May 26, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Obvious (And Not So Obvious) Ways to Keep Your Smartphone Battery in Play

extend smartphone battery lifeThe days of carrying both a music player and flip-phone, each with its own battery, are over. Smartphone owners — and music fans in particular — place heavy demands on their handheld devices, but may not realize the extent of their own power to keep their smartphone cranking out tunes, designing apps, updating Facebook, and making the occasional phone call.

Even if you think you know your battery science, this list is worth a look. You will have heard some of these before, but our research unearthed some advice that may not be so obvious. (In some cases, we included specific menu instructions for Apple iOS, but you can find most of these settings in other operating systems too, since so many phones are modeled on the iPhone.)

Some smartphone cases trap heat, disrupting your device’s heat dissipation rate, especially during charging. This can shrink your battery’s total charging capacity over time, so take it out before you plug it in if you want to get the most out of your battery.

Equalize With Care
Listening to music with your phone’s equalizer activated to boost certain frequencies makes it do some extra signal processing, and that takes a toll on your battery — a small toll, but every bit counts here. On iOS, you can do this by going to Settings > iPod > EQ to turn off the equalizer, or if you’ve altered EQ settings for songs in iTunes, set to Flat (individual settings made in iTunes are preserved for playback on the iPhone.)

Say ‘No’ to Pushy Apps, Mail Clients
Ironically, push notification technology was originally intended to counter battery wastage by keeping apps constantly running in the background. But when your phone has to stay on the lookout for push notifications from apps, it puts an extra demand on your battery. To disable this feature in iOS apps, set Notifications to Off in your phone’s Settings menu. (You can also toggle this off to save battery when it’s low, then turn it on later — and the same goes for Wi-Fi and Location Services, mentioned below.)

The same goes for mail clients that use push, such as Yahoo, MobileMe, or Microsoft Exchange. You can turn off push when you don’t need it in iOS by going to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data and setting Push to Off. Making this change means messages sent to these accounts will be fetched based on the global setting rather than as they arrive, so you can control everything with a single setting. Also, delete accounts that you don’t use, because auto-checking fewer accounts saves battery life.

Don’t Fry It, Don’t Freeze It
When it comes to conserving battery life, heat is the ultimate killer. Your smartphone functions best between 32 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, but battery life can be maximized by keeping the device as close to room temperature as possible (assuming your room isn’t an ice hotel or a sauna). Should your smartphone be exposed to extreme cold (within reason), the prognosis is usually pretty good; as the battery warms, it will gradually return to full functionality. High heat, on the other hand, can often cause irreversible damage to your battery, so keep your phone out of the glove box this summer while you’re soaking up rays.

Location, Location, Loca-
Apps that make use of location data, such as maps or location-based music apps can drain battery life. In iOS, you can access Location Services under General settings and turn them off when you don’t need them, or when your battery is low.

Be App-Smart
As mentioned above, location-based apps can be battery drainers, but so can games that use vibrate or intensive 3D graphics, apps that keeps the screen from auto-dimming, and music-making apps that add effects in real time. For instance, adding reverb in a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) app strains your battery by making your phone’s processor perform rapid, complex calculations.

Yank the ‘Tooth
This one should be obvious, but you may not know that the option is there to turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using your headset or other Bluetooth-enabled device. You can find this under General Settings in iOS.

smartphone battery tips

Turning your phone's equalization off not only makes your music sound more like the recording engineer wanted it to, but saves battery life to boot.

Turn Off Wi-Fi or Even Your Cellular Connection
When it comes to your phone’s wireless connections, a general rule applies: If you aren’t using it, turn it off. Searching for Wi-Fi hotspots when you know you’re not going to find one (like when you’re driving on the highway or riding on a subway) drains your battery. On the other hand, if you’re using Wi-Fi for an extended period but not your cell connection, you can save battery (and potentially money) by turning off your cellular connection. On iOS, you can access this under General Settings > Network > Enable 3G.

Keep Current
Making sure you have the latest version of iOS, Android, or any other mobile operating system helps keep your battery in shape. Those companies’ engineers are paid a lot of money to optimize your devices’ performance with new tweaks, and that includes getting the most out of your battery.

Avoid Wireless Downloading
ITunes and other app stores can make it tempting to download stuff from wherever you are, but when battery life is at a premium, it’s best to wait until you get home to download music and apps.

No Service? Switch to Airplane Mode
Switching to Airplane Mode in low or no coverage areas will keep your phone from searching for service in vain. (In iOS, you can do this in Settings > Airplane Mode).

Dim It
It stands to reason that the less you use your phone’s screen, the less you use your battery. In addition, lowering your phone’s default brightness will stretch your battery life out quite a bit. Meanwhile, the Auto-Brightness feature on the iPhone can dim your screen automatically in low light environments, saving more power.

Use It or Lose It
Believe it or not, one of the best things you can do for your phone’s battery is to keep it working. An essential part of maintaining the capacity of any lithium-based rechargeable battery is keeping the electrons moving periodically. Try to put your phone through at least one full charging cycle per month (charging to 100 percent and draining completely to zero.)

Practically speaking, you wouldn’t want to follow all of this advice all the time. The idea here isn’t to dumb down your smartphone, but to streamline your power-draining features or eliminate them when they’re not in use. The day may come when mobile battery lifespan becomes a non-issue (water- or nuclear-powered smartphones, anyone?) Until then, following even a few of these tips will help keep your phone and music at thumb’s reach all day long.