Smartphones get more advanced features and capailities, often with battery life taking a hit. Here is how to squeeze out better battery life from your phone.

Get better battery life on your smartphone

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Smartphones get more advanced features and capailities, often with battery life taking a hit. Here is how to squeeze out better battery life from your phone.

Modern smartphone users want larger, brighter and crisper displays, and more powerful processors that power fluid user interfaces and a long list of features. In addition, we want our phones to stay connected to our email servers and social networks round the clock, and via 3G broadband too.

While the wishes of users in terms of hardware and features have been granted, unfortunately battery technology has not kept up with the pace of development of displays, processors and other features.

As such, the internet is littered with complaints of “crappy” battery life by owners of such devices as the 3GS, HD2, Nexus One, Satio and the like.

But what were we expecting? All the above-listed devices and others in their camp – including my own N900 – have a minimum of 600 MHz processors and vibrant 3.2-inch displays. Add always-on 3G or Wifi connections, and you have a recipe for relatively shorter power cycles.

Modern smartphone users simply cannot eat their cake and have it. At least not until some revolutionary battery technology shows up.

get better battery life on your smartphone

In the meantime, let me say here that battery life on those devices are really not as “crappy” as most of the complainants want you to believe. Most of them are actually capable of lasting much longer even under moderate to heavy use.

For example, I read a smartphone user’s complaint about how he cannot get 6-8 hours out of one of today’s cutting-edge mobiles. Yet, with a little knowledge and sensibility, he would easily get 20-30 hours out of it.

Many times, people who complain of terrible battery life on their devices are doing so from a point of ignorance. With a few tips, smartphone users can easily get an extra 10-12 hours per charge from their devices.

Amazing, right? Now that I have your attention, here are a few tips for getting better battery times out of your shiny new smart toys.

Charge your battery for at least 6 to 10 hours the first time
Yup, the first time you charge your phone, keep it connected to the mains for between 6 to 10 hours at a stretch. Ignore that “Battery full” notification that you get after 2 or 3 hours. The battery is NOT full, so keep it connected. Trust me.

If you don’t do give your battery this initial extended charge, it will take longer for it to reach it’s full potential – or it never will. Once it gets used to not being fully charged that way, the rest is history…

Cycle the battery through a few times from discharge to full charge
For the first few charging cycles of your smartphone, let your battery run out completely till the phone shuts down. Switch it back on and then immediately plug in the charger till it is fully charged. Again, ignore that “Battery Full” notification. Keep it charging for an extra 30-45 minutes to get a full charge.

Thereafter, repeat this process about once a week or more to get maximum usage.

If you don’t need an application running in the background, shut it down
It is foolishness to do things just because you can. Simply because your super smartphone or mobile computer can run 60 apps simultaneously does not mean you should. The more apps you leave running in the background, the more your battery life will suffer.

My car can do 180 km/hour comfortably, but I have never ventured that far, because I understand the consequencies. Its called wisdom. If however armed robbers are after me one day and I have the highway, you bet…. Until then, I’m hovering at 100 km/hr max.

Reduce your data sync schedule
Take a second look at applications that connect automatically to the internet and determine if you really need them to connect that often.

Do you really need your RSS reader to refresh every 30 minutes? Unless those feeds are work-related, you need to get a life. Again, with all the noise about PUSH email, do you really need your email to arrive on your device in real time? Again, unless work-related, modify the sync schedule. Many times, a 1 hour schedule is okay. For a lot of people, even a once-a-day schedule is fine.

How about those social networking applications – Facebook, Twitter, et al? Do you really need to know what some guy halfway across the world just had for dinner? Right now?

When you do not need broadband speeds, stick to 2G and turn off Wifi
You know that you don’t need 3G speeds all the time. Some of you have internet access at the office. What do you need always-on 3G for? Turn it off when you don’t need it, or get an application to automate the network switching.

Wifi is also one of the greatest power hogs, so keep an eye on it like a hawk. Turn it off when its not needed.

When not needed, turn off GPS
Simple: if you are not using it, do turn it off.

Reducing the backlight
The display of modern (especially touchscreen) smartphones are huge power consumers. As such, having the brightness set to the highest option means that your battery drains much faster. If you do not need your display backlight that bright, turn it down a few notches and enjoy a few more hours of power on your phone.

Check that homescreen/desktop
The more widgets you have running on your homescreen, the more power is consumed, especially with widgets that refresh often to keep up-to-date.

Also, some of those homescreen apps e.g. Sense on HTC devicee, and Timescape on Sony Ericsson devices, among others, are huge power guzzlers. Disable (or replace) them and you might be surprised at how many extra hours of battery life you get on your smartphone.

Have you noticed that even people who drive SUVs avoid the bad sections of the road as much as possible? And to think that SUVs were built to handle tough terrains, right?

Bottomline, condition your battery, especially with the first couple of charging sessions.Thereafter, be sensible with your mobile usage. Just because modern smartphones are all-powerful does not mean that you must run them at full power all the time.

PS: Where all else fails, get the best battery life smartphone available – something with a big battery. Some of us do not like to turn off half of the functionalities of our phones in order to get through a day. Just get the best battery life smartphone in the market.


  1. Wonderful piece. Very few people, surprisingly, know what battery caliberation is all about. Over time, batteries keep a record (so to speak) of charge/discharge cycles and just get used to it. Once again, thanks for the enlightenment.

  2. Nice work Yom. Handy Hearty Advice. True, Battery life Technology is yet to catch up with the mobile OS, UI and Hardware technology. WE are power hungry yet cry foul whenever our battery life give way due to a power hungry rapid consumption!

  3. Good work.

    May I add one of my own? Needless fiddling with your phone especially when you are bored stiff out of doing nothing or in that meeting where your boss has been rumbling for over an hour.

  4. just as i was reading this piece…i went quickly for my task manager to see if i left any app running in the background. Nice work Yomi. this will not only elongate our battery time, but also save our charging time…reducing our energy waste by plugging to the mains for charging all the time.

  5. @archie. But what do you want one to do when one is bored? Needless fiddling has a part to play in a multi-media device. OF course it would reduce battery life quite alright…BUT, How could one go through the Boredom in those instances you mentioned??!!

  6. @ Afewgoodmen

    Count Sheep! ha ha!

    Seriously, you have a choice of fiddling and suffer lower battery or doing something else. I say this cause I am guilty of fiddling too much. I even do so when i can’t sleep. I find using wifi saps more juice than most other things like syncing or apps running in the background.

  7. I have been guilty of fiddling with my mobile device too. It takes weeks to fully explore a device like the N900 before settling down to my normal routine.

    I have spent the last few weeks fiddling so much that I am sure that I am not getting the best battery life out of it yet. The rate at which I’ve been downloading/installing and uninstalling tons of themes, widgets and apps tells me that battery life on the device is actually more promising.

    Also, I observe that the N900 battery is yet to achieve its full potentials, so I am still in the process of conditioning it.

    Lastly, its not only battery life that suffers in the first few weeks of use of a super mobile computer – mobile internet bandwidth does too. I have been through two 3GB plans on MTN in the last four weeks!! Who wants to buy off my N900 so I can get my life (and finances) back?

  8. ‘Who wants to buy off my N900 so I can get my life (and finances) back?’

    Who the cap fits….

    Seriously Yomi, Does the N900 have a battery one can easily buy off the street? Is the form factor regular?

    Buying and swapping batteries of E90, E63, E71 etc is a breeze as they are ubiquitous and common. If a phone battery is not easily available/replaceable then it’s a big disincentive to buy, hold for any reasonable length of time and to dispose off (good second hand value). Remember the non user replaceable battery of the iphone? (What in God’s good earth where they thinking?)

  9. archie,

    The Nokia N900’s battery is a very common one. It is the Nokia BL-5J battery – the very one that powers devices like: the 5800 series, Nokia 5230, Nokia 5235, and Nokia X6 series.

    The N900 is in good company, battery-wise. I wish there was a compatible batteryof 1500 mAh rating though. Yes; I know I said that before….

  10. @archie. I believe non-replaceable batteries have their merits too. Apple operates a policy of returning your iphone or ipod to them for maintenance and battery change. that way, it doesn’t fall into the hand of bad repairers who may damage yoour system. Also, there is quality assurance too. It’s just like a sealed engine. It shouldn’t fail.

  11. Me think its far cheaper to have a user replaceable battery that a buyer can, in a matter of minutes, swap. With the millions of apple devices sold this year i can imagine the deluge of iphones, ipads and co coming in for battery replacement in two to three years time. I cringe imagining the waiting times users will have to endure. Also, remember these phones are made in China and other far east countries cos labour is cheaper. Is apple going to ship these phones back for servicing and battery replacement? Its obviously unlikely, then imagine the cost if it were to be done in the US. I assume that the users will simply throw them away and they may likely find their way to these shores as ‘tokunbo’. I bet Alaba boys will split them open in no time and ‘tweak’ the innards to bring them to life.

  12. @Archie. your point noted. But mind you there are lots of counterfeits of Nokia and Samsung batteries in the market. Sometimes, one gets exasperated just trying to buy a decent battery for one’s phone. I have experienced this!

    And by the way, You do not need to return the bad Apple device battery to china or Asia again for replacement. You just have to return to one of their stores where you bought the device or any accredited dealer only for a token. The batteries and other accessories are already available in the Apple Stores. And they do maintenance for you and change the battery along and return the product back to you. You are sure of quality assurance. The process isn’t as long as you think.

    Of course there are disadvantages in both sides of the divide. I am now used to a operating user non-replaceable battery in my phone/device. I am not complaining because in over 2 years, it has served me well. This is far better than some Nokia and Samsung phones that I have used in the past!

  13. @yomi – well and truly said, the battery of my nokia e5 works like a charm. I use it for at least a day and a half with my email and nimbuzz always connected. Not forgetting whatsapp too. Fine piece probably i could get two days least out of it.

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