For many people, the question “Where would I be without my smartphone?” is no longer just rhetorical.
The ever increasing popularity of social media, streaming services, GPS navigation and other power-hungry applications is putting a surprising amount of strain on our mobile devices. It has gotten to the point where many people’s phones are “dying” in the middle of their busy days, even after starting with a full charge.
Words like despair, emptiness and panic often come to mind when one considers the loss of mobile communication. Yet one of the most frequent complaints consumers have about smartphones is that the batteries run out of juice too quickly.
There is plenty of bad advice out there for extending battery life, including some tricks that may wind up running down your battery even faster. That’s why we caught up with product-testing site the Wirecutter, which took a deep dive into the subject.
Here are five of their easiest and most effective tips for getting the most out of your phone battery.
1. Cut down on screen use.
The screen is the biggest energy user in your smartphone, so the more you use it to send messages, check newsfeeds or stream videos, the faster your battery loses power. Leaving your phone in your bag or pocket for as long as possible is good for your battery. But you need the screen for most of the things you do with a smartphone, so the next step is to reduce the delay before your screen automatically shuts off.
The potential power savings are significant, Wirecutter’s Dan Frakes says. For example, if you unlock your phone 25 times per day, and your screen-lock delay is three minutes, changing to one minute can cut the time your screen is on by 50 minutes. On an iPhone, go to “Settings” then “General” then “Auto-Lock”; on an Android phone, go to “Settings” then “Display” then “Sleep.” You can also manually put the phone to sleep when you are finished using it.
2. Reduce screen brightness.
You can also help your battery last longer by turning down the screen’s brightness. In Wirecutter testing, an iPhone 6s used 54 percent less battery with screen brightness set at minimum compared with maximum brightness. A Moto X Pure Edition Android phone used 30 percent less. If you don’t like the idea of having to manually adjust the screen often depending on ambient lighting, you can still save energy by setting the screen to automatically adjust brightness.
3. Use an ad blocker.
People who spend a lot of smartphone time on the Web might be able to cut their energy use in half by blocking ads. The level of energy savings was surprising, Mr. Frakes said. Wirecutter ran an automated two-hour Wi-Fi Web-browsing session in Safari on an iPhone 6s with no ad blockers. Then the group ran the same test using the 1Blocker ad blocker. Without the ad blocker, the test used 18 percent of the phone’s battery capacity, but using the blocker cut battery use to 9 percent. A similar test on a 2015 Moto X Pure phone using the Ghostery Privacy Browser got more dramatic results. With no ad blocker, a two-hour browsing session in Chrome used 22 percent of the phone’s battery, while the blocker cut use to 8 percent.
4. Bad coverage? Disable cellular or Wi-Fi.
When you are traveling in rural areas, camping or in other spots with poor Wi-Fi or cellular signals, your phone tends to use much more power as it searches for a solid connection. In these situations you can conserve battery life by disabling the phone’s wireless circuitry.
But instead of using airplane mode, you can disable the specific wireless feature that is using up power. If cellular coverage is poor in your office, but Wi-Fi works well, turning off cellular connectivity will keep the phone from wasting energy trying to get a cellular connection while still letting you connect via Wi-Fi. If your phone struggles to stay connected to your home Wi-Fi when you are in the yard, you can disable Wi-Fi and use cellular.
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5. Store music locally.
More and more people are using streaming services including Apple Music, Pandora and Spotify to procure music. But streaming requires your phone to maintain an active wireless connection with the music service, which consumes a significant amount of power in comparison with playing that same music after storing it on your phone, Mr. Frakes said.
In Wirecutter’s testing, playing locally stored music over Bluetooth headphones and speakers for two hours used about 5 percent of an iPhone 6s Plus’s battery. Streaming that same music over a strong Wi-Fi connection used 10 percent. Some services let you download playlists to your phone. To maximize your battery savings you should download music while the phone is on Wi-Fi and plugged in.