Making the best of your battery life

March 20, 2013
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We love our pocket powerhouses (easy, now), but the battery life can be dismal. Aside from buying a Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, which has a battery about the size of the device itself, what options are we left with? The increasing trend of non-removable batteries is troubling, as no new technology for battery life has come to light. Same batteries we’ve always had, but the technology it powers keeps getting more powerful. We’re screwed, right?

Nope! There are plenty of things we can do to mitigate the drain on our devices. Some of them require little to no work on our part, while others are a stopgap for those inevitable times our batteries just plain run out. Whether it’s a change to your device from the ground up or a simple app from the Play Store, we’ll go over some good ways to make your battery last.

Be smart

We love having our phones on and working all day, but do we need that? Think about how and where you use your phone, or more importantly, where you don’t. If you’re in the office all day, does your phone need to be on? Perhaps a Google Talk message will do instead of a text message (you can even text from Google Voice on the desktop, if you like). If you can’t answer those calls anyway, there is no point in having a phone on, ready to receive them.

Take a minute to consider how you accomplish things, and you may find there are better solutions to tethering yourself to your mobile phone all day. Most of what you want your phone for can probably be accomplished right from a browser like Chrome, with a few extensions or apps. Breaking out of our mold is often the first step towards a better way.

There’s an app for that

Sometimes, we just can’t turn our device off. Rather than accept hopelessness, we should search for solutions. Apps are usually the best way to reduce battery drain, and can be used on just about any device. We’ve found one that is simple, works great, and best of all… free!

Deep Sleep

The deep sleep battery saver app is probably the most robust of its kind. Essentially, it puts your device into hibernation when the screen is off. All connectivity is halted until you wake up the screen and unlock your phone (the way you always do, no tricky unlock feature here). There is a free version with a few presets, like slumber which puts your device to sleep as described above. Others, like “aggressive”, hibernate the device for a few hours, then turn the signal on for a few minutes to download messages.

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In hibernation, the alarm clock and call functions work, so you’ll never oversleep or miss a call. I’ve been testing this on my Nexus 4, and am pleasantly surprised. Whereas I would normally struggle to get through a day on a single charge, I’ve now been able to get two days battery life routinely, with a max of almost four days.

There are many other battery saver apps, but DS is easy to use, less fussy than many others, and does a solid job. The basic version has some great customization options, which let you better manage your battery by choosing the times of day (and days) you want the settings active. This is particularly advantageous for those of us who have a pretty set routine to life, and know when we can and can’t check our device. There is a pro version of the app which lets you customize the individual app settings to suit your needs, and better manage your battery.

Rootin’

If you’ve got your device rooted, or are interested in doing so, a custom ROM can help with battery life. Many custom ROMs will help with essential battery functions, because they tend to strip away all the unnecessary fussiness of stock ROMs and skins. By choosing a ROM that best suits your needs, and a theme that doesn’t suck juice with things like live wallpaper, you could end up saving a lot of battery life and getting a device makeover! Why do I feel like I just came up with a new idea for a reality show?

If you’re interested, check out CyanogenMod or Paranoid Android. They’re two of the largest ROM developers, and have some excellent products. They also have a stellar support community, so if you need help, just ask. As always, be safe before you make any changes to your device and make sure you’re not violating any warranty or insurance language in your contracts.

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Battery!

Sometimes, things just happen. We run out of juice… maybe we forgot to charge the device, or maybe we just used it a bit more than we thought we would. However it happens, not having our device when we need it sucks. If this sounds like something you may run into, or currently do, a backup battery pack may just be your best option.

On test are two options from New Trent, the Easypak and the iCarrier. The Easypak is a 7,000mAh pack, while the iCarrier is a monster 12,000mAh pack. While all battery packs may seem the same, these two are very different from one another.

New Trent AA

Of the two, the Easypak is meant more as a portable solution. It’s a slim design with two ports, one for tablets (2.1A) and one for phones (1A). There are also two pre-existing cables, a USB meant for charging the Easypak (it was possible to use a wall plug from a Galaxy Nexus), and a micro USB meant for charging your device. Charging was fairly quick, and of course slowed down with more than one device charging at the same time. Charging a Nexus 4 & 7 simultaneously was a breeze, and was finished in about 2 hours. It also had enough juice left over to charge the Nexus 4 to about half two days later.

A bit heftier than it’s cousin, the iCarrier is a daunting 12,000mAh battery pack. Unlike the Easypak, it charges via a DC cable and power source. It has two ports, with no pre-existing cables present. If you will be in need of charging a phone 5-6 times on the go, this is your best choice. It’s big, it’s powerful, and it performs.

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Conclusion

We tend to want it all with our mobile devices. Our desire for a powerful, fast device that lasts all day and night is often at conflict with reality, but it doesn’t have to be. With the methods we discussed here today, you can make your battery last quite a bit longer, and not run out of power while away from a power source. We often think of our devices as toys, but they’re also lifelines. Not being able to make a call at a critical time is a scary thought, and a factor we should consider when thinking about managing our constant drain.

Battery life is partly measured in how many times you charge the device, so extending your battery life also prolongs the life of your device a bit. Buying a new device every year or two is fun, but the diminished capacity of your battery shouldn’t be a factor in a new purchase. We like these options, but if you have another you’d like to add, please do so in the comments section below.

 

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