Power Hungry

Having canvassed many smartphone-owning friends, one universal complaint that I heard from all of them was that battery life is never good enough. My previous phone – a Motorola W755 – could go for several days between charges. My new Droid X2, on the other hand, can barely get through a single day without needing to spend some quality time in the company of a charger. So, in the spirit of public service, here some hints and tips to maximize battery life and minimize the chances of running out of phone at an inopportune time:

  • Turn the screen off or down: The screen uses more power than anything else —  so turn it off while not in use, and minimize the timeout before the screen switches itself off. While in use, turn the brightness down as much as possible. Alternatively, if the phone has an auto-brightness setting, use it.
  • Bluetooth: Milady never uses Bluetooth. On the rare occasion that her phone chews its way through a fully-charged battery in half a day, it is confusing to Bluetooth is invariably switched on. After investigation, we usually find that this is due to her throwing her phone into the den of chaos that is known as her handbag. If you don’t use it, turn it off!
  • Wi-Fi: Most smartphones also have a built-in Wi-Fi transmitter. While this is a boon to have when you need added bandwidth, it is a power hog when you don’t, and should be turned off when not in use. I recommend a free app called Y5, that turns Wi-Fi on and off depending on if you are in the same location
  • GPS: The GPS Location system is yet another transmitter, and like all of the above transmitters, it uses power. If you are not going anywhere, or do not need GPS-related services (such as navigation of local weather) you can save a little power by switching it off.
  • Auto-Sync: This feature is found on some smartphones. It is useful to have when you need e-mail updates in a hurry. If you don’t need it, turn it off.
  • Apps: This is a contentious issue. Some contend that no unnecessary app should be running (why, for instance, is IM always running on my device when I never use it?), while others contend  that running-but-dormant apps use next to no power, and the system’s habit of automatically restarting some manually-terminated apps can cause more problems than it solves.

If those hints don’t do it for you, it is time to roll out the big guns.

  • Chaaaaarge! Having chargers at home, work and in the car are a good way to ensure that you are never caught short.
  • Extended Battery: Many phones have the abililty to replace the stock battery with high-capacity one. Unfortunately extended batteries usually add size to the phone, and the resulting bulk make it impossible to fit the phone into some cases and cradles. iPhone owners don’t have this problem; their phones are sealed and the batteries are safely out of the reach of their grubby paws.
  • The Hot Spare. Before I got my smartphone, Milady and I both had the same phone. So I purchased an extra battery and a wall charger. An exhausted battery could then be swapped with the “Hot Spare” in a matter of seconds. Since she used her phone a lot more than I did, having a hot spare on standby was a boon for her. Once again, iPhone users, you are out of luck here.

This has been a public service announcement. I hope that it has been of service.

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