Tired of carrying your Android phone's charger or backup battery to ensure a full day's worth of use? Fortunately, Android has some of the best tools to find out what's killing your battery. Once you've identified the culprits, chances are you can extend your phone's battery life by changing some settings and taking a couple of battery-conserving steps. Read on to find out how to max out your battery life.
But before we start, a note: All of the information below is accurate for Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) running on a Nexus 7 (pure Android). If you're running an earlier or later version of Android, you may find the location of options screens and the type of options available to be slightly different. Also, users running a version of Android that's been modified by the manufacturer (Samsung and HTC, among others) are also likely to have a slightly different experience—if you have trouble finding a setting mentioned below, please consult your manufacturer's documentation.
What's killing my battery?
Want to know what's draining your battery? Android makes it easy: just head to Settings > About Phone > Battery Use to pull up a list of exactly which apps have used up your battery. The worst battery hogs are listed at the top—and if they're apps or features you can live without, it may be best to disable them.
What you need and what you don't
Even if you know what's draining your battery, it may not be immediately obvious what to do to fix it. Some things, like phone talk time, you can't really get around—after all, you probably have the phone so you can make and take calls on the go. Other things you can live without and maximizing your battery life is all about figuring that out. So let's start by discussing the features you can probably turn off (or tweak) without much impact on your day to day.
Lower your screen brightness
Chances are that screen brightness was somewhere near the top of your battery use list, but there are some easy tweaks to reduce your screen battery drain. Go to Settings > Display > Brightness and dial down the brightness to the low end of your comfort zone. Then turn on automatic brightness to let Android adjust the brightness depending on ambient light.
Similarly, you can set the screen timeout to one minute or less of inactivity to minimize battery drain. Go to Settings > Sound & display > Screen timeout and set it to the lowest setting.
Also, if your device has an AMOLED screen (check with your manufacturer), you can get big power savings just by using a black background for your home screen. That's because AMOLED screens use less power to display black. You'll be surprised at how much these small tweaks will help.
If you don't use any Bluetooth accessories with your phone, it's an easy call to turn off Bluetooth entirely. But even if you do use Bluetooth devices, you probably don't use them all the time. So if you need to minimize battery drain, switch it off when not in use. Turn Bluetooth on or off under Settings > Bluetooth.
Turn off GPS
Though we love our location services—which allow us to do things like navigate unfamiliar areas, find nearby restaurants or check in to our favorite places on Facebook or Foursquare—we don't always need them. Disable GPS features by going to Settings > Location access.
Watch your Wi-Fi
If you're in an area without Wi-Fi, turn your Wi-Fi off to prevent your Android device from using power to regularly checking for Wi-Fi networks. And if you don't need any data connection at all, you can turn on airplane mode, which will also disable cellular data and Bluetooth. It's no good if you're waiting for an email, but it's a great way to save battery life if you're out of range of cellular service or are only doing offline tasks! However, if you're in an area with Wi-Fi, using Wi-Fi will drain your battery less than pulling down data over cellular. So if you're going to be streaming video, syncing or downloading data, keep Wi-Fi running! Tweak your Wi-Fi settings under Settings > Wi-Fi and if you want to turn on airplane mode, go to Settings > More > Airplane mode.
If it sounds difficult to juggle turning all of these things on and off, there's a couple of ways to make it easier.
Add Android's power widget to your home screen: Go to Widgets, select Power Control and drag it where you'd like it on your screen. This widget will let tweak settings for GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and screen brightness with a simple click rather than making you dig through settings menus.
Use a battery manager app. There are lots of apps in Google Play that say they'll help get the most out of your battery, but our favorite is Juice Defender. Juice Defender comes in three versions—free Juice Defender, $1.99 Juice Defender Plus and $4.99 Juice Defender Ultimate—depending on what features you want. But the free version definitely gets the job done, automatically turning off big battery drainers when your screen goes to sleep. When you wake your phone up again, Juice Defender turns these things back on, so you're getting the best battery life possible without having to worry about switching things on and off.
Watch your apps carefully
Whether you have an Android smartphone or tablet, your experience is all about apps. Every app you have running uses at least a little power, so using these tips you can use to be sure your apps aren't causing too much battery drain.
Keep your apps up to date
The whole point of app updates is to make the apps better and often "better" means fixing bugs or other issues that might have been causing your apps to use too much of your battery. Updating your apps is easy: just fire up Google Play and go to the My Apps section. Any apps in need of updates will be listed at the top. All you need to do is click on the app, then then Update, then Accept & download to load the newest version.
To make updates as simple as possible, when you're on an app's page (before you've clicked Update to update it) you can click the Allow automatic updating checkbox, which means your Android device will automatically download and install future updates. (However, some updates may still need to be installed manually, so be sure to check My Apps regularly for updates!)
Uninstall unused apps
Even if you aren't using an app, it could still be running in the background, doing whatever it's still supposed to do. So if you've tried an app but don't plan on using it again, go ahead and uninstall it. To uninstall an app, go to Settings > Apps and tap on the app you want to uninstall. In the App info page that comes up, tap on Uninstall in the upper right.
Pay for the apps you use
Research has shown that ad-supported free apps can drain your battery much faster than paid apps. That's because they're running your processor—and using your data connection—to download and display new advertisements. So if you have an app you love to use, it's definitely worth shelling out a few dollars to pay for the full version.
Don't run more apps than you need
The ability to run more than one app at a time (multi-tasking) is great... except for what it can do to your battery life to have something constantly working in the background. Check out what's eating your battery (under Settings > Battery) and what's gobbling up data (under Settings > Data usage)—if there's anything here using a lot of resources, you should consider whether you really need it running.
You can close running apps by hitting the recent apps button at the bottom of your home screen, which will bring up a list of currently running apps. Just swipe to close the application. (If you're running modified versions of Android by HTC, Samsung, or other manufacturers may find the process different.)
Some apps may be persistent, however, always wanting to run. For these apps, check to see if there's a setting inside the app that causes it to open automatically or to check regularly for data or status updates—you may be able to tell it not to run all the time or configure how often it checks for updates, reducing battery drain. If you're still having trouble, it may just be a flaw in the app itself and, if you're having battery problems, you may need to consider whether you need the app at all.
Consider a task manager app
Task managers (sometimes called task killers), which help you shut down battery-draining apps on your Android device, have very mixed reviews. Some (like the 50,000,000 people who have downloaded Advanced Task Killer) would say they're essential ways to keep your Android device running smoothly, while others argue that they're needless on Android.
However, there is one app in this category that we really like: Watchdog (free or $3.49 without ads), which is great because it gives you the information you need to decide when an app is misbehaving without terminating apps left and right. Watchdog tells you how much of your Android device's memory and processor power an app is using and alerts you if any apps seem to be gobbling more than their fair share of resources. When you know that, you can kill the app, check for updates, tweak its settings or just uninstall it.
More battery life tips
If you're still not getting the battery life you want, here are a few other things to try:
- Turn off any live or animated wallpapers.
- Use fewer widgets: If your home screen is loaded with widgets (all of which are running in the background all the time), it could be bogging everything down. While widgets are a great feature of Android, don't use more than you need—and cut back if you need the battery life more than the widgets.
- Control your syncing: Configure email, Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds and any other services that your smartphone checks automatically to check less frequently, or only when you ask. You'll find settings for these in a settings menu within the app itself (check the app's help documentation for details on exactly where).
- Turn off vibrations: A vibrating ring-tone can really cut into your battery life. Turn it off under Settings > Sound & display > Phone vibrate.
What's using my data?
One of the biggest battery culprits is from applications downloading data over cellular or Wi-Fi. So knowing what's using data and shutting it down can be important when you need to conserve battery power. Fortunately Android 4.0 and higher has a built-in tool to tell you exactly which apps are downloading exactly how much data. Just go to Settings > Data usage to see what each of your apps is doing (and whether they're doing it when you're using the app or when it's in the background).
When you're trying to save battery life, we recommend avoiding using data guzzling apps that stream media (like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and Spotify), teleconference or videoconference (like Skype, Google+ Hangouts and Google Voice), download or upload photos (like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr), help with navigation (like Google Maps) or download data (like Google Play, Google Drive and Dropbox). Here's how to check on the amount of data you're using:
- AT&T: AT&T should text you data usage alerts when you reach 65% and 90% of your data plan. But if you want more details, the myAT&T app will let you see all of your AT&T account information in one place. If you're more old-school, you can dial *3282# to get a text message indicating your current data usage.
- Verizon: Verizon will send you an alert when you reach 50%, 75%, 90% and 100% of your data allowance. If you want more details, download the My Verizon Mobile app to view all your Verizon account information. And for the old school, you can also dial #3282 to receive a text from Verizon listing your current data usage.
- Sprint: Sprint will send you an email or text alert when you reach 75%, 90% and 100% of your data allowance. Though Sprint doesn't have an app, you can log on to their website for account information. If you aren't keen on that, you can also text "usage" to 1311 to receive a text message listing your voice, text and data usage.
- T-Mobile: T-Mobile will send you usage alerts which can be configured under My T-Mobile (once you've logged on, just go to Go to Manage, Your Profile page, then the Account Usage Alerts). T-Mobile users can also download the T-Mobile My Account app to check their account info from their phone or dial #932# to get a text message with usage information.
We hope this information has been helpful in increasing your Android device battery life. If you know any great battery-saving tips we may have missed, let us know in the comments.