5 Tips: Stretch Smartphone, Tablet Battery Life

Waiting out the winter storm? Here's how to make your mobile device's battery last until the electricity comes back on.
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Today's mobile devices rely on rechargeable batteries. Most smartphones, tablets, and laptops use lithium-ion or lithium-polymer batteries to provide power. Some devices are better at managing power than others, but users -- and apps -- still play a big role in draining those batteries.

Here are some tips to help you stay powered up and connected while cleaning up in Nemo's wake.

1. Lower Screen Brightness.

The screen uses the most power. Hardware makers generally set their battery life guidelines based on brightness settings of about 50%. Rather than use the auto-brightness setting, which adjusts the display's brightness to match the amount of ambient light nearby, use the manual controls. I generally keep the displays of my mobile devices set to between 25% and 30% brightness. That's still plenty bright for indoor use, and even during the day, when it's sunny out. If you're going to be in a dark room, such as your home or office, adjust it down further to lengthen the battery life even more.

[ Wish your iPad lasted longer on one charge? Read 5 Tips: Maximize New iPad Battery Life. ]

2. Use Wireless Radios Sparingly.

After the screen, the wireless radios in mobile devices are the second worst culprits in draining battery life. Although it requires futzing with the controls, you can easily maximize battery life by adjusting radios. First, know what networks are available and how your device will use them. All modern smartphones and some tablets have cellular radios in addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Most devices will connect to known Wi-Fi networks by default if they are available and skip the cellular network. This is good because it helps preserve battery life. If your home or office has lost power, and there's no Wi-Fi available, turn Wi-Fi off. Also, make sure that the Bluetooth radio is off unless you're actively using a Bluetooth accessory, such as a keyboard or headset.

3. Turn Off Notifications.

Notifications wake the screen, vibrate the device, sound an alarm, or cause a little red light to blink. These all drain power, even if only a little bit. Although each manage notifications a little differently, all of the major mobile operating systems -- Android, BlackBerry OS, iOS and Windows Phone -- let users turn off or otherwise minimize incoming notifications. Take advantage of this option to save power.

4. Turn Off Location Services.

After managing cellular radios, wisely managing location services is key to good battery life. Most devices access location through three different avenues: GPS, cellular or Wi-Fi. Each can be turned on or off separately on most devices, which is helpful for tweaking power consumption. Turn GPS off completely, as it drains the most power. Turn off cellular location if you can. If you absolutely must have some form of location service active, keep Wi-Fi on. Once again, Wi-Fi is the best way to save battery life. If you're going to stay home all day you can turn off all three.

5. Sync Email And Other Data Less Often.

When mobile devices wake up to check for email or other synced data such as calendar events, they slurp power. The more often the device checks for data, the more power it consumes. To save battery life, turn push email off entirely -- set it to manual, rather than have the device sync it automatically once every 15, 30 or 60 minutes. This way the device will check for mail only when you open your email app, rather than constantly. You can do the same with social networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter and myriad other apps that rely on network connections for data.

With these handy tips under your belt, your mobile device should last plenty long enough to keep you informed until the power comes back on.

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