I was recently sent an article about how to improve your iPhone battery life and asked my opinion of it. I tried reading through it, but the author lost me in the first two sentences of his first recommendation. It was pretty clear that he didn’t quite understand how the technology worked – a sort of knowing just enough to be dangerous situation. I figured I would throw together my own little guide for those interested.
Restart your phone once a week
I know everyone hates being told this, but it is seriously one of the better things you can do for your phone. Much like your laptop (which you are also restarting at least once a week… right?), your iPhone runs a lot of programs invisibly in the background that make it work the way you want it to. And like any software, these programs can develop little glitches that cause them to crash, or “run away”. Ever notice that sometimes your phone is really hot for no apparent reason? This is probably why. So once a week, just hold down the lock button, and then swipe the red bar to shut down your phone. This will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
Limit your Background App Refresh and Location Services
A lot of guides separate these into two separate points, but I consider them to be inherently linked. Background applications are those applications that are allowed to update themselves when not being actively used. Location services are applications that are allowed to access the GPS in your phone to determine your current location. Each has a negative impact on battery life, but the real problem comes when you combine them.
Consider this: You allow Weather to use the GPS to determine your current location (no problem, you probably want to know the weather where you are). You also allow it to update in the background so that you don’t have to wait those 5-10 seconds for it to update when you open it. The problem is that when it is in the background, it is also polling the GPS and cell network frequently to make sure it has the most up-to-date information for exactly where you are. This drains the battery much faster than having just one (or none) of these options turned on.
In general, background refresh will use more battery than enabling GPS in an application. To limit these options you can go to
Settings > General > Background App Refresh
Settings > Privacy > Location Services
In Location Services, you will notice a menu called “System Services” at the bottom – be sure to check the options inside this as well. There are a number of items (location based iAds, Popular near me, Frequent locations) that are really unnecessary, and while they don’t take much battery, they also don’t add much value in return.
Utilize Push Email When Possible
There has been a lot of misunderstanding about Push vs Fetch email, and what impact it has on your battery life. The primary reason for this is that what works varies from person to person. You have to exam your email habits and make an informed decision about what is best for you.
Fetch email is the “standard” way of doing things. With Fetch, you tell your phone how often to connect to the email server and check for new email. You can set this for every 15, 30, or 60 minutes, or to only when you manually ask it to. The battery consumption is directly related to how often you ask the phone to fetch you mail.
With Push email, the phone receives a signal from the push server, letting it know that there is email for it to download. It then connects to the server and downloads your new email. You can think of this as receiving a text message telling you to check your email. Every now and then it will still connect to the server on its own, just to verify that everything is still synced and configured correctly. But overall, the phone only makes a connection, and only uses that extra battery, when it receives a message telling it there is something to download.
For the average person, turning on Push email where possible will save you battery life. The caveat to this is if you receive a lot of email. If you are getting new push messages every minute, then it is the same as having Fetch set to every 60 seconds, and it will chew through your battery quite quickly.
The way to determine whether Push will save you battery is to determine how often you receive email, and how quickly you want to see that email. If you know you want to see an email within 30 minutes of receiving it, then your Fetch settings would be set to every 30 minutes. This means that Push will save you battery if on average you do not get an email every 30 minutes of the day. For most people, this is the case.
If the emails you get are time sensitive, you may have your Fetch set to 15 minutes. In these cases, Push is almost always better – you get the emails immediately, and by not connecting to the server every minute, you will save a lot of battery.
If you don’t care about how quickly you see an email, and you get a lot of spam, then Push could actually cost you battery. This is because you would probably have Fetch set to 60 minutes or manually – but if you get a new spam message every 10 minutes, Push you force your phone to connect that often, thereby draining your battery faster.
Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data
Limit your Application Push Notifications
While these notifications functions in exactly the same way Mail notifications work – they can easily get out of control. Do you really need to know the instant you receive a message on LinkedIn? Or the instant Candy Crush has a new item on sale? Probably not. These may not have a huge impact on battery, but turning them off does help, and it certainly cuts down on the “spammy” feeling that notifications can develop.
Settings > Notification Center – turn off everything you don’t need or want.
Adjust Your Screen Brightness and Auto-Lock Time
Obviously, the brighter you keep your screen the more battery it chews through. Similarly, the longer the screen stays on, the more battery it uses. iOS7 adds Control Center, which lets you swipe up from the bottom of nearly any screen and easily adjust the brightness to what works best at that moment. Personally, I keep my brightness around 50% and it works in nearly all settings.
A lot of people I have met seem to have a habit of using their phone, then tossing it back into their purse or pocket without re-locking the screen. A little piece of me dies a little every time I see this, but no matter how often I point it out, they just keep doing it. If you are one of these people, you can save a substantial amount of battery by changing the auto-lock time on your screen to 1 minute. This way, the screen turns itself off after 1 minute of not doing anything, rather than acting as a flashlight inside your purse for the next hour until you take it out again.
Settings > General > Auto-Lock
Use Airplane Mode in Low and No Coverage Areas
Obviously this is only the case if you do not need the little cell reception that you have. If you are sitting in a mechanical shed in Northern Vermont and have no reception anyway, you might as well turn on Airplane Mode (clearly I do not speak from experience here!).
Cell Phones use exponentially more power to find and maintain a cell signal the lower the reception in the area is. So at 5 bars it may take 1 unit of energy to maintain, at 4 it may take 2, at 3 it may take 4, and at 1 bar it may take 16 units of energy to keep that weak little signal. You are probably better off turning on Airplane Mode and using Wi-Fi if it is available.
Manually Quit Applications You Are Not Using
I hesitate to make this one of my suggestions, because if you follow my first two suggestions, it should have a very large impact on your battery. I’ll leave it here though, because if I don’t I’m sure I’ll catch plenty of flack. In iOS 7, if you double click your home button, all “open” applications will be displayed and can be quit by swiping up to “throw” them off the screen. If you have finished checking the weather and don’t think you’ll need to do so again anytime soon, feel free to quit the app.
Again, I list this only to avoid a shitstorm of people complaining that I didn’t. If you follow recommendations 1 and 2 in this guide, you should not need to worry about this at all.
Myths and Misconceptions
There is so much misinformation floating around out there, I thought I would take a brief moment to clear up some of the most common things I have heard. Keep in mind, some of these things might have been accurate information back in iOS 3 or something… hell, I might have even suggested it to you back then, but technology has changed and they may no longer apply.
Manually Quitting Every App You Aren’t Using
See what I did there? This used to be a great piece of advice before there were so many options for what is and is not allowed to run in the background. Now you can configure each app in such as way as to pretty avoid ever having to do this.
Turn off Auto-Brightness
While technically true that the Ambient Light Sensor (ALS) drains battery to determine the proper brightness level for the screen, the amount of power that it uses is so miniscule that it doesn’t matter. If you are someone who would just leave your screen at 100% brightness, the ALS will actually save you battery, because 99% of the time, it will turn the brightness down, saving you more battery than it is using.
Turn off Diagnostics and Usage Reports
Again, while this will technically save you battery, it will not be in any way noticeable. These reports are only sent when an application crashes. To have any noticeable impact on battery life, you would have to have applications crashing every 15 minutes. If that is the case, you have bigger problems than battery life, and these reports will probably help more than hurt anyway.
Turn off Automatically Set Time-zone
There used to be a bug in iOS that caused this feature to seriously degrade battery life. That was fixed a long time ago, but I still hear people recommend it all the time. Today, this feature has no noticeable impact on battery life.
Don’t use Push Email
Hogwash. See Point #2.