Our cell phones are such a huge part of our lives that seeing 7% on the battery indicator can be as alarming as feeling ourselves about to pass out. But while we all know what to do to boost our own energy, it's not always so obvious how to keep our handheld devices fully (or partially) charged.
To that end, DealNews has gathered up the best tips for stretching extra life out of your device's juice before you can get to your charger.
See What Your Biggest Drains Are
Knowledge is power! Before you start making tweaks to extend your battery life, it's worth seeing where your power has been going. Checking this out varies a bit from phone to phone, but in general:
- Android phones: Settings> Power or Battery> Battery Usage
- iPhones: Settings> General> Usage> Battery Usage
This will give you an idea of what your biggest drains are and let you effectively target your battery conservation efforts.
Reduce Screen Brightness
Manually reducing your screen brightness is one of the most effective things you can do to improve battery life, although you'll likely have to manually increase it again when you're outdoors to be able to read the screen. Some people have found they can nearly double their battery life by going from maximum to minimum brightness.
SEE ALSO: 11 Ways to Get Cheap Cell Phone Service
Of note: You must change this manually. You may be familiar with your phone's "Auto-Brightness" feature and assume that it's already managing this for you, but that's not the case. While this setting will change your brightness for you (and save battery when you're in low-light situations), it's still usually an overall battery drain.
Why? When Auto-Brightness is on, the phone is constantly checking its sensor data and doing calculations to determine what the appropriate brightness is, which often takes nearly as much (or more!) energy than the feature is saving.
Turn Off Unused Hardware
GPS is usually the largest and most noticeable battery drain, but Bluetooth, WiFi, and your mobile data antennae use power too. While you may be loath to cut yourself off from the world, you probably aren't using WiFi during your nature hike, and some people may rarely or never use Bluetooth. If power's tight, cut down your data links to what you're really using. It might not save a ton of energy, but every little bit helps.
Turn Off the Vibrate Feature
The motor that makes your phone vibrate actually takes a fair amount of juice to power and can drain your battery quickly if you're getting a lot of calls or texts. If you're low on battery, make do with visual or audio alerts.
Hunt Down Unused Apps
You may be spending battery running apps in the background you never use. Some may be apps you downloaded and forgot about. Others may have been installed on your phone before you got it. Check what's running on your phone right now and shut down (or uninstall) anything you don't need all the time.
- Android phones: Settings> App Manager> Running to get a detailed view, or double-tap the home button to see what's currently running
- iPhones: Double-tap the home button
Limit Background Data Usage
Do you really need to know instantaneously when someone "Liked" your Facebook status? Okay, maybe you do. But if you can wait until you open the app to get updates, you can save a little juice for your phone. Many of your apps will fetch fresh data on their own without interaction from you. You may need to leave some of them running (like your email), but you may be able to do without others, like Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.
- Android phones: Settings> App Manager. Then choose individual apps and uncheck "Show Notifications"
- iPhones: Settings> General> Background App Refresh
You may find you can further preserve battery life through individual app settings. For example, you could reduce email sync frequency or disable auto-upload of photos.
Keep Your Apps Updated
This one's simple enough — make sure you're running the most recent version of all your favorite apps. Developers often optimize old code to run more efficiently.
Enable "Power Saving Mode" (If You Have One)
Not every phone has a power saving mode (iPhones don't), but if yours does, it can be a quick way to drastically decrease your drain in a pinch. Check your "Settings" menu to see if option is listed.
Beat the Heat
While it might not make a difference to an individual charge, heat can degrade battery performance over time. Try not to leave your phone lying in direct sunlight, and consider changing or removing your case if you frequently notice it running hot.
"Captain, She Needs More Power!"
Don't want to fiddle with all this? The brute-force approach works just fine. Pick up a portable charger and keep it topped off, so you always have an extra power source in a pinch. Most modern cell phones have between 2,500mAh and 3,000mAh batteries, and DealNews has regularly listed batteries in that range for under $10.
If you're willing to pay a bit more, however, you can easily find backup batteries that have 20,000mAh or more — enough for a day's use of even the most power-hogging applications or more moderate use for extended periods, like camping trips or major power outages.