Smartphone survival guide: How to stretch your battery life

Hurricane Sandy may leave homes on the East Coast without power. CNET offers this guide to keep your smartphone alive.

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With the smartphone increasingly becoming the lifeline for any household, keeping it alive is more important than ever.

But with Hurricane Sandy barreling its way across the East Coast, thousands of homes face the prospect of losing power for several days. That's bad news for power-hungry smartphones, many of which can barely last a day with normal use.

Fear not. CNET has compiled this handy smartphone survival guide to make the most out of your phone's battery. If a power outage hits, you'll know exactly what to do to ensure you remain connected.

Turn off the extra wireless connections. Today's smartphones have a myriad of different connections, few of which are really that integral during a blackout. Wireless connections such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are great during a regular day, but they can quickly drain a battery. Similarly, it's smart to turn off the 4G connection if your phone has the option, since 4G is a notorious power hog. In power-saving situations, GPS is also a no no, and disabling location services is another smart move.

Limit your use. For gadget enthusiasts and geeks, the smartphone is the equivalent of a drug -- one you can't stay off of. Well, a blackout is a good chance to go cold turkey. It's smart to limit the use as much as possible. Each time you turn on the display, you're cutting into the phone's battery life.

Share phones. If you're with a group of people, it might be useful to shut off all but one of the phones. That way, if one goes down, someone else can turn on a phone that still has its full charge. Of course, it might be handy to take down some critical phone numbers before turning off the devices.

Airplane mode is your friend. If you don't want to completely shut off your phone, switch to airplane mode to shut off all of the radios, and switch back out of airplane mode only when you need to make a call or send a text message.

Keep your phone plugged in. If you still have power and are looking to limit your usage already, why not let your phone rest near an outlet? When the power goes out, you'll know your phone is holding as much of a charge as it possibly can.

Charge backups. Do you have an extra battery? Make sure that's charged up. Alternatively, a fully charged laptop can also be used as a battery of sorts, since it can charge a phone through a USB connection.

Just say no to push. Most smartphones are hooked up to one e-mail account or another, and these devices either get messages pushed down to them or they fetch the e-mails. You can save a lot of battery by turning off the push notifications.

Close unnecessary apps. A lot of applications continue to run in the background or get their own push notifications. Close these applications to ensure that your phone isn't still pinging the network without your knowledge. Likewise, close the widgets in Android, since they often update themselves on a regular basis.

Do not stream. If you have to listen to music or video, don't use streaming services, which constantly puts a strain on the phone's battery. Only play videos or songs already loaded on the phone. Likewise, try not to play games that require a connection, like "Words With Friends" or "The Simpsons: Tapped Out," or games that require phones to rev up their processors, such as the "Infinity Blade" series.

Dim the display. Displays actually take up quite a bit of power, particularly if the phone has a large and bright screen. Most phones have an automatic brightness option, though you could manually dim the screen to preserve battery. Lock the phone and turn off the display as much as possible.

Send text messages instead of calling. Because of the nature of text messages, the conversation is usually kept short and concise. Phone calls can drag on, sucking up valuable battery life, but a text message gets the information out far more efficiently, and isn't constantly running.

Print out these instructions. Lastly, you don't want to be reading this on your smartphone or laptop. Print or write out these tips so you can consult them later -- ideally by candlelight and not by the glow of your mobile device.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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