I’m often asked ‘My phone (or tablet) has terrible battery life, can you help?’, so here’s some assistance if you are having the same problem. Firstly, it is important to have some idea how long your devices battery should last. This does depend on the model of course, but generally most phones should be capable of lasting at least a full ‘typical’ day with a couple of calls and a good tablet should be able to manage a couple of days of light use – BUT this does depend greatly on what features of the devices are turned on.
Here are the main battery draining device features that impact heavily on battery life : GPS, WiFi, Cellular data & HotSpot, and screen brightness. Lets take each in turn and what can be done to help with battery life.
GPS. The GPS receiver in your device can place a big drain on your battery. So, can it be turned off? Absolutely. Unless I am using my phone for navigation (I use CoPilot – see my review here) I leave GPS turned off all the time. If you want Google or Facebook to track where you are all the time (and I don’t see why you would), you will need to leave it on. Turning it off depends on your device, the setting is normally under ‘Location’ or ‘Location services’ in settings. Tap to remove the tick beside ‘GPS Satellites’ or similar on your device.
WiFi. The WiFi feature of your tablet is a radio device that both sends and receives data but is only used when you need to be connected to the internet via either your home internet router or at your local McDonalds free WiFi. You can leave it off to save power, but I prefer to change the setting to turn it off when the device is in sleep mode (ie: when you tap the power button to turn off the screen). The setting is to be found under the WiFi settings page on the menu – tap ‘Advanced’ then ‘Keep WiFi on during sleep’. I have mine set to ‘Only when plugged in’ so that I still get email notifications when the tablet is on charge at home.
Cellular data & HotSpot. There are two separate settings for these, the first one is controlled in the ‘Mobile networks’ setting and is often called ‘Data enabled’. If you turn this off, you can’t use your phones data plan to access the internet, but of course if you can use WiFi why would you want to? I leave my phone data turned off unless I need it if there is no WiFi access available.
The second setting, HotSpot, is usually within the ‘Other’ menu item within Wireless & Networks setting section and the section you want is normally called ‘Tethering & portable hotspot’. It should be off by default, but it is worth checking – just tap to remove the tick beside ‘Portable hotspot’.
If you don’t know what this feature does, here’s a brief explanation: Tethering let’s you share your phones cellular data plan with another WiFi device. For example, using your phone’s cellular internet connection on your tablet over the WiFi. Setting it up involves a little ‘fiddling’ to set up the first time but once done it’s a breeze to use. I’ll write a tutorial soon on doing this.
Screen brightness. While this setting can have an impact on battery life, I find that unless I am reading a book or using the device for long periods of time, I leave my device on an appropriate brightness setting rather than ‘fiddle’ with the setting too much other than lowest at night and fairly bright if outside. I also never use the ‘Auto brightness’ setting as this can contribute to battery drain rather than help that much in my experience. However, setting the screen to automatically turn off after so many minutes of inactivity is a good idea. Set this in Settings under ‘Display’ – ‘Sleep after’. I usually set my devices to 10 minutes.
Finally, all modern phones and tablets use Li-Ion batteries which should never be run down flat completely, however don’t worry too much if you do as all devices have good battery management these days to protect themselves. These batteries are happiest and get the best life out of them by topping them up regularly. These batteries have a life of between 4-5 years tops, so if making a choice between a phone or tablet with a non-replaceable movable or replaceable battery, I’d go with replaceable every time!
If this has helped you get better battery life or if you have any questions about batteries, pop a comment in the box below.