Getting the Best Battery Performance
To get the most use out of your Android phone or tablet, you will need to manage its battery life. You can do this using either the tools that come with the device or with extra tools that you add. You can identify features and apps that consume large amounts of power so that you can either disable them or simply not use them. You can reduce the amount of power your device needs by choosing settings to spare power. And you can give yourself the means to recharge your device at every opportunity.
Identifying Power Hogs
To identify power-hogging features and apps, follow these steps:
- Open the Quick Settings panel. For example, pull down from the top of the screen with two fingers.
Tap the Power icon to display the Battery screen (see Figure 1.13). This screen shows currently running features and apps listed in descending order by power consumption—in other words, greediest first.
FIGURE 1.13 Look at the Battery screen to see which features and apps have been consuming the most battery power.
Tap the Battery graph at the top to display the History Details screen (see Figure 1.14). This screen shows a larger battery chart, enabling you to see the relative rates of power consumption more clearly, and bar charts showing when each feature was consuming power.
FIGURE 1.14 The History Details screen shows you exactly when each feature was consuming power.
- Tap the Back button to return to the Battery screen.
Tap the button for a feature or app whose usage details you want to view. The Use Details screen appears. Figure 1.15 shows the Use Details screen for Google Play services.
FIGURE 1.15 The Use Details screen gives you specifics on what an app has been doing.
Eking Out Battery Life
To get the most runtime out of your device, you need to reduce power consumption to an acceptable minimum. What that means depends on what the device is and what you’re doing with it.
Here are 10 ways you can easily reduce the amount of power your device consumes:
- Turn down the display brightness. Open the Quick Settings panel, tap the Brightness icon, and then drag the slider as far to the left as you can bear. The display gets through a huge amount of power, especially on a tablet with a large screen.
- Set a short sleep interval. Open the Settings app, tap the Display button, and then tap the Sleep button to display the Sleep dialog box. Tap a short time, such as 15 Seconds or 1 Minute, to save power by turning off the screen quickly when you’re not using it.
Use Airplane mode when you can go offline. Open the Quick Settings panel and tap the Airplane Mode icon to quickly shut down all communications services. Repeat the move when you need to go back online.
- Turn off communications services you don’t need. Open the Quick Settings panel and tap the icon for any communications service that is currently turned on but which you can afford to turn off: Cellular (on a phone or cellular-capable tablet), Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. If your device has Near Field Communication (NFC), turn that off as well.
- Set the Location mode to Battery Saving. Open the Settings app and tap the Location button in the Personal section to display the Location screen. Tap the Mode button at the top to display the Location Mode screen, and then tap the Battery Saving button. Alternatively, set the Location switch on the Location screen to the Off position to turn off location tracking entirely.
- Check for email less frequently. Unless it’s vital that you receive all your messages as soon as possible, reduce the frequency of checking for new messages to a minimum. See Chapter 6, “Taking Gmail to the Pro Level,” for instructions on configuring the Gmail app and Chapter 7, “Becoming Expert with the Email App,” for instructions on configuring the Email app.
- Store copies of cloud files on your device. Services such as Dropbox are great because they enable you to access your documents from anywhere you have an Internet connection. But to save power, you can store copies of files on your phone or tablet so that you don’t need to download them. For example, in Dropbox, you can mark a file as a favorite to make Android store a copy of it locally.
- Avoid playing videos and music. Playing videos eats through battery power quickly because it uses the screen, but even playing back music takes a fair amount of power. If you find your Android device runs out of power regularly, consider getting a minute music player (such as an iPod shuffle or one of its competitors) so that you can listen to your essential music without running down the battery on your phone or tablet.
- Turn off live wallpapers. Live wallpapers look pretty, but they make your device’s processor work harder and consume power. To turn off live wallpapers, open the Settings app, tap the Display button to go to the Display screen, and then tap the Wallpaper button to display the Choose Wallpaper From screen. You can then tap the Wallpapers button to set a static wallpaper, tap the Gallery button to choose a picture from the Gallery app, or touch the Photos button to use a photo from the Camera app.
- Streamline your Home screens. Widgets that require updating, such as those for email or social networking, consume power both through updating and network connections, so run as few widgets as possible if you’re trying to squeeze more time out of your battery.
As you saw in the previous sections, you can take various actions to reduce your device’s power consumption. But given that most of these actions make your device not only less useful but also harder to use, you may prefer to take a damn-the-torpedoes approach and confront the power problem head on by running your device at full bore but also recharging it whenever you get the chance.
Here are suggestions for recharging your Android device:
- Carry a spare battery. If your phone or tablet enables you to easily change batteries, carry one or two spare—and fully charged—batteries with you wherever you go and swap them out as needed. Being able to easily change batteries is one of the great advantages of some Samsung phones, such as the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy S 5.
- Get a battery case. If your phone or tablet is a high-profile device, you may be able to find a case with a built-in battery. If you consistently need more battery power than the built-in battery delivers, a battery case can be a great solution.
- Get an external battery or portable charger. No matter which device you have, you can choose from a wide range of external batteries, also called portable chargers, to which you connect your device via USB to recharge it. If you live in a sunny climate, consider getting one with a solar charger.
Upgrade the battery. If your device’s battery is user-replaceable, you may be able to replace it with a higher-capacity version. First, if your device is still under warranty, check whether replacing the battery will invalidate the warranty; if so, decide whether this is a sacrifice you’re prepared to make in your pursuit of power or whether to wait until the warranty expired. Next, look up the specs for your device’s battery, and then search on the Internet for a higher-capacity version.
- Get a car charger. If you drive a car, get a car charger so that you can plug your device in to charge for the duration of each journey. That should more than offset the power taken by using your device for navigation in the car.
- Get a spare charger. Carrying a charger to and from work is a headache, especially when you leave the charger at your workplace for the weekend. Get a spare charger to keep at work.
- Carry a USB cable. When no external battery or dedicated charger is available, plug your device into the USB port on whichever computer is handy. The battery may charge more slowly, but you’ll pick up at least some power.