iPhone Tips: Fight off the battery blues, Part 2

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Date: Friday, March 21st, 2014, 10:50
Category: Apple, Hardware, iOS, iPhone, Software, Tips

iPhoneBattery-part2-note cropWelcome to the second part of my iPhone battery conservation tips. Check out yesterday’s post for Part 1. With the recent iOS 7.1 update came many complaints that battery life had gotten worse instead of better. Some of the following tips are useful on their own, but may be of particular interest to anyone experiencing faster power loss since the 7.1 update. Shall we begin…


Managing the Background App Refresh settings

With the introduction of iOS 7 came a new feature called Background App Refresh. This allows apps to continue performing tasks in the background such as downloading content or refreshing information so it is immediately available when you switch back to the app. According to Apple’s support pages;

“iOS learns patterns based on your use of the device and tries to predict when an app should be updated in the background. It also learns when the device is typically inactive, such as during the night, to reduce update frequency when the device is not in use.”

So this sounds nice, but however you look at it, it means your phone is using more juice, even if just a little bit. It has been suggested that the update to 7.1 reset those “patterns” that Apple refers to, but I don’t think there is any evidence for it. Anyway, there are two ways to deal with this, one is to disable the feature altogether under Settings > General > Background App Refresh if it isn’t really important for your apps to be gathering data behind the scenes. Even if you want to use the feature, this would be a good way to tell if app refreshing is the cause of your battery drain. The other is to go down the list of apps and turn it off for any app you don’t feel is important enough to need background refreshing, or ones you don’t use often. You might be surprised which apps think they need this functionality. A good example…Apple’s Cards app. Seriously Apple?


Managing Location Services

Like the app refresh settings, Location Services (located under Privacy settings) is something that runs in the background so apps can tell where you are by using the iPhone’s GPS. Apps running in the background (or foreground) can access that location data to perform functions such as sending you a notification to walk the dog once the phone detects you are at home. The Camera app uses the data to add location info to your photos so you can tell where you took them. And of course, mapping applications use it to tell where you are and give you directions. Once again, if that information isn’t essential to any of the apps you regularly use, you can turn it off altogether. If you occasionally use mapping apps, you can always turn it back on until you no longer need it. You also have the option of leaving the service on, but determining which apps can use it. On my own iPhone I’ve noticed several games that access Location Services which in my book is a no-no unless there is some REALLY good reason for it, so if you want to keep the service on, try turning it off for as many apps as possible to see if it helps.

At the bottom of the app list is another section called System Services. This is a list of core iPhone functions that can also access location data. Like apps, these services can be individually toggled on or off. Items that I have turned off include Location-Based iAds (no thank you), Setting Time Zone, and Traffic. My time zone is always correct when I travel, so I assume it is getting the info from the wireless carrier. I’m not sure then why this is a separate setting unless it has something to do with Calendars. Hmmm. Traffic is another one I don’t really have a need for, but oddly even with it turned off I can still get traffic data in Maps. Perhaps the setting only affects getting that information in the background.


Turn off Auto-Brightness

This is a great feature, but I’ve found that sometimes it just isn’t adjusting properly and the screen brightness is much higher than it needs to be which drains the battery quicker, especially if you use your phone a lot. By manually controlling brightness through Control Center, you can eek a little more power by always keeping the level low until you need it cranked up to see, like when you go outdoors.


Turn off Automatic Downloads

If you go to the iTunes & App Store settings, there are options to toggle whether your iPhone downloads your content automatically. For example, with “Books” enabled, if you were to purchase a book from the iTunes Store from your Mac or PC, all of your devices that were enabled would automatically download copies as soon as they detected the purchase. Very handy if you don’t want to worry about having your apps up to date on all of your devices, but those spontaneous downloads eat at your battery life. This applies to Books, Music, Apps, and Updates. Turning these off means you can wait until you are plugged into a power source and manually choose to download them. If you would like to keep this functionality, but still reduce some of the drain, disable the Use Cellular Data option, and the downloads will only occur when you have wifi enabled and are on a wireless network. Likely if you are near a wireless network, you will be close to a power outlet as well.


Turn off Push Email and other data

This is probably one feature many of you will be reluctant to turn off, but it will save a bit of battery life. In the Mail, Contacts, Calendar settings under Fetch New Data, you can specify how those apps sync their data. By using “Push”, the apps will download any changes as soon as they occur. This could result in the device continuously going out to look for information and then downloading it. If you choose “Fetch”, you can set the apps to retrieve information on a schedule which means getting changes all at once, and only every 30 minutes (one of the options). Finally, you can choose “Manually” which requires you to open the app and trigger it to go get any new information. The last option is naturally the most battery efficient, but with items such as email, the delay may not be ideal. Luckily, you can change the settings for each app independently, so I have Mail set to Push, while Contacts and Calendars Fetch every 15 minutes.


There are quite a few other little things you can do to squeeze a little more power out of your poor iPhone’s battery, but these are probably the biggest offenders. Give them a try and let us know if they helped you, or share with the class any other power saving tips you find.



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