7 tips to improve your smartphone battery life

Phone batteries that die halfway through the day are a common problem, but there are ways to improve the situation.

If you're constantly finding that your smartphone battery conks out before the end of the working day -- or at least before you can conveniently tether it to a wall charger -- then you're going to need to do something about it, unless living like a hermit actually appeals to you. So what can you do to eke out the most battery life from your smartphone?

1. Switch off services you're not using

The first step is to eliminate any battery-sapping services that you don't particularly need. If you only work from 3G/4G services, having your Wi-Fi constantly active and seeking hotspots is a waste of battery power, so you can switch that off when there's no Wi-Fi around.

Likewise, while Bluetooth is great for connecting to headphones, fitness trackers and other peripherals, even in its low power state it's still using up power. If you're not using Bluetooth during the day, switch it off to maximise your battery life.

Of course, if you want the most battery power out of your phone and you're not fussed about calls, you can always throw the whole phone into airplane mode, and then re-enable Wi-Fi to keep it online, or leave it offline if you want to avoid communication. While that limits the capabilities of your smartphone, it also saves a lot of battery power

2. Dim screens save a lot of power

Having your screen brightness cranked up to maximum makes it very easy to read in direct sunlight, but the display screen on a smartphone can be amongst the worst culprits for sapping the battery, especially if you're using a large screen smartphone. Crank down the brightness (and disable any automatic brightness setting) to maximise your phone's battery life.

Android users will find the relevant controls under Settings>Display. Being Android the exact terminology can vary as to how to disable automatic settings, but you should easily be able to set the brightness level simply by swiping down from the top of the screen to bring up the notification blind and adjusting brightness there.

For iPhone users, it's a matter of heading to Settings>Display & Brightness and disabling Auto-Brightness while cranking the Brightness slider down as low as you can tolerate.

3. Push email to the background

Switching off isn't just a matter of minimising your smartphone's radio chatter, either. Any application that has push or notification style features will use power in providing those services.

Email is the classic example here, because push-style email services will constantly check to see if you have email waiting to be pushed to your smartphone. That's exceptionally handy if you constantly live and die via email communication, but if your needs are more modest, consider disabling push and putting your email either on full manual feed, so it only updates when you select it, or on a reduced schedule of checking every 15 or 30 minutes.

If you're an iPhone user, you can adjust the push behaviour of mail by heading to Settings>Mail,Contacts,Calendars. There's a section labelled "Fetch New Data", which will most likely be set to "Push". Tap that, and you'll have the option to switch Push off and set a Fetch duration of either 15 minutes, 30 minutes, hourly or fully manual.

On the Android side of the fence, Gmail is set to always push mail, but if you're using the email client provided by your phone manufacturer instead, you may be able to find a setting for changing push or synchronisation frequency to save yourself some power.

4. Disable battery-hungry apps

Mail isn't the only app that chews power, however. If you're finding your phone gasping for power throughout the day, it could be any of a number of other applications using up power, either because you're constantly using them (which makes sense) or because they've got background functions that use up power even when you're not utilising their services. Facebook is often cited as a battery drainer, but it's not the only app that can be quite power-hungry, especially if you play a lot of games on your smartphone.

You can find out which apps are battery hogs quite simply, and from there assess quite how important it is that you keep them. iPhone users should head to Settings>General>Usage>Battery Usage. From there you can see how long it's been since you last charged, but also the battery statistics for all the apps on your phone using power in the last 24 hours and last seven days.

For Android users, head to Settings>Battery. Depending on your phone manufacturer and how heavily they have modified Android's core OS, you should be able to see the full details of which apps have chewed up the most power, as well as a handy estimate of how long your phone expects to last based on current battery usage statistics.

It's true that there are some apps you probably won't want to kill, but if you find an older app still eating up power, or one using far more than its fair share, you may want to consider disabling or even uninstalling it when you're not using it, and reinstalling it only when you really need it.

5. Power saving modes (if you've got them)

Many Android phones feature extreme power saving modes, referred to variously as ultra power saving mode, stamina mode or battery saver. Apple has had similar modes since iOS 9.

These modes seriously lobotomise your smartphone, leaving only call and texting facilities functional. They're good in an emergency if you just want to contact someone or be in contact, but they're not a solution to keeping a smartphone truly "smart".

6. External battery helpers

If you've disabled everything you can sensibly disable and you still find that your smartphone battery can't last the distance, you still have a few options open to you.

If your smartphone has both a removable back and battery, that gives you the ability to remove and replace the battery. It would be feasible to carry two of them around, although you'd have to keep both charged at once for that to be actually workable.

The easier option, and the one that works for both sealed and easily replaceable batteries, is an external battery pack or battery case. Battery cases are, as the name suggests, full cases with embedded batteries within a single case, making them simpler to keep charged, because they're always plugged into your phone's charging port. They're most commonly built for Apple's iPhones, with brands such as Mophie, Incipio, Lifeproof and others offering battery cases.

External batteries are more of a jack-of-all trades solution, typically offering power to just about any gadget that can take USB power. This means it is feasible to use them to help recharge smartphones, tablets and even some standalone cameras.

The key aspect to check with any battery pack is the mAh (milliamp hours -- effectively the "strength") of the battery against the capacity of your smartphone. To give a concrete example, the iPhone XS has a 2658mAh battery, so a battery pack with 2658mAh capacity could fully refill it.

A battery pack with 6,000mAh capacity could fill it up just a touch over 2 times, but will itself take a little longer to charge than one that matches the iPhone XS capacity.


RavPower RP-PB005

RRP: $47.95

Buy Now!

Pros: The RavPower RP-PB005 is more compact than its siblings, with two USB-A ports to hook up your iPhone XS, or any other compliant gadget, for a bout of quick charging. 10,000mAh is enough to recharge an iPhone XS Max three times with a little power to spare, or nearly four times for the iPhone XS.

Cons: For not that much more money, you could score quite a bit more battery capacity, plus fast-charging capabilities for other devices.


RavPower RP-PB043

RRP: $79.95

Buy Now!

Pros: The RavPower RP-PB043 has a 20,100mAh battery pack on board, which is plenty to keep your iPhone XS (and a few more gadgets) running for some time. It offers plug support for USB-A and USB-C charging, with its own charging coming via micro USB. While it won't help your iPhone, support is built in for Qualcomm's QuickCharge technology, so you could suddenly be very popular with your Android phone-toting friends.

Cons: It's a big and heavy brick of a charger to carry around with you. With that much capacity, recharging it is a time-consuming process.


mophie Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL


Typical price: $149.95

Buy from Apple Store

Pros: mophie's Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL is a 10,000mAh battery pack, which might not seem like much for the price you're paying – except that it's also a Qi wireless charger as well. That means you can drop your iPhone XS onto it to charge if you forget your Lightning cable or charge it (or other gadgets) directly from a cable.

Cons: It's only capable of slower 5W wireless charging. While there's a USB-C port on the Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL, it's only for charging the device itself – you can't use it to send power out to other USB-C devices such as the new Apple iPad Pro, leaving it with just the single USB-A type plug socket for charging devices.


Your other option -- if your phone supports it -- is to use a fast wall charger to top up your phone. These have the obvious disadvantage that you're stuck waiting near a wall socket while your phone gets more precious juice, but some fast chargers can give you hours of usage out of only 10 minutes or so of charging.

There are multiple standards around this, depending on your handset, but the typical way you can tell if a charger is "fast" charger is a higher than 5W rating.

Phones are smart, too, so there's little risk in using an authentic fast charger on a phone that won't use all that power. It'll just take up power more sedately, just as your fast charging phone would when using a slower charger.

7. If all else fails, maybe it's the battery (or the phone)

If you still find that even with a battery pack you're struggling to get through the day, it's almost certainly a sign that the underlying battery chemistry of your phone is askew.

That can happen with new phones, in which case Australian consumer law is your friend and you should seek a replacement or repair, depending on whether or not it's a removable battery or not.

If your phone is more than a couple of years old, however, you'll have to look into the cost and feasibility of getting hold of a replacement battery. Depending on the model, it may make more sense to use your poor battery fortunes as an excuse to upgrade your smartphone hardware.

Need a new phone with great battery life on contract? Compare your choices for the powerful new Samsung Galaxy Note9 handset:

Picture: Fu-tography.com, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)

Alex Kidman

Alex Kidman is a multi-award-winning consumer technology journalist and the Tech & Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for more than two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts. He has written for just about every major Australian technology publication, and is a former editor of Gizmodo Australia, PC Mag Australia, and CNET.com.au.

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