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How to Improve Battery Life on Your Devices

Tech Talker reveals the best ways to get the most out of the battery in your smartphones, laptops, and other portable devices.

By
Eric Escobar,
May 25, 2012
Episode #030

How to Improve Battery Life on Your Devices

Today we’re going to talk about battery life. Most of the batteries found in today’s electronics are Lithium-ion batteries. This includes the batteries found in cell phones and laptops. These types of batteries act differently than older Nickel-cadmium based batteries. Those Nickel batteries have what’s called a “memory effect” and what that means is they lose their maximum battery life if they aren’t fully discharged every time you use them.

Even though Lithium-ion batteries don’t have this memory effect, there are still some general care guidelines that should be followed in order to keep them alive as long as possible:

Tip #1 – Avoid Heat

The most important threat to your battery is heat. For example, my laptop used to have a respectable 8 hour lifespan. Unfortunately, it decreased to about 2 hours because I left it in my car during the summer for a few hours. Even having your laptop overheat because the fan is blocked may be enough to ruin your battery over time. If you can avoid exposing your batteries to any forms of excessive heat, it will do more to maintain your battery’s overall lifespan than anything else.

Tip #2 – Charge

Unlike the older Nickel-cadmium batteries, the new Lithium-ion batteries do not need to be drained all the way to zero. It’s actually much better for them to be charged around 50%, and then recharged as necessary. And once your device hits 100% charge, try not to leave it plugged in.

Now, I know I just told you not to regularly discharge your battery all the way, but once a month you should fully discharge your battery. This is because many of the batteries in smartphones and laptops will keep track of how much time you have left. Doing a full discharge allows the clock to recalibrate and give you a more accurate estimate of how long your battery will last.

Now that we know the basics of battery care, let’s talk about how you can extend battery life in specific devices.

How to Extend Battery Life in Smartphones

If you have a smartphone, there are a few key things you can do to save your battery. One of the biggest and most obvious ways is to tone down the brightness on your phone screen. This will reduce the amount of backlight needed and will dramatically save you battery life.

Another way is to turn off apps running in the background. Turning off these apps will reduce the work the phone must do and therefore will require less power. Some apps take up more battery life than others. These include location tracking apps (such as your GPS navigation tool), social media apps and fitness tracking apps. I would highly suggest turning these off when you’re not using them. This is because the ability to track your location means that the phone must check with the surrounding cell towers every second to make sure your location is known. This constant checking is a major drain on the battery.

Other things to consider turning off are Wifi, Bluetooth, 3G, and 4G. All of these are ways your device can communicate wirelessly with other devices around it. Having them constantly on can put a real drain on your battery. But you also have to keep in mind convenience. For example, I always keep WiFi, 3G, and Bluetooth on because I know I’ll forget to turn them on and then I’ll sit there scratching my head wondering why my Bluetooth headset won’t connect to my phone! So you need to figure out how often you use these tools and turn them on and off based upon your own personal requirements.

Lastly, if you’re going to be on a plane and want to listen to audio or play a game on your device, I definitely suggest turning your device to airplane mode. This will turn off all forms of wireless communication and save a ton of battery life. Just remember: While airplane mode is enabled on your device, you won’t be able to send or receive any type of communication including calls, text messages, data, or email.

How to Extend Battery Life in Laptops

With laptops, you really don’t have to worry as much about turning off various applications as you do with smartphones.

Similar to smartphones though, turning down your brightness and reducing the number of programs that you have open will definitely help save your battery. The fewer things you have running, the less energy your computer will use.

What will drain battery life on a laptop are any graphics and processor-intensive programs. Here, I’m referring to picture or video editing tools and games that have 3D graphics. These types of programs require a massive amount of computing power which will majorly drain your battery.

Another thing that will diminish your battery is when you attach something to the laptop, such as a flash drive, USB hard drive, mouse, or pretty much anything that requires power. These attached devices act like parasites that will draw energy from your laptop’s battery in order to power themselves.

So here are your Quick and Dirty Tips to getting the most out of your Lithium-ion batteries:

  1. Don’t fully charge or discharge your battery for long periods of time.

  2. Avoid exposing your battery to heat.

  3. Turn off any wireless communication that you’re not using.

  4. Turn off any apps or programs that you’re not using.

  5. Remove any devices that attach to your laptop (USB drive, mouse, etc.)

If you have any other tricks on how to save battery life, feel free to send me an email at techtalker@quickanddirtytips.com.

Or head on over to the Tech Talker Facebook page and post your comments or questions there.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

 Girl with Phone and Guy with Computer images from Shutterstock

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