Tag Archives: battery life

Exposing 5 Common Battery Myths

By Tracey Dowdy

There are plenty of hacks for conserving battery power, but not all hacks are created equal. In fact, as technology has advanced from the early days of mobile phones, many of the tips and tricks we’re using to improve battery life are simply not effective any more, if they ever were.

We all know turning down your screen brightness, disabling location services from unnecessarily running in the background and switching to airplane mode to keep your phone from searching for signals will all extend battery life. However, you may have been doing things like letting the battery completely run down before recharging or killing apps to extend that battery life. Does that really help?

Check out these common myths about batteries to find out.

Myth #1 – You need to fully charge the battery before using a device for the first time.

Nope. The idea of charging to 100% before first use goes back to when fully charging the battery helped the battery to calibrate. These days, smartphones, tablets and laptops today are equipped with lithium ion batteries that calibrate themselves.

Myth #2 You can overcharge a battery by leaving it plugged in too long.

Nope again. Lithium ion batteries also recognize when they are fully charged. When your battery reaches 100%, charging automatically stops and the power is cut off. Older batteries weren’t as “smart,” so leaving them plugged in too long could lead to overheating which was bad for long-term battery life. Side note: Overheating is still a possibility if you use a phone case that doesn’t allow the heat to dissipate.

Myth #3 – You should allow the battery to drain completely before recharging.

The truth is allowing your battery to drain completely every day will reduce its effectiveness over time. Batteries have a limited number of charge cycles in their lifetime and allowing the battery to drain to zero counts as a full charge cycle. Older nickel cadmium and nickel-metal hydride batteries would “forget” their capacity, so in order to fully charge, they first had to fully drain. Lithium ion batteries don’t have the same memory issue, but experts do recommend draining to 0% and then fully charging every one to three months to help with calibration.

Myth #4 – You can only use the “official charger” that came with the device.

Yes and no. Obviously the charger supplied by the manufacturer is ideal, but as anyone who has ever owned an iPhone will tell you, those chargers sometimes have the life cycle of county fair goldfish. If you do need a replacement or even a back up charger, it’s not necessary to buy the identical charger as a replacement. Modern USB chargers are standardized and often the only difference you’ll find is in the time it takes for the device to recharge. On the other hand, and it’s a big hand, be very careful of cheap knock-off chargers. You can trust off-brand manufacturers like Belkin or KMS, but if you’ve never heard of the brand and it’s at a price that seems too good to be true, it generally is.

Myth #5 – Closing apps on your phone extends battery life.

Since our phones function as tiny computers it’s natural for you to think that the operating systems would work the same way as our laptops and tablets. And you’d be wrong. When you leave an app, your phone pauses it in its current state, storing it in the phone’s RAM. And though they show up in your task manager, apps aren’t actually draining the battery. So, when you kill an app, you’re actually taking it out of the phone’s memory and forcing it to find and reload when you open and launch the app again.

Keep in mind that with improvements in cell phone contracts, many people don’t hang on to phones more than two years. As a result, the lifecycle of the battery isn’t as critical as it is for devices like tablets and laptops that we tend to own for longer periods of time.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

How To Extend the Battery Life of an iPhone or iPad

By Tracey Dowdy

There’s few things that strike fear in my heart more than the dreaded “10% Battery Remaining” notification popping up on my iPhone. Despite the fact I work from home most days and spent the first 30 years of my life without a cell phone, that message gives my heart a little flutter.

Every time Apple releases an iOS update they tweak usage a little, so it’s a good idea to review your settings to make sure you’re getting the most out of your battery. There are a few simple fixes you can make from your Home Screen: disabling Bluetooth and Air Drop, lowering the brightness of your display, turning off Wi-Fi or switching to Airplane mode if you’re travelling. Your phone’s antenna is constantly looking for Wi-Fi service and switching to flight mode can save significant battery power.

Here are few other tips to get the most life out of your iPhone and iPad battery charge.

Switch to Low Power Mode. When your phone reaches 20% power you automatically get a pop up giving you the option to switch to Low Power Mode. Apple says it will provide up to 3 hours of additional battery life. When it’s active you don’t have access to Hey Siri, Mail fetch, background refresh, automatic downloads and some visual effects but you can easily switch in and out of Low Power Mode if you need any of those features. You can switch to Low Power Mode even if your battery isn’t at 20% or lower if you know it will be a while before you can charge again.

Delete the Facebook app. Facebook got into some hot water last year when it was reported they had apps running in the background even when the app wasn’t in use or Background Refresh had been disabled. They reportedly fixed what they called a “glitch” but there still seems to be issues. A report in The Guardian states that deleting the app and accessing Facebook through Safari can add 15% to your battery life. To see how much power it uses, go to Settings>Battery and check the Battery Usage. The app used a whopping 38% of my battery in the past 24 hours. That’s a big number.

Review Your Notifications. Every time your phone gets a Notification it wakes your phone for 5-10 seconds. That can add up if you have Notifications enabled for a lot of your apps or even one or two apps that send frequent Notifications. Go to Settings>Notifications and then select which apps you want Notifications from.

Turn Off Location Services. Many apps use location services and while it makes sense for Maps to know where I am, it doesn’t make sense for IMDB. Go to Settings>Privacy>Location Services and toggle off for each app that doesn’t need to know where you are.

Turn Off Auto-Updates. One handy new feature in iOS 7 was an auto-update so that your apps are always current when you open them. Again, this means your phone is pulling battery power for them even when those apps aren’t in use which means draining your power. Go to Settings> iTunes & App Store>Automatic Updates and select what needs auto-updating and which you prefer to update manually.

A final tip, Apple recommends draining the battery to zero every once in awhile such as every 4-6 weeks. Calibrating your battery allows the device to estimate its battery life more accurately and though it won’t make your charge last longer if you’re down to 5%, it will extend the lifespan of the battery.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Fixes for Common iPhone Issues

By Tracey Dowdy

Having a smartphone has put a calendar, a camera and a music library in our pockets. I depend on mine for everything from online banking and scheduling appointments to snapping photos at a wedding last weekend.

I love my phone and am absolutely dependent on it, but because I use it so frequently and for so many purposes, I run into three issues fairly frequently: lack of storage, battery drain, and cutting it close on my data usage. These tips and tricks have helped me work around those issues and make the most of my iPhone.

Storage

Problem
I have a16G iPhone 5C. The catch is that with the operating system and native software factored in, I really only have 12.6G of available storage. Videos, photos, music, messages and apps eat up space so trimming them is the easiest way to free up space.

Solutions
Delete Apps: Go to Settings app > General >Usage > Manage Storage to get an overview of what’s taking up the most space. You can delete any unused or unnecessary apps from within settings by tapping on them in the list. You can also delete apps by holding down the app icon on the home screen. The apps will start to shake and simply tap on the X that appears to delete.
Delete Messages: Swipe left and tap Delete from within your message history.
Delete Photos and Videos: The easiest way to clear out your photos and videos is to open the Camera Roll or Video albums. Tap Select, tap each photo or video you want to delete and then tap the trash can icon.

Battery Drain

Problem
I’m one of those people whose anxiety spikes when my battery level drops below 30 percent. Who am I kidding, I hate when it gets below 50 percent! Several things can contribute to battery level dropping quickly and if you know it’s going to be a while before you can recharge, the following changes can make a big difference.  

Solutions
Lower the Brightness: Lowering the brightness level on your display has a big impact on how quickly your battery drains. Go to Settings>Display>Brightness and slide the cursor to the left.
Turn off Location Services: Location tracking services are a constant drain, as once you’re off Wi-Fi your phone starts searching for the nearest tower. Open Settings> Privacy >Location Services to toggle off.
Close Apps Running in the Background: The fastest way to close apps running in the background is to double tap the Home Button. Your phone will display all the apps currently open, just swipe up to close them. Your other option is to turn off Background App Refresh. Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and toggle off.

Reduce your Data Usage

Problem
Unless you have an unlimited plan, you run the risk of going over your data usage. However, a few simple changes can keep you within your plan’s limits. The most obvious choice is to disable your mobile data and only turn it on when needed but that’s a hassle and there are better ways to reduce usage and prevent those expensive overage charges.

Solutions
Change your Settings: Go to Settings>Mobile>Mobile Data Usage. Two counters are displayed: Current Period and Current Period Roaming which lets you know where you are in your usage since the last time you reset – if ever – the counter. Below the counters is a list of apps using mobile data. Simply scroll through the list and toggle off any apps you don’t want using data when Wi-Fi is unavailable. If you reset the counter each month, you’ll have a fairly accurate picture of where you are in your usage but keep in mind there’ll be some delay.
Change Settings within Apps: Some apps have their own settings that let you chose data or Wi-Fi only. Open the app in Settings and toggle off any you don’t want eating up your usage.
Disable Background App Refresh: Background App Refresh is great if you want updated information when you open your apps. If you’re okay with the information being downloaded just when the app is launched, go to Settings>General>Background App Refresh. You can disable it completely or choose specific apps to restrict.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Tablet vs. Laptop: Which One Is Right for You?

By Tracey Dowdy

Ever since the advent of the tablet, the debate of laptop vs. tablet has raged. Well, maybe not raged, but frequently discussed, occasionally with vehement hand gestures.

Are they interchangeable? Does one perform just as well as the other? Well, yes and no. Before investing in a tablet or a laptop, stop and consider what your needs are and use these tips to determine which device is best for you.

PRICE

For most of us, price is a primary issue. Laptops generally start at $500, whereas a tablet like the Verizon Ellipsis 8 is available for as little as $79.99. Depending on what your needs are, if you’re on a budget, a tablet may be the way to go.

Advantage: Tablet

POWER

Most tablets use a variation of a smartphone operating system. For example, the iPad uses iOS and the Verizon Ellipsis 8 is Android based.  Like many mobile devices, the focus is on touch screens and ease of use. Consider that tablets generally come with 1 GB of RAM or less. Laptops on the other hand come with 4-8 GB of RAM making it much easier to multi-task. Think of your hard drive as a file cabinet and RAM as your desk. Once you pull files from the cabinet, you can spread them out on your desk and jump around. More RAM means faster speeds and better performance, which is especially important for gamers – and by gamers I don’t mean those playing Candy Crush or Kim Kardashian.

Advantage: Laptop

BATTERY

Ah battery life, the bane of our tech existence. To be fair, it’s difficult to compare laptop and tablet battery lives because of the different ways the devices are used. However, if you compare battery specs from the manufacturers you get a better picture of what to expect. The average laptop battery offers roughly 6 hours of continuous use whereas the average tablet offers 10 hours or more. Enough said.

Advantage: Tablet

STORAGE

Another important piece of the puzzle is how much storage you will need. Tablets generally come with 16-64 GB of storage. High-end tablets offer much more, but they also come with a high-end price tag. On the other hand, you can get a laptop with a full terabyte of storage for under $1,000. In fact, storage doesn’t really impact the price of a laptop. Of course, cloud storage is an option for tablets but you’ll need to consider security issues, whether you’re willing to pay a monthly fee, and whether or not you’re disciplined enough to regularly transfer those photos and other data to the cloud.

Advantage: Laptop

DISPLAY

Most newer tablets offer displays of over 250 pixels per inch, with the latest iPad mini coming in at a whopping 326 ppi. That’s why Denzel looks so good on Netflix. Well, that and good genes but I digress. On the other hand, most laptop displays are below 200 ppi, although the number of hi-res laptops is increasing every month. Keep in mind most laptops screens are larger than tablet displays, so that image doesn’t necessarily need to be as crisp.

Advantage: Tablet

CONNECTIVITY

Before making that purchase, think ports and connectivity. Will you want to connect to your home theater system? Will you need to print from your device? HDMI and USB ports are standard on most laptops, not so much with tablets. Likewise when it comes to printers. It’s relatively easy to connect your laptop to a printer, again, not so much with tablets.

Advantage: Laptop

Once you know what your primary needs are, the decision is much easier than you may think. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me ‘splain…No, there is too much. Let me sum up”:

Choose a laptop if you:

  • need high performance – think speed and compatibility
  • need lots of storage
  • will use it as your primary device

Choose a tablet if you:

  • already have a laptop or PC and you’re looking for a companion device
  • primarily want a device for surfing the net and entertainment
  • want something simple.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

How To Get the Most from Your Smartphone Battery

By Tracey Dowdy

Poor battery life is one of the most common complaints of cell phone users. Personally, I feel myself breaking into a cold sweat when I see that battery indicator creeping below 20%. Doesn’t matter if I’m in a crowd surrounded by friends with phones or stranded on a deserted island about to be attacked by a panther…wait, do desert islands even have panthers? Anyway, low battery power makes me nervous.

Good news – it’s an easy problem to solve.

First, the science-y part that will make you feel you’re the smartest: Our cell phones, tablets and laptops use lightweight lithium ion batteries, a feature which is especially important in portable tech. They’re an improvement over past cell/laptop batteries because they hold a charge longer, have no “memory effect” – which means they don’t have to completely discharge – and can be charged roughly 500-1000 times depending on use and the level of care you take with your device.

Secondly, you can extend the life of your battery both short and long term by following these tips:

Don’t let your device overheat. Lithium ion batteries generate heat while they charge and allowing the device to sit in a hot environment – on your deck chair at the pool, in your non-air conditioned car – will impact the life of your battery. Not only will frequent over-heating cause the device to lose its charge more quickly, it will shorten the overall life of the battery resulting in the need to replace it sooner rather than later.
Bottom line: Avoid extreme temperatures – hot or cold – for maximum battery life.

Official chargers are best. Sure you can get a phone charger at the dollar store but do you really want to roll the dice on a $2 charger for your $300 phone? Manufacturers optimize the charger to specific batteries and using the wrong charger can cause damage. Off-brand chargers are generally poorly made and don’t push the necessary power to the battery, which also means it’ll take longer to charge.
Bottom line: Official chargers (from the phone manufacturers) are best; off-brand chargers from manufacturers like Belkin are generally okay; but third party (e.g. dollar store) chargers are not worth it.

Partial vs. full discharge. I always thought it was best to let the battery fully discharge before recharging. That may have worked in theory but in reality it’s rarely convenient. Turns out partial charge cycles are better for your phone than full discharge. Try to keep the 40/80 rule in mind – recharge at 40% and stop charging at 80%. Of course if you’re going to be away from your charger for a long period of time, let it charge to 100%.
Bottom line: Over-charging stresses the battery and stress isn’t any better for battery life than it is for your life.

Keep your software up to date. Smartphone updates include fixes to improve software and hardware performance. While there’s a limit to what impact updates can make on existing hardware, it can make the most of what you have.
Bottom line: Battery life is one of the most common complaints about mobile tech, so developers are constantly working on ways to improve performance.

Disable functions you don’t need. One of the biggest battery zappers is your phone’s GPS. If Location Services is enabled, your phone is constantly searching for cell phone towers and Wi-Fi hotspots. The more it searches, the faster the battery life is consumed. Also, disable Wi-Fi scanning, another battery hog. You’ll have to log in manually, but the pay-off is longer battery life.
Bottom line: If you don’t need it, turn it off.

Adjust Brightness. This one is pretty simple: the brighter the screen the faster the battery drain.
Bottom line: Set Brightness to Auto.

Set your Sleep Timer. Not as in when you go to sleep, but when your phone goes to sleep. Set your phone to go into sleep mode after a minute of inactivity for maximum battery life.
Bottom line: If your screen is active when you aren’t, you’re wasting your battery.

There are many other ways to preserve battery life that are specific to your OS. Take a few minutes to review manufacturer guidelines and change the necessary settings. When it comes to extending battery life, every little bit counts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do a little research on defending ones’ self against desert island panthers. Happy charging!

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.