If you’re the sort of person who likes to customize all of your settings to get the best out of your tech, you might’ve noticed that the focus of the most sought-after hacks has shifted a bit over the past few years. Consider this reddit comment on a thread about extending Android battery life:
Anyway, Pepperidge Farm’s moment is over 🙂
With today’s blisteringly fast processing speeds and refined operating systems, the new swag is all about how much SOT (Screen On Time) you can juke your phone into sustaining. However, as that reddit thread and its subsequent comments make abundantly clear, a lot of these supposed “hacks” actually do little more than hobble the very capabilities you bought a high-end phone for in the first place. This Ultimate Guide to Extending Android Battery Life skirts some of the more questionable suggestions out there in favor of tips that won’t impact reasonable use of your device.
Let’s start with a word about how batteries work. A discharge cycle is defined as a battery going from 100% to 0%. Your basic lithium ion batteries (i.e. the ones used in phones) have been shown to lose a fraction of their capacity after a certain number of cycles—testing has shown most lose 10 to 20% of their capacity after 250 cycles, and they will continue to weaken over time.
As The Conversation notes, because most battery degradation happens “during deep discharge/charge cycles” [i.e. going from 0 to 100% and vice versa], it is actually better to limit the battery discharge during any one cycle before charging it again.” Most new phones are smart in more ways than one when it comes to extending Android battery life. They will automatically shut down when the battery gets too low to avoid scraping zero—some models are even designed to prevent charging to 100% when you plug them in overnight. Help them out by paying heed when your phone warns you it’s getting low and keeping in the 20–80% sweet spot.
How much are you willing to sacrifice to extend your android’s battery life?
If you really need to make a charge last, Android phones all have smart battery saving modes (usually with Mid and Max settings depending on your needs). These modes adjust CPU usage for different apps, reduce screen brightness, block most notifications and switch off a lot of hardware bells and whistles. Applying these settings can add hours to your SOT, at the cost of making your phone’s functionality comparable to the hottest models of 2006.
Power Saving Mode is an extreme measure for those times when you need to maintain the bare talk-and-text necessities. In a similar vein, Airplane Mode cuts off access to your network and GPS, which is great if you’re just using your phone as a media player, for example. Each option implements a host of limitations, but you can also apply these limits singly to extend battery life on your own terms:
- Turn down screen brightness. Large LCD displays are power hogs, especially at max brightness. Many phones include options to adjust screen brightness based on available light or time of day, and even at the lower end of the brightness scale most text is legible without eye strain. Although some sources recommend “pixel filtering” apps, in our experience they’re not very effective. Pixel filters turn off a percentage of the pixels on a phone’s screen. Given how many pixels there are in total, the effect may not be noticeable to most users, but you will have to compensate by increasing screen brightness. You’re also running an extra app in the process. Between these two factors, you’re likely to use more power with these apps than without.
- Disconnect from your cellular network. If you’re not expecting to make or receive any calls for a period of time, you can always disconnect to extend your Android’s battery life. You reach your network via your GSM module (short for Global System for Mobile communication). GSM eats up a lot of power by constantly communicating with cell towers.
- Is Wi-Fi more battery-friendly than 4G? Sort of. Some measurements have found that 4G uses nearly twice as much power as Wi-Fi, but the real impact is situational. Downloading data from local Wi-Fi is easier than pulling it from the network, so most phones turn 4G off while Wi-Fi is connected. On the other hand, if you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network, your device will constantly search for networks as long as Wi-Fi is turned on. That can mean a significant battery hit. Extend your Android battery life by turning off Wi-Fi when you’re not using it—but remember to turn it back on before you binge on videos at home and kill your data!
- Speaking of videos… Maybe don’t use up your last 15% to stream ten minutes of HD video?
- Disable Fast Charge: If you’re in no particular hurry, avoid the fast charge option when you plug in. As with the over/undercharging issue we identified earlier, fast charging is physically demanding for your battery, and actually reduces the amount of power it can retain.
When to replace your battery
Although it was once customary for users to upgrade their phones every 1.5 to 2 years without a second thought, many people are now exploring ways to extend the lifespan of their devices. If properly cared for, a smartphone can stay in good working order for many years. As the Apple iPhone slowdown backlash reveals, a lot of the performance hit you see in older phones is to accommodate reduced battery help. (It’s also part of a planned obsolescence strategy on the part of manufacturers.)
For various design reasons, high end phones will never have removable batteries again. But if you’ve recently noticed a sharp decline in SOT, having your battery replaced by your manufacturer or a qualified retailer can be a smarter economic and environmental choice to extend Android battery life than replacing your device entirely.
You can also mitigate the impact of a weakening battery by bringing along a power bank. Use it to carefully charge your phone to stay out of the -20%/+80% danger zones, and travel with confidence knowing you won’t run out of juice in a tight spot. It sure beats downloading a bunch of extra “power-saving” apps that take more power to run than they save!
Those are our basic tips on extending Android battery life. Have you got anything that’s worked well for you?