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Data Doctors: Extending 4G battery life

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Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to evtrib@datadoctors.com.

Posted: Monday, September 12, 2011 7:00 am

Q: I have a 4G Android smartphone that blows through the battery in less than a day! Any tips for extending the battery life?

A: The Android smartphone platform has gone from an unrefined newcomer to the No. 1 platform in a relatively short period of time. The most recent Comscore rankings - http://goo.gl/4TjNa - showed that Google’s Android is used by 41.8 percent of smartphone subscribers while Apple’s iPhone IOS was at 27 percent and RIM (Blackberry) has slid down to 21.7 percent. (A year ago, RIM’s Blackberry was No. 1, with Apple second and Android third.)

In order to compete with the Blackberry and iPhone dynasties, Google and the handset manufacturers had to create alternatives that were compelling enough to be considered an option, which they clearly have done.

Bigger screens, 4G connectivity, built-in hotspots and a slew of other differences have certainly played a big role in luring users away, but the trade-off for all these great features can be diminished battery life if you’re not careful.

It’s important that you really think about how you use your phone to know which features aren’t really necessary to have running in order to extend the battery life.

Android device options vary by manufacturer and version of the OS they have installed, but there are some basic battery extension tips that apply to all smartphones.

The screen brightness is one of the biggest battery killers, so make sure you lower the levels as low as you can reasonably set it for a big boost.

Location services are very handy, but having the GPS update your location as you move around can also drain the battery, so turn it off unless you need it (if an app needs it, you’ll be alerted).

One of the silly features that Android phones offer is “Live Wallpaper,” which isn’t a huge drain on the battery but serves no real purpose, so stick to a static background.

If you search the Internet for battery saving tips, many will suggest that you install a “task killer” app so you can shut down processes that are running in the background, but I’m not sure that it’s the best idea for everyone.

Tech-savvy users that understand what they are looking at can effectively use task killers to extend battery life, but I’ve seen many nontechnical users randomly turn things off that they don’t recognize and disable critical functions of the phone.

Another potential drain on the battery is when your cellular signal is weak as the phone is constantly scanning for a better signal. If you are in a weak signal area and have Wi-Fi available, put the phone in Airplane mode and connect via Wi-Fi.

4G speeds are amazing, especially on Verizon’s LTE network, but it’s also going to consume more juice so check to see if an extended battery option exists for your phone if you are an avid surfer on a 4G network.

The built-in hotspot feature is also pretty handy when you have other devices that you’d like to connect to the Internet, but you will also watch your battery levels drop right before your eyes.

Try to plug the phone into a wall socket whenever you plan on using it as a hotspot if at all possible.

Some of the newer handsets such as Motorola’s Droid Bionic have beefed-up batteries and newer power management tools built in that help you understand exactly which process is using up your battery power.

Android devices update the operating system regularly, so be sure to look at your setting options from time to time to see whether any new battery management options get added to your phone.

If none of these tips helps you to extend your battery life, you may want to consider buying a universal portable charger from a company such as iGo - http://www.igo.com - that can be used to charge lots of different mobile devices while you are on the go.

Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio

Readers may send questions to evtrib@datadoctors.com

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