a forum about how you can barely get through a day on your phone, remember to ask yourself how you’re using your phone for other than just calls? I’m sure many of you are telling yourselves that ‘you’re doing moderate internet usage and average calling’, but again, your apps could be doing more than that while you’re not using your device. Take the time and get to know your phone. Better yet, get to know your apps. Between the apps and your phone settings, you can potentially increase your battery life anywhere from 10%-50%! Seems like a lot, but trust me, once you master the above and really KNOW your phone, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve in the battery retention arena.
In the comments section below, discuss how you use your phone and if you have tried any of the tips above. What do you think of the battery life you’re currently getting? Could it be better? While you’re discussing, I’m going to play Angry Birds Rio. Hope my battery life gets me through.