Sunday, April 17, 2011

HOW TO: Extending battery life on Android (and other phones)


A while back Chris asked me some questions about my Android phone and it’s battery life =) I managed to regurgitate alot of stuff I learnt over a year and we thought it was a good little run down. So I’m going to share what I’ve learnt. READ ON

Let’s be honest, smartphone battery life is terrible. My very first “smartphone” was a Nokia, I know, I know, Nokias aren’t that smart… in fact, my Nokia died right after its one year warranty, I’d say that's the only “smart” thing it did. So what happened after my “smartphone” died was I took it to Nokia care and I had to fall back on a “dumbphone” I used to use:


Have a guess what I noticed after a day or two of usage? YEP battery life. With the smartphone, I’d need to charge it everyday, if I was lucky maybe every two days. With the dumbphone, after a day or two, it still had 80%+ My reaction:


Obviously with a bit of thought, I noticed why. The smartphone has alot more features, a larger screen and I spent alot more time playing around with it. But still, I managed about 5-6 days on the dumb phone, the smartphone usually dies around 1-2.

So I ditched the Nokia and got myself a Nexus one =) its so much better in everyway! in fact, even right of the box, it had better battery life than the Nokia, 2 days was pretty normal for me. But still, wouldn’t it be nice if the phone lasted just a bit longer… Even a day more would be great.

So after about a year of using an Android phone, here’s a little something I’ve learnt to save on battery life. But I’ll need to clarify a few things first:

The basics

All phones come STOCK, as a safety measure, the manufacturer always locks the phone to stop you from messing it up by changing its software.

If your a rebel, you’ve probably JAILBROKEN your iphone/ipad/ipod or ROOTED your android phone. basically, this lets you install things that the manufacturer wouldn’t let you by default. Obviously, this voids your warranty, but if your careful enough, you shouldn’t have problems. I’m not going to go through the process of doing this, because there isn’t really a “one fits all solution” its more a phone and software dependent thing,

Basic tips

These tips will be more suited to any phone in general, you’ve probably heard of these before, but just double check if you’ve done them all:

  1. Screen brightness: Most phones do fine in auto brightness, but if you’re seriously into saving battery life, you can try to find a static brightness that is good indoor and outdoor. The W580 I mentioned above had a very bright screen. In fact on its lowest brightness, it was brighter than my Dad’s W910’s highest brightness. So in that case, the lowest setting was enough for me.
  2. Keep the screen off if possible: We all like staring at our screens, but sometimes they don’t need to be on for so long, go check the settings to make the screen turn off after certain amount of time (30sec of inactivity seems good)
  3. Keep as much antennae off as possible: You’re not always using Wi-fi, Bluetooth and GPS, so if its not in use, turn it off. Turn it on when you need it.
  4. Use the 2G networks rather than 3G: This one helps alot, I’ve also noticed that it has better reception too. But if you always use 3G for the internet, you might want to stick with 3G for the faster speed
  5. Keep watch for LED notifications: Some phones have LED lights to let you know if there is an sms or missed call (W580 =D) but if leave these going for long periods it drains alot of batteries.
  6. Avoid playing games for extended periods: Self explanatory, hard, but try your best!

Some apps to save battery (For Android):

Not necessarily for android, I’m sure there will be similar apps for other platforms

  1. Auto airplane mode: This turns off ALL antennae (GPS, bluetooth, wi-fi AND cell connection). You won't be able to receive calls and sms, but you basically set this mode to go on during sleep hours (I have mine on from 12 midnight to 7:30 am). Who’s going to call you that late at night anyway?
  2. Auto sync: This app turns on sync only when Wi-fi is on. This stops the phone from trying to sync even though there is no internet. i only use this cause I only use Wi-Fi for internet, some people need to be sync-ed all the time with 3G.
  3. Other “Auto” off apps: Some apps stop your music player after a set time, helps if you listen to music in your sleep. 

More complex ways for Android (Requires root access and hacking/modding):

  1. You can use a completely different ROM: A rom is stock android with different add-ons/features from individuals. Each rom is different, choose one to your liking: Some are well rounded, others for performance etc etc. I highly recommend MIUI if your Android phone is supported).

    Some good roms to try: Cyanogen (currently using Android 2.3!!), Mocado rom (HTC sense ROM), MIUI (Android+Apple inspired UI)
  2. Choose the correct version of Android: If you’re able to choose a version of android freely, choose one that is capable of running on your device. Although there isn't a strict hardware requirement, older/slower hardware will mean you will miss out on some features. On the top of my head, I remember the HTC wildfire cannot use live wallpapers as an example.

    At the moment, Android 2.2 (Froyo) is the most common, and 2.3 (gingerbread) is the newest for phones (only officially available on Nexus phones) 3.0 (Honeycomb) is the newest for tablets. I found 2.2 to be better with battery life, but 2.3 is still new, so maybe future updates will make it better. In general, avoid anything that’s lower than 2.2 if possible.
  3. Underclocking the CPU: (similarly, if you overclock, you should be getting better performance). Underclock = using less of the CPU e.g If I have a 1Ghz processor, I can make it only run at 500Mhz.
  4. Undervolting the CPU: (seems to make more of a difference than underclock) Undervolt = making the phone draw less power from the battery e.g stock config its 900mv I believe, you can get it to drop lower to 850Mv or even lower depending on CPU load.
  5. Changing kernels: Basically this is 3+4 and it works much better than manually doing 3+4 yourself. Some kernals go as far as also changing how much energy each component of the phone uses. E.g use less power on the Wi-Fi antennae or Bluetooth antennae Wildmonk's kernal is pretty good. Some stock kernels work well, but if you have a ROM with bad battery life, try changing the kernel

My results:

My Nexus one with completely stock config + the basics would give me around a day and half of battery life

Stock + apps = 2days at most.

Custom Roms:

Cyanogen + apps = 1 day - 2 days. Cyanogen 6 (Android 2.2) seems to be a bit better than the new Cyanogen 7.

MIUI (Best one :D, my favourite) + apps = Best record I've had with this ROM is 5 days battery life, but on normal basis 3 days.

I don't use my phone obsessively, maybe 3 calls at most, a few SMSs and in total of 30-40 min of games/music per day. Use your phone less and you'll get more battery life :) A "good" config should drain about 1-2%/hour, overnight with airplane mode on, it should only use 2% over the 8 or so hours.

I hope that will help all you mobile lovers out there =) Since this is a how two, I couldn’t slip in much pictures, but feel free to leave a comment!


I think that will make for a good pic for all android related posts =)


Christopher said...

The android OS is very fantastic! They predict by the end of this year, there would be more android phones than any others.

CarmenNguyen said...

LOL. I eat apples for breakfast.. Nice one there.

Mylifeasacomic said...

@Chris: That's nice to hear! I've noticed alot more androids around UNI now. A while back it was all iphones.

In fact, there are alot of Nexus S owners *envious*. While I'm a big fan of android, I'll certainly admit that android lacks the polish and stability of IOS.

But I'll gladly give up that little bit, for the benefits :) Free angry birds anyone?

@Carmen: ;) yes APPLES

Elliott Bellaire said...

I agree, to make sure that your phone lasts longer at crucial times, you should try and turn off some applications that you don't currently need, especially on situations that you don't have an access to a power source.

Mylifeasacomic said...

@Elliott: Thanks for dropping by :)

Yes, when my phone is down to around 20% (and believe me, it can get you by surprise sometimes), I basically avoid using my phone at all.

I do not let my phone die completely, I just feel insecure if my phone is dead...

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