10 tips to improve your cellphone battery life

Good Housekeeping

As cellphones become more powerful and capable of doing more, a notable tradeoff has been a decline in battery life.

Courtesy of Apple

We all want high-performing phones that we can use to make tons of phone calls as well as run lots of apps, stream music, and surf the web, and have the battery last for a few days. But unless you want to go back to Zach Morris-style headsets (which could house super-large batteries), we'll have to settle for recharging at least once a day.

But there are things you can  do to increase the battery life of your phone. Here are our 10 top tips:

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1. Be more aware. Make sure you close out of all apps when you're not using them. For the iPhone, you double tap on the Home button, hold down the icon of the program you want to close until a red sign comes up, and then tap on that. It's also smart to install a basic app on your phone to monitor what applications you're using that are draining the battery the most.

On an iPhone, for the most basic information, go to your Home Screen, Settings, General, Usage, time since last full charge and see just how much you use your phone and how much standby time you have. Other phone brands have similar settings for monitoring usage.

2. Upgrade the software. Engineers are constantly optimizing phone software. On the iPhone, update the software on the phone (Settings, General, Software Update) or the computer (iTunes by going to Summary, Check for Updates).

3. Minimize location-based services. While there are definitely apps with which you'll want to use location services (like Maps!), it's better for you to activate these services only when necessary. In the meantime, for iPhone users go to Settings, General, Location Services and disable them.

4. Turn off push notifications. Push means updates are constantly being added to you your mail and apps. And yes, it's great to know there are updates waiting for you on Facebook, but it's even better to have a battery charge that lasts for more than a day! So, go to Settings, Notifications, "Off" to disable push notifications if you are on an iPhone, or adjust your settings similarly on other phones. Don't worry, when yougo to Facebook you'll get updates-they just won't be there waiting for you as soon as you open the app.

5. Optimize your data-fetching intervals. For apps that don't rely on push services, your data is fetched at specific intervals. Fetching more often will drain the battery more quickly. So for things like mail, you can make sure your phone is not fetching too frequently by going to Settings, Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Fetch New Data and choose "manually" or "hourly" depending upon your needs. For services s that rely on push services (like many mail accounts), follow the same path but set Push to "Off" so new data comes in based on your fetch setting. And if you have email accounts on your phone that you don't use anymore, turn them off or delete them (Settings, Mail, Contacts, Calendars,choose email account and either set to "Off" or Delete Account).

6. Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use. If you don't use Wi-Fi frequently, turn it off (iPhone users: Settings, Wi-Fi, Off). However, if you're always on the web it may be advantageous to keep it on since it may give you more life than surfing over the cellular network. Ditto for Bluetooth - If you don't frequently use it, turn it off (Settings, General, Bluetooth, Off).

7. Be cognizant of your location. When your phone is searching for a signal, it drains the battery. So if you have a 4G phone and are in an area with spotty service, turn 4G off. Same goes for 3G. If you're in an area with low, or even no coverage, turn on Airplane Mode (iPhone: Settings, Airplane Mode, On). Just, remember to turn it off when you want to make or receive calls.

8. Adjust your brightness. While it's nice to have a super-bright screen, you'll pay for it with battery life. If your phone doesn't default to auto brightness, choose it as your setting and the screen will adjust itself depending on the lighting conditions.

9. Charge appropriately. Make sure to fully charge and fully drain your battery at least once a month. It's also smart to take your phone out of its case when it's charging so that it won't generate excess heat. (Never let your phone get hotter than 95 degrees F or you risk permanently damaging it and reducing the battery capacity.) Keep in mind that like all rechargeable batteries, eventually it may have to be replaced.

10. Lock your phone. While this may seem like common sense, make sure your auto-lock setting is as low as possible given your needs (iPhone users: Settings, General, Auto-Lock, and set to 1 minute).

Battery life is an issue for many cell phone users, and particularly for iPhone owners. When the iPhone 4S was first released, many consumers complained about a short battery life. To get a better handle on the battery life of the new phones, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute had ten iPhone 4S users track their usage. We had them fully charge their phones, then use them as usual and allow them to drain completely. Using battery monitoring apps, we were able to accurately track how long the batteries lasted. All ten drained within 12 to 36 hours. Apple doesn't make highfalutin' claims* about the battery life of the iPhone 4S and we found this battery life consistent with that of most smartphones on the market. Apple did concede that there was a software issue with the new operating system, and issued an update. Just another example of why it's important to continually check for updated software. If you have an iPhone, please let us know if the tips recommended above give you more time between charges or if you have any other tips that have improved your phone's battery life.

Of course not all of these options above are viable to everyone. You may need to keep your push notifications active or your screen on full brightness. If you still find your battery draining after optimizing your settings to your lifestyle, you may want to opt for a case that doubles as a battery extender. We haven't done a full test of these devices yet, but I've personally used the sleek Mophie and have seen definite improvements. Other notable battery extender manufacturers include: Boost (remove the extra battery charging component if you don't need it), Eton (has cases with solar charging capabilities), Incipio (for thinner, lighter options), iBattz (comes with two removable battery packs), and Scosche (has a built-in kickstand). Most of these claim to double the battery life of the iPhone 4 or 4S.

*iPhone 4S offers up to 8 hours of talk time on 3G, 14 hours of talk time on 2G (GSM model only), 6 hours of Internet use on 3G, 9 hours of Internet use on Wi-Fi, 10 hours of video playback, or 40 hours of audio playback on a full charge at original capacity. In addition, iPhone 4S features up to 200 hours of standby time. This is all dependent upon network configuration and other factors like use and settings.


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