Battery problems and re-charging solutions

In the latest part of our series of posts about what to do when you have problems with your mobile phone we’re looking at batteries and re-charging issues.  What can you do to lengthen battery life?  Are you wasting energy by keeping your mobile powered-up all the time?  And are you doing things that might be damaging your battery by accident? Here are our tips.

Switch it off: A bit extreme maybe, but do you need your phone on all the time?  Leaving the phone switched off when you don’t need to use it is the most efficient way of preserving the battery life.  Actually, there’s a “but” to that, switching the power off and on repeatedly actually drains the battery (especially in our super-sophisticated smartphones), so only switching on your phone when absolutely necessary is the way to go. If you can live with your phone being switched off…

Switch off the vibrate function:  Ah, but you use this when your phone is on Silent, surely that’s not using up much power…no, this depletes battery much more than you would think!

Lower the lights:  Switch off the back light and set the Brightness settings to their lowest level. It’s pretty obvious how much valuable energy is being lost by your phone being lit up, but you might be surprised at how useable it still is with its settings at their dimmest.

Switch off roaming, wi-fi, location services & Bluetooth: In fact, if it’s convenient, put your phone into “flight mode” and a number of battery-consuming functions are immediately switched off. Android phones have a “bedtime” option where you can set them to go into power-saving modes at regular times each day.

Push notifications: Some of these work as energy savers for phones (such as email notifications on mobiles that otherwise keep checking the Exchange server by default when they’re switched on), but many of them are a waste of energy…and pretty pointless anyway.  Do you really need notifications from Bejeweled telling you a new badge has been released?  No, you don’t.

The settings vary across individual applications and different phone models, so it’s worth delving into the phone settings and seeing what options there are.  In a number of cases you should be able to choose an energy-saving “check once an hour” option.

Disable banner ads and picture settings:  Your internet browser should have an option to switch these off – if using Mozilla there is an add-on called “Ad Blocker” that has become hugely popular.

Check what’s running in the background:  Most of us go a bit “app happy” when we get a new phone and download all sorts of apps we never really use.  Get rid of any apps you’re not realistically going to bother with; they could be eating up power when you’re not looking.

Get an app to help you out!  There are several apps that have been designed to help you get the most out of your battery.  The Battery Doctor app for Android shows the battery life as a proper percentage and includes a Task Manager so you can check what’s eating away your power – very useful and an interesting insight into the hidden life of your phone.  There is a similar (and very comprehensive) app for iPhones called Battery Go! Plus.

Make sure you have the most up-to-date software on your phone:  For example, Apple recently released an update to Exchange Calendar that fixed a battery drain reported by many users.

Get rid of the widgets.  The Windows home screen has been so successful it has now been rolled out to PCs, but as visually pleasing as it is, do you really need to see your friends’ latest Facebook updates every time you pick your phone?  This can be switched off.

And don’t use an animated homescreen image:  Yes, some people do.

Keep your phone as close to a good mobile signal as possible:  Strange as it may seem, just having your mobile pointed towards the nearest transmitter will help preserve battery life, as it doesn’t need to work so hard to find a signal.  You don’t need to dig out OS maps to find the nearest mast; just keeping the phone on a window sill will do a good job.

Don’t get over-heated:  Many people keep their mobiles in their pockets where they can get far too warm, which is dangerous to the battery.

Back-up:  Not only is it useful to have a spare in case of emergencies, many people swear by regularly changing the battery over for added life.   It might be worth investing in a spare battery that can be charged up and optimised for regular changeovers.

Only buy replacement batteries from a trusted source:  There are all sorts of batteries for sale online, some of the deals look tempting, but it’s really not worth taking a risk on an unknown brand.

Give it a rest: Once a month, switch off your phone and take out the battery.  Leave it to rest in a cool place for a couple of hours before putting it back in the phone.  It will appreciate the holiday.

Use a good charger:  As with replacement batteries, don’t be tempted by super-cheap re-chargers – only buy from established retailers, otherwise you are at risk of damaging the battery, or at least it over-heating.  Do check the reviews if buying a new one and where possible use the manufacturers’ official chargers.  A plug might look like a good fit and the green bar might be filling up, but a cheap (or just incorrect) charger may be doing long-term damage.

Let the power run right down:  We’re all familiar with the instructions to let the battery completely run out before re-charging, but how many of actually ever do that, other than accidentally?  Doing this regularly (going from 0% to 100% charged) will help to keep your battery healthy.


About Jenny Simpson

Freelance writer specialising in consumer technology and lifestyle matters. A former Journalist, with a long career in online marketing, which began in the Ringtones team at Orange - she's not responsible for Crazy Frog though! Jenny also writes about TV, films, music and digital marketing on her personal blog. Follow Jenny on Twitter: @jennysimpson