How to improve battery life...

| Friday, March 5, 2010
One of the major "problems" we have with the Motorola Droid is, of course, the battery life. I put "problems" in quotes because the phone lasts a pretty good while if you use it like you would use a lot of other smart phones. But the problem lies within the fact that Droid Does. If that sounds like a stupid marketing line that I slickly inserted into this post...well, it probably is.

Anyhow, with all of the things that Droid truly does, we tend to use it more and more. When you think of bad battery life, think about this - what do you use your Droid for? Here is a typical day for me:

- Check POP eMail with K-9 app every 30 minutes
- GMail pushed to my account every time I get an email
- Play a few games of Homerun Battle 3D
- Post at least two blog posts from the phone browser
- Have a Twitter client running and checking feeds every 30 minutes
- Three RSS feed widgets (I use FeedR) bringing me Android news to pass on to my (few) loyal followers
- Weather and news Widget using GPS and updating every 30 minutes to check weather and custom news topics
- Some phone calls
- Hundreds of text messages
- Various other misc things

Now my previous phone was an LG enV3 that would last about 3 days on a full charge. I get maybe 10-12 hours out of my Droid on a daily basis. But this is what my list looked like with the LG enV3:

- Hundreds of text messages
- Some phone calls

See the difference?

So let's get to the point of the post: how do we squeeze what little juice we have to last most of the day? The first thing you need to do make a shortcut somewhere to the battery life so you can check it at the end of each day before you put the phone on the charger. Long press somewhere, hit shortcuts, system settings, and battery usage.

1. The biggest drain on battery life is almost ALWAYS the screen. So almost all power saving options are going to revolve around the screen/display. If you get to the end of the day and the number one cause of battery drain isn't the display there is probably something wrong. The problem with the display is we want to use the gorgeous screen to it's fullest...the Paris Hilton sex tape just doesn't look the same when you can barely see the screen.

The best way to save power over all is to hit the power button and lock the phone IMMEDIATELY after you finish using the phone. So if I get a text message, I reply then lock the phone to shut off the screen. I have my screen timeout set to one minute, but it never sees that one minute.

Another way to save battery is to adjust the brightness of the screen. You can do this quickly by long pressing the homescreen and going to widgets > power. The far right button cycles through the brightness settings, and you can keep it as low as you can tolerate during the day. Personally, I ignore my own advice here and keep mine set to autobright.

Yet another way to keep your screen usage down is if you are using a third part messaging application like Handcent or Chomp, to turn off the "screen on when pop up" option. If you miss the text message and it's in your pocket, that's 20 seconds or more at a time that your screen is lit up when you're not using it. If you are driving or working and you can't get it to the text immediately, that could be 5-10 minutes of full bright screen on that is unnecessary.

2. Another great way to save battery is to underclock your phone's processor (CPU) in certain situations. This particular option is a little more complicated than turning off the screen, because your phone must be rooted to do it. If you want to root your phone, please take a look at this well thought out and amazing guide (coincidentally I wrote it, surprise surprise) here. If you want to root and install custom roms and whatnot, just read the whole thread.

Once you install SetCPU (as described in the above thread) you can overclock and underclock your phone. There are more technical details described in that thread, but essentially what I do is underclock the phone to say 400MHz or less with a minimum of 250MHz (stock the phone is set to 550MHz) in certain situations. I underclock mine when the phone is sleeping, when the battery gets hot (usually about 39-40C), and when the battery is under 30%. You wouldn't believe how much battery this saves...why does the phone need to be working at max capacity when it's not even being used? Some people set the sleep profile to a min and max of 250MHz.

3. Turn off Bluetooth when you're not using it. Again if you have the standard power widget somewhere, you can turn Bluetooth on and off as needed. If I keep Bluetooth on all day but don't actually use it in a call or anything, it still amounts to about 5% of my total battery usage. If you figure 10 hours of battery life, 5% of your battery is approximately 30 minutes. It should be noted that turning off GPS and Sync is not recommended. The GPS never shows up in battery usage unless you are actively using it (like Google Maps, etc). If you turn off Sync you won't get your GMail etc.

4. Other people also swear by the app Screebl to save battery life. It uses the orientation of the phone to shut it off, etc. I personally don't use it because I always shut mine off.

5. Check your running services. How many widgets that automatically update every 30 minutes, for example, do you have running but never actually use?

6. Monitor your GPS usage. If your GPS icon is flashing when you aren't using a program it is really killing your battery quickly. Go back into that program or running services (via the menu > settings) and shut that program down. If your browser seems to keep the GPS on, don't use Google as your default home page. Make your home page about:blank and simply use the search hard button to do your searches.

7. Lastly, and it doesn't really help you save battery, but try to make sure you have extra chargers to plug in while driving or just sitting around. Personally I bought a second OEM battery for about 20 bucks from eBay and a slim wall charger (cordless) for another 20 bucks and keep one battery charging at almost all times. The batteries for the phone are pretty slim so I don't even notice an extra one in my pocket, and with the cordless wall charger you don't have to charge one battery at a time while it is in the phone. If you are a little shorter on cash you can forgo the wall charger I mentioned and get a cheap knockoff battery from eBay for 3-4 dollars. I actually have a cheap OEM knockoff battery, and it doesn't last as long as the actual Motorola one, but it gives me about 4-5 hours of charge which is easily enough to top off whatever my OEM battery came up short.


BostonBill said...

Hmmm, 250 min and max on sleep profile. That is the lowest max I have seen recommended. Appears to make sense.

Brent Harman said...

Thanks! Makes a lot of sense. I went carefully through your "Complete How-to..." post on and picked up a lot of great tips. Again, much thanks!

Matthew Jones said...

Great, I'm glad :)

As for 250 min and max...personally I use 250/550 because I don't want it to lag for even a millisecond when I unlock it.

Anonymous said...

How do I check "running services"?

Very good article!



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