PhoneBattery

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?

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1. Switch off radios 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.

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 a similar mode in iOS 9.

These 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, which means it's 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 6 has a 1810mAh battery, so a battery pack with 1810mAh capacity could fully refill it, while a battery pack with 3,000mAh capacity could fill it up around 1.6 times, but will itself take a little longer to charge than one that matches the iPhone 6 capacity.

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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? Here are your best choices for the powerful new Samsung Galaxy Note 7 handset:

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

Alex Kidman

Alex is the Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for the best part of two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts.

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