How-To: Save Battery Life on Android Phones

In tonight’s Android How-To, I’m going to show you a little bit about how to save some battery life on your amazing Android device. It’s no surprise that Android phones do not have the greatest battery life–the resources that the phones use in their operating system make them very power-hungry devices. And while it may get frustrating at times, there ARE ways to avoid having to carry a charger or second battery everywhere you go. Lets take a look at a few of my favorite battery saving tactics:

1. Turn data services off!
This one is pretty much a given–if you’re not using your data connections, turn them off! Even when your screen is off, Android devices still keep your data connections on, giving them the ability to suck down your battery at a much higher exponential rate than if they were off. Many Android devices come with a set of widgets to turn your data services on and off. You can find them by long-pressing your home screen, adding a widget, and browsing through the “Settings” category. If your phone does not have these pre-installed, you can always download them on the market, free of charge.

This tip also applies to Bluetooth and GPS, too. Bottom line–anything you’re not using should be turned off. Your battery will thank you. Also, if you’re in an area where there is wifi, use that instead of your 3G or 4G data. The speeds are much greater, and wifi requires less power to run than those attennae.

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2. Auto-syncing data hurts your battery…alot!
Whenever you add a new account to your phone (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.), the phone will want to automatically sync that account with it’s respective service, quite frequently. Even when the data connection is off (if you turned it off after following my first bit of advice), the accounts will want to try and sync, causing your battery to take a hit once an hour (or whatever the sync frequency is). In an effort to save battery, you can very easily disable this feature, and only sync data when you want it to sync. To do this, you’ll just go into Settings>Accounts and Sync, and then uncheck the box that says “Auto sync.”. A widget also exists to enable and disable auto sync, which may make it easier for you if you’re planning on constantly using a data connection. To sync your accounts whenever you want to, just go into the application and refresh it.

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3. Adjust your brightness
If you’ve got auto-brightness enabled, the phone will survey your environmental conditions and select the brightness of your screen for you. This, of course, takes quite a bit of battery, as any slight change in lighting will result in your phone working to find the best brightness level for you. By turning this off, you can select your own brightness based on what is comfortable to you, and only you will be able to change it (not your self-aware phone).

To turn off auto-brightness, take a trip into Settings>Display>Brightness, and uncheck the auto-brightness checkbox. You can adjust your brightness settings here, as well, by adjusting the slider, or download a brightness widget (the one I use is featured in the first screenshot above).

4. Download a battery saving application
This one has never really worked for me too well, but in the Android Market, there exists a couple of different battery saving applications. The one everyone loves is called JuiceDefender. A paid, premium version of the app called UltimateJuice will give you more settings to play with. If you are the type that doesn’t want to turn off your data and all of the other stuff listed above, JuiceDefender will do it for you. I personally recommend doing it all manually, but the option definitely is out there.

With JuiceDefender, you can set schedules based on peak times that you would typically use your data and other features of the phone. Of course, because no two days are exactly the same (at least in my life), you may not want to get this involved. But if you have a stable schedule, it may not hurt for you to try it out.

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5. No Live Wallpapers!
Live Wallpapers are nice. But they are CONSTANTLY utilizing battery resources to keep them moving, even if your phone is off. If you aren’t planning on showing your phone off to your friends, it isn’t a bad idea to keep the live wallpaper use to an extreme minimum. There are millions of normal wallpapers out there that will make your phone look good. If you’re showing your new toy off to friends or family, by all means, use it. But get rid of it before your battery decides to hate you.

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By following these steps, you should be able to help your battery’s daily lifespan double. I have never had my Android device go below 40% battery, even on heavy use days (some of my days start at 5am and end as late as 10pm). By carefully analyzing what you’re using and not letting it run when you’re not using it, you should be able to get similar results.

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App Attack: Switch (Android)

In this App Attack, we’re going to look at what could quickly become your new addiction–it’s Switch, and it’s one hell of a mobile game. In a world of Angry Birds and Tap Tap Revenge, does this one stack up? Read on!

The concept of Switch is very familiar–it feels kinda like Tap Tap Revenge, or an old PS2 game that I used to play called Frequency. You control a little plane, flying around a set of four “tracks.”. You’ll have to switch tracks whenever something comes in your way, and as the action progresses, and as the game moves faster, you’ll find that you have to be very quick with your fingers to be able to successfully move forward.

To control your plane, all you have to do is tap the left or right side of the screen to move to the next track. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself moving very quickly from one side of the game board to the other. Along the way, you’ll have to dodge walls and other planes moving across the different tracks. There are invincibility power ups along the way to help during those faster segments of the track. The goal here is to go the farthest you can without crashing. It’s catchy, fun, and you’ll continuously find yourself wanting to play more.

Graphically, this game looks very sharp. The game board consists of four yellow and orange “tracks” in space. The colors are bright, vibrant, and easy to look at. I feel like it’s the perfect color scheme for this kind of environment. It’s very easy to see obstacles that may come in your way, and that makes it even more fun. As the action gets faster, I did notice a little bit of slowdown, and depending on your phone, you may see an equal or greater amount of that lag (this review was completed with my Evo 3D, which is a dual-core phone…the fact that I got lag scares me for single-core phones).

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The audio track in the game is pretty awesome as well. It consists of just one techno track, but as the action gets faster, it speeds up and changes the beat ever so slightly to keep it fresh. It really does the game justice, and fits in nicely with the visual beauty of the game.

Aside from the occasional lag or force close, the only other problem that I have with the game is the ad-support. This is something that I’ve been preaching for a while now, but Android developers really need to get on their game and offer more paid versions of games, so that people who don’t want their game experience interrupted don’t have to. The ad sits at the bottom of the screen (if your data connection is on), and just sits there while you’re playing. It really detracts from the otherwise-perfect look of the playing field.

I really like this game. It currently only supports one track mode, but it randomizes where your obstacles will be. Down the road, it would be really cool to see some different colored atmospheres, with different challenges to overcome. This game is addicting, I can’t deny that. You can pick it up from the Android Market for free.