10 tips for better battery life for Android phones

Battery life on Android phones is better than it used to be but it can still sometimes be a chore to get through a busy day with juice left in the tank. These tips will go a long way to get you safely back to the charger.
1 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

How to get more battery life out of Android phones (and tablets)

In the early days of Android it was a real chore to reach the end of a busy day with battery life left. That's improved over time but it can still sometimes be difficult to get through a busy day without running the battery dry. Frequent business travelers in particular know how important it is to stretch the battery, as traveling can be hard on power usage. The tips in this collection can go a long way to help get through those days and safely back to the phone charger.

Many of these tips are simply common sense, but they are worth mentioning just in case. Plus, if they aren't mentioned some will wonder why they were overlooked.

In later versions of Android there is a nice power usage graph as shown above that is accessible via settings. It can help identify culprits that are draining the battery excessively should you notice the remaining battery seems too low.

These tips are specifically for Android phones, but most other phones likely have similar settings that can be tweaked for similar battery gain.

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Keep your phone cool

It's not common knowledge but some folks in the know ensure me that letting the phone get too hot can impact the battery life. I'm told the impact on the battery is particularly noticeable at 95 degrees and above so if you live in a hot climate as I do you'd better keep the phone out of the heat.

If it's very hot outside you don't want to be walking in the heat with your phone in hand, as that exposes it directly to the heat. Keep the phone in a bag or a pocket as much as possible to keep the battery from taking a hit.

If you go to a hot place like the beach, don't leave your phone sitting out in the sun as that will surely suck life out of the battery.

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Turn down the screen brightness

This is obvious but worth mentioning. The display on Android phones is the biggest drain of battery, so it makes sense to turn it down as low as possible. This can add hours of life to the battery.

Android phones have an auto-brightness setting that automatically adjusts the screen brightness based on ambient room light. This normally works fine but when trying to sqeeze the most up-time on a charge it is worth turning off. Then you set the brightness manually to the lowest setting that is comfortable to still see the screen. It's worth repeating that this can add hours of battery life on a given day.

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Reduce screen timeout

Android phones will automatically dim and then turn off the display after a set interval. It's worth setting this interval as short as possible which will have a good impact on battery life.

Some Samsung Galaxy phones, like my Note 2, have another setting called Smart stay. This prevents the screen from dimming and timing out if it detects the user is looking at the screen. This is a great utility and makes it possible to set the timeout interval shown above to as short as possible. The screen won't keep turning off while you're using the phone, but will do so if you're not using it after a few seconds.

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Don't forget power saving mode

Most phones have a special mode that can be toggled on to stretch the longest time possible out of the battery. Power saving mode does this through a number of techniques such as turning off different radios (wi-fi, Bluethooth) among other things.

Power saving mode has a significant impact on system performance so you don't want to have it enabled all the time. Instead, turn it on when your battery level is dropping low and you have a while to get through the day. Some phones have a setting that lets you program a battery level, say 30 percent, to enable power saving mode automatically.

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Turn off phone vibration

Some folks don't realize it but having the phone vibrate for calls and notifications is a big drain on the battery. As nice as it may be to have the ringer turned off and vibrate enabled, if you need to stretch the battery life on a busy day then turn off the vibration.

7 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Turn off unused radios

Android phones are chock full of radios, including wi-fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Each of these radios hits the battery so it is prudent to turn them off when not being used. 

If you don't use a Bluetooth headset then it makes sense to keep Bluetooth always turned off. Make an effort to leave wi-fi off until you're in an active hotspot. 

GPS can be turned off when not using the navigation feature of the phone.

You can access the radio toggles in settings, and many Android phones have a section in the notification drop-down as shown above.


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No haptic feedback

Most Android phones have haptic feedback that gives a little vibration when keys are pressed on the keyboard and at certain other times. Just as vibrating when receiving a call takes a hit on the battery, so does haptic feedback.

If you don't absolutely have to have it, turn off the haptic feedback. 

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Reboot once in a while

Android smartphones are handheld computers, and just like the bigger computers they can get lots of stuff going over time that hits the battery. It may not always have a positive affect on the battery, but it doesn't hurt to occasionally reboot the phone. It makes sure you start with a clean slate with as few apps running in the background as possible.

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Turn off app notifications

Many apps offer notifications, those little messages that tells you when something has happened in the background. Unfortunately, for the apps to know when there is something new they must be polling the network all the time. This can eat up a lot of battery if the polling is happening frequently and there are a lot of apps doing it.

You'll have to go into each app to turn the notifications off but it's worth the effort. Two of the biggest offenders are Twitter and Facebook so turn those app notifications off unless you can't live without them.

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Get an extra battery

The surest way to get through a busy day with a live phone is to get a spare battery if your phone has a replaceable battery. Keep it charged and throw it in your bag or briefcase when heading out for the day. Having two batteries will certainly get you through the longest day and maybe two days without charging.

A similar action is to get a case with a battery inside if that is an option for your phone. These increase the bulk and weight of the phone but can often double the battery life.

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