The most commonly asked question using a smartphone few years back was “Why is my smartphone’s battery life so bad?” or “How do I increase the battery life on my smartphone?” I bet most people including you had spent some time fiddling with settings and looked at the battery graph to figure out why back then.
Gone were the days of measly 2000mAh batteries that run out of juice in the evenings, requiring you to micro-manage every single battery-consuming service that the smartphone is running in the background. Fun-fact, the Galaxy S3, S4, S5, S6, S7 respectively has 2100mAh, 2600mAh, 2800mAh, 2550mAh and 3000mAh batteries. The dip in capacity in the Galaxy S6 (19% thinner than S5, 16% thinner than S7) was partly due to the industry unhealthy desire to market slimmer devices and battery size took an ax.
In today’s example, the 4500mAh battery on the Galaxy S20 FE could easily last your entire day till bedtime (6-7 hr screen on time). Heck, even Samsung’s midrange lineup like the A42 5G with a 5000mAh battery and less power-hungry processor would last 2 whole days under typical use cases.
Battery life no longer becoming a prevalent concern is namely due to a few factors. Advancements in manufacturing processes and better R&D has led to increased power densities and consequently bigger capacity batteries with smaller sizes. Plus, better hardware like the Snapdragon 865 which performs better than last year’s top chipset while consuming less power is an added battery bonus. On the software side, the latest Android versions come with built-in battery optimizers that prolong battery life by cutting out unnecessary background processes. Better app development practices had also contributed to less unnecessary battery drain.
Faster charging standards like USB-C Power Delivery, Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging, Qualcomm Quick Charge alleviates concerns from having less than ideal battery life on some smartphones, allowing you to top up on the go. All in all it is thanks to consumer pressure that smartphones manufacturers strive themselves to provide reasonable battery capacities in their devices.
Worth the hassle?
So, is it worth optimizing for battery life? No matter the answer, you can certainly try the steps listed below to take control of your own phone to improve your privacy and indirectly achieve a better battery life. Here are a few tips and tricks:
Avoid and if you already have it, uninstall any third party app cleaners that kill apps to "free up" space.
These apps tend to do more harm than the little good that they manage to eke out. A service is started and kept in memory for a good reason, in fact the Android operating system is designed to keep processes in memory and will manage itself when the memory is full by killing off the oldest process. Using a memory cleaner that nukes the system memory is less than ideal.
If you instead want to micromanage your phone's memory, it is better to just invest a little time to understand what to keep and what to disable/uninstall permanently. When an app is wiped from memory, and if you need to access it later on, the app needs to be reinitialized from a blank slate. Data needs to be pushed to the system memory again to run it in the foreground. This process more often than not consumes more power than leaving it in a suspended state in the background.
Manage permissions. Some apps only need your location only when you are using the app. Know the difference between “Allow all the time” vs “Allow only when using this app”
Only enable “Allow all the time” for apps which require permissions to do so, like Find My Device, Google Maps or Weather app if you need the location tracking. Else, do you need Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram or your banking app to have full unfettered access to your location all the time? Does this game need access to manage my calls and messages? Does 9GAG need access to your contacts list?
A huge red flag and certainly a big NO, hence use the “Allow only when using this app” or outright deny permissions that does not have anything to do with an app if it requests. Similarly, the same can be said for Microphone access, physical activity sensors and what not. If you deny an important permission, fear not the app will request it the next time during runtime should you need it. Protect your own privacy when reviewing permissions to save battery life, two birds one stone.
Try out dark mode in apps, or system-wide dark mode, if your phone has it.
Phones with AMOLED (commonly found on Samsung devices) or OLED screens benefit from dark mode as they consume less power when displaying dark screens. May take time to get used to the different contrast from before.
*LCD panels do not benefit from this at all.
Turn down the brightness
Turning down the brightness will also extend your battery life a fair bit. If auto brightness is still too bright, you can turn it down a notch. Android 9 (One UI 2.0) or later will automatically learn to readjust the auto-brightness to your desired brightness if the stock configurations doesn't suit you.
Reset the auto-brightness so your phone can relearn how bright to adjust the screen to certain light conditions.
Manage WiFi and Bluetooth settings
When not at home and out travelling around, you can turn off your WiFi so your phone doesn’t waste battery constantly looking for available networks to connect. Same goes for your Bluetooth settings, if you don’t have any wireless earbuds with you and don’t wirelessly pair your car’s audio to your phone, leaving it off when you don’t need it will save your phone a little bit of battery.
Other than what a user can do on the software front, there are a few handful of DO’s and DON’T’s when charging your device that also help in prolonging your battery life. But it will be covered in another post here so as not to make this post cumbersomely long.
Verdict / Final Thoughts
With smartphone batteries becoming increasingly bigger and bigger, the need to micromanage every connection on your smartphone to increase its battery life has seen waning interest. At the end of the day, you’d probably ask yourself whether it is worth the time and hassle to go through these steps. However, if you fancy a good bit of extra battery life, some little tips and tricks here and there to educate yourself as a consumer to take more control of your own device is surely useful to know.
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