How to give your cell phone battery a boost

Cell phone battery power can be a precious commodity, especially during summer. Changing a few settings on your phone can be the difference between your battery lasting through the day or going dark.

Andre Penner/AP/File
A woman checks her phone while at a coffee shop in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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 obvious how to keep our handheld devices fully (or partially) charged.

To that end, DealNews has gathered up the 10 best tips for squeezing extra life out of your phone's battery.

See Your Biggest Drains

Knowledge is power! Before you start tweaking things to extend your battery life, see where your power is going. This process varies a bit from phone to phone, but in general:

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, though you'll likely have to manually increase it again when you're outdoors in order to read the screen. Some people have found they can nearly double their battery life by going from maximum to minimum brightness.

Note that you must change this manually. You may be familiar with your phone's "auto-brightness" feature and assume 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 a battery drain.

Why? When auto-brightness is on, the phone is constantly checking its sensor data and doing calculations to determine the appropriate brightness, which often takes nearly as much energy as the feature is saving (or more!).

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 low on battery, make do with visual or audio alerts.

Limit Background Data Usage

You may be spending battery power running apps in the background. 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: Press the task-switching button to see what's currently running
  • iPhones: Double-tap the home button

Turn off Notifications

Do you really need to know instantaneously when someone has "liked" your Facebook status? OK, maybe you do. But if you can wait until you open the app to get updates, you'll save a little juice. 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 Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

  • Android phones: Settings > Apps. 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 running older operating systems 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 the 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 these settings? Pick up a portable charger and keep it topped off, so you always have an extra power source in a pinch. Many modern cell phones have between 2,500mAh and 3,000mAh batteries, and DealNews regularly lists battery backups even above that range for under $10.

If you're willing to pay a bit more, you can easily find portable power banks that have 20,000mAh or more. That's enough for a day's use of even the most power-hogging applications, or more moderate use for extended periods — such as camping trips or power outages.

This article first appeared in DealNews.

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