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What's Draining Your iPhone Battery?

by on October 14, 2015
in Phones and Mobile, Mobile Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps, Tips & How-Tos, Tech 101 :: 16 comments

iPhone Low Power ModeIf you own an iPhone, there's a good chance you run into battery problems now and again — times you wish you had the battery life to take one more photo, look up the location of a restaurant or make a quick phone call. But the more we use and rely on our smartphones, the more likely they are to run out of juice when we need them most.

With a bit of awareness about how you use your iPhone and what apps you're using on it, you can curb your iPhone's battery-draining tendencies. We'll take a look at what types of apps commonly drain battery power and look into ways to keep your iPhone juiced up. 

What's always running?

The biggest battery drain by far are the apps you're always using. Do you use your phone to check Facebook or your email regularly? Do you use AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) to talk to friends on the go, or have Pandora streaming music in the background? Some apps keep polling for information in the background, burning battery life even when you aren't paying any attention to them.

You also need to be wary of apps that keep your screen active or put a strain on your smartphone's internal processor. Video streaming apps and games might be fun, but they'll cut sharply into your battery life. Video and photo editing apps like iMovie and iPhoto also take a lot of power to run. And using your phone as a flashlight is useful, but keeping the screen or camera flash active can definitely ruin your battery expectations.

iPhone Battery SettingsShutting down the battery drainers

If you're concerned about your iPhone's battery life (or you're going over your phone's data plan limits), it's worth spending a few minutes to think about what you really need your phone to be doing.

First, check out what's actually draining your battery by going to Settings > Battery. When you scroll down, you can see the percentage of battery used in either the last 24 hours or 5 days. Tapping the clock icon will reveal how much of the battery drain is from onscreen use and how much is being drained in the background. 

If you find that you don't need apps like Facebook and Kindle checking for updates in the background, you can turn off these background updates off. Head over to Settings > General > Background App Refresh to manually toggle off each app's auto-refresh. Even if an app doesn't appear on the list of apps using your battery power, it's worth going through the list and turning off background app refresh for apps you don't use.

For Mail, in addition to background app refresh, you'll want to set your iPhone up to fetch your mail instead of having it pushed to you whenever you get new messages. You can set you phone to check for messages every 15, 30  or  60 minutes. Or, you can choose to only refresh manually. You manually refresh your mail within the app by pulling down on the list of mail messages. 

Next, head over to Notifications, which you'll find under Settings. For each app, you can choose to Allow Notifications. And if you do allow notifications, you can choose whether to allow sounds and if the alert will appear on the lock screen, if the phone is locked. Lock screen notifications are useful for new text messages, less so for Candy Crush Saga.

Each new notification uses battery power to light up your lock screen and pop up an alert. You can see how much battery power your notifications are costing by checking what percentage of the battery is being taken up by Home & Lock Screen (Settings > General > Battery). This indicates how many times the display is being awakened, either by your turning it on or by notification alerts. If Home & Lock Screen is using a good chunk of your battery, you'll benefit from disabling lock screen notifications from some apps.

Another battery drain is automatic downloads from the App and iTunes Stores. Under Settings > App and iTunes Stores, you can choose to have have purchases and updates downloaded automatically, which could drain your battery when you really need it, or manually. And, you can choose whether those updates only happen over Wi-Fi only or over either Wi-Fi or cellular. Again, restricting those updates to Wi-Fi only, where you're more likely to have access to power, is a good choice.

Keep location services on lockdown

iPhone Location ServicesLocation services can be terribly convenient, letting apps know where you are and providing useful, location-specific information. However, keeping your iPhone's GPS running can go through your remaining battery power very quickly.

You can tell when something on your phone is using location services by the arrow icon that appears in your menu bar at the top of the screen. If you'd like to save battery life, you have several options where location services are concerned.

Close apps that use location services when you don't need them. Common culprits are map and navigation apps and services that provide you with location-based information, like Yelp and Google Maps.

If you don't think an app needs access to location services, it's easy to disable it on an app-by-app basis. Just open Settings > Privacy > Location Services, and find the apps you don't want to access location data. Move the slider next to them to the off position. That application won't be able to fire up your phone's GPS until you change that setting.

You can also disable location services entirely if you aren't using them. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, and move the slider by Location Services to the off position.

Watch what you stream

Downloading lots of data doesn't just burn through your monthly data plan; it also burns through your battery life as your phone works to pull that data down from cellular or Wi-Fi networks. So if you're particularly concerned about battery life, you probably want to avoid apps that will be a major data drain.

The most common culprits are anything that streams video or music: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Google+ Hangouts, Skype and FaceTime. You might not think of your email, which pushes new messages to your phone, or your favorite social networks, where you're viewing friends' photos, videos and status updates (and probably uploading your own!). Though text-based updates are small, photos and videos are larger files (especially as the iPhone's camera improves), and viewing lots of them will leave you with less battery life.

So when you're on a battery budget, set your phone to fetch your email at an interval instead of having it constantly pushed to your phone. For your social networks, skip uploading photos and videos or viewing those of your friends. You're best off avoiding apps like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr and Pinterest and even browsing image-intensive websites. 

Be careful of free apps

Though free apps may seem tempting, these ad-supported apps burn at least a little extra battery power to download and display advertisements. In our own experience, apps downloading advertisements was the fourth highest data use on our iPhone — and as we mentioned above, when you're downloading data, you're also burning down your battery.

If you like an app enough to use it all the time, why not go ahead and pay a dollar or two to buy it instead of making your phone download advertisements every time you open it? 

iPhone Brightness SettingOur best battery tips 

There are lots of things your phone can do that will cause your battery to drain faster — and you might not even use some of them. Here are some common battery culprits and how to disable them if and when you don't need them.

Disable Bluetooth

If you don't use any Bluetooth accessories, turn Bluetooth off under Settings > Bluetooth. In iOS 9, there's a shortcut: Swipe up from your home screen to bring up a mini settings menu, and click the Bluetooth icon to shut off Bluetooth.

Reduce screen brightness

Keeping your screen brightly lit at all times can be a massive battery drain. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness, and set the brightness slider to the lowest level you're comfortable with. Then enable Auto-Brightness, which automatically makes the screen darker or lighter in response to current lighting conditions. You can and should also reduce screen drain by setting your phone's screen lock to kick on as quickly as possible, reducing the amount of time the screen is needlessly lit. Go to Settings > General > Auto-Lock, and set it to 1 minute.

Turn off notifications

It's handy to get notifications when an app wants to tell you something, but it also means that your iPhone is always keeping track of what the app is up to, which burns battery power. Even worse, a lock screen notification that pops up lights up your screen for a minute to show it to you — and as we noted above, keeping the screen lit can be a significant battery drain.

Turn off notifications for individual apps under Settings > Notifications. Most apps seem happy to notify you about everything, so we suggest disabling most of these notifications. Scroll down to the list of apps, and click each app to see what kind of notifications it sends. If you don't want any, move the slider from green to white next to Allow Notifications to turn them off. If you want limited notifications, you can choose to turn on Sounds, Show in Notification Center and Show on Lock Screen. Be sure to turn off Show in Lock Screen for all but the most important notifications.

Disable Wi-Fi

If you aren't using Wi-Fi, turn it off; otherwise, your phone will constantly check for available Wi-Fi networks, draining your battery in the process. You can disable Wi-Fi under Settings > Wi-Fi, but don't forget to turn it back on again when you need it or you'll regret all that data use when you see your next wireless bill!

If you don't need any kind of data service (or if you're in an area where you aren't getting a good signal), you can save a lot of battery life by turning on Airplane Mode under Settings. This disables Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular service, cutting off all of the worst battery drainers. Again, iOS 9 has a shortcut: Swipe up from your home screen and click the Wi-Fi icon to disable Wi-Fi or the Airplane Mode icon to enable Airplane Mode, which turns off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Check your email less frequently

Many of us use our phones to keep tabs on our email accounts, but how often you check your email can take a major toll on your battery life. The iPhone lets you set up new mail to be automatically pushed to your phone (although not all email services support this) or fetched from the mail server at certain intervals.

Because push mail means a constant connection, you'll get better battery life by fetching mail at intervals — and the less frequent the interval, the better your battery life. To change how often your phone checks your email, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data. For best battery life, turn Push off and reduce your Fetch interval or set it to Manual. If you really need mail from a specific account fast, you can also enable Push-only on the accounts you choose from this menu.

Keep charged!

Instead of waiting for your battery to run dry, plug it in when you're at your desk at work or in the car. Even a few minutes worth of charging could make the difference. 

Use Low Power Mode

In iOS 9 when your battery gets down below 20 percent (and again at 10 percent), you'll get a low battery warning and the ability to go into Low Power Mode. In Low Power Mode, you phone will automatically stop or reduce mail fetch, background app refresh, automatic downloads and some visual effects. 

Updated on 10/14/2015 with iOS 9-specific battery saving tips.

[Image credit: ymgerman /, Apple]

Discussion loading


So wrong

From LA on March 21, 2014 :: 11:14 am

By reading the first paragraphs of your article only one thing came to my mind: “You just don’t have any idea how iOS, Notifications, and Background app refresh are working”. Most of the notifications come from the Apple servers and not from the app itself. Thats’ why closing or having let’s say Facebook app does not have anything to do with the notification. There are very limited number of apps which send you notifications locally and that’s the case if they are really running in the background which you can manage through background app refresh in Settings. Other solutions that you have provided are just shutting down services which make your smartphone like a normal phone. Seriously what’s the point of turning wifi off on a smartphone?? Turning off notifications?? What about buying a Nokia 6600 from 2000?



Can't agree more

From JY on May 01, 2014 :: 4:54 pm

It’s like save fuel, don’t drive!




From Androidian on March 26, 2014 :: 11:39 am

Why don’t turn off your Iphone or throw it over the window?



Thank you

From Kaye swain on April 01, 2014 :: 10:05 am

Thanks for a great guide. While I would rarely turn all these off of my main iPhone, there have been times when I didn’t have a way to recharge it and vitally needed the phone to stay working and HAVE turned off everything I could.

Plus, I have my old phone still working as a grandkid phone with games, audio books, and music for them. But it is also my backup phone AND I enjoy listening to it on long drives to save my primary iPhone. Sometimes I also like to listen to it at night if I am having trouble sleeping. And THAT phone loses power faster than my newer phone. This guide will be especially helpful for keeping that running - especially at night.

I really appreciate the tips and the two new-to-me apps. Again, thank you smile



Nice article.

From askapache on May 07, 2014 :: 7:57 pm

Very well written and very thorough.  Another tip:  every once in a while close every single running app, and then power off your phone and power back on, then close all apps again. That will keep things even more minimal, from a low level operating system perspective.




From psy on July 17, 2014 :: 1:28 am

Yep. And this why I would never buy an iPhone.

I have my lovely Samsung android and I am always armed with four extra batteries. This means I can have every app in the world running at full pelt with the screen as bright as a button and I’ll never be left with a dead piece of plastic in my pocket and no way to communicate.

Sorry iPhone, you suck.



None of this will make a difference.

From Jake on August 24, 2014 :: 3:42 pm

I’m sorry, but this article is way off base.

With few exceptions, iOS apps DO NOT run in the background. The exceptions are apps that play music and apps that download files. In all other cases, apps will be suspended immediately when you leave them by locking your phone, going to the home screen, or switching to another app.

iOS is very strict about this. Pulling up the list of recent apps and swiping them away does nothing that affects battery life.

Turning off Bluetooth will save some battery. Turning off wifi might or might not, depending on what you’re doing and what the cell service is like where you are.

Sigh. Do your research next time. Please.


very profession and useful

From Yi Chuangneng on October 20, 2014 :: 11:51 pm

very profession and useful



some bad app will waster lot of power

From iphones1955 on January 16, 2015 :: 4:14 am

as the title, some bad app will waster lot of power,i sure,i have the experience install the bad app in iphone,that make my power down fast,so the best way is to uninstall the bad app!



Phone battery usage

From Carolyn on March 04, 2015 :: 8:54 pm

Checking my battery usage and “phone” is listed with the word Audio underneath it. Does anyone know what that stands for?



I would guess music

From Josh Kirschner on March 06, 2015 :: 12:46 pm

Taking a little bit of a guess here, but are you streaming music or playing other audio in the background? Is it possible that something is playing and you don’t realize it because the volume is turned down?



No, I checked my music

From Carolyn on March 22, 2015 :: 7:49 pm

No, I checked my music already. That shows up under music icon. I was thinking FaceTime audio or the audio option in messages. I can’t re-create it though. Thank you grin



From Nick Donnelly on October 07, 2015 :: 12:40 pm

This guy clearly doesn’t know how iOS works (as the first commenter says).

You do not need to close apps to save power - it will have the reverse effect and harm your user experience - ignore this article, and this whole website.



We've updated that section

From Josh Kirschner on October 07, 2015 :: 3:08 pm

You’re correct. The information in that section was not accurate. We’ve updated the recommendations to make it clear that app notifications and background app refresh are the appropriate ways of reducing app power usage, but shutting them down.

These recommendations were taken from our recent story on saving battery power on iOS, which replaced this dated one. You can find the new story here:



Path is incorrect

From James Butler on October 14, 2015 :: 6:11 pm

In the article this sentence contains a bad path:
First, check out what’s actually draining your battery by going to Settings > Battery. When you scroll down, you can see the percentage of battery used in either the last 24 hours or 5 days.
The correct path is Settins>General>Usage>Battery under iOS 7 at least.



You're right, it isn't the

From Suzanne Kantra on October 14, 2015 :: 6:34 pm

You’re right, it isn’t the correct path for iOS 7. I chose to updated the paths to be correct for iOS 9, since most iPhone users have upgraded to that. I’ll check the others and make a note where older versions of iOS may have differences.


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