Sure, we call our Android devices “phones,” but the modern smartphone is so wildly different from that curly-corded contraption mounted to your grandmother’s kitchen wall that it would probably be more accurate to call them Personal Computers if the name wasn’t already taken. All the processing power and computing ability that our handsets deliver are increasingly impressive, but these come at a cost.
We’re starting to expect more and more out of our devices every year, but developments in battery longevity haven’t kept pace with other technological advances. Maybe that’s why one of the most common questions we hear is, “How can I extend my Android’s phone battery life?”
I’ll give you the tl;dr right off the bat: if you really want to stretch your phone battery life, the approach that makes the most impact is to lower your screen’s brightness and kill anything you aren’t actively using. Basic resource management goes a long way, and since your display is almost certainly the biggest battery hog no matter what device you’re using, lowering its power intake will improve battery life across the board.
That said, there are still tons of tweaks and fixes you can use to really wring the most out of your phone battery. We’ll be going into detail for each of these, and we’ll be moving at a pace that even tech-unsavvy newcomers to the Android operating system can follow.
So if you find yourself nodding and saying to yourself, “Yeah, yeah, I already know this stuff,” then feel free to skip on ahead. If you’re a serious, long-time user, you probably won’t find much here you don’t already know, but a refresher never hurts!
So without further ado, here is absolutely everything you need to know about getting the most out of your phone battery life, from routine maintenance to rooting and underclocking.
Turn off things you aren’t really using
When you leave your home, do you leave all the lights on, crank the AC to the max, and leave the TV blaring? Of course not! Electricity costs money, and basic economics means that most people have the common sense to turn off household appliances and lights when they aren’t in use.
If you really want to save your phone’s battery life, the same principle applies — but instead of paying for your irresponsibility with an energy bill at the end of the month, you’re paying with a dead battery by 5pm. Let’s take a look at some of the lights you may have been leaving on.
These guys are big culprits. If you want to conserve power, then you should always turn off your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Location (GPS) when you aren’t actively using them. If you’re want to be really aggressive with control over your battery, you might even want to experiment with disabling your mobile network connection when you know you won’t be using it as well.
Wi-Fi drains far less battery than cellular service.
Many users leave these features running all day without really thinking about it. Turning on Airplane Mode will knock out all of them in one fell swoop. Airplane Mode isn’t just for when you’re airborne, however. If you’re in an area where cell service is patchy, your phone can expend a lot of battery power trying to get the best connection it can.
Turning on Airplane Mode or turning off your mobile data in favor of an available Wi-Fi network can make all the difference in the world. If you have the choice between using Wi-Fi or cell signal, always choose Wi-Fi, all else being equal. Wi-Fi drains far less battery than cellular service.
Shut down vibration
Vibration is wonderful if you’re in a situation in which you wouldn’t normally be able to hear your cell phone, such as being on the road. For many people, the subtlety of vibrating notifications is indispensable in their workplace (if you’re a lawyer, you can’t exactly have Crazy Frog going off every time you get a text message down at the firm).
However, smartphone vibrations aren’t conjured from magical resonating crystals. To produce the effect, your device has to spin up a small vibration motor every time, which can be really draining on your battery. This goes for haptic feedback as well, that light buzzing your phone may produce when you tap keys on your on-screen keyboard. If you really want to maximize your phone battery life, you should minimize your phone’s jiggliness.
Kill apps when you leave them?
For a long time, app-killing apps were all the rage. Frustrated with laggy user experience, Android users of the days of yore began using all kinds of task managers to eliminate the apps they thought were hogging resources.
The problem is, these task killers became unnecessary even before they really got popular. Android has gotten really good at managing its own memory, and most of the apps that you murder this way will just spring right back to life. If anything, app killers suck battery life rather than conserve it.
But there’s a new feature that’s been available since Android 4.0: the Recent Apps menu. Although this feature’s primary function is to make swapping between apps faster, it is also possible to “swipe away” apps. Some myths have cropped up that it’s good practice to pull up the Recent Apps menu and swipe away any apps you aren’t using, effectively killing them.
This just isn’t true. For one, swiping away recent apps does not kill them. It is a good way to get an app to stop misbehaving (for example, if a Facebook photo gets stuck uploading, then swiping away the app will tell Facebook to cancel this action), but the apps you see on this list are not actively running in the background. The Recent Apps menu is nothing like the Task Manager on your PC, it’s just a visual catalogue to help you navigate your apps easier.
App killers suck battery rather than conserve it.
In the modern age of Android’s maturity, there’s no reason that killing apps should be a part of your everyday use of the device. Sometimes it’s possible for apps to go rogue and start hogging resources, but those are the kind of devils you want to put down for good. If part of your regular use of your phone involves app killing, you’re probably depleting battery life rather than saving it.
If the process of managing your connectivity services day in and day out makes you groan, then start working smart instead of hard. That’s a smartphone you’re holding, after all.
We’ll tackle these in order of increasing difficulty and involvement. First in the school of automation, we have…
IFTTT is a beautiful service that’s great for non-programmers and first-time automators. Hell, it’s powerful enough that even more hardcore users might prefer its elegance to rolling up their sleeves for more nuanced work.
The goal of IFTTT is to put the internet to work for you. The letters stand for “If This, Then That.” Once you subscribe to their service on the website and download the Android app “IF,” you can get your phone to do a variety of things without your active intervention.
For instance, you might activate your phone’s “Location” channel. This will let IFTTT respond to your smartphone’s location. Then you might tell IFTTT, “Okay, if I leave home, turn my Wi-Fi off.” And then, likewise, “If I arrive home, turn my Wi-Fi on.”
With a little creativity and forethought, you can quickly turn your phone into a fully automated, power-managing machine. IFTTT has a few pre-crafted recipes that you can try out to get the feel for how it works. Once you play around with it for a little bit, you’ll start to find all sorts of things to automate, even beyond the scope of your phone’s battery life.
For the more technically inclined, Tasker is an app that gives its users total control over their device. The level of precision and customization that this service brings to the table is frankly unparalleled, but it can be a little daunting to new users. Experience in at least rudimentary programming or logic may be preferable, but tutorials are available to bring just about anybody up to speed.
Tasker lets you create a variety of different contexts that change the way your device functions. For instance, you might configure your phone to stay on vibrate while you’re at the office, but turn vibration off and activate Wi-Fi when you get home. The possibilities are endless, and if your phone is rooted, then you have even more options at your fingertips.
Now, I mentioned that we would be walking through these in increasing levels of difficulty. However, the beauty of Greenify is that it’s not actually difficult to operate at all. The app lets you “hibernate” pesky resource-hogging background apps, which effectively force-stops them.
Unfortunately, to really make the best use of Greenify’s automated hibernation capabilities, you have to have root access to your device. If the idea of rooting your device is daunting to you, or if you don’t even know what I’m talking about right now, then it’s probably a good idea to stick with IFTTT or Tasker.
If you’ve already rooted your device, then I’m certain I don’t have to walk you through how to use Greenify. Grab it in the Google Play Store and give it a spin.
Use the internet intelligently
Mobile traffic makes up an incredible amount of internet use worldwide, and even though this amount is expected to continue to rise, most people are still accessing the internet very inefficiently. As I mentioned briefly above, you should always choose Wi-Fi over cellular service.
This will be easier on your data plan, sure, but even if you’re on one of those (increasingly rare) unlimited data plans, you’ll find that cell service hogs way more battery than Wi-Fi does.
However, just because your Wi-Fi receptor uses less battery than cellular service, it’s still a good idea to disable your Wi-Fi when you aren’t using it. Your phone is constantly searching for open connections while Wi-Fi is active, and that fruitless search can wreak havoc on your battery life.
Cut back on notifications
You don’t have to let your apps sync all of their data automatically. Choosing to do this manually, or to limit autosync to the apps that really need it, can seriously reduce power use.
Abandon auto synchronization
Auto Synchronization uses background processes that can eat into both your mobile data use and battery life. To turn it off, go to Settings > Accounts. Tap the three vertical dots in the upper right corner and uncheck Auto-sync data. You can also manually adjust which apps sync and how frequently.
Use ad-free apps
Not only are ads annoying, but ferrying that vibrant, eye-catching content to your device takes energy. Using apps that don’t use ads, or purchasing premium versions of apps that eschew ads, can drastically change how badly your battery takes a beating. If you use an app frequently, and it’s sucking up your phone’s life juice every day, consider upgrading or finding an ad-free alternative.
Adjust your display
Here we go. The MacDaddy of all battery sappage: your display.
Head over to Settings > Battery. You should see a list of services that use your battery in order from the most battery hungry to the least. Which one is at the top there? Odds are extremely good that you’re looking at Screen by a large margin. Let’s see if we can’t make that display a little less demanding.
Dim your brightness
Well, that’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? Full brightness might be necessary to see those texts under the full light of day, but why are you still running that setup after sunset? Tone it back a bit and use adaptive brightness or auto brightness depending on which version of Android you are running.
Decrease Animation Scale and Background Process
Time to get into some behind-the-scenes work here. To make these changes, we’ll need to access the Developer Options menu in your settings. However, unless you’ve unlocked Developer Options before, you’re not going to find them anywhere.
To unlock these options, go to Settings > About. Now tap on the Build number repeatedly until you get a notification saying that you have been promoted to Developer status. Congratulations!
Here we go. The MacDaddy of all battery sappage: your display.
Head back out to Settings, and you’ll see a new item just above About, labelled Developer Options. Tap this item and scroll down quite a ways. Be careful with the things you change here, as you could significantly change the way your device functions. Stop when you see Window animation scale, Transition animation scale, and Animator duration scale.
Each of these is likely currently set to Animation scale x1. Setting each of these to Animation off will not only slightly increase your battery life, but it may increase your phone’s performance as well.
On this same menue, you can scroll further down to find Background Process Limit. By default, this is Standard limit, but adjusting it by three or four processes can slightly increase your battery life and may improve performance as well.
Reduce auto-lock time
Again, since your screen is the biggest enemy to your battery, keeping it off as much as possible is wise. Go to Settings > Display and change your Sleep length to be as short as is feasible. 15 seconds is a good amount.
Optimize wallpapers and themes
How your phone looks isn’t just aesthetic. It can also affect how long your device can stay alive on a single charge.
Ditch live wallpapers
Yeah, that massive spiral galaxy slowly swirling in glowing tranquility looks great on display units, but in everyday life, these gorgeous backgrounds take processing power to animate. Ditch the koi pond and stick with something more power-friendly.
Embrace the darkness (maybe)
And what is a power-friendly wallpaper? That actually depends on what kind of display you have!
There are essentially two kinds of displays currently on the smartphone market. AMOLED and LCD. AMOLED works by lighting up individual pixels to create images. LCD works by having a backlight that is overlaid by a screen that shutters and displays the backlight to create pixels which compose images.
This leads us to a counter-intuitive conclusion. If you have an AMOLED display, using a black wallpaper is the most power-efficient because the display doesn’t have to activate those pixels. They just get to rest. However, if you have an LCD display, the most power-efficient option is a white wallpaper because the screen doesn’t have to work to create the pixels. Strange but true.
It should be noted, however, that the benefit of having a white background on an LCD display is not as significant as the benefit of having a black background on an AMOLED display. If you’re not sure which you have, it won’t hurt much to err on the side of black.
Limit location services and background data
You could also squeeze a little bit more juice by turning off Location Services (usually found in Settings > Location Services). You might want to prevent apps from using your location info. You will also most likely want to disable the Location and Google Search option (or Wi-Fi and Mobile Network Location option on some phones) to prevent your device from using Wi-Fi and/or mobile networks for triangulating your precise location and sending the data to Google servers. The process, needless to say, requires power.
Keep an eye on apps that use data in the background. Some apps, such as the Play Store and Gmail apps, continuously collect and send data in the background. You can restrict such background usage of data — per app — and your battery will be the happier for it.
Keep an eye on apps that use data in the background.
But, you can also perform a blanket restriction in Settings > Data Usage; tap the Menu button and tick the Restrict Background Data option to enable it. You can also enable per-app restriction by opening each app’s info page.
(Note: The Restrict Background Data option may not be available in certain phone models. Also, Google itself considers per-app background data restriction as a “drastic measure that may also affect the app’s performance or cause it to malfunction,” so you might want to use this option with caution.)
Murder apps that betray you
Some apps are resource-intensive — either by nature (as in the case of games) or by developer incompetence or negligence (as in the case of poorly written apps).
You need to be vigilant about how your various apps consume battery power. A quick trip to Settings > Battery (or, on some devices, Settings > Power > Battery Use) will usually reveal which app or service is sucking most of the juice.
Identify apps that constantly drain CPU and battery life. Poorly coded apps that connect to the Internet even when they’re not supposed to should be uninstalled, as should apps that needlessly use up a huge amount of CPU resources. Replace these apps with better developed ones rather than endure running on less and less battery each day because of treacherous apps.
Use Battery Saver
Here’s a pretty straightforward one. Go to Settings > Battery and then tap the three-dot menu in the top right of the screen. Choose Battery Saver (hint: it’s the only option available in this menu).
Battery saver reduces your device’s performance and automatically limits vibration, location services, and background data. You can activate it from here, or you can set it to kick on automatically at 5 or 15 percent battery.
Rooting is an advanced process that varies significantly from device to device. However, there’s no question that a number of battery saving techniques are available to root users that simply aren’t accessible to non-rooters.
Rooting itself won’t lengthen your battery life. Rooting merely opens the gates to your device’s restricted partitions and directories. With such restrictions gone, you can remove useless apps (e.g., bloatware from carriers or OEMs), especially those that run as background services, wasting away precious battery power.
With root access on your device, you can also install apps that can improve your system’s performance. A CPU controller app, for instance. Apps like these essentially allow you to tweak the CPU settings on your device. You can set the CPU frequency to stay at the lowest (and, as a result, use up the least power but sacrifice device performance) or to stretch the CPU to its maximum limits (resulting in better and faster performance, but at the price of heat, quick battery drain, and potential system instability).
Custom kernels and ROMs
And, since in all likelihood your phone has also acquired an unlocked bootloader and custom recovery in the process of rooting it, then you’ll also be able to enjoy the blessings — the power-saving blessings, in this case — of many custom kernels and custom ROMs. Look around Android Authority for guides on how to flash custom kernels or custom ROMs to your particular device.
Get a better battery
This is almost laughable (but not quite) in this day and age. Modular batteries used to be the norm for Android devices, but now they’re the smartphone equivalent of the Black Rhino or the Hawksbill Turtle. If you’ve managed to get your hands on one of these endangered species, then you may have the option to upgrade your battery to a higher capacity model.
Maximizing your battery life is a simple matter of minimizing your power usage. As you can see, your Android smartphone has a lot of components that touch on power use. Optimizing these can range from simply changing the way that you use your device on a daily basis to fully automating connectivity toggles.
Dim your screen and turn off services you aren’t using.
However, at its core, battery conservation is very simple. I’ll reiterate my initial summary: dim your screen and turn off services you aren’t using. These two alone can go a long way toward making sure you aren’t that guy at the end of the day saying, “I can’t. My phone’s almost dead.”
Alternatively, you could also buy a power bank.
What are your favorite battery saving techniques? Did we catch all of them here? Let us know in the comments below!