Oh My Tech!: Tips to extend the life of your gadget’s battery

By Vince Horiuchi

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: January 17, 2013 09:41PM
Updated: May 5, 2013 11:33PM
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Vince Horiuchi

What is the best way to maximize the life of your iPad battery, your cell phone battery? Should you let the battery charge run completely down before recharging or do you recharge it when there is half of a charge left? Also, if you are not using your electronic piece of equipment do you plug it in and charge it while not in use? Thanks for your input. — Mo Smith.

Extending the battery life of any gadget is like a game. You tinker with a series of settings on the device so you get a nice compromise between longer battery life and turning on the features you like.

Fortunately, the iPad already is blessed with a good 10-hour battery charge thanks to its size and Apple’s ability to take advantage of every bit of extra space inside the case.

But 10 hours is about the maximum you can get before you start to lose important features. As you begin to adjust the settings in favor of more features, that number will start to fall. Here’s where to look for in the settings to maximize the life of the battery.

Bluetooth • This is the wireless connectivity for things such as headsets or keyboards. If you don’t use any of them, turn off the Bluetooth setting. While it’s on, it can leak battery power, even when you’re not using it.

Notifications • Your smartphone and iPad have the ability to notify you with all kinds of alerts. But leaving them on can take up battery life because it’s contantly pinging servers to see if there is an alert for you. Go through these notifications one by one for each app and turn off those you don’t need.

4G LTE • Cellphones and the iPad also have wireless data connectivity called 4G LTE that you can use in case you’re not in range of a WiFi hotspot. But 4G LTE takes up more battery power than even the slower, older 3G connectivity. Fortunately, there is a switch to turn off LTE. If you’re always going to be in range of WiFi, turn it off.

Location services • Many apps use this feature, which finds out what your current location is using the built-in GPS receiver. Say you have an app that tells you what movies are playing in your area. In order to know what theaters are near you, it must figure out what your current location is. But such features use battery power because they’re constantly using the GPS receiver. On the iPad, go to “Settings,” then “Privacy,” then “Location Services” to toggle it on and off for each app.

Email • You can adjust your email settings to stop your device from pushing emails to your phone or iPad automatically. You also can tell it to fetch your email from the server less frequently or only when you manually check your email.

Screen brightness • This is where most of your battery drain can come from. The brighter your screen, the more battery power is used. Many devices have an auto-brightness feature that adjusts the screen’s brightness based on the ambient room light. But if you really want to save power, turn that off and just lower the brightness down to an acceptable level.

Software update • Software engineers who write the code for the operating systems for these devices spend many hours trying to optimize their OS so it uses less and less battery power. So always keep your device’s operating system up to date to ensure it is using the most optimized version.

Recharging • As far as recharging your devices, all of them use lithium-ion battery technology, which allows you to recharge them without having to wait until they are completely depleted.

However, because rechargeable batteries use a kind of memory system to remember when they are fully charged and when they are completely depleted, it’s a good idea to fully recharge your device and then use it until the battery is completely dead about once a month to extend the overall life of the battery.

Finally, I’ve read both arguments about whether it’s OK to keep your device plugged in or not after it’s fully charged. Given the life of a lithium-ion battery (about two to three years under normal use), it would seem that doing either would have a negligible effect on the life of the battery.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he’ll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.