Smartphone Power Management 101
Oh, the irony: today’s smartphones are packed with exciting new features, but we’re limited on how much time we can play with them all.
Battery life has always been the bane of the smartphone’s existence, which is no surprise given their increasingly powerful processors, multiple wireless radios, and large screens.
“Battery life is a tug of war between supply and demand,” explains Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing at the Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner research and consulting group. “The supply side is based on technology founded before the electronics in which they are found. We have seen some changes in chemistry that have given us some significant bumps but usually the supply side improves no more than about 10 percent per year in the best years.”
Up to now, the demand side has been where battery life has had the most action. That means “lower power chips combined with software that is more intelligent about when to be on or turn off," says Dulaney. "It is the demand side where most of the progress will occur in battery life.”
Sure, some smartphones (and for that matter, operating systems) handle power management better than others, but regardless of the handset you decide to go with for your business, take heed to these following general tips to extend battery life between charges.
Turn off features
“Power management is an issue with smartphones primarily because of so many features, radios, applications and advance processors,” says Nathan Dyer, senior analyst for enterprise mobility at Yankee Group, a Boston, Mass.-based research firm. “All of this puts a strain on resources, but a lot of this functionality doesn’t have to be used all the time.”
In other words, turn on only the applications you need. “User management will go a long way to save battery resources, with GPS and Wi-Fi being good examples,” explains Dyer. “A lot of people have Google Maps running when not using it, for instance, which can drain resources at a drastic rate.”
Speaking of wireless technologies, the iPhone 3G alone houses 10 different radios under the hood: GSM/EDGE (3 bands), 3G/HSPA (4 bands), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
Dim it down
“Another tip is to reduce the brightness settings of screen,” suggests Dyer. This feature is usually found in the Options or Settings menu of the smartphone. A dimmer screen will be less taxing on the smartphone’s battery compared to a bright one (ditto for your laptop, too, by the way).
Some devices, such as the Blackberry, automatically adjust screen brightness depending on the environment it’s in. A sensor that detects bright sunlight will turn off brightness altogether, while the opposite is true in a pitch-black room. The Apple iPhone, on the other hand, turns off its screen when its internal sensor detects the smartphone is held up against a user’s ear, therefore not required at that particular moment.
“It’s great some smartphones handle these tasks for you,” says Dyer, “but it’s usually up to the user to be proactive about this.”
Bring an adaptor or spare
Road warriors who spend a lot of time out of the office might want to pick up a spare battery and keep a charged one in a laptop bag, suitcase, or glove compartment. Avoid leaving your spare battery in the car on extremely hot or cold days because temperature can affect the battery’s performance and longevity.
A car charger for your smartphone is also a good idea for those who spend a lot of time behind the wheel, especially as they might use a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone/GPS, which could drain the smartphone’s battery faster.