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What you can do when your Android battery is draining

We love our phones, Android and otherwise, so it’s inevitable we push the batteries to their limits. Especially in moments when we’re lost, so we’re looking at a GPS app while texting a friend, and also playing soothing music to help keep ourselves together, while forgetting to close Twitter. Maybe that’s more of a personal experience, but still, phone batteries need to be reliable so our phones can be reliable too.

So it’s the worst when your phone battery suddenly starts plummeting.

Android operating systems like Oreo are designed to reduce the amount of power background apps use on the phone, and earlier operating systems like Marshmallow and Nougat use less battery in Doze mode, the mode your phone enters when the screen is locked. But what if you can’t update to an OS that automatically does that? Or what if your Android phone is draining regardless? Does that mean you have to buy a new battery?

It really doesn’t. There are several things you can do to keep your Android battery from draining, and most of them are built right into your phone. So before you assume the worst and spend money on a new battery, try some of the tips below, and see if you can’t improve your current battery life with just a few changes.

Check which apps drain your battery

Android has a great built-in feature that keeps track of how much battery power each of your apps uses. Just go to Settings >> Device >> Battery or Settings >> Power >> Battery Use, or Settings >> Device >> Battery, depending on your version of Android OS, to see a list of all your apps, and approximately how much battery power each is using. See which apps use the most, and think about how often you use them.

Uninstall unused/rarely used apps and widgets

Think of it as spring cleaning for your phone; periodically look over all of your apps, and all of the widgets on your Android home screen, and decide if the ones you rarely use are worth keeping installed. Some apps run in the background when you’re not using them, and all widgets do in order to stay updated, so if you’re not using them, get rid of them. Or, upgrade or alter them to make them less draining; don’t let apps that use location services access your location except when the app is open, and make the weather widget only track local cities, so your phone uses less power to report temperatures for you.

Also, consider purchasing the premium version of an app if it runs ads—ads use up battery life, so premium could end up saving you on battery costs, even if it costs you a few dollars at the moment. You can look over all of your apps under Settings >> Apps >> All, where you can also uninstall them all in one menu, and you can uninstall widgets by pressing and holding one you don’t need, and drag it to the trash can icon. Your Android battery will thank you for it.

Don’t force close apps unless you need to

Android devices come with a handy feature when apps get a little buggy, and need to be shut down; you can force quit them. This feature works like the Task Manager does on your computer. You can see all of the programs running, and quickly shut down the problematic one, saving your device some effort, and possibly even battery life.

However, this feature should not be used regularly. It may seem like a convenient way to close many apps at once, but doing so messes with the memory algorithms that keep your phone working. Force quitting often may actually damage battery life, rather than save it. So close apps the usual way, and save force quitting for when it’s really necessary.

Use Airplane Mode strategically

Airplane Mode can be your best friend when it comes to battery preservation. In places with low signals, your phone will drain its power trying to stay connected and operational. Going into Airplane Mode stops your phone from trying to connect, and allows it to still access Wi-Fi should you encounter it. (Pro tip: Turning off Wi-Fi connectivity doesn’t always save battery, as your phone uses more power connecting for data than wireless!)

Airplane Mode can also, therefore, be useful when you’re not actively using your phone. Try turning it on while you’re sleeping, or when you won’t be looking at it for a long time, like at a conference or during a road trip when you don’t need GPS. This will help you not look at your phone before bed, or when you should be focusing on something else, in addition to helping your battery. It’s also a handy trick if you don’t have a charger with you for a long time, helping your phone survive until you absolutely need it.

Think about how, and how much, you charge

Many of us may remember the time when phone batteries needed to completely discharge and hit 0 percent in order to function properly. Today’s lithium-ion batteries don’t have that requirement, and in fact, you should only let your phone battery die about once a month. Letting the phone get to 0 percent, and having a full charge helps your Android OS remember what battery percentages mean (preventing your phone from staying on 2 percent for a long period of time, and instead accurately reporting your battery level), but constantly letting a battery go from completely full to completely empty can damage it over time.

Ideally, your phone should always be more than 40 percent charged, and it shouldn’t be allowed to charge at 100 percent for a long period of time either. Keep your battery between 40 and 80 percent for the best possible results with your Android phone.

On top of that, use a certified or original Android charger to charge your Android phone. Android devices are designed to be most compatible with Android cables, allowing for fast charging, and also insurance in case of damage. If your phone or phone battery is worsened or harmed by a third-party charger or charging cable, Android can’t help you with your device. Better to use official merchandise, rather than the cheap kind, to keep your battery intact, and keep it from worsening.

Keep up with software updates

Android sends out periodic updates to keep on top of bugs and fixes with Android devices. Some of these fixes help extend battery life, so make sure you at least occasionally download them to your phone so you can benefit from these advancements. A great example is what we already talked about with Android OS Oreo managing background apps, and OS’s Marshmallow and Nougat improving the efficiency of battery use in Doze mode. Update your phone now to make sure you’re getting all the benefits possible.

Use Power Saver/Battery Saver mode

By going into Settings >> Power, you can manually go into Power Saver or Battery Saver Mode, a mode that keeps animations pared back, stops background syncing, and turns off location services even in apps that allow it on when in use in order to keep your battery alive a little longer. You can set your phone to automatically enter this mode at the battery percentage of your choosing, such as 5 percent or 15 percent, allowing you to not have to worry your phone is draining away in your pocket without your knowledge.

Some Android phones even have an extreme power-saving mode, where data connectivity turns off when your screen turns off, and notifications, GPS, auto sync, and Bluetooth are all deactivated. Only text messaging, email, and the clock are allowed to run, which takes only a little bit of power, extending your battery life. Activate Saver/Battery Saver Mode, or its extreme version, whenever you need to in order to keep your battery from draining away.

Turn off GPS and location tracking

GPS apps tend to be some of the biggest battery drainers on smartphones, Android phones included. Your phone can track your location even when you’re not using these apps though, and that can drain your battery as well. Swipe down to your Quick Settings menu on your Android phone to turn it off—next time you enter Google Maps, you’ll be prompted to reactivate it, and in the meantime, you’ll keep from draining your battery by just moving around.

Individual apps can also request location in order to be more accurate with results, or to offer certain services. You can see which apps recently requested your location by going to Settings >> Location, which will also let you know how much battery power it took to get that location. If some apps seem to be demanding more power than necessary, you can adjust settings within the apps and adjust permissions so location services aren’t active all the time, or aren’t active at all. Power Saver Mode turns off location services altogether to help prevent battery drain.

Turn off notifications

Apps love to ask you if you’d like to get notifications from them the first time you use them. For many social media and news apps, it’s tempting to say yes, so you can stay on top of information, and correspondence from people. But it takes battery power to turn on your screen and let you know something is happening within an app, so consider turning off notifications for very active apps, or for all apps altogether. You can decide by going to Settings >> Apps, and unchecking “Show notifications” for ones that you don’t want wasting battery. Later Android OS’s let you get even more fine-tuned with it, letting you adjust the notification level for each app, which can allow a notification to happen silently, without activating the screen. This can be found in Settings >> Device >> Notifications, or, in Android 8, in Settings >> Apps & Notifications for even more options on push notifications.

To keep all notifications from activating your screen, you can deactivate Ambient Display in Settings >> Display. Doing so will keep your Android phone screen from turning on no matter what information the app has to share with you. Keeping your screen dark most of the time is a great way to save battery.

Keep your screen dimmer and darker

Your phone uses a lot of energy to stay on, and stay on at a certain brightness. Android has an “automatic brightness,” or more recently “adaptive brightness” mode that is better for looking at your phone in different kinds of lighting, and better for your battery, as it allows the phone to occasionally dim to an easier-to-power level. This mode can be activated in Settings >> Display, and takes a lot of the guesswork out of where to set the brightness. Manually dimming your phone in the Quick Settings menu has its place though, primarily when your battery is getting dangerously low, and you need time to reach a charger.

Light display is part of using your screen in a smarter way, but so is the actual display your phone is showing you. Android supports animated phone wallpapers, but static ones use a lot less battery power. Pick one you like in Settings >> Display >> Wallpaper. Also, you can shorten the amount of time your phone screen stays on before it automatically goes dark. Go to Settings >> Display to adjust screen timeout, and think about setting it between 10 to 20 seconds, and adjust it for those times you need to look at a recipe, or consult a set of instructions.

Keep your phone cool

There’s a reason computer labs tend to have good climate-control systems; you don’t want computers to overheat, and therefore overexert themselves, and their power systems. The computer you have in your pocket, your smartphone, is no different. Keep your smartphone on the cool side as much as you can. Leaving it outside, or in a sunny windowsill will make your phone work harder and will damage the battery over time too, whether the phone is idle or not. Keep your phone in a dark, cool place when you can to avoid the Android warning of your phone overheating.

If your phone battery is still draining…

…and you’ve done all of the above steps, there are still things to try before you make that expensive new battery purchase. Restarting your phone can sometimes be the kick it needs to reorient its understanding of the battery, and it can stop any battery-hogging background processes that are causing the drain in the first place. Even if that doesn’t work, you can also back up your phone, and try a factory reset. A factory reset can be done on an Android device by going to Settings >> System >> Reset options. Again, make sure your phone is completely backed up before you do it, or you’ll have to get all your contacts, notes, apps, and other information back by hand!

Android does a lot to help your battery last a long time, offering many ways to keep your battery usage down in a customizable way. Make sure you take advantage by following these tips and tricks, so you can get the most use out of your battery, and save yourself some money in the long run. After all, taking care of your battery, and your Android phone, will help it take care of you!

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