Android L improves battery life: How software enhances hardware

The latest version of Android promises to make a device's battery last longer. Do the promises hold up? 

This photo shows the Nokia X2: a Microsoft owned phone that runs on Android, aimed at the emerging market. Android recently announced a series of new features for its latest update that make the battery of Android-operated devices last longer.

Turns out Android's latest upgrade, Android L, really is more than just a sleeker design with more vibrant colors. It also makes the battery of Android devices last longer. 

How exactly does a software update affect the battery? 

Project Volta was unveiled at the Google I/O developer's conference in San Francisco last week. Android has a history of these "projects." For Android 4.1, it released "Project Butter," which made the operating system run faster and added predictive typing to the keyboard.

This time around, the Android team's project addresses battery life, often the bane of any smart phone user's existence. To do this, Project Volta – an umbrella term for a series of new features – includes "Battery Historian," letting you see which applications are using the most battery, and "Battery Saver," which closes certain apps when your device is low on power and can offer up to 90 minutes of extra battery life on a Nexus 5 smart phone, according to Google. 

Still, it's easy to be skeptical. After all, how many times have you been hamstrung when you're in a rush and your smart phone runs out of battery just when you need to power up Google Maps for directions? Which is why Ars Technica decided to run some tests on the latest Android update. And according to these tests, Google's claims seem to hold water. 

The results found that the preview version of Android L used in the experiment had 36 percent more battery life or two hours of extra run time on a Nexus 5 device, as compared with the previous version, Android 4.4 or "KitKat." Two extra hours? That's even better than the 90 minutes touted by Google. 

Oh, and this test did not use the "Battery Saver" feature. 

"We like to have our devices at full power, and we don't want a hyper-aggressive phone-crippling feature messing with our results," writes Ron Amadeo in Ars Technica. "Presumably, you could gain even more runtime by turning the battery saver on."

Android is used on the vast majority of smart phones. In the first fiscal quarter of 2014, Android accounted for more than 80 percent of the smart phones shipped worldwide. But, as the I/O conference demonstrated, Google has much bigger plans for Android than merely phones. Android will soon be used in cars, on TVs, and even on wearable devices such as smart watches. It's a lot of Android. Good thing they're figuring out how to keep the devices on a little bit longer.

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