Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

Summary: The HTC ThunderBolt may be breaking land speed records with its 4G LTE connection, but all that speed seriously drains the battery. Here are practical tips for squeezing out more battery life.

SHARE:

As I mentioned in my review of the HTC ThunderBolt, the ThunderBolt is a top-notch device that breaks through the speed barriers of the traditional smartphone. However, the ThunderBolt also has one big caveat: Battery life. This is a foible that many Android devices suffer from, particularly HTC devices. The HTC EVO and HTC Incredible are both excellent smartphones that struggle to get through an entire business day on a single charge.

For the ThunderBolt, the primary issue is when it's in 4G LTE mode. That's when it really screams -- in terms of speed -- but it's also when the battery can completely drain in as little as four hours with heavy use. In order to help ThunderBolt users get the most out of this otherwise useful device, I've put together some power tips for squeezing extra battery life out of the ThunderBolt. While these tips are aimed primarily at the ThunderBolt and reference HTC-specific widgets and settings, they can also be applied more generally to almost any Android device (and specifically other HTC devices), with just a few adjustments.

I should also note that when the ThunderBolt is not in 4G mode, its battery life is actually very respectable. Using the tips in this article, I was able to get through a full day of normal use with the HTC ThunderBolt on a combination of 3G and Wi-Fi and still had 70% of the battery left after 10 hours. On 4G, I was able to use these tips to stretch the ThunderBolt battery to almost eight hours.

1. Tweak the display

If you want to see what's draining most of your power, go to Home screen | Menu button | Settings | About phone | Battery | Battery use. You'll see a screen like the one below. In most cases (except for when you're on 4G), the display will be at the top of the list because the display is the primary power drain on nearly all smartphones.

There are several things you can do to reduce the display's hit on your battery. Go to Menu | Settings | Display and adjust the following settings:

  • Turn off auto-brightness: Uncheck the box for "Automatic brightness" and drop the slider down to about a third. The ThunderBolt screen is still bright and clear, even at this setting.
  • Decrease screen timeout: The default is 1 minute. Drop it down to 30 seconds.

2. Throttle sync settings

Once you get your display settings under control, another quick thing you can do that will immediately make a big impact on your battery life is to get your sync settings under control. When you install and use various apps and widgets, they often set themselves up to automatically sync without warning you or allowing you to set up the sync settings such as how often to update. As a result, most Android devices end up with a bunch of things running in the background updating themselves constantly, which drains battery life and quietly eats away at your mobile data allotment on 3G/4G.

To see which of your apps and widgets are doing stealth syncs in the background, go to Menu | Settings | Accounts & sync. I prefer to uncheck the "Auto-sync" box and simply disable background syncing altogether (especially when I'm trying to ring out every last drop of battery life). You can always compensate by using HTC's "Sync all" widget so that when you unlock your phone you can just tap the Sync all button and all of your data for all of your approved apps and widgets get synced (on 4G it will sync really fast anyway). If you want to take it a step further, in the Accounts & sync screen, uncheck the "Background data" box so that no apps are allowed to quietly transfer data in the background.

Alternatively, in the sync settings you can also grant just a few select apps the ability to sync and then set the frequency for syncing to a longer interval.

3. Manage your radios

Another way to have a quick impact on battery life is to shut down some of the radios. Nearly all modern smartphones are packed with multiple radio transmitters and each one draws power when they are turned on. Turn them off when you're not using them. HTC makes this easy on the ThunderBolt because it has a bunch of toggle widgets that you can tap to enable/disable the various radios/features (see screenshot below).

I always turn off Bluetooth and GPS, except when needed. If I know I'm going to be on the mobile network for an extended period of time then I turn off Wi-Fi so that the Wi-Fi radio isn't wasting power searching for connections. One of the things I did to save battery life when I was on the 4G LTE network was to use "Airplane mode" when I was in meetings or other long periods where I knew I wasn't going to be using the phone. This turns off all of the radios, including the cellular network.

4. Turn down the eye candy

One of the attractive things about the HTC Sense UI -- as well as the newer versions of Android and some of its third-party add-ons -- is that it has some great eye candy. The animated weather on HTC's default home screen clock, the live wallpapers that move in the background, and the eye-pooping skins and alternative home screens all look great, but they can be an additional drain on the phone's resources.

I'd recommend using the simple and elegant "Slate" skin (below) on the HTC ThunderBolt. I'd also recommend avoiding the live wallpapers and selecting a static image. For battery savings, I'd also recommend turning off animations by going to Menu | Settings | Display | Animation and selecting "No animations."

5. Manage apps and widgets

We've already talked about how some apps and widgets can slowly siphon resources by syncing in the background. Many apps will also turn themselves on automatically (or remain in memory even after you close them). Of course, the widgets that you put on your various home screens are also running quietly at all times as well, so you'll need to be wise about which ones you use and keep an eye on them.

To monitor and manage your apps and widgets you'll need to download a task manager like the popular Advanced Task Killer. This lets you see what you've currently got running (and what is quietly turning itself on without your permission). You can do this periodically and manually kill all of your open apps to avoid letting power-hogs drain your battery. Advanced Task Killer even comes with a handy widget that you can place on your home screen. Just tap it once and it kills all your apps, and gives you a short message telling you how many apps were killed.

Even better, open Advanced Task Killer and go into Menu | Setting and set the "Auto Kill" option. I'd recommend setting the Auto Kill Level to "Safe" and setting the Auto Kill Frequency to "Every half hour." If you're really paranoid and want to keep stuff under wraps, you can set the Auto Kill so that it wipes everything out every time you turn off your screen. Keep in mind that some people argue that killing processes on Android has dubious value, but I find that it's a good way of keeping potential battery hogs under control, even if it knocks out some harmless stuff in the process.

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Google, Hardware, HTC

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

Talkback

46 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

    Wait a second, I read this article on another site just yesterday.
    slickjim
    • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

      @Peter Perry
      I read something similar as well. The first review I saw included video, and the reviewer only got 2.5 hours on 4G!

      Another reviewer on another site got 3 hours.

      This seems downright sad. Either this technology is only half-baked, or it truly isn't suitable for mobile telephones the way we use them today.

      The solution? Apparently, you have to cripple the phone and turn off all the things that supposedly make this phone special.

      "One of the things I did to save battery life when I was on the 4G LTE network was to use ?Airplane mode? when I was in meetings or other long periods where I knew I wasn?t going to be using the phone. This turns off all of the radios, including the cellular network."

      That makes me feel really, really sorry for the user. Only someone completely obsessed with having the TOP DOG phone (this month) wouldn't immediately face severe buyer's remorse after buying this juice hog.

      Very, very sad.
      lelandhendrix@...
  • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding the battery life on the Thunderbolt. These were insightful ideas and you brought some really good points regarding the brightness, live wallpapers, and auto sync. However, one of the popular posts on the internet was about disabling your 4g by accessing the secret menu through entering "*#*#4646#*". By not using the 4g, you save tremendous battery life. And, since the phone is extremely fast on its own, the 3g is not so bad compared to the amazing 4g speed. I wanted to know, though, by constantly toggling between the 3g and 4g, will it damage the phone in anyway or even bring up any issues regarding the insurance/warranty on the phone?
    baytech10
    • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

      @baytech10 Anyone telling you to go into the system menu to turn off the antenna just wants to pretend they know some cool code. Download the free app (Phone Info) it turns off the 4g just as easy without all the BS of going into the system menu each time. Also HTC come out of box in pocket mode which is a big battery killer. It is a cool feature but uses battery.
      hudie27
    • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

      @baytech10 actually it is *#*#4636#*#*

      All I can say is after shutting down the 4G I can still talk and surf at the same time but my battery lasts 3 to 4 times as long as the LTE.

      I will probably run it this way until SEIDIO releases the extended battery but even then the battery would have to be 5000 MAh just to cover a day of 4G.
      slickjim
    • 4G WiMax

      @baytech10
      On the EVO Shift, 4G is Sprint's WiMax service. HTC includes a widget, by default on one of the home screens, to turn this antenna on and off. Is there no similar widget on the Thunderbolt?
      use_what_works_4_U
    • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

      @baytech10 Uhh, why would you buy a 4g phone if you are going to disable the 4g feature?

      I get/receive up to 50 calls a day. If you want a everything-in-the-palm-of-your-hand device right now then you have to live with today's battery life. The battery in the device can't meet the expectations we have for that battery. That is just a FACT.

      You carry chargers and keep the thing plugged in when you are not "roaming."

      Articles like this are just lame.
      inverse137@...
      • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

        @inverse137@... It's really quite pathetic that articles like this are NECESSARY for folks who bought this phone.

        I read a prominent reviewer's summary of this phone, complete with video, and he got only 2.5 hours out of his phone while pushing 4G.

        2.5 hours. Wow.

        Can you imagine the FIELD DAY the press would have if an iPhone shipped that did this? There would be coverage on all the network news about how there should be an immediate recall. lol!!
        lelandhendrix@...
      • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

        @inverse137@... Well, I think its a pretty obvious answer. I chose to get a 4g phone for top of the line speed but I dont want it drain my battery when its searching for 4g while its in my pocket. Having the choice to use 4g is fantastic, but when I do not need it - I would like the choice to save it so I can conserve my battery life. FACT
        baytech10
      • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

        @inverse137@...

        A lot of us are not in 4G areas and still need to buy phones. The Thunderbolt is a nice phone (and the only phone on the Verizon network that offers me simultaneous voice and data on 3G). The phone might have 4G, but 4G is not the reason I'm buying one.

        I'm buying a nice phone. 4G is an undesired feature that happens to be attached to it. Since 4G won't be coming to my area for at least two more years and in reality probably a lot longer, my very first step will be to enter the magical code that turns it into a 3G phone.
        NateHoy
  • Tweaks improve battery life significantly!

    I've been using Android since its debut and have an above average amount of knowledge about the OS (through lots of trial & error). These are all great tips and I have recommended a ton of them to family and friends. One thing I would also suggest is downloading Juice Defender from the app marketplace. There is a free & a paid version but even the free version makes a significant difference in battery life (minimal 30% improve and up to 50% better). A friend that I suggested several of these tips to and her adding juice defender to her phone took her battery from 6-7 hours of use on her Evo up to a best of 14 hours with 16% of her battery remaining. Tweaking your settings can help out a TON!!
    Iceman721
    • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

      @Iceman721
      The current version of Juice Defender does not work on the Thunderbolt. So we have to wait for an update to see how well JD will help the TB.
      h82loze
  • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

    Why do they still recommend a task killer? That is the worse thing you can get for any android phone, for one multiple apps open is called multitasking, and for two android has a task killer built in, and yeah there may be apps open in the background but it is only storing a snapshot of the last thing you were doing so when you open that browser for instance it opens to the last page you were on. And it uses a minuscule amount of battery, a task killer will use more. This isn't WM6.1 when android needs memory it will reclaim memory on its own. So don't listen to people that tell you to get a task killer they don't know what they are talking about.
    andyrules
    • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

      @andyrules its been tested that it can save battery. Now it depends on what you have it set at and what you are killing but it can help. Is it a big help...no.. but has shown some people improvment in battery life.
      hudie27
      • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

        @hudie27 <br><br>Do a Google search for why task killers are bad for android. It does more bad than good. Although my friend says that if he doesn't use one on his Dinc he notices that the phone slows down, I have the same phone and mine is fine, the only difference is I am using stock android and he has HTC Sense. So any slow down is probably the crap they add rather than leaving it stock.
        andyrules
      • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

        @hudie27
        Task Killers do more harm than good. I don't care if you get slightly better battery performance. You are interfering with Android's built in task management system and it negatively effects phone performance and will cause other issues.

        STOP RECOMMENDING TASK KILLERS ON ANDROID!!!
        Xander_Crews
    • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

      @andyrules windows mobile 6.5 definitely reclaimed memory as it was needed
      techjunky70
      • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

        @techjunky70 <br><br>My bad I meant 6.1 it has been over a year since I used WM anything
        andyrules
    • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

      @andyrules What on earth are you talking about... You mention task killers like they are for killing a task that is using CPU cycles, and then something else about a browser storing it's previous state in memory.

      CPU cycles and memory holding are two completely different thing. One thing is right--you aren't going to save battery by killing something that is only using memorynand not CPU.
      lelandhendrix@...
  • RE: Five battery life savers for HTC Thunderbolt (and other Androids)

    Why the hell do you have to do all of that to save battery life. I have an EVO and it sucks battery life. Funny, I was always able to keep everything open and running on my iphone. lets face it, this is a feeble attempt at a iphone. BtW i support PC and I am a full PC household, so I am not one of those pillow biter mac lovers!
    emeyer75