How to improve your iPhone's battery by, like, a billion percent

Summary:I don't normally do tips and techniques in this column, but when my iPhone went from lasting less than a day to lasting more than a week, I figured I'd post a tip.

I'm generally one of those people who reads product manuals cover-to-cover. But when it comes to Apple products, I often just glance at the minimalistic documentation, use the product, eventually get annoyed, and complain.

My annoyance is often justified. Apple products tend to have some sort of moronic limitation that's completely insurmountable -- because Apple generally thinks its consumers are incapable or unwilling to use advanced features and settings, and so doesn't provide any option to fix the problems (which Apple rarely even acknowledges exist).

That's why my original Apple TV won't let me unfavorite items, for example. It's got a bit corrupted somewhere in the system, and doesn't offer an advanced "rebuild icons" feature. Instead, the company just suggests reformatting to factory original condition. And that's just one example of many annoyances, and why I'm often whining about Cupertino's products.

On occasion, however, there's actually a way to get around an annoyance. This is the case with my ancient iPhone 3G. Yes, I still have my iPhone 3G because I can't decide between waiting for an iPhone 5 or getting an Android phone -- which I'm sure will annoy me in new and wonderful ways.

In any case, I've been perpetually cranky about my iPhone (in part, just 'cause it's an iPhone), but in a major part because the battery couldn't last a full day, even with barely any use.

I don't talk on my iPhone. I just don't. I use it for email almost exclusively. Even so (and yes, I check email every hour or so), the phone shouldn't run out of juice in 10 hours. It just shouldn't.

Sigh. As it turns out, Apple may be right. Some customers (okay, me, are you happy now?) didn't dig around enough in the settings and advanced features.

There's a setting in the Settings app, in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars section. Flick down, until you see Fetch New Data. If your battery is getting sucked down, it might be set to something like "Push" or "15 Min".

If your setting is set like this, your iPhone is constantly churning its battery to get your mail, and it's going to suck your battery like vampires suck blood.

There is -- much to my chagrin -- an easy fix. Tap that setting, go into the Fetch New Data submenu, turn Push off and set Fetch to Manually.

Now go back to Mail and your Fetch New Data field should be set to Off:

I don't normally do tips and techniques in this column, but when my iPhone went from lasting less than a day to lasting more than a week, I figured I'd post a tip. Since my iPhone also went from being a constant source of annoyance to being merely a regular source of annoyance, I figured I'd share with the few of you out there that don't know about this particular (and surprisingly useful) setting.

Update: One detail I forgot (I wrote this before coffee). You'll now have to hit the refresh button in your Mail app to check new mail. Small price to pay for less iPhone suckage, though, huh?

Special thanks go to my wife. When she recently bought her iPhone (and yes, she loves it, sigh), she read all the documentation and discovered this little gem on the first night. So here's a tip within a tip: when you get married, marry someone who's not only pretty, but smart as well. If you're a little like me, finding someone who's highly tolerant would also be a good attribute to look for.

Go ahead. TalkBack. You know you're going to (and, sadly, I know what you're going to say). Whatever.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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