Cell phones have come a long way over the past decade. Things we didn't even think were possible just years ago, such as video calling without a computer from virtually anywhere in the world, are now possible thanks to smartphones. But even with all the added functionality and mind-blowing specifications, one area has yet to really improve: battery life. And it's becoming a rather large hurdle for mobile manufacturers to overcome.
It never fails. A company can release one fine piece of equipment, one with every feature and spec exactly to my liking, as if it were made-to-order just for me. It can have a big, vibrant, crystal clear display, impressive camera, flawless performance powered by a dual- or quad-core processor, LTE, ample RAM and storage, etc. Yet the battery life just isn't up to par. I feel as if I'm constantly tethered to a wall, charging my phone so my battery is good to go for at least another few hours.
Aside from the DROID RAZR MAXX, which actually packs nearly double the capacity of competitors' batteries in its cell, this has been the case with almost every phone in recent memory. It's the same story every time: unplug the phone in the morning, use it lightly over a few hours and plug it back in before you leave so it won't die before you make it back home.
And, to date, I've done everything in my power to try and fight terrible battery life. I have carried two and three spare batteries with me every day for months before. (And yes, I have managed to kill the main battery and all the spares in a single day.) I have carried battery pack chargers in my pockets. And I even wear a backpack that charges my phones and tablets, called a Powerbag, from time to time.
To no avail, I have also tried almost every application that claims to improve your phone's battery. I used to believe task killers would prolong my battery life, that is, until I learned they can do more harm than good. I've tried Juice Defender to little to no effect and a plethora of similar apps.
In the end, the verdict is always the same. My phone's battery life still sucks and little is going to change that until there is a major breakthrough in battery tech.
Last week, however, a new application entered the scene with a slightly different take on improving battery life. Created by UC Berkeley's AMP Lab, Carat aims to improve your phone's battery life intelligently. According to the Carat site:
"Carat is a research project that aims to detect energy bugs---app behavior that is consuming energy unnecessarily---using data collected from a community of mobile devices. After running Carat for about a week, you will start to receive personalized recommendations for improving your battery life."
Instead of just sending recommendations to kill a rogue application that may be chewing up more CPU usage than normal, Carat runs in the background and monitors the energy that different applications, services and processes consume. It then sends that information to a Spark application running on Amazon Web Services for analysis. The Carat website explains further:
"These measurements are sent to our servers, which throw them into a big statistical stew and try to infer how devices are using energy and under what circumstances. The results of these analyses are then sent back to the app, which can give you feedback and actionable advice about how to improve your battery life."
And instead of just killing off applications or processes, it gives you an estimated time that killing that particular app or service will extend your battery life. As you can see in the above picture, killing the Google Voice dialer, or GVDialer, will extend my battery life by approximately one hour and three minutes. Likewise, killing the stock Camera app will extend my battery by 38 minutes.
I've been using Carat for several days now. I can't say it's improved the battery life of my iPhone 4S drastically – you're not going to jump from 12 hours per charge to 24. But there is a slightly noticeable difference. As soon as the percentage indicator in the status bar starts to drop a little faster than normal, I fire up Carat and tick off some of the recommended actions. Carat is more to prevent unnecessary energy consumption – or battery drain – than anything. Either way, it seems sort of promising.
I have also installed Carat on my HTC One X, but it has yet to gather enough data to make recommendations; it generally takes about two days to a week to gather enough information to recommend anything. I plan to use this alongside Watchdog, which alerts me when an application is using more than a designated percentage of CPU, and weed out any applications that are constantly sucking up too much juice.
I've been around the block and I've sort of lost hope on apps like these. But Carat seems different. This is a research project by UC Berkeley, so, other than data and results, they have nothing to gain from this. I will continue to use Carat until I notice any negative side-effects. So far, so good.
What about you, ladies and gents? Have you used any applications to prolong your battery life? If so, which ones? And how have they worked for you? Have you tried Carat? Share your thoughts and battery-saving app experiences below.