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Galaxy S20: 6 tips to milk every last drop of battery life from your new phone

Samsung's latest phones have a ton of new features that can drain battery life faster than usual. Here are some tips to prolong it.

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Battery life is something we all care about. Here's what you can do to improve it. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung's shiny new Galaxy S20, S20 Plus and S20 Ultra are stacked with new features like an improved camera that can record 8K video, a 120Hz display and 5G connectivity. There's just one problem: All these tools drain battery faster and you may find yourself with battery life that doesn't live up to your expectations, especially if you're upgrading from a Galaxy S10 or Note 10

That's not totally unexpected. For example, our testing has shown that using the 120Hz display setting on the Galaxy S20 can put a strain on your battery because it refreshes every pixel in your phone screen 120 times per second instead of 60 times a second. In addition, all it takes is one ill-chosen setting or one rogue app to send you reaching for a charger before the end of the day. 

Below are some tips to help you get the most out of your S20's battery.

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The S20's display can be set to 120Hz, but be mindful of battery life. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use the 120Hz screen setting carefully

The 120Hz screen refresh rate for all Galaxy S20 phones is a headlining feature, but Samsung warns that it will use more battery charge, and so do we. How much? It depends. I've been testing the S20 Plus for a few days and have been able to get through a full day with 120Hz activated, but the S20 Ultra didn't fare as well in our review

My advice? Use the 120Hz option anyway. I find that scrolling through Twitter is jitter-free and quickly switching between apps just feels faster than with the standard 60Hz refresh rate that most phones use. But if you have battery life issues, switch back to 60Hz. 

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Dark mode is the way to go. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Dark mode is your friend, truly

Dark mode is a setting in Android 10 that turns normally white screens black and black text white. Certain apps have used it for years, but not it's part of the phone's operating system software. Displaying darker images and backgrounds uses less energy, and it happens to look cool and be easy on the eye.

You can leave dark mode on all the time by going to Settings > Display and selecting Dark at the top of the screen. If you want to only use it at night, or on a set schedule, select Dark mode settings and adjust as you see fit. Alternatively, you can toggle dark mode on and off in the quick-settings panel. 

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Using all those pixels is going to cause your battery life to take a hit. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Don't use the screen's full resolution

The Galaxy S20 display's full WQHD+ resolution is a stunning 3,200x1,440 pixels. It's fun to look at, but it also strains your phone's battery. In fact, one of the first things that Samsung's own power-saving modes do is to reduce the screen resolution. 

Realistically, using the default FHD+ resolution of 2,400x1,080 pixels is more than good enough for most of us. 

If you've switched to WQHD+ and are experiencing poor battery life, switch back to FHD+ in Settings > Display > Screen resolution

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Your display's brightness setting can drain your battery, as well. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Turn off adaptive brightness

Your screen's brightness level can also drain your battery. Enabled by default, adaptive brightness tracks any adjustments you make along with the current lighting conditions and makes similar changes in the future. So if you go outside into the bright sun, your screen will automatically become brighter as a result.

If you find adaptive brightness is too aggressive, you can turn it off by going to Settings > Display and toggling the switch next to Adaptive Brightness to the Off position. 

Once it's turned off, you can control your screen's brightness using the slider control in the settings and notifications shade. That will let you keep the display as dim as you want, saving battery life in the process. 

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There's a lot of info about your battery use on the S20, you just have to know where to look. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Check battery usage and make adjustments

Overzealous apps running in the background for no reason can also impact battery life. Software features built into your phone will monitor which apps you use frequently and which rarely. Then it will use that information to put apps to "sleep," essentially stopping them from running in the background until you open them. 

Check the impact on battery life of apps in Settings > Device care > Battery > Battery usage. If you find an app or apps that are using more battery than you'd like, select it in the list and turn on Put app to sleep

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Don't be afraid to switch to a power-saving mode when you need to squeeze every last minute out of your battery. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Take advantage of power modes

When you find yourself in a situation without the means to charge your phone, use one of the power modes. Open Settings > Device care > Battery > Power mode

The default setting Optimize gives you a healthy mix of performance and maintaining battery life. However, you can get more aggressive with Medium or Maximum power saving. 

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Medium power saving, for example, will turn off some features like the always-on display, throttle the processor's performance to 70%, lower brightness and set the screen resolution to FHD+. Maximum does all of that, except it drops the screen resolution to HD+. You can also customize each option to be more restrictive. 

For more help with Samsung's latest phone, check out our Galaxy S20 tips. See what happened when we drop-tested the Galaxy S20, and be sure to check out our Galaxy S20 review or our Galaxy S20 Ultra review.