Mobile drain: how to get more life from your smartphone battery

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Phones do so much, what with the web surfing, phone calls, picture taking, GPS navigation, and so much more, but with all of this going on, how do you keep the battery of a smartphone lasting as long as possible?

When we review smartphones here at GadgetGuy, we have a specific process that tries to emulate real-world phone usage as best as possible: we throw our SIM cards in, use the phone over the course of a battery’s life, and keep some of the wireless connections on the way we would normally use the phone.

But most people don’t need to have wireless connections on all the time, and so we turn some of them off. And not everyone needs their phone to constantly check their mail servers for the latest and greatest email coming in at all hours of the day or on a weekend, nor do they need their phone to keep a link to a global positioning satellite at all times.

For instance, we don’t keep Bluetooth on through our testing because most people use wired headphones, and we don’t keep our GPS setting running all the time because more often than not, people are using dedicated GPS navigators for their cars, and not their smartphones.

Interestingly, it’s often the most unused features that are left on that will drain a battery, so here are four things you should switch off if you want better battery life for that smartphone of yours.


Wireless technologies are getting a lot better on mobiles, but not every Bluetooth chip or driver stack is created equal, and this can spell trouble for devices.

Currently, the Bluetooth 4.0 standard has some pretty good things going for it, such as Bluetooth LE, which means “Bluetooth Low Energy,” even though you find it more commonly named “Bluetooth Smart” in gadgets.

This is, as the original name practically says, a more energy efficient version of Bluetooth, generally connecting only when the device actually needs it, rather than keeping a persistent connection to the wireless device the entire time.

Not many devices are using Bluetooth Smart yet, but we’ll likely see more this year.

Still, that’s not a reason to switch Bluetooth off… but this is: you probably don’t use Bluetooth.

Keeping a connection on when it’s doing nothing is generally unnecessary, and unless you regularly link up Bluetooth earphones, a wireless car system, or are connecting to a smartband or watch, you can just switch this off until you actually need it.


Satellite connectivity is one of the great drains for mobile phones, and ever since manufacturers started adding this feature, the GPS has been a silent killer of battery life.

We don’t test phones with GPS on because while people have a clue where they’re going most of the time and therefore don’t need one for regular walking about, consumers who do need one will generally have a dedicated GPS in their vehicle to use.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use a GPS in your phone — you totally can — but if you’re choosing to, you also likely have a cigarette lighter you can charge your smartphone from.

When you’re walking in the street, however, there isn’t a giant recharging power source hooked up to your phone at all times, and if you keep the GPS on, it could activate while you’re posting on social networks, looking up information to locate where you are for the mapping programs, or even providing geolocation coordinates for pictures and videos you’re capturing (above), the latter of which you’ll likely never need to see ever again (unless you desperately need to know GPS coordinates for where you took a picture of your friends… you do need that, right?).

Generally, it’s good to have a GPS in a phone, but we don’t need this switched on the entire time, so keep it off until you actually need to use it.

Automatic camera uploads

Social networks and cloud storage solutions all tend to come with one really great feature: automatic backups.

Designed to make your life a little easier, this feature basically takes any image you have and sends it to either Facebook or Google Plus on the social side of things, or Dropbox and Google Drive on the cloud storage system whenever the photo has been shot.

And that’s great: who wouldn’t want their photos automatically backed up on the fly? When it happens, the images are already stored some place other than your phone, and even sitting waiting for you to make them public on a social network.

But doing this without you realising it also means that larger quantities of data are being moved frequently, it’s probably best to switch it on.

If you do want to use auto uploading, we recommend making sure it happens only when you’re in range of WiFi, because not only will it consume none of your mobile broadband, but you’ll also probably be closer to a powerpoint in case you need to charge that phone of yours to make up the battery life.

Screen brightness and display time

If you look into battery drains, one of the first things you’ll see is the display on your smartphone.

The truth is, as smartphone screens have been getting bigger in size, and supporting more and more pixels, these displays have become more power hungry.

But the simple solution to ward off this form of battery drain is to set your screen to run on auto-brightness so the screen isn’t at the highest level imaginable, and to use the screen less.

In fact, this last one is very important, and the more you use the screen, the more likely your battery will take a hit. A big hit.

In general, if you have nothing to do, don’t just switch over to your phone and do things for the sake of boredom, otherwise you’ll likely see a reduction in battery life every day.

Sony's Stamina mode could help you get past a day of battery life, which is good, because the screen consumes so much of that precious power.

One more thing…

Most phones these days support a “power saver” mode which will switch off things you might not need, or even slow down the processor a little.

We’ve tested this on an HTC which has one of these modes, while a Sony Xperia handset we played with had both a “Stamina” and a low-battery mode, and a Windows Phone 8 powered device had a battery saver, too, so this appears to be a common thing in the industry.

Generally, these will switch off the vibrating haptic feedback, change the brightness, and turn off wireless settings like GPS, Bluetooth, and even WiFi.

In fact, the power saving modes in a mobile phone are basically a shortcut for the things we’re telling you to switch off, so if you get anything from this article, it’s that the power saving features will improve your battery life, even if you don’t want to manually play with the settings.

The power saving features will help out if you're having issues with staying charged all day.