Smartphone battery life: 20 ways to juice it up

Smartphones perform more tricks than ever, but battery technology hasn't kept up. Try these tips to keep your phone powered up for longer.

Manage your hardware

In the old days, mobile phones had only one radio for making voice calls. Besides a radio to handle regular cellular voice and data services, today's smartphones can also have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and sometimes GPS radios.

9. Turn off unused radios. Switched-on radios use power even if they're not being used. Learn where on your smartphone to turn off each specific radio. On most Windows Mobile devices, for instance, if you press and hold down the Home button, a dialog box appears in which you can easily turn radios on or off.

10. Watch the time. Cellular radios work harder when a lot of people are accessing the network. "Calling at three in the morning uses less battery than calling at supper time," says Cadex Electronics CEO Buchmann. Granted, calling at 3:00 in the morning probably isn't convenient for you or the person you're calling, but if you're an early bird on the West Coast, 7 a.m. might be the perfect time to call a contact on the East Coast.

11. Know where you are. Buchmann notes that radios work harder in areas in which there is a lot of electrical "noise." That means you'll use less power in an outdoor park than in a shopping mall or hospital, where a lot of electrical devices are in use.

Radios also work harder to find signals in areas with spotty or nonexistent coverage. If you are in an area with poor coverage and you aren't expecting messages, turn your radios off.

12. Slow down. Using 3G services such as HSPA or EV-DO requires more power than older, slower 2.5G services such as EDGE or 1xRTT. Not all applications require the utmost speed; you're unlikely to notice much difference between 2.5G and 3G service, for instance, for checking e-mail. Some phones, such as Apple's iPhone 3G, enable you to switch to slower access to save battery power. Learn if your phone has that option, and if so, use it when appropriate.

13. Use a corded headset. Bluetooth headsets have their own radio, which uses up battery power. Switching to a corded headset, which doesn't use a separate radio, and you'll be talking after others' batteries have run dry.

While you may not look as cool, Best Buy's Meister points to one additional benefit. "Some people think you get better audio quality with wired headsets," he says.

14. Use auto shut-off. Some devices, such as BlackBerries, have a setting that shuts off your device at a specific time. "It'll automatically power the phone off at, say, 11 p.m. and turn it back on at 7 a.m.," says Andrew Bocking, director of handheld software product management at BlackBerry maker Research In Motion. "That way, you don't have to remember."

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David Haskin

Computerworld
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