Tips on saving battery life (or how to make sure your iPhone never dies tragically in your arms)

theitguy@islandpacket.comMarch 15, 2013 

20121123 Tablet watching

300 dpi Hector Casanova illustration of a person looking at the screen of a tablet device and seeing an image similar to that of looking into two facing mirrors. The Kansas City Star 2012

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CASANOVA — MCT

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Battery technology in all our various gadgets always seems to be the one thing that isn't moving forward. Most phones, tablets and computers are now at least 80 percent battery -- a huge chunk of environmentally unfriendly lithium and carbon.

Because the technology advances in the battery industry come so slowly, manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung have taken the only logical approach to increasing battery life: shrink every other component of the device so as to leave room for as big a battery as possible.

It seems silly to complain about these batteries because of the capabilities they have given us, but it's hard to argue they aren't holding us back.

In any case, lithium-ion batteries aren't going away anytime soon, so it's up to us to squeeze as much life out of a charge as we can. To that end, here are a few tips to do just that (Google for the instructions for your individual device):

LAPTOPS

* Customize energy settings: Make sure you have your computer set to both power off the screen and go to sleep after a reasonable time of idle use. You never know when your attention will be diverted, so a good rule of thumb is to set the laptop's screen to turn off after five idle minutes and the computer to go to sleep after 10 minutes.

  • Reduce screen brightness: This one obviously applies to any device with a screen, which is the component that draws the most power. Turn it down to as dim a setting as you can live with and then be amazed when your battery life improves dramatically.

  • * Turn off backlit keyboards: If you have one, congrats. They're a great feature that I'll never go without again. However, they do come at a cost of draining power. If you are in an in-between area where it's just dark enough to trigger the keyboard's ambient light sensor but still light enough to see the keys, then kill the backlight.

    PHONES/TABLETS

  • Get to know your radios: It's all well and good to have a blazing-fast 4G connection, but of course that uses more power. If you don't use much data or can live with a slower speed, turn your 4G radio off and go back to 3G. This also applies to Wi-Fi. If you're not connected to a hot spot, the phone will eat up your battery constantly scanning for one. Until you need it, turn off Wi-Fi. The same goes for Bluetooth.

  • Take a break from email: Every time your device needs to check for email, that's one more strain on the battery. If you aren't someone who needs to be informed every time an email comes in, change your email client to manually check for email -- in other words, you do it yourself and use much less battery.

  • Tweak your lock screen: It seems like a little thing, but every little bit helps. There's no need for your device to stay on while in your pocket. Set the screen timeout to be as short as possible to avoid wasting power.

  • * Bad vibes: Make sure you are properly using the vibration feature. Oh, I'm sure YOU are, but I've seen more than a few folks out there whose phone beeps and vibrates for a notification. What's the point of that? Turn on vibration when you need your phone to be quiet; otherwise, don't waste the juice.

    Morgan Bonner is pre-press manager and a systems administrator for the Packet and the Gazette.

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