What's Draining Your Android Battery?

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If you find your Android battery is regularly emptied before you manage to Uber that evening ride home, don’t fret – it’s possible you can squeeze more life out of it by optimizing some phone settings. While some battery drain may be due to badly designed or adware-ridden apps that are constantly calling home, everyday phone activities are often the culprits – apps that frequently get online for updates, apps waking the phone screen, the high-definition phone screen itself which takes a lot of power to light up those pretty pixels…

Happily, newer iterations of the Android OS have introduced battery saver features that economized how various apps use up juice.

Phones running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow and newer have a default mode called Doze, which reduces the amount of battery eaten up in standby mode (i.e., when the phone screen is off), by stopping most apps getting online or waking the phone with notifications.

For Android phones running on the most recent version 7.0 (Nougat), the updated Doze 2.0 feature places even tighter restrictions on which apps can sync for updates while the phone screen is off (high-priority apps such as messenger and email apps make the cut – if you want), as well as how frequently they can wake the phone up.  

While most Android phones released in the last couple years should receive an update to Nougat this year, even if you’re using an older version of Android, there’s still plenty you can do to increase battery life – without changing how you use your phone (too much).

(Note: This information covers Android 4.1 phones and newer, so names of folders may slightly vary – for example, “Battery” settings may be “Power” settings on some phones.)

1. Check which apps are draining your battery

In all versions of Android, hit Settings > Device > Battery or Settings > Power > Battery Use to see a list of all apps and how much battery power they’re using. If an app you don’t use often seems to take up a disproportionate amount of power, consider uninstalling it.

On Android 7, here you can also see how much “Cell standby” or “Mobile standby” is eating up – this is the amount of power your phone gobbles up while not being used. 

2. Uninstall apps

Delete apps you don’t use from a single menu by heading to Settings > Apps > All. Tap on each app and hit Uninstall to remove it as well as any data it has created.

Or, buy premium version of your favorite apps. Apps with ads can eat up extra battery thanks to running ads (or if their ads are badly designed thereby hogging the juice), so if you find a favorite is using a lot of power, going for its premium ad-free version could help.   

3. Never manually close apps

Despite the popularity of task-killer apps for Android, manually closing running apps doesn’t help battery life, a myth recently debunked by both Apple and Google. In fact, closing an app can even very slightly damage battery life according to Android’s SVP of Android, Chrome and Chrome OS, if the phone system requires it to run again (or when you open it again).

4. Remove unnecessary widgets from the home screen

Many Android apps, including social networks, weather apps and news apps, come with widgets that sit handily on the home screen for real-time updates. However, widgets are battery drainers due to their constant syncing with the mothership or power-sucking animations. If you don’t need a permanent window into Twitter, or regular updates on the weather, remove the superfluous widget by pressing and holding it, then dragging it to the trash can icon.

5. Turn on Airplane Mode in low-signal areas

Smartphones use more power when trying to connect in low-signal areas. If you can’t get a signal, turn on Airplane Mode by swiping down and tapping the Settings wheel. If your low-signal area is, say, an office or someone’s home, you can turn on Wi-Fi (with Airplane Mode enabled) instead to stay connected. Then restart your cellular connection when you’re in an area with better coverage.

On the flip side, disabling Wi-Fi may not always save battery life. Your phone uses less energy to connect to wireless than cellular networks, while Wi-Fi also helps phones determine location – handy for paring back the need for power-hungry GPS.

6. Go Airplane Mode at bedtime

If you’re caught charger-less overnight, killing all connectivity – Bluetooth, cellular, Wi-Fi, GPS – will help your battery last till morning. Plus, it helps avoid that insomnia-causing blue light (unless of course, your newfound battery power means you stay up all night playing The Room. 

7. Download Doze

Though Doze, which prevents your phone from sending and receiving data, is a default feature on Android Marshmallow and Nougat, users of Android 4.1 (and newer) phones can download a separate, more powerful app called Doze (free in Google Play). Once downloaded, the app needs to activated, then it works in the background (without affecting Doze mode, if it’s downloaded onto a Marshmallow phone).

8. Turn off notifications

Getting real-time updates of what’s going on in your apps is handy for things like email or social networks, but many apps automatically demand permission to send notifications as well for reasons that are much less useful. Turn off notifications by heading to Settings > Apps, then visiting less necessary apps and unchecking “Show notifications.”

Android 7.0 makes it very easy to fine-tune further: Head to Settings > Device > Notifications to manually adjust notification levels for each app – you can choose to never show notifications or its battery-friendly compromise: show silently without waking the screen, vibrating, or pinging.  

9. Don’t let apps wake your screen

On the other hand, if notifications are necessary, prevent apps from waking the screen when they do send them through. Head to Settings > Display and select to turn off Ambient Display (which means no app notifications will cause the screen to wake).
 

10. Turn off GPS when not in use

GPS is one of the heaviest drains on the battery – as you’ve probably noticed after using Google Maps to navigate your last road trip. When you’re not actively using navigation, swipe down to access Quick Settings, and toggle it off. You’ll be prompted to re-enable it when you use Maps.

Alternately, if you’re using apps that require your location, you can head to Settings > Location > Mode and select “Battery saving” (where Wi-Fi and mobile networks are used to determine your location) over “High accuracy” (where GPS is also used).

11. Check app location tracking

Some apps track your location and therefore use more battery power than strictly necessary by accessing your GPS. At Settings > Location you can see which apps recently requested your location, as well as how much (low/high) battery it took. For apps that seem to be demanding more than necessary, head into the apps and manually adjust the permissions individually. 

12. Enable Power Saver Mode

For Android 5.0 and newer, this feature helps maximize battery life as well as stretch out those last several minutes. For example, animations are pared back, most background syncing is halted and location services turned off (so no navigation on Google Maps). You enable it manually in Settings > Power, where you can also fine-tune specifics such as whether or not to conserve CPU power, screen brightness or vibration feedback and choose whether or not to turn off data connection when the phone is asleep.

On Android 7, you can additionally set Battery Saver Mode to kick in automatically at 5% or 15% battery left. 

Some phones such as the HTC One M8 (and newer) and Samsung Galaxy S6 (and newer) also have an “extreme power-saving mode” in which data connections turn off when the screen is off, notifications, GPS, Auto Sync and Bluetooth are off, and only essential apps such as text messaging, email and the clock are allowed to run. 

13. Dim the screen – intelligently

If you’re using Android 5.0 or newer, head to Settings > Display and enable “automatic brightness”, which allows the phone to adapt the display based on the lighting where you are, ensuring the screen is never brighter than necessary.

But if your battery is in dire straits, manually dimming the screen is a good temporary fix until you can get to a charger. Pull down the notifications menu and drag the brightness slider to the very dimmest display level you’re comfortable with.

14. Tone down those live wallpapers

You can kit out your home screen and lock screen with some nifty animated wallpapers that change in ombre or style as the day wears on – but this doesn’t come for free. Save on battery by heading to Settings > Display > Wallpaper to select a static counterpart instead.

15. Dim the screen – intelligently

If you’re using Android 5.0 or newer, head to Settings > Display and enable “automatic brightness” (or “adaptive brightness”) which allows the phone to adapt the display based on the lighting where you are, ensuring the screen is never brighter than necessary.

But if your battery is in dire straits, manually dimming the screen is a good temporary fix until you can get to a charger. Pull down the notifications menu and drag the brightness slider to the very dimmest display level you’re comfortable with.

16. Decrease screen timeout

You can save a little bit of battery power many times over by decreasing the length of time your phone remains idle before its display automatically goes dark. Head to Settings > Display to adjust Screen timeout to, say, 10 seconds rather than an interval like 30 minutes (which you may have chosen if you were doing something like using the phone for a recipe).

17. Stop vibrating

If your phone is ringing, you don’t need it to vibrate as well. Head to Settings > Sound and uncheck “Vibrate for calls”. To really get into battery miser mode, turn off haptic feedback, the handy little vibe when you press virtual keys, by going to Settings > Language and keyboard and unchecking “Vibration feedback”.

18. Keep weather updates local

Who doesn’t love the weather widget that tells the time and the temperature in one handy, live-updating home screen box? If you’ve loaded yours up with cities where you’ve been vacationing, that widget could be contributing to heavy battery drain. Remove superfluous cities from your weather app by heading to Settings.

19. Keep your phone cool

According to the Battery University blog by Cadex Electronics, phone batteries degrade much faster when they’re hot, whether you’re using the phone or it’s idle. Avoid leaving your phone on the dashboard of your car on a sunny day.

20. Charge between 40% and 80%

The best way to maintain smartphone batteries is to keep your phone battery more than 40% charged. Constantly allowing the battery to go from completely full to completely empty can damage it and decrease its capacity over time. On the flip side, leaving your phone plugged in when it’s completely full can also degrade the battery. Best practice? Keep your battery between 40% and 80% charged.

21. Occasionally let your battery die

Battery University suggests that calibration – fully discharging then recharging your phone’s battery – once every three months helps it maintain its charge capacity.

22. Always download updates

Whether updates are intended for downloaded apps or the Android OS itself, they generally include bug fixes and tweaks that improve performance, including how efficiently battery is used.

Updated on 4/17/2017 with new tips and Android Nougat information

[Image credit: Suzanne Kantra/Techlicious, YirgaLab]

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