How To Double Your Droid’s Battery Life

Your Android device’s battery life could be a lot better. Sometimes it makes you through the day, but other times you’ll find yourself out late and notice you only have 10 minutes of juice left. You sometimes wonder where all the battery life goes, seemingly leaking away even when you’re not using your phone. If this sounds like you, then JuiceDefender could be the app you’re looking for.
JuiceDenfender lets you take control of your battery life with ease. Before, the only way to get battery hungry apps and services under control was to wade through a maze of settings menus and individual controls for each app, some of which didn’t have any options at all. JuiceDefender simplifies the process of turning off your various radios when they aren’t being used and making sure that  all of your apps’ data syncing occurs at the same time. It also includes emergency mode controls allowing you to save that last bit of juice for when you need it the most.
JuiceDefender is free on the Android Market, but has a companion app, UltimateJuice, that unlocks more features for $5. If you’re just interested in trying JuiceDefender out and testing how much battery life it can save, feel free to just chose the “default” Profile, which will showcase the best features of the app. It will turn off all radios when they aren’t being used (screen off), and only enable them every 30 minutes to perform a data sync. This means that any new notifications you’d be receiving (GMail, Twitter, Facebook, IM clients, etc…) within that 30 minutes will appear at once when JuiceDefender syncs. They’ll also arrive if you turn your screen on, since JuiceDefender figures you’ll be using data then anyway. While non-instant notifications might be a deal-breaker for some, I find the increased battery life worth it.
You can also use the “aggressive” profile if your phone is dying. This profile just takes the default settings and turns them up a notch, only checking for new notifications every hour. You can even set the “aggressive” profile to switch to the “extreme” profile when your battery is really close to death, which will disable all antennas for good unless you launch a “whitelisted” app. Make sure to note the apps you’ll need the most and add them to the whitelist, as no other apps will work. You should only use this profile in dire battery situations.
There are a few customizations you can make by default, and even more with UltimateJuice. Think the 30-minute notification window is too much? Try a 15 minute one. Just select the “customize” profile and you can tweak as much as you’d like. Keep in mind that if an option has dotted lines around it, it’s only available in UltimateJuice. You can get specific about how it treats individual antennas, set up a schedule to, for example, keep your antennas off all night, and even underclock your phone when the screen is off (root users only).

Want to know how much juice is being defended? Tap the “About” tab at the top of the screen and you’ll get a handy estimate. I’ve seen a 1.5x improvement in my battery life over the last 48 hours! That’s a good half a day! JuiceDefender really works, and you’ll notice the difference immediately.

Tips For Extending Smartphone Battery Life

There should be an image here!Q: I love my iPhone but hate how quickly the battery goes dead! Any tips on getting more time on a charge? — Marcus

A: Smartphones in general tend to be prone to shorter battery life because of all of the capabilities built into the phones.

The battery in the iPhone is unfortunately not user-replaceable either, so carrying around a second battery isn’t an option (but I have another suggestion later).

The good news is that there are a number of adjustments you can make that will dramatically extend the life of your iPhone battery.

Start with the Brightness setting (Settings/Brightness) by turning it down to the lowest acceptable level and make sure the Auto-Brightness is turned on.

Email can be another huge power-suck on the iPhone, especially if you have it checking multiple accounts and you get a lot of mail. By default, both the Push and the Fetch options are turned on, which can be a big power drain.

Push essentially pushes email to your phone as it arrives to your primary email system. Unless you have to get messages that quickly, turn off the Push option for your email account(s) (Settings/Mail, Contacts, Calendars/Fetch New Data) to conserve lots of power.

While you are in the Fetch settings, either set the interval to Hourly or Manually to conserve the most power. Fetch determines how often your phone goes out to your mail system to check for new mail and is also used for the ‘Find My iPhone’ feature in MobileMe, so setting it to Manually isn’t for everyone.

If you have a special email configuration such as an IMAP account, you may have an additional place to choose Push or Fetch in the Advanced section of the Fetch New Data screen.

Push is also used for third-party applications (such as Facebook & Twitter) for notifications, so minimizing or turning off all notifications will also help conserve power (Settings/Notifications).

While we are on the subject of third-party applications, changing your notification settings in Facebook, Twitter, etc. (from your computer) so that you don’t get a text message every time an update is posted to your accounts.

Location services for things like maps and restaurant finders are awesome, but they also drain power every time you open any ‘location service’ enabled application. You can turn off Location Services for general usage and only turn it on when you actually need it (Settings/General/Location Services).

Turning off the Bluetooth feature on any smartphone has two potential benefits: it saves power and it’s more secure (Bluetooth can allow unauthorized connections to your phone). Unless you are one of those cyborg looking folks that likes to torture whomever is on the other end with lower sound quality, ditch the Bluetooth.

Turning off Wi-Fi until you actually want to use it is another good power saver (Settings/Wi-Fi). You may have noticed that every time your phone gets near any new Wi-Fi hotspots, it lets you know (both a power drain and a general pain!)

Set your Auto-Lock interval (Settings/General/Auto-Lock) to the shortest time that works for you (it’s like the Sleep option on computers). Also, get into the habit of locking your iPhone as soon as you are done using it, instead of allowing it to go blank on its own by pressing the thin metal Sleep/Wake button on the top of the phone.

If you are going into a meeting or movie theater or know that you are in a low or no coverage area, turn on the Airplane mode to save a bundle of power (General/Airplane Mode).

If you’re getting low on power and want to squeeze a few extra phone calls or text messages in, turn off the 3G option (Settings/General/Network) and don’t check email or try to surf the Web.

Apple also recommends that you completely power-cycle your phone at least once a month. That means charging it all the way up and discharging it until it dies, as proper maintenance of lithium-based batteries.

If you travel frequently, I suggest getting a sleek attachable battery charger like the Juice Pack from Mophie. Mine has saved me (and sometimes the passenger sitting next to me!) many times on road trips.

Ken Colburn
Data Doctors Computer Services
Data Doctors Data Recovery Labs
Data Doctors Franchise Systems, Inc.
Weekly video tech contributor to
Host of the award-winning “Computer Corner” radio show

MacBooks Get 10 Hour Battery Life

I’m definitely not a Mac guy per se, but even I am impressed with this latest MacBook release. Faster performance along with a nice increase in battery life is enough to have a number of Mac lovers doing a serious double take.

Rather have a MacBook Pro? Not a problem, as I found out that Apple is selling these with the 10-hour battery life as well. A nice option, if you’re looking for a bit more power from a MacBook.

Is this groundbreaking stuff? Perhaps not on the surface of things, but if you look a bit closer, it seems that Apple is trying to bridge the gap with a combo of its iPad and MacBooks in an effort to steal as much market share as possible.

[awsbullet:Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs]

What Do You Look For In A Laptop?

Man, this is something that I have to deal with every few years as my notebooks do, indeed, need that ever-loving hardware refresh from time to time. For most people, notebooks seem to come down to weight, display size, battery life, keyboard layout, product reviews, general specs and, of course, price. In the past, I was one of these people. I needed my notebook to have a certain level of power to it… especially when connecting it to my TV to watch Hulu.

But this time around, perhaps for the first time, I am thinking I may very well end up going for a netbook instead. Why? Besides being a lot cheaper with my money than I used to be, there are a few other factors that have me thinking along these lines.

  1. No notebook will every replace my dual-monitor desktop. Sorry, but it’s not happening. So do I really need a desktop replacement for simple Web work? No, I don’t.
  2. If I drop it, I am not screwed. Nothing says ‘crap’ like dropping a $1000+ notebook. Sure, it might survive… but I’d feel a lot better about having a sub-$400 netbook crapping out on me, personally.
  3. Speed — how much do I really need? For the OS and apps that I run on a notebook, I have found that I really don’t need the power of an Intel Dual-Core CPU as I might have once thought. As it turns out, with the exception of  Hulu, most Netbook CPUs do the job just fine. Yes, even Flash does okay for me.

So there you have it. Clearly the smart money is keeping my existing notebook… with its dual-core power. But I am also giving serious consideration to a cheap netbook with crazy battery life next time I need to head out of the house. For the money spent, you really can’t go wrong.

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Netbook, CULV Notebooks or Laptop – You Decide

This holiday season is going to be a bit more confusing as OEM’s add CULV [consumer ultra-low voltage] to the shopping list of netbook and laptop computers. So who is who and what is what? Over at cnet they describe the units this way:

Netbooks are mini-notebooks with screens between 9 and 11 inches, that have lower-power processors, and fewer features, but very attractive price points. CULV-based notebooks are ultrathin notebooks. They come with a more traditional 12- or 13-inch screen, but are also very low-power, so they have great battery life. Starting at $600 to $1,000, they’ll occupy the price range just a step above Netbooks, which run between $200 and $500.

I guess we can than toss in the traditional laptop with screens in the 14″ to 17″ range, full featured and priced from a low of $350 up to a few grand.

So what we consumers are going to have is a lot of choices that should offer something for everyone. I personally look forward to testing one of the new CULV’s to see how they function compared to a full blown lappy.

What about you? CULV sound good to you?

Comments welcome.


Laptop Battery Life

I want to buy a new laptop, but I’ve heard horror stories about the batteries that come in lower priced units. How can I tell if a computer that I am considering has a decent battery? — Gary

One of the most common complaints that I hear from laptop owners is “my battery life stinks”; even from those that have just bought a new unit.

One of the ways that laptop manufacturers reduce the price of a low-end laptop is to put a lower capacity battery in and expect that you will buy an upgraded battery. This allows them to advertise a lower price, with the expectation that they will get you to pay more for a better battery.

One of the first specifications to look for is the number of cells in the battery; the higher the number, the better. If you’re looking at a laptop that has a 2, 3 or 4 cell battery, you should budget extra money for an upgraded battery and comparison shop the total against laptops that come with a better battery.

An extra battery can cost from $120 to $250 depending upon the capacity and manufacturer, so be very careful with those low price advertisements.

For most of today’s laptops, you should look for a minimum of a 6 cell battery.

The number of cells is not the end of the story, however, because two different 6 cell batteries can have significantly different run times based on another number: the Watt-hour (Wh) rating (the higher the better).

As with most things in the computer business, not all manufacturers publish the specifications for the battery the same way. Some publish the number of cells, while others publish a Watt-hour rating and still others publish neither.

At the end of the day, the Watt-hour rating is the simplest way to determine how much power a battery is capable of storing, so if you can’t find a “Wh” rating in any of the specifications, you should remove the battery to see what is printed on it.

If the battery does not have the Wh rating printed on it, it will most likely have a couple of other numbers that you can use to calculate the Wh rating.

Look for the voltage (V) and Amp Hour (Ah or mAh) ratings so you can do the math yourself by multiplying V x Ah. If you see 4800mAh it’s the same as 4.8Ah (divide by 1000) which is what you multiply by the voltage.

For example, if you have a battery with the specifications of 14.8V and 4800mAh, you would multiply 14.8 x 4.8 which equals a 71.04 Wh rating.

If you use 25 watts per hour as the average consumption for a laptop, you would expect to get almost 3 hours out of a 71.04 Wh rated battery.

The actual battery life that you will achieve will vary widely based on the exact equipment installed in your laptop and what you do with it.

If you are a hardcore gamer, want to watch DVD movies, listen to music or anything that causes devices to work constantly, your battery life will be significantly shorter than those that spend most of their time creating documents, spreadsheets and e-mails or surfing the Internet.

If you do some simple homework before you make the purchase, you can avoid the all-too-common “battery surprise” that many others are suffering!

Ken Colburn
President of Data Doctors Computer Services, Host of the award-winning Computer Corner radio show, and Author of Computer Q&A in the East Valley Tribune newspapers.

Ultra-thin Is In?

Overall, I thought this article was well done. It’s simply sad however, that its creator is forced to put up Vista against Leopard – for people who have tried it, there really is no contest. Bear in mind that I do not really care for OS X myself. I cannot not place a reason on any one thing per se, it is just not for me. Also keep in mind that my wife uses OS X herself religiously. So I would certainly not say that I am anti-Mac. Same goes for Vista, I have Vista “Ultimate” installed in one of my household PCs as well. I just have yet to really find it all that appealing for regular use. But for anyone to seriously state in title or otherwise that thin notebooks running Windows Vista are in any way “Air Killers”; even when considering it is a hardware comparison, is missing a greater point I think.

By and large, Apple is successful due to its implementation of everything “just working” without a lot of blue-shaded excuses. The article’s author is right about one thing though. Most people are not going to buy a Mac to run Windows. Only geeks do that or those required to use Windows at their place of employment. So holding a Toshiba notebook in comparison as the previously linked article has done, is not going to hold a lot of water with the same audience that is willing to drop a few grand on a new Mac. For them, it is largely about the OS, with limited points regarding its overall feel I think.

Speaking for myself, I can think of a number of other things to spend three grand on instead of any notebook of any sort. For most people, $1200 will get you a notebook running any os of your choosing. All of this ultra thin stuff seems to be more about ego than function. Unless it does something amazing with the battery life, which these new ultra-thin notebooks might, then I can honestly say I have officially entered a real yawn-fest.

Think I am wrong? No worries, I have an open mind – sell me on why I should consider an ultra-thin notebook for my next upgrade.

Boostaroo Revolution

The Boostaroo Revolution from UpBeat Audio is a pocket-sized portable headphone amplifier and splitter that boosts sound. Before I plugged in to my iPod, I had the iPod volume at about 75%. With Revolution, the volume is at 30% leaving me with plenty of room to make it louder if needed. Also, due to the volume being lower, the Revolution extends the battery life of the audio device.
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