Seven ways to improve the iPad 3 battery life

Seven ways to improve the iPad 3 battery life

Summary: These simple tweaks will give dramatically better battery life from your iPad.

TOPICS: Apps, Hardware, iPad, Mobility

One question that seems to come up regularly regarding the iPad 3: how can I get more out of the battery?

Personally, I don't think that the battery life on the iPad 3 is that bad, although I do feel that compared to my first-generation iPad it does such the charge down quicker. Fear not though, because with a few tweaks, you can get dramatically better battery life out of your iPad.

Here are seven tweaks that I suggest you think about doing if you want better battery life"

Reduce screen brightness

One of the things that strike me about the iPad 3 is the screen brightness. It's bright enough at times to need sunglasses just to look at it. Even with Auto-Brightness switched on, it's still far too bright.

That unnecessary brightness is eating away your battery.

The simplest and most effective tip I have for getting more out of your iPad's battery is to turn down the screen brightness to a level that's acceptable to you. You can do this from Settings > Brightness & Wallpaper. Alternatively, you can access it by double-tapping the Home button to bring up the multitasking bar and then swiping it to the right and then using the brightness slider on the left.

You might want to experiment with turning off Auto-Brightness completely and manually adjusting the brightness. Personally, I don't find this feature to be all that effective.

Even knocking the brightness down a touch makes a noticeable difference to the battery life.

Turn off 4G LTE when not in use

The second biggest drain on the iPad 3's battery is the 4G LTE modem. Of course, there are times when you're going to want this feature -- unless you bought a Wi-Fi-only iPad, in which case it's not an option -- but leaving it switched on continuously when you're not using it and when you're iPad is out of Wi-Fi coverage will hit the battery hard.

Because 4G LTE is so fast it can also burn though your data plan rapidly. It's easy to forget that you're not using a broadband connection and start going mad with the downloading.

To toggle this feature tap Settings > General > Network use the Enable LTE switch. You can also choose to switch off 3G by using the Cellular Data switch.

Turn on Auto-Lock

This feature will lock you iPad and put it to sleep after a specified period.

Tap on Settings > General > Auto-Lock and select any of the time intervals other than Never to allow your iPad 3 to automatically lock and go to sleep.

Not only does this setting improve battery life but it also improves the security of your device by preventing unauthorized access.

Disable Notifications

Even when your iPad is in sleep mode, it's still doing stuff in the background. One of those things is that it is checking for notifications from apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and so on. The more apps that it has to process notifications for, the more battery life your iPad consumes.

The easiest way to control this is to disable notifications for app that you aren't interested in receiving notifications from. You can do this for all apps or for individual apps from Settings > Notifications.

Personally, I don't see a need to disable this feature completely -- merely for certain apps.

Disable Location Services

Here's another background task that consumes power, especially over LTE/4G. Just as with notifications, you can disable this for all apps or for individual apps. Go to Settings > Locations Services.

Again, I don't see a need to disable this feature completely, just for certain apps.

Disable Push email

Another background task that your iPad is doing that you have control over.

You can control this from Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data and toggle Push button to the off setting. The set Fetch to a specified period. Manually offers the best battery life as it only checks the email accounts when you run the Mail app.

If you have multiple accounts then chances are that you don't want to have your iPad polling each one on a regular basis and you can control how each are checked. Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data > Advanced gives you granular control over all your accounts and allows you to choose between Push, Fetch, or Manual.

Fully charge your iPad -- and then some

Yes, that effect where the iPad's battery isn't fully charges when the indicator hits 100 percent is real. The discrepancy between the displayed 100 percent charge and actually 100 percent isn't that much. I think that it's about 5--7 percent maximum based on non-rigorous testing.

The advice here is simple: charge your iPad for longer. Since you can't overcharge your iPad there's no risks associated with leaving it plugged in for long periods.

It's a good idea to charge you iPad -- and all other devices powered by Li-ion battery technology -- before the battery becomes fully discharged. Full discharges can have an adverse effect on capacity in the long term.

Things that have no noticeable effect on battery life

I've come across a number of 'tips' online that suggest you do things that my testing shows has no noticeable effect on battery life. These include:

  • Turning down the volume or muting the iPad.
  • Disabling Diagnostic & Usage Reports.
  • Using the multitasking bar to close applications that are running but that you don't need -- unless that application is actively doing something, such as Pandora Radio.
  • Overcharging the battery -- which can't happen -- since the charging circuitry is very sophisticated and designed to prevent this from happening.

Image credit: Matt Elliot/CNET.


Topics: Apps, Hardware, iPad, Mobility

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  • Is this really an issue?

    This thing lasts longer than the 2 ever did...

    I used to run the 2 down in a day, the 3 I am about 40 through after a days use.
    • It's a big issue for me

      My ipad 3 runs down excessively fast. Typically, I get about 4 hours of usage before it hits 5%. I've been happy with the ipad, but very unhappy with battery life. I'll bring down the brightness, though, to see how that helps.
  • thoughts

    "Personally, I don???t see a need to disable this feature completely ??? merely for certain apps."

    Except that the iPad is likely smart about it and checks all notifications (and the location) in one go, not separately for each app.

    It probably DOES NOT go like this:
    "What are the notifications for app A?"
    "Here are the notifications for app A."
    "What are the notifications for app B?"
    "App B has no notifications."
    "What are the notifications for app C?"
    "Here are the notifications for app C."

    It probably DOES go like this:
    "What are the notifications waiting for me?"
    "Here are the notifications for apps A and C."

    Same with location: It probably checks the location ONCE and shuts down the GPS until it needs to check it again. It probably DOES NOT check once for each application. It's the same data anyways that gets sent to all of the apps.

    Thus, it is very unlikely to save much, if any, power at all turning it off for each individual app. The best way to save power is to turn it off completely.

    "Turning down the volume or muting the iPad."

    Agreed. My iPod Touch lasted for [i]really[/i] long periods of time playing music. The amount of power needed to power earbuds or the internal speaker is surprisingly small. I could play music for an entire work shift with just the battery.

    "Disabling Diagnostic & Usage Reports."

    Agreed. You're only saving a tiny fraction of a second of processor time.

    It would be the equivalent of leaving a penny at home to save a tiny bit of weight to save a tiny bit of gas for your car.

    "Using the multitasking bar to close applications that are running but that you don???t need ??? unless that application is actively doing something, such as Pandora Radio."

    Agreed, the OS doesn't run them anyways unless they're needed. Which means you're likely making yourself feel better rather than actually saving your battery.

    "Overcharging the battery ??? which can???t happen ??? since the charging circuitry is very sophisticated and designed to prevent this from happening."

    Well, the battery will actually last longer if you keep it charged.

    One thing people really do need to get rid of is the "memory effect" idea from old NiCads. Try to avoid discharging the battery completely - it actually harms Li-Ion batteries more than it helps.
    • Only so much smarts

      If a device is polling different URLs for each account and app, then it involves several separate radio bursts for each. The aggregation of the results of those probably is done, but that is not going to be the batt-sucker.

      Actually, Sony, a major supplier of OEM batteries, includes utilities in their laptops to prevent full charging to PROLONG battery life, namely:
      - 80% if mainly using on battery, or
      - 50% if mainly using on mains.
      • Notifications work through Apple servers, so every app that is allowed to

        ... notify you is registered there.

        So the phone does not really poll separately about each application; it only asks if there are notifications from applications or not.

        However, disabling notifications for certain applications might still increase battery life: not because of polling, but simply because the frequency and amount of data downloads of the actual notifications. If you have Farmville or Smurfes notifying about the cows, dwarves and useless events about this every fifteen minutes, then disabling such notifications might help; otherwise, not much sense.

        As to battery undercharging, there are different technologies. Typical battery should be replaced once in a while, but Apple-designed batteries do not need that since 2008: they use custom batteries with about 1000 charge-discharge cycles without replace before charge levels would drop below limits.

        So Apple only tracks that the actual charge would be from 90+% to 100% while your device is connected to the power source, allowing device to slightly discharge for the health of the battery.

        Besides that, no measures are needed for Apple's batteries.
  • Is 'Enable LTE' off by default if LTE not usable in that country?

    Australians cannot use the LTE of the iPad[3], due to it being for different bands, but are those sold here configured to not try?
  • Does the ipad3 battery

    Provide for more runtime as the ipad2 battery ? I always hear people praising the ipad/ipad2 battery, but after about one year with te ipad2, I am not convinced, and it seems that since ios 5, my ipad2 needs to be charged once a day as it goes flat awfully fast. The 10 hour usage which is touted, has never been the case on my model, and since ios5 it seems 6 hours is asking too much.
    • Use some of the same tips

      Yes, after iOS 5.x the battery life did drop. I found in most cases 5 reset a number of settings. Going back through them I can now get close to what I had - about 8 hrs.....