MTE Explains: Smartphone Battery Life – Why They Drain So Quickly And Possible Solutions

I just bought a smartphone a few days ago, and there’s one thing I noticed – my older Samsung “dumb” phone has a stunning battery life, but the brand-new phone doesn’t quite hold its own for more than a day after some moderate use. Why does this happen? Aren’t batteries more buffed? We’ll answer these questions and others about smartphone battery life and why it tends to lose charge after so little time.

1. You’re Using The Internet


Your WiFi antenna uses a lot of battery power. Even while you’re not browsing the Web, the antenna will remain active as long as you leave it on. Turning off the antenna when you’re not using your phone will help maintain a healthy battery. On my phone, the WiFi antenna uses the most power. I understand this isn’t the case with all phones, but it’s a general trend. Antennas are very power-hungry pieces of hardware. Don’t put unnecessary strain on your phone.

But here’s one positive thing, using WiFi is much better than using 3G or 4G LTE. While you’re connected to the mobile networks, it takes more time to download things than it would on your private WiFi network. I must also mention that WiFi routers are closer to you than wireless broadband transmitters, most of the time. Because of this, the antenna is working for a longer time and draining considerable amounts of power. The distance aspect also adds to the amount of power required to make a transaction. So, if you must download something, download via WiFi wherever possible.

2. You’re Using A Computer With A Tiny Battery


Take a good look at a smartphone’s internal hardware. It’s quite a beast! There’s a CPU (quad-core on higher-end models) that is normally used on larger devices, a significant amount of flash memory, SD cards, multiple wireless antennas, a digitizer, and a back-lit screen. Phones are packing more hardware while making very unimpressive improvements in battery technology. There’s not much you can do except make a super-thick phone with a 3700 mAh Li-Ion battery; and no one really wants to carry around a brick.

Laptop batteries have thousands of mAh, ranging from a low 3000 to a high 6000. Phones typically have smaller batteries. Since the dimensions are so limited, manufacturers are forced to pack batteries with smaller capacities than those found in laptops. Granted, CPU technology in smartphones is different (ARM architecture, which uses less power and costs less to produce). But even with a CPU that chews up less of your battery, you can still expect a battery life of less than a day with heavy use.

3. Faster Internet Speed = More Downloads


You might not notice it, but with faster Internet speed, you are downloading more things. And all these downloads take up more battery power than you realize. Basically, the more bandwidth you use, the more battery power you suck up. The continuous cycle of downloading will also wear the battery down faster.

So, How Do You Extend Smartphone Battery Life?

The answer to this question will always be tough. Each phone has its own disadvantages, so there’s no real way to determine what’s really eating up all your juice. iOS is great at managing your apps so they don’t consume unnecessary battery power. Android makes it easy through a battery management screen (Settings -> About Phone -> Battery Use). Just look at the screen and see where you can improve. But that’s not all. There’s also an app out there  for Android called Battery Doctor. This app gives you more detailed diagnostic information that’s considerably more useful.

There’s also an iOS version and Windows Phone 8. The Windows version is rather rudimentary and not as fun to use, but it gets the job done.

Here are a few tips that will work on any phone:

  • As mentioned earlier, minimize your use of antennas (3G/4G, WiFi, GPS).
  • Try using high-speed WiFi instead of 3G/4g. It’s faster and therefore uses your antenna for less time.
  • Use push notifications. If your email provider supports it, enable it. Polling the inbox for messages every once in a while will drop your battery level unnecessarily.
  • Get rid of all the widgets you can possibly do without. They’re apps that are open 24/7. Do you really need them all?
  • Keep the phone at a place where its radio signal (determined by signal bars) is strong. Weak signals require more antenna power to maintain a connection. The same goes for WiFi.
  • Take your phone out of your pocket when in cool places. Li-Ion batteries are more efficient when colder.
  • Dim the screen just a little, if you can.
  • Close as many apps as possible.
  • Be mindful of how much activity you have on your phone. Use it only when you need it.

Of course, we all know it’s very fun to use a smartphone! But try resisting the urge to tweet every station you stop at while you’re on the bus. Behavior moderation is the best way to keep the phone alive for the longest possible period of time.

Got Any Other Tips?

Tell us about about your own battery-saving tips. Let us know in the comments section below what you’ve done to save your smartphone battery life.

Image credit: Samsung battery

Miguel Leiva-Gomez
Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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