Say goodbye to the dreaded dead phone.

By Kaitlin Stanford
Updated September 14, 2016
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These days, we practically live and die by our cell phones. (And that’s hardly a surprise, considering they’re pretty much designed to ensure we never put them down.)

But in between all of our feverish Google-ing, finger swiping, and photo filtering, we tend to forget about just how hard our phones are working for us all day long. That is, until that all-too-familiar “low battery” notification pops up, and we suddenly realize we’ve totally drained our battery. If you’re out in the world when this happens and have no charger in sight, it’s enough to strike fear in your heart.

According to Ryan Lindstrom, a Product Development Engineer with Sprint, there isn’t one major culprit that’s sucking up our battery juice all day long—and that’s because every device is different, and battery life varies depending on the make, model, and year it was made. But there are still plenty of other things you can do to conserve your battery throughout the day.

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Hate to break it to you, but most of the things you love to do on your phone are also what’s sucking up all the battery. According to Lindstrom, using your phone’s camera (whether taking photos or shooting video), playing games, and watching video are the quickest ways to drain your phone. “These activities also tend to heat up the phone,” notes Lindstrom, “[and] any time a phone heats up, it’s a sure sign that the battery is being drained.” If you know you’re going to need a fully charged phone the whole day and you’re not going to be able to charge it, limit these activities.


It’s easy to forget, as you bounce from one app to another and back again, but most of us leave multiple apps running in the background constantly, and some of them use up more juice than others. Namely, apps with mapping functionality, like Google Maps, WAZE, Here Maps, MapQuest, and Apple Maps. But they aren’t the only ones to look out for: “Applications like social media will use data throughout the day, whereas fitness trackers will use location frequently,” says Lindstrom. “Both types of applications will contribute to battery drain, but will do so much more slowly than watching a video.” If your phone has one, check your battery usage monitor to see how much juice they’re using up by running in the background.


“Leaving the Wi-Fi radio enabled on older phones may contribute to battery drain,” says Lindstrom, “but on newer phones, Wi-Fi usage actually saves battery.” Basically, when you’re not actively connected to Wi-Fi on a newer phone, it will waste energy scanning for Wi-Fi to save on battery. But it’s actually a good thing: “It’s much more energy efficient for a phone to talk to a Wi-Fi router a hundred feet away than to talk to a cellular tower miles away,” says Lindstrom. “I’d just leave Wi-Fi on, it doesn’t cost much battery life but can save quite a bit.” Plus, newer phones can use Wi-Fi for location data, instead of relying on the much more battery-draining GPS, says Lindstrom. (In other words, being connected to Wi-Fi = always a good thing.)


Lowering your screen brightness and setting your screen timeout to a shorter value will also gain you a few precious minutes on your battery over time. And it only takes seconds.


In the short term, you can set your phone to “low-battery mode,” if your software has one, or—if you’re especially desperate—switch over completely to airplane mode to conserve battery for longer. If you choose the latter, just be aware that you’re cutting off all wireless services for a bit—meaning you won’t be able to browse the Internet, send texts, make outgoing calls, and more.


This one’s another last-ditch effort, and probably only best to resort to in desperate times. Lindstrom notes that disabling location services in your settings will cause many applications to no longer work, or others not to work as well. That goes for navigation-based apps including fitness trackers and social media.


If you constantly put off upgrading your phone’s software, you may want to change your ways. Updating your operating system and outdated apps will optimize your phone’s overall performance, and help save battery life in the long run.


If you’re especially guilty of letting your battery run dry, consider springing for a small portable charger to give your phone some juice when you’re on the go. You can find pocket-sized options for $50 or less, like the Anker PowerCore or this Portable Cosmetic Kingstar, which doubles as a mirrored compact.