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One of the most frustrating things for smartphone users has to be that battery life notification warning you that you only have 10 or 20% battery life remaining.  When I first switched from a Blackberry Pearl to the Droid Eris, I realized just how much battery drain advanced capabilities like web surfing, Youtube and Twitter cause.  I used my Blackberry primarily for email because the Web surfing experience was so terrible.  As a result, my battery life was stellar.  I would routinely get at least two full days with normal (which I now know to be very limited) use.  During my first week with an Android device, I wasn’t sure if I could live with the poor battery life that i was experiencing.  After some soul-searching I decided to stay with Android in spite of the poor battery life because of the rich, vastly superior Web experience.  During the next month, I made several discoveries that helped me understand how the advanced functionality that makes these devices so useful affects battery life.  


First, I found that by turning GPS off, battery drain was much improved.  Because the Droid Eris is an Android 1.5 device, it doesn’t have Google Navigation capability and I don’t use any other apps that require GPS.  I do have a GPS toggle widget on my homescreen for the rare instance that I need it.  Unscientifically, I found that by turning GPS off, I save about 20% of my battery’s charge throughout a normal day.


Next, I experimented with mobile data.  I found that by toggling data off, I could still make calls and send and receive text messages, and my battery would still have a 95% charge at the end of the work day.  While no smartphone user would chose to use their phone like this on a daily basis, the ability to turn off data does come in handy when traveling in areas where your carrier’s data connectivity is sparse or non-existent.  Turning data off to save battery is also handy in situations where you are waiting for an important phone call, but your battery level is very low and you are not near a power source.  To be clear, I leave data on at all times, but knowing the effect the data connection has on battery life is valuable.


Finally, while task killer apps get a bad rap from those who assert (correctly) that Android is built to manage apps efficiently, my experience has been that by keeping open apps to a minimum, battery life (and lag) improves.  I use the Advanced Task Killer Free app and set system and email-related apps to be ignored (so they don’t get closed).  At random, periodic intervals throughout the day, I’ll kill open tasks. It’s quick and painless and even if it doesn’t actually help all that much with battery life, the placebo effect is comforting.


Other pointers are fairly obvious, but bear repeating:

  • Set the data refresh in social networking apps to every half-hour or less often, or to manual refresh.  I found that I always hit refresh after I open these apps anyway in order to get the most up-to-date information.  
  • If you use an email account other than an Exchange account or Gmail and need additional battery savings after implementing one or more of the other tips in this article, set your email download frequency to a less frequent setting.  
  • Use use wifi when within range of a hotspot instead of mobile data.  Toggle widgets work well for this.  When not in range of a wifi hotspot, toggle wifi off
By using these tips, I regularly have around 70% battery life remaining when I go to bed each night, and that's with four email accounts (in addition to Gmail) and two twitter apps updating periodically.  These tips may not work well for everyone, but for those that need a bit of battery life savings, hopefully one or more will work for you.  For those with rooted Android devices, there are additional options available, but this article is geared towards the non-root crowd. 

Leave me a note in the comments with any other tips that I may have missed or don’t know about.

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