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Battery Life - Tips and Myths

meyerweb#CB

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Sep 4, 2009
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There is a great deal of information, and misinformation, floating around these forums and other sites about how to maximize battery life. I?ve decided to try to distill information from reliable sources into a single post that can serve as a reference. This particular write-up is based on the Samsung Galaxy S3, but should be, for the most part, applicable to any Android phone (and probably most other smartphones). A few general comments before I begin:


  1. These tips are, except where noted, generally accepted or documented to be accurate. If you have reason to think something is wrong, or that I?ve missed something, let me know. If you can provide evidence, I?m happy to revise this. I don?t claim infallibility.
  2. I?ve divided these tips up into several groups: Tips that don?t compromise functionality significantly; tips that will increase battery life at the expense of some functionality; internet myths that don?t work at all or cause more problems than they solve, and things you can try if you?re rooted.
  3. This isn?t intended to address problems causing significant, drastic battery drain. Maybe in a later write-up.
  4. I apologize in advance for being long winded. The would-be teacher in me doesn?t want to just say ?do this,? he wants to explain why you should do this, and why it matters. I?ll post the Reader?s Digest version in a later post.

So, to kick it off: Battery life is mostly affected by the Big Three: Signal Strength, Radio Usage, and Screen Brightness / On Time. Almost everything else is nibbling around the edges, so let?s look at those first. (See next post)
 
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meyerweb#CB

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Re: Battery Life - Tips and Mythbusting

Signal Strength

There isn’t a whole lot you can do about this, other than move to another location, but a weak signal causes the phone to amp up the gain (amplification to the radio) which plain and simple eats power. At home, I’ve got a strong cellular signal and strong WiFi, and can get a good 24 or more hours of light usage out of my OEM battery. At work, I have strong WiFi, but weak cellular. Even with WiFi in use for data, I’d get at best about 15 hours. Turn off WiFi, and rely on that weak cellular, and I might get 8. Life in a weak signal area sucks: complain to your carrier, buy an extra battery, or move.

1. Things you can do that have relatively low impact to phone functionality

Radio Usage


Turn radios off when you’re not using them
Radios use some power even when not actively being used. Read on for specifics

WiFi is better than 3G which is better than 4G
In general, that’s true. But, signal strength plays a big role. A very weak WiFi signal may, in fact, force the phone to use more power than a strong cellular signal.

If you have weak WiFi, but strong cellular coverage, consider turning WiFi off, and relying on cellular

Consider using VOIP if you’re in a weak cellular area but have strong WiFi
A program like GrooVe IP will let you make and receive calls over WiFi. You can turn on Airplane mode, turn WiFi back on, and get and make calls, receive emails, surf the web, etc. Drawback: no SMS or MMS, which rely on the cellular network. I believe there are apps that claim to allow texting over WiFi, or via email, but I haven’t tried any.

If you have a good WiFi connection, set “Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep” to Always
Go to Settings /Wi-Fi / Menu / Advanced and make sure this is set. If you have weak WiFi, you might want to set it to “Only when plugged in.”

Turn WiFi off when you don’t have a WiFi connection to use
If WiFi is on, and not connected, the S3 will scan pretty much continuously looking for a connection. This will eat battery.

Turn off Sprint’s Connection Optimizer
It’s a great idea: use the more efficient, faster WiFi connection when it’s available. The problem is that this has the phone searching for WiFi even when it doesn’t exist, which eats battery. And since most of the Wifi connections it does find are private, you can’t connect to them anyway.

If you’re not in an LTE area, turn off 4G LTE
There’s a little bit of controversy about this, but my non-scientific testing indicates better battery with LTE off. On the S3, there’s no simple way to turn LTE on and off. If your area doesn’t have LTE yet, you should probably turn it off and leave it off.

If you’re in an LTE area, you’ll need to decide between speed and battery life, or reboot a lot. To turn LTE off, go to Settings / (Wireless and network) More settings /Mobile networks / Network mode, and choose an option without LTE. (On Sprint, this says CDMA, please let me know what the options are on other carriers.) Your phone will reboot. To turn LTE on, do it again but choose the options with LTE.

Turn Bluetooth off when not in use
This doesn’t seem to eat as much battery as WiFi, but it will scan for connections periodically.

What about GPS?
This isn’t quite as clear cut as it used to be. From ICS forward, turning the GPS radio on in settings doesn’t mean the GPS radio is on all the time. The OS now controls this pretty effectively, and only turns the GPS radio on when an application is requesting location services. Controlling those applications is more important than turning the GPS radio itself off, but if you want absolutely maximum battery life turning GPS off, and preventing programs from using it for location services will help. USING the GPS, for navigation or location services, will use lots of battery. If you’re using your phone as a GPS in your car, invest in a car charger. More about location services later.

What about NFC?
The Android implementation of NFC is pretty smart. If the screen is off, the NFC radio is off. If the screen is on but locked, NFC is on but not actively polling for connections. But if you keep the screen on playing games, you might want to turn the NFC radio off.

Update (11/13/2013) If you use NFC, check this: Under Settings / Wireless & network / More settings, if NFC is switch on, tap NFC (not the on/off toggle), and turn Android Beam off. Android Beam, it appears, keeps the NFC radio on a much greater percentage of the time. I've not verified this, but it seems to be reasonable.

Turning these radios on and off all the time is a pain in the ****. Isn’t there a better way?
Since you asked, yes. If you have a Samsung phone, you can use TecTiles to easily switch various radios (and other settings) on and off when you get home, get to work, are in your car, etc. Alternately, use a profile manager that can turn various radios on and off depending on your location or other conditions. Here’s an example: I have a home profile that turns off Bluetooth and turns on WiFi (and more, but we’re just talking radios right now). When I leave the house, it switches to a default profile that turns BT and WiFi on, until I get in my car, where connecting to the car BT turns WiFi off. At work, WiFi gets turned back on, and BT off.

I use an app called Setting Profiles, which works well for the most part, but seems to be unsupported these days. The free version will do almost everything the pay version does. Another program is Llama, which many people seem to like but I’ve not used. Tasker is the King Kong of profile apps, and will control things nothing else will, but the user interface is awful, the program complex, and the learning curve steep.

Control background syncing

While having the radios on uses power, actually using the radios eats even more. Checking email, uploading pictures, sending texts, notifications from Facebook, location check-ins, and more, all have the potential to eat up battery.

It’s simple: the more often apps sync, the more battery they use. And there are dozens of apps that sync: email, calendars, contacts, dropbox, Weather widgets, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Google Talk, and more. Worse (and this is something Google needs to fix), each app syncs completely independently of every other app. So you might have everything set to sync once an hour, but still have sync events 15 times an hour. If you’ve got email set to sync every 5 minutes, Facebook every 30 minutes, Twitter continuously, etc., you’re going to use a lot more battery than if email syncs once an hour, Facebook only when you open the app, and Twitter once an hour. Each app has its own settings, so go into each one and set the sync interval for the longest you can stand, or to manual / never for ones that don’t really matter very much. Check the settings in every app: some you might never have suspected of syncing at all may surprise you. And recheck once in a while. Facebook, in particular, seems to ignore what I’ve set and turn automatic syncing back on all by itself. Skype and GTlalk like to keep connections open and sync behind your back. Sign out of them when not in use.

(update 11/13/13) Control Google Account syncing
When you set up a google account, Android defaults to syncing almost everything associated with that account, email and calendar, which are important, Drive, Play Books and Play Music, which might not be, Internet, which isn't if you don't use Chrome on your computer, and Google Photos and Picasa Web Albums. These last two can use a lot of data, and a lot of battery. Go to Settings / Accounts / Google, choose your account(s), and uncheck thinks you don't need to sync all the time.


Turn off automatic updates in the Play Store

This is another kind of sync, and it’s one that can download huge amounts of data for some updates. Control them manually, and update when you have plenty of juice, and preferably when connected to WiFi.

Push email vs. regular sync intervals

This can be a tricky one if you need to check your email frequently. Let’s look at the simple situations first, though. If you don’t need to see your email frequently, set a long sync interval, like an hour or more. That will almost always use less power than push email.

But supposed you want to be notified about an email more or less as soon as it’s received? Is push better than a short sync interval? The answer really depends a lot on your email patterns. If you get lots of emails spread out fairly evenly, push can use a lot of battery. With push email, for each email received, the server notifies the phone there’s an email available; the phone’s email app connects to the server and pulls down the email. If it does this 200 times a day, getting only 1 email each time, that’s a lot of battery. Using a 15 minute interval polling interval and getting 10 messages at once is probably more efficient. But if you get 10 emails a day, waiting for the server to notify your phone will be much more efficient than polling every 15 minutes.

Control Location Services

By default, Android wants to keep track of where you are. You can control how it does this, and what it does with the data it collects. Depending on your settings, this can have a huge impact.

Go to Maps / menu / Settings / Location settings. Unless you have a real need for these services, uncheck “Report from this device,” “Enable location sharing,” Automatic Check-ins,” and “Check-in notifications.” Location reporting and Enable location history don’t seem to have as big an impact, but if you want maximum life turn those off, too.

Look at your apps, and figure out which ones have location dependent activities. Google’s “Field trip,” for example, is cool, but needs to update your location pretty regularly. Foursquare, Facebook status and check-in, Locale, and any similar app will drain your battery in a hurry. There are thousands of location-based apps in the Play Store, including games.

Screen Usage


Depending on how you use your phone, the screen may be the largest drain on your battery. The OLED screen is big and bright, and we pay for that in power drain every moment it’s on. (Note, you’ll read references in other places to our screen’s “backlight.” OLED screens don’t have backlights. But they still use more power the brighter they’re set.) There are only two things you can control relative to the screen: how much it’s on, and how bright it is. Playing games, surfing the internet or watching videos for 3+ hours a day is going to use a lot of battery. If this is your usage, be prepared to recharge more often, or buy an extended battery or spare batteries. Micro USB chargers and car chargers are cheap and easy to find.

Turn down the brightness

When I first got my S3 I left it on auto-brightness, but I’ve discovered that in most locations I can comfortably view the screen at lower settings than auto chooses. Just like turning radios on and off, though, constantly changing your brightness gets to be a pain. Use TecTags or a profile app (see the section on radio usage, above) to automatically set brightness appropriate to your location.

Turn the screen off

The GS3 will let you set the screen time-out from 15 seconds to 10 minutes. Set it to the shortest value that works for you. This is one place where Smart Stay really helps. You can set the time-out to a short value so you it doesn’t stay on when you set the phone down, and Smart Stay will keep it on while you’re actually looking at it. Profile apps can come in handy here, too. For example, I have my timeout set for 30 seconds normally, but have a profile set to a longer time period if I’m using my Kindle app or am in my car.

Other things


Turn off Haptic Feedback

The little vibration motor seems to use a fair bit of battery. I don’t think haptic feedback really accomplishes much anyway so I have it turned off. If you like it, don’t worry too much. Compared to the radios and the screen, this is pretty minor.

Turn of vibrating alerts
See haptic feedback, above. Personally, having these alerts is more important to me than the slight amount of battery they use up.

2. Things you can do that have a bigger impact on functionality

Turn on Power Saving in settings

This will throttle the CPU, making the phone run slower and use less battery. Some people report it helps, some say it doesn’t do much. Some complain it makes the phone perform very poorly. I think it depends a lot on how you use the device, so give it a try and see.

Turn all radios off except when you want to check something
You’ll find a lot of apps in the Play Store that purport to improve battery life. Some actually work, but generally at the trade-off of functionality. And you can do most of these things manually, but an app makes it easier. For the most part, they work in similar ways, by limiting the on-time and usage of the radios. If you turn off WiFi and Mobile data, and only turn them on a few times a day to check and see if you got any email, check your sports scores, or whatever, you’ll get much better battery life. I didn’t buy a smart phone to turn it into a dumb one, but if battery life is more important to you than connectivity this is a big one. You can automate this process with certain apps.

Juice Defender
lets you schedule when the radios are turned on, so you can keep them off most of the time, saving battery, and turn them on briefly once an hour, for example, to let everything that’s been waiting to sync catch up. 2X Battery is a similar app. Snapdragon Battery Guru is similar, but claims to learn the best way to control syncing based on your usage patterns. There are dozens more. (But watch out for those that claim to improve battery life by stopping background processes. That’s almost never a good idea.)

These apps can make a big difference if you have weak signals and if you don’t care about being connected all the time. But when your wife / girlfriend / mother emails you that she’s headed to the hospital with chest pain, and you don’t get the email until 2 hours later because all your data was turned off, you may wish your priorities had been different. Yes, that’s an extreme example. I’m just making the point that there’s a trade-off between real-time access to data and battery life. Everyone has to make up their own mind how to balance that trade-off.
 
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meyerweb#CB

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Re: Battery Life - Tips and Mythbusting

3. Internet Myths / Things Not To Do

(Do Not) Use Task Killers
Or the task killing function of battery saver apps that control the radios, as above. These are likely to cause more harm than good, both in terms of battery life and system stability. The theory is that apps ?running in the background? use up battery, so you should kill those apps. The reality is that Google knows what it?s doing, and you shouldn?t mess with how it manages memory and applications. If you want more detail, read here: http://forums.androidcentral.com/sa...eezes-when-doing-some-things.html#post2762224

(Don?t bother with) Wipe Battery Stats
This has been thoroughly debunked by Google. The battery stats file simply records information. It has no impact on actual battery life at all.

(Don?t worry about) Live Wallpaper

If you truly want every last milliamp out of your battery, then don?t use live wallpapers. But these only use power when they?re actively displayed. If the screen is off, or another app has control of the screen, live wallpaper has no impact. Unless you keep your screen on and stare at your wallpaper, these won?t make much difference. (There is some disagreement about this, but I have yet to see LWP show up as a significant user of CPU.)


4. If You?re Rooted


If you are rooted, there are other options available. I?m not going to go into a lot of detail here, as that?s a subject for a different article. Some ROMs claim improved battery life, but in all honesty I don?t think there?s not a lot a ROM can do that I haven?t already discussed. What may make a different is a custom kernel.

Custom Kernels
There are modified kernels available that allow you to underclock (run the processor at a lower MHz speed) and undervolt the cpus, and / or be more aggressive in keeping one or more of the cores shut off, or use other tricks to limit the power the cpu uses. These CAN work, but remember what I said in the beginning. The three big factors in battery use are signal strength, radio usage and the screen. CPU usage falls somewhere below those items. When your screen is off, a modified kernel can have a big impact on power usage while the phone is idle. But if you?re using your device a lot, and syncing data a lot, this won?t have a big impact. And undervolting, if applied incorrectly, can result in major stability issues.

Control CPU clock (with stock Kernel)
Apps like SetCPU can control the cpu clock with the stock kernel (on a rooted phone). Again, if your phone is very active it won?t make much difference.

I hope this proves useful to people.
 
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junglejunkie

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Jun 17, 2010
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Re: Battery Life - Tips and Mythbusting

Just wanted to say thanks for the effort you put into this. I know that many people will be able to use this info.
 
Apr 10, 2012
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Hope this get stickied, or else a week from now someone is going to make a thread asking how to save battery life, lol

My name is Soundtrack to Chaos, and I have a fetish for external chargers, big batteries, power outlets and extension cords and surge protectors... I need help
 

meyerweb#CB

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Sep 4, 2009
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I've requested that it be made a sticky, but haven't heard anything yet. But just to be accurate: Even if it is made a sticky, someone will be asking how to improve battery life next week. ;)
 
Apr 10, 2012
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I've requested that it be made a sticky, but haven't heard anything yet. But just to be accurate: Even if it is made a sticky, someone will be asking how to improve battery life next week. ;)

I wouldn't be surprised, lol. Anyway, great job

Sent from my Google Nexus 7 running aokp 4.1.2 #AOKP-Till-I-Die
 

darkredlipstick27

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Jun 1, 2013
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Hello,
this is a great post i have seen many people talking of poor battery life on their samsung galaxy s 3.

I have pretty poor battery life. My battery life will last 4-5 hours if i am lucky, and this is with very little usage.
My screen brightness is ALWAYS turned all the way down.
I do NOT have apps like facebook and twitter.

i always seem to have running apps that i try to close out and they will come back.
one of them is the e-mail app. i do not have my e-mail set up, i only use the g-mail app.
i wish i could disable the e-mail app but i cannot.
I also have power saving mode always enabled.

There is a running application called "software update" that has been running since the DAY that i have gotten my phone. I have had my phone for about a month and a half now. There is no option to stop this app or anything. I have tried to update my phone and it says everything is up to date.
Also another app called "samsung push service" is constantly running 24/7.
I have tried stopping this before and it comes back.
Another app that is always running is "Allshare service" which I do NOT use and try to stop. it will always come right back up.
Simple alarm clock is always running i do not understand if i do not have an alarm set why it still needs to run.
I have had different smart phones before and never had the alarm clock constantly running.

Please help!

BTW I have T-mobile. This is my first time with T Mobile.
 

meyerweb#CB

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Sep 4, 2009
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When you say these apps are "running," are they actually using CPU, or are they idle? See the point about task killers in post #3, above. Download and install the System Panel app, and look at what apps are actually using CPU vs. what apps are inactive.

You might also take a look at this thread, and see if you can identify any run away processes: http://forums.androidcentral.com/sa...android-system-eating-your-battery-check.html

Finally, if you look at any of the many other battery threads, you'll notice several screen shots that people post showing battery status. Please capture and post those screens for us to see.
 

Mandy Erskine

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Jun 19, 2013
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I have gone through and stopped all the running apps I could, my battery usage says Android system is at 46% and Samsung Synadapters are at 37%...I have made sure all background data usage is off...but my battery has drained over 30% in the last hour and I have not used the phone or any media outlets...what do I need to do to fix this MEGA drain?
 

geekymcfly

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Jan 19, 2012
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I have gone through and stopped all the running apps I could, my battery usage says Android system is at 46% and Samsung Synadapters are at 37%...I have made sure all background data usage is off...but my battery has drained over 30% in the last hour and I have not used the phone or any media outlets...what do I need to do to fix this MEGA drain?

Invest in zerolemon
 

meyerweb#CB

Banned
Sep 4, 2009
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I have gone through and stopped all the running apps I could, my battery usage says Android system is at 46% and Samsung Synadapters are at 37%...I have made sure all background data usage is off...but my battery has drained over 30% in the last hour and I have not used the phone or any media outlets...what do I need to do to fix this MEGA drain?

I'm not sure what Samsung Synadapters is. Can you disable it in the Application Manager and see if that resolves the issue?

Also check out this thread to try to debug what's happening with Android System: http://forums.androidcentral.com/sa...android-system-eating-your-battery-check.html
 

Somdk

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Jun 16, 2013
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You did alot of work for this post. Simply thumbs up to you. It really did answer a few questions of mine and gave me better understanding as well.

I am considering a new buy and have a question with the point on battery back up of two handhelds...

Thanks for sharing this... :)

Sent from my GT-S7562 using AC Forums mobile app
 

LaFlamme

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Sep 26, 2011
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Fantastic guide. Some of this I knew, some I didn't. Lots of really good stuff and some myths debunked. Live wallpaper isn't that atrocious for battery life? I had no idea. Push vs. poll? Some eye-opening stuff there, as well. I'm bookmarking this sucker for later consultation. Just awesome.
 

msegee

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I wanted to so much to say thanks, but could nt find the Thank you button. Please guide me. So I can show my gratitude.
Thanks
 

GSDer

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msegee,
If you're using one of the Tapatalk apps (https://forums.androidcentral.com/e...ails?id=com.tapatalk.tapatalk4&token=ueWiXlrZ or https://forums.androidcentral.com/e...om.quoord.tapatalkpro.activity&token=huCrYtNz) just long-press on the post that you want to thank and you'll see a couple of "thumbs-up" icons at the top of the screen - just select the leftmost one.
amynu9u9.jpg
If you're using a web browser I'm sure there's a similar capability but I'll have to look that up since I normally use the app.

Sent from my rooted, debloated, deodexed Sinclair ZX-80 running CM -0.001 using Tapatalk 4
 

meyerweb#CB

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Sep 4, 2009
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I wanted to so much to say thanks, but could nt find the Thank you button. Please guide me. So I can show my gratitude.
Thanks

Bottom right of each post, in the row of button with reply, reply with quote, and other.
 
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