Author Topic: Battery tips (updated 2015)  (Read 4110 times)


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Battery tips (updated 2015)
« on: May 25, 2015, 10:19:59 PM »
A few battery tips many may or may not know.

I don't use firewall, battery and radio tweaks such as Battery Defender or Juice Defender. Personally, I prefer to run lean and not need to play with those or turning on and off my radio. I bought a smartphone and prefer to use it like one. This doesn't mean I don't use any apps that could use my battery, just that I chose my apps carefully and tune them so they use as little as possible. This is what this article will focus on.

Some things here are obvious, some less so. You may not think it matters much, but gaining 1% of extra battery here or there can ad up to a lot of power in the long run.

A warning about radio & battery tuning apps.
Apps like those can help, but they can also create problems and sometimes cause you to use even more battery. When the Optimus V came out, people were using that sort of thing to get longer battery, and I had evidence some of them were messing up their connection. Since then I have been pretty strongly against anything that manipulates radios and such. These days, I don;t even mess with bluetooth, GPS and LTE enabling as the radios are efficient enough to not need to bother.

One of the best things you can do on some phones, especially older ones is upgrade the battery. If it's offered, I highly recommend Anker, they offer ones with usually 10-15% more capacity that fit inside the stock rear cover. It may not seem like a lot, but it can make a difference at the end of the day.

How you charge it also makes a difference.
What I do is I charge overnight, a nice dock makes this easier, instead of messing with cables. When I wake up, the first thing I do is restart the phone. This does two things, it clears out any programs running in the background, and allows a top up on your battery.

Lithium based batteries do not trickle charge, they charge then turn off. As they charge they build up heat, a cool battery holds more than a hot battery. If it remains on a charger, it lets the charge fall a few % before the charge starts up again. When you charged your battery it topped while warm, by morning it has cooled off, and dropped a few percent, even if it registers as 100%, it's not. By restarting the phone, you restart the charge cycle, and it restarts. Leaving you with a cool, fully charged battery, it may only gain you another 5-10% but it's free and simple to do.

Combine a larger battery and the morning top up and you are now looking at anywhere from 15-30% more juice compared to stock and normal charge patterns.

The Big Three battery wasters...
The next three items can easily destroy 80% of your battery life if you're not careful.

Weather Widgets
These can be very light on your battery, or the second worst thing you can install, this is due to how they are designed. What you want to find, even if you have to pay for it, is a weather widget that you can manually set the location on. Free ones often are supported by ads. This isn't necessarily a bad thing except for today’s ads are not just ads. What happens is every so often it needs to update the ad, this means not only starting up the data, it often means also firing up the GPS. It sends out the request for an ad, but also sends your gps location. This doesn't coincide with checking the weather, this is on top of checking the weather. Basically you are firing the gps and radio up to twice as often.

Social media.
This one is an obvious one to many and one of the worst offenders. These update constantly and will drain your battery extremely fast, especially if you have a lot of friends (I saw Facebook reduce battery life 60%  just this last weekend). If you plan on using these, just face the facts, your battery will suffer. Try and keep the number of social media apps to a minimum and see if you can adjust the frequency of updates. Above all else, try not to use a widget with them as that means it will have to download everything all the time in order to update the widget. If possible use an app instead that only checks when you tell it to or simply use the web site and avoid the whole issue.

News Apps
The Google app for this combines news and weather.
This isn't such a good idea. The weather portion is fine, but the news portion, especially when used as a widget is constantly updating news feeds just like social media. If you use news apps, don't use them as widgets. Preferably use apps that update when you open them.

Common myths about what does and not use up your battery.

Yeah, these will drain your system fast. Do we really need to get into this? If you are rooted, ditch this garbage. If not.. newer phones let you disable or freeze these apps. It's about damn time Google! My advice, ROOT! Between adblocking, bloat and tethering, rooting is well worth the time and effort. I won't run an unroooted phone.

Live wallpaper
These got a bad rap a while back, but tests have shown they use almost nothing more than normal wallpaper. When idle, they are doing nothing. When your phone is unlocked, yes, they can use a little more, but that is small compared to the power being used by everything else. Simple animated wallpaper is fine, however, ones that update from online or constantly change out the background from an online repository will hurt you.

Some launchers are terrible, some are not. Ad driven ones are obviously going to be worse than ones you pay for or are outright free. The more features it has, can also be an indicator of power drain, though this is not a universal truth. It used to be that Launcher Pro was efficient, and ADW was terrible. Launcher Pro is still pretty efficient, and is still a darn good launcher, (just look at how many clones there are), but these days I'm using Apex. I resisted this launcher for a long time, but I've recently come to really like it. I'm not sure what sold me on it, but lately it seems to work for me.

Roms can vary as well, be sure to see what idea the rom was built on. Was it designed around one feature, overclocking, or looks? When I started building Harmonia, a line of roms I used to build, many missed the point entirely. Harmonia was more efficient than similar roms simply because of the launcher and lack of extra crap others put in, not so much because of a bunch of things I had done to it. Back then, most rom builders included all but the kitchen sink, I caught some flack for not including a bunch of “features” or not being latest, greatest, fastest or... Often being called a hack or worse, it took a while for people and developers to realize my roms were just of a different mindset. Over time, Harmonia became a well respected rom that many came to really rely on for every day use, while others kept them as a backup for those times their favorite had issues.

I bring this up to remind you not to quickly dismiss a rom just because it may look stock or flashy. While most roms are still of the “everything but the kitchen sink” variety, a few have begun to adopt the minimalist approach. Often looking stock, but hiding a lot under the hood, don't be fooled into thinking more features are always better. A launcher and wallpaper can change the looks, but it doesn't make an unstable rom stable. If it was designed for gaming, it's probably not going to give you the best battery life, another may look flashy, but just be a re-skinned stock rom. Find out what it was designed for and see if that's what you truly want. Most battery efficient roms will be of the minimalist type.

This used to be a bigger issue and while it's actually a pretty big topic (it requires a lot of theory and tuning to make it work), modern phones are much faster, more efficient and are better at power management, as such fewer people are bothering with it so I'm just going to delve into it quickly.

Common sense tells you that this will drain your battery and reduce the lifespan and while it very likely can, believe it or not, overclocking can actually increase your battery life (yes it has been verified in tests) and not hurt your phone at all. Provided you do it right and you get a phone capable of doing it well.

So here is the theory, think your phone in two states, resting and running. If you overclock, obviously it uses more power while running, however, it gets the job done faster allowing it to return to idle. So while the non-overclocked phone is still working, the overclocked phone has finished and gone back to idle. It comes down to total watts of power used, not how much it's using while computing. However, to make it work you have to know the type of computing you will be doing. If you are doing something that needs lots of small bursts of power (like rendering a web page), overclocking can be a huge battery saver, on the other hand, if all you do is stream music, you don't need full power, so you could be wasting battery life. As mentioned at the beginning though multi-core processors, and better power management has largely negated these gains. On the other hand, if you are on an older, single core processor, it may be worth looking into.

A note about navigation
Some mapping programs do not properly close. Android is supposed to be pretty good at closing and powering down apps, and normally it is, but lately I have seen Maps or Waze continue to cause some drain, it's probably a memory leak. Sometimes a fresh app install will fix this, sometimes not. I often just reboot the phone to make sure it's clear.

If you see this issue, try the above.

Keep in mind, that a portion of maps/navigation runs constantly, this is required for gps to function on many apps, not just Maps. Don't freak out if you see this running.

Some tricks to improve what you have.
Obviously you can cut back social media, and find a good weather app, turn off news widgets and change your launcher. Those go a long way, but not far enough, you see there is a MUCH bigger threat to your battery than all of these combined.

If you are rooted, get an ad blocker.
They lower your network throughput, make browsing much nicer as many ad supported items and websites go overboard with them. It stinks they ruin it for everyone but they have. They also block malicious ads, which is where most malware on computers is coming from these days. I use ads, I need ads, but ad companies did this to themselves.

This will stop a lot of the radio usage that occurs with free aps. It won't stop them all, but it helps, A LOT and makes a big difference in your phone experience. If you use Chrome or Firefox, get Adblock Plus as well. Too many ads on these little screens is an issue.

Don't fall for companies or people saying how it's wrong, or that you are hurting them. It's BS. Companies did this to themselves. As for the aps, many are free aps loaded with ads by someone other than the creator. Others simply over stepped. Sorry, but I shouldn't have to give you my first born or put my phone and data at risk to use your crappy app. Sites, apps, and companies will survive, maybe not the current ones, but another will happily spring up to take their place.

Look, I run ad supported websites, have apps, and earn an income from ads, I still recommend the blockers. You be safe, let people like me make money from the idiots. Buy their app, if you can't because they don;t offer one (bitch at them!) or if you still feel guilt, go make a donation on their site. I buy lots of apps and donate to app creators for the work they did, do they make as much as ad supported apps? Probably not, but  thankfully for some people, money isn't everything.

Constantly running apps.
Reboot your phone, then go into settings, apps, and look at what apps are currently running.

Now, some will say that a running app is hurting nothing. Sorry. No.
The theory is that “Android does a good job of idling apps”. That is true, however they are still using memory. Memory that could be better served on making apps you want running, run more efficient.

But ask yourself a question, why is that app running?
Does it need to be? Is it sending information back to the app creator? Is it downloading ads? Or is it just running because the app creator is an idiot? Free apps are the worst for this as many are siphoning your data, using your GPS, wifi,, and downloading ads all at the same time. Still think apps running “idle” no longer matter? Your Facebook app sits idle most of the time too and yet we know it sucks down power. You also only have so much ram, too little remaining leaves you with a phone working twice as hard.

There are some wonderful free apps, and some absolutely terrible ones. When you download them, you should watch what the permissions are, that can tell you a lot, but also, watch and see if they self start and stay running in the background after you close them.

Newer Android has systems in them to freeze and disable self starting apps (it's about time Google!). Older models will need a task manager and may need to be rooted to deal with it if it's a built in app. However, if you root, why not just remove the bloatware instead of fighting it with a  task manager.

A poison pill for apps.
The next trick is a bit controversial and can ruin an app, making you have to re-install it. It's called Privacy Blocker. Instead of blocking an apps access to the GPS or your unique ID, it strips that function out of the app entirely. It's pretty hardcore, and to some degree I don't like the idea of tearing an app apart and removing a function simply because it's someone else's work (in some cases this is illegal). If that sounds contradictory to how I feel about ads allow me to elaborate.

If you block an app from connecting to the net, you have done nothing to the app. This physically modifies the app. The ethics of it were an issue for me, and still are, however here is why I included it here. Had Google not lumped so many security functions together without any user controls we wouldn't need these types of apps. Just because an app needs to see if the phone is in use, that doesn't mean it should be able to uniquely identify me. I should be able to dictate which apps access the GPS and location system in my phone.  Google left these functions out and app makers are taking advantage of this lack of security, this just restores some of that balance. Beware though, it doesn't work on everything, you can very easily break an app this way and even if it does work, next time it updates, you will need to redo the process, which can take a while and break it this time.

It has it's uses, you can't use it on everything and you shouldn't but sometimes it just feels good to put one over on someone abusing the system.