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How to make your smartphone battery last longer

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The days when cell phones could survive for a week on a single charge are dead and gone in this era of increasing technology. Sure, the phones of yesterday could last what seems like eons between charges, but they also could do little more than make phone calls. Today’s phones are a modern marvel, pocket-size computers that allow us to play 3D games, snap photos of our food, video chat with friends and navigate around the world without ever stopping to ask for directions (aside from Siri that is). Unfortunately, the battery duration on most smartphones has yet to catch up with the high battery consumption that has become a hallmark of most apps and features in the modern world.

Here’s our guide for how to make your cell phone battery last longer so you can stretch and extend the time span between charges. Also, don’t forget to check out our comprehensive cell phone reviews and accompanying specs if you’re looking to pick up a phone equipped with a marathon-like battery. We always consider battery life as an integral and important part of our review process.

  1. Power Down: Obviously this isn’t always an option, but if you don’t have reception, are going to sleep, or it’s after business hours then turning your phone off is the easiest way to save battery life.
  2. Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are power-hungry features so disable them when they’re not in use.
  3. Turn off vibrate and keytones: Swinging a little weight is a lot of work and a premiere power drainer. Switch off your cell phone’s vibrate function and consider switching off your keytones if you can live without them. You can also set your ringtones to a low volume to save extra juice.
  4. No flash photography: Avoid using the flash on camera phones. The little flashes are powerful and therefore use lots of energy, especially if you take multiple shots in a row. In fact, same goes for the camera as well.
  5. Lower screen brightness: Cell phones can save power this way just like laptops. You probably won’t be able to decrease it by more than 50%, but your eyes will adjust to a moderate decrease. Also consider setting the display brightness to adjust automatically.
  6. Close applications: Apps consume battery power as long as there open. Shut apps down if they’re not in use, including nonessential apps running in the background. We recommend Wakelock Detector as a great way for Android users to check out individual app usage statistics. Apple users can double-tap the Home button to access recently used apps, some of which run in the background.
  7. Phone calls only: Playing games, watching video, scrolling through pictures, and cruising the Internet will all suck up your power. If you only have a sliver of battery life left then save it for phone calls. Avoid Facetime and other forms of video chatting while you’re at it.
  8. Don’t search for a signal: Your phone will continually search for a signal in areas with poor reception. Either turn the phone off, switch it to airplane mode or think about purchasing a signal amplifier for better reception in dead zones.
  9. Don’t let it die: Avoid placing unwanted strain on your battery by charging it before it fully discharges of its power.
  10. Keep it out of the heat: Don’t leave your phone in a hot car or anywhere with hot temperatures if it can be avoided. There is an optimum temperature range cell phones function at.
  11. Turn off GPS Tracking: Triangulating your position via radio waves and satellites will eat away at your battery like no other. Try to use it only when navigation and location services are key.
  12. Limit the screen timeout. Most cell phone screens will stay lit for a specified period of time after receiving input such as a swipe or tap. Set the timeout to the shortest available in your settings so the display will essentially go into a sleep mode when not in use.
  13. Turn off notifications and syncing. Notifications and background syncing aren’t crucial to use your phone, but the constant updating and displaying of messages consumes a good deal of energy. Limit your notifications to what’s actually important and keep automatic syncing to a minimum.
  14. Update apps regularly. While not always the case, many apps are often updated to increase their battery efficiency and utilize less power. Switch on automatic updates or download them manually if you want greater control over the updating process.
  15. Purchase an external cell phone battery. It can’t hurt to have a backup battery for when all else fails. Below our some of our favorites available on the market.

Jackery BarJackery Bar ($40): Jackery offers a few external batteries in its product line, but the Bar is definitely the one to pick up if you’re looking for an external cell phone pack. The pack is small and portable and touts fairly quick charging speeds as well as three LCD charge status indicators and enough juice to power your phone for an extra 100 hours or so. You’ll have to supply your own USB cable — the product doesn’t come bundled with any — but this allows compatibility with everything from the iPhone 5 to Windows phones.
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Iogear High Capacity Mobile Power Station ($60): Bigger and badder than the Jackery Bar, the Iogear’s slim, external battery pack features dual USB outputs and a bundled micro USB cable that is compatible with most standard cell phones. It can charge from both USB and AC, boasts a high-capacity 6,600-mAh output, and is capable of also charging more power-hungry devices such as the iPad and other tablets. The separate power adapter remains a drawback, but the station charges relatively quick and can do so while charging two phones in tandem.

What do you think of your tips on how to make your cell phone battery last longer? Pretty straightforward right? Let us know if you have any other suggestions in the comments below.

Article originally published Dec. 2009. Updated April 22, 2013.