Android phone battery suffering? Here's a simple fix

Android phone battery suffering? Here's a simple fix

Summary: You head out for the day and use your Android phone the same as usual. In the middle of the day your phone notifies you that your battery is almost dead. Here's how to stop the drain.

Android battery drain

Android phones are good smartphones, but they occasionally suffer from the nasty "Sudden Battery Drain Syndome." That's the situation where the phone battery, with no different use by the owner, suddenly drains for no apparent reason. It turns out this is often caused by Google, and there's a simple way to halt the drain.

The battery drain doesn't happen often, but when it does it has the ability to leave you high and dry with a dead Android phone. You likely aren't doing anything differently when it strikes, so it's unexpected. This can have serious consequences, especially for workers needing to stay in touch with the office.

This situation hits fast, and there's usually no warning the battery is draining to a critically low level. Often, the first warning that something is amiss is a critical battery warning from the phone.

Often, the first warning that something is amiss is a critical battery warning from the phone.

It turns out that often this situation is caused by Google. Online research shows the culprit is often either Google Services or Play Services. Google Services is the background task on Android phones that keeps all of the company's services in sync and updated. This covers Gmail and the Chrome environment, among other services. Play Services is the background task that interacts with Google's Play Store, to keep installed apps updated in particular.

For some reason, these services sometimes get "stuck" doing their jobs, and this results in a big power drain on some phones. Perhaps the service is constantly polling user phones, resulting in a rapid drain on the battery.

Whatever the reason, when this happens it usually just hits a particular model of phone running a particular version of Android. Since it only hits a relatively small number of phones at once, it doesn't gather widespread attention. Some folks end up with a near dead Android phone, while most are unaffected.

There's not anything those with a near dead Android phone can do to prevent this, but there's a simple fix that is usually successful in arresting the rapid battery drain when it hits. As soon as you notice your battery charge is dropping faster than usual, reboot the phone. This has the tendency to cause the offending background task to "unstick," and return to normal operation.

Google services aren't the only culprits; third-party apps can also get stuck and drain the battery. If your phone keeps killing the battery too fast even after a reboot, check the battery information in Settings. If an app is using the battery too much, Android settings will show it clearly as the offender. If that's the case, you'd better uninstall the app immediately.

Unfortunately, most owners hit with Sudden Battery Drain Syndrome aren't aware of it until their battery has drained to a critical level. Even so, resetting the phone should return it to hitting the battery normally, thus making it possible to get through the day.

Read more:

Topics: Mobility, Android, Google, Smartphones

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Root Android

    Root Android and uninstall undesired apps. The only true advantage over iOS.

    When non tech people say that Android is more flexible than iOS I think how compromised are their security and privacy. Natively, iOS is more elegant and more respectful about privacy and about apps running in the background.

    If I need to reboot the phone every time I see battery being drained, something too much wrong is happening.
    • change of subject

      focus, please.
  • Turn off and back on again.

    James, you're giving away the secrets of IT support ;)
    • I reboot my S4 daily due to the lag

      at least I got it from work for free, how anyone buys these with their own money is beyond me.

      battery has been same as any other phone
  • If find it interesting there is an article elswhere on this site entititled

    "Poor battery life after installing iOS 7.1? Try these simple tips"
    It seems that this is not just an Android issue. I think we would all like batteries to last longer.
    • blackberry

      This reminds me of my blackberry days
  • Clear Cache

    A quicker thing to do is to clear the cache which is often why the reboot works.

    Go to Settings/Storage, click on cached data, and confirm you want to clear the cache. This also helps with stuck downloads and browser load problems.
    • Fast Reboot

      App from Play Store will do the trick too.
      That's released occasional frozen Apps quickly and easily.
  • It seems that the features that make phone use convenient

    are the ones that drain the battery: wi-fi connection attempts, Bluetooth connection attempts, and GPS. Ideally, a tech-naive user should be able to leave them all on and when not needed, they would have no effect. But in fact, we have to remember to turn them off and on according to location.

    Wi-fi is one example: when the phone is too far away from any hotspot to get a good signal, but not too far to get ANY signal, it continues to ping the "best" bad signal, even if you don't really want to use, or even TRY to use, that hotspot (and this includes transient hotspots you "drive by" on the road). And the weaker the signal, the more power it puts into each ping. Of course, the same thing happens with cell towers for voice or data: blocking signals with your body can run down the battery too.

    And one annoying thing where I live is that a number of places have an "unsecured" wi-fi that pops up a connection screen in order to REALLY unlock it, asking which of several cable systems is your home internet provider. Since my home internet provider is NONE of them, I always have to go to Settings and turn wi-fi completely OFF in order to avoid being bothered by a useless query!

    Basically, the "best" procedure is ALWAYS turn wi-fi off when leaving home or after disconnecting from a hotspot being used on purpose; and ALWAYS turn it back on when arriving home or intentionally connecting to a hotspot. If you forget the first, you may get annoying wi-fi login screens as I described above, while if you forget the second, you may use up your 3G or 4G data unnecessarily, and suffer slow response, until the status bar reminds you.

    Bluetooth, apparently, also "pings" for a paired or pairable device when turned on, so it drains the batter when away from your own Bluetooth connecting devices.

    And GPS. The one place I do NOT need it is at home; nor do I need it when in a known location and using non-location-relevant services. But if it is off, I get reminded quickly when I try to use Maps or another location-plotting service. And it does drain the battery, not only because of the amplification required when satellite signals are weak, but also the computational load; there must be a dedicated processor for GPS math, and that would draw some battery power continuously. So, even if you do not have an app that tells someone ELSE where you are, you are wasting power recomputing your location when you are not moving.

    Perhaps the on/off keying of these features could be made more automatic? Turn wi-fi on only when a white-listed (i.e. favorite) service point, or one or more unsecured and NOT black-listed (i.e. previously manually disconnected) service points are detected with some minimum usable signal, and turn it off when no eligible hotspots are near enough, or when manually disconnected (possibly with black-listing)? Turn Bluetooth on only when an already paired device is in range, or when searching for a new device to be paired, and off when these conditions are no longer detected? Turn GPS off when sitting in one area for more than 5 minutes, and on when the accelerometer detects sudden movement AND a location-based app is started (assuming the last detected location is saved, it should NOT be necessary to turn on GPS to do a map search if the 5 minute timeout has occurred).

    Those of us whose HOMES are in intermittently weak signal areas already have battery blues (i.e. having to charge up between OUR sleep periods), without the "extra super neat" conveniences bleeding us even more.
    • Also LTE

      In addition to WiFi and Bluetooth burning battery in poor reception areas, LTE can use up your charge searching for a signal. With a low battery, I turn my phone all the way down to 2G. With data turned on you'll still get mail and other updates (and voice and text are not affected).
      • like that idea

        how do I do that? (turn down to 2G)
        • How to set network type

          Go to Settings; More (under Wireless and Networks); Mobile Networks; Preferred Network Type; and you get a list. I used Quick Shortcut Maker to create a direct shortcut.
  • Google Play isn't playing fair

    What happens is that often a pile of Apps need upgrading all at once.

    Play tries to update several at once and gets stuck on updating one that either has a bad apk file or the Network you're using is rough (full of data errors).

    Play will quite merrily sit there waiting for the App download to finish and it doesn't.

    Can't count the number of times, I've had to manually stop it and let it skip passed the offend app and then try again then it works fine.

    This of course consumes power, quite a fair bit actually.

    The solution is for Play to limit itself to one update at a time and then cancelling it if it takes more than a few minutes or if the KB/s download is slow.

    Perhaps we could get an App that forces Play to update once a day when its charging at a scheduled time?
  • nix on slide-shows

    I do not read anything that is in slide-show format.
    I don't want a video either, just give me the COMPLETE article on one page else I and many others will
    click out.
  • Reboot doesn't consistently work

    Rebooting the device sometimes works, and sometimes doesn't. It's not consistent. I have a Note 3 that has been draining for days. Sometimes when I reboot, I'm fine for a while and sometimes it just keeps draining away.

    This is a VERY pernicious bug. I am amazed Google hasn't fixed it yet. There has been traffic on this bug for many months.
  • Configure Play Store

    Upper right/Settings. Check to send Notifications, yes. Then tell it not to Automatically Update.
    When you're good and ready to do batch Updating when plugged in, upper left/My Apps.
    When a download hangs, and as Posters here say, they sure do sometimes, you have much more control.
  • wrking solution

    here is working link from playstore
  • also, turn off unneeded services

    All sort of memory management apps do this, but require you to know what event to stop. Greenify (I'm not related in any way) does it semi-automagically, and even as a programmer I like this better.
    It does not address the article's scenatio, though, AFAIK. I use it since I dont need facebook etc. to constantly update in the background.
  • The real fix

    Go to your app permissions and take away Google Services ability to wake device.