Why Your Android Phone Eats Up Power Faster Than You Can Say “Android”

by: Elmer MontejoJune 6, 2011
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Okay, I admit, I may have exaggerated the headline a bit, but the question is a perfectly valid one: What sucks the most power out of your Android phone? In a recent technology conference, Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha provided a contentious answer: It’s the apps that you run on your phone.

Speaking in a webcast for the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2011 Technology Conference (skip to the 4th and 25th minute marks), Jha claims that many poorly written apps on the Android Market eat away between 30 and 40 percent of your phone’s battery.

In fact, according to Jha, 70 percent of the time, Motorola handsets are returned not because of hardware issues but because of performance issues, which Jha believes to be caused by applications.

Motorola’s chief said that Android’s being open is both good and problematic. Although not mentioning statistics or specific applications, Jha was referring to so many untested, power-eating applications on the Android Market.

Almost anyone can publish apps on the Android Market. As an open service, the Android Market leaves it to the developers to test the apps that they publish and distribute through the Android Market. There are developer tools and documents to help programmers make sure that the apps are the best that they can be.

Apparently, not many app developers take power efficiency seriously. Several tech critics have complained that a lot of Android apps are developed primarily on the basis of the “Wow” factor, but with little regard for whether the apps suck out the juice out of one’s Android phone. Thousands of “wowed” customers install such apps, and then gripe that their phones lose power faster than ever.

Jha said that a messiah is on the way: MOTOBLUR. Currently, MOTOBLUR is present on about 10 million Motorola handsets as a hub for social networking, but Jha has bigger plans for the application. For example, one of Jha’s visions is to let MOTOBLUR gather statistics about application use and how the numbers affect such things as power consumption. The data can be useful in pinpointing the memory-, bandwidth-, and power-hogging apps.

With such info, MOTOBLUR can forewarn the phone user about how much power an app will consume so that the user can decide appropriately. MOTOBLUR’s additional capabilities are expected to further differentiate Motorola from the already suffused crowd in the Android space.

My humble and naive suggestion to Motorola at this point is this: yes, develop a power-hog identification application, BUT contribute it to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Whether or not such a move will make Motorola stand out further–or blur it further (pun intended)–is up to the Android community. It’s the self-regulating Android community that holds power, really, and is the final judge.

What say you, dear judges, about Motorola’s strategic move to leverage MOTOBLUR in the way Jha envisioned?

  • Chris Martin

    Anyone who’s had an android phone for a while already knows that some apps eat your battery. I’ve come across a few myself that seem to roughly halve battery life. Uninstall and the problem goes away. The difficulty has always been finding out which one is to blame – especially if, like me, you are regularly installing apps. There are plenty of battery monitor apps out there, but none of them seem to easily identify what the cause of the drain is. There is definitely a requirement for an app to simply list apps and associated power usage in a simple, straightforward way. If Motorola comes up with that then they have a winner on their hands

  • Gabriel

    They could just make an app for that, no need for motoblur. Perhaps they need to hack the kernel, which can not me made with a standard app. But something like that is needed.

    • Elmer Montejo

      @Gabriel: I definitely agree. Unless Google is too busy with other things, I’m sure someone from inside will take the hint. Or, Motorola could take the lead–and I’m sure it will be very, very sweet PR for them if they contribute it to AOSP. Besides good karma, of course. ;-)

      • Yojimbo

        It’s a great idea to gather these statistics, but I don’t expect Motorola to contribute this tool to AOSP. For them, highlighting this as a feature of MOTOBLUR helps them sell Motorola phones. However, I would expect someone like Google/Android to come up with a monitoring capability, since that benefits all Android phones.

  • Task killer applications are kind of pointless on Android. If Android thinks it needs more memory, it will hard stop whichever process it figures is best. Killing a process with a task killer only increases the workload on the phone the next time the process is launched.

    The moral of the story is that you should worry about what you want to do with the phone, and let the OS worry about processes and memory. As somebody mentioned above, you may actually be doing more harm than good.

  • octect

    For years and years people have been nagging at Windows ( remember windoze? ) about being slow, viruses, lack of security … MS also had guidelines and don’t know what, but bad applications have continued to come. And after a while, Windows became slow and needed to be formatted. And the answer was, Windows is a disaster. All in all, Windows managed to overcome programmers’ stupidity one way or another. Now, Android finds itself riddle with slow operating systems after a while of usage, viruses, security issues and hogging apps. What can I say, welcome to the real world. And before I get flamed. I am an android user, proud owner of an S II. But the battery life is miserable compared to my HTC with Winmobile that can outlive 5 days of phone calls of many hours a day compared to two days of almost no usage in my new Android. I love it, but it turns out to be more of a toy than a working tool for it will not last the day at my work.