iDrain No More – 10 Tips to Help Conserve iPhone Battery Life

So, you have that shiny new iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS, and you’ve enjoyed playing with all of the really cool new features. You now have it all spec’d out with the killer apps that makes your life easier (and perhaps more fun), and you feel confident with the pocket power you now possess.

But somehow along the way your pocket power is, well, running out of power. Yes, your iPhone has now introduced you to the Kryptonite of the iPhone (and all mobile devices for that matter) – iDrain. The iPhone, thanks to its expanded capabilities, gets used more – and this additional use over a standard cell phone leads to faster battery depletion.

But fear not. There are steps to take that will prolong the run time for your iPhone, allowing you to have your cake and look it up on the web too. While some power saving tips are common sense (don’t browse the web and/or talk all day long), some things could easily be overlooked. So, as a service to our readers, we present a list of tips to help the road warrior in all of us get the most out of an iPhone charge.

1. Turn down the screen brightness. The iPhone has a nice, bright screen, but driving that backlight takes battery power. I usually keep mine at around 25% brightness, but you can easily experiment with the settings to see what works best for you, To adjust the screen brightness, go to settings/brightness and slide the control down to a setting that is acceptable

2. Adjust your poll time to check for email less frequently. The amount of time to wait before checking for new email is adjustable, and the less often you check, the less power you will use in the process. The iPhone offers settings of 15 minutes, 30 minutes, Hourly, and Manually. I usually set it for 30 minutes, with the knowledge that I can also always pull up the email client and manually check whenever it is convenient for me. However, you can set it for what works for you. It might be good to note that a longer polling period cuts down on potentially distracting email notifications as well as saving power from the notifications themselves (especially from the vibration alert). To adjust this setting, go to settings/mail and adjust the fetch time. Now, if you use a push email service, this will not be an option for you. But it has been reported that push services end up using more power, since they keep a connection open. This may be a tradeoff for the end user to decide.

3. Turn off the WiFi. Sure, it makes browsing faster to be connected to a good WiFi data source, but it uses more power in the process. Not only that, but leaving the WiFi on continues to burn through power even when you are not actively connected to a source. My advice – turn off the radio until you are in a location that has a fast WiFi connection and plan to use it for a bit. Otherwise you are writing a tiny power check every few minutes, and cashing them out hits your battery fairly hard. To adjust, go to settings/Wi-Fi and select off.

4. Turn on Auto-Lock for the screen. The iPhone has a beautiful screen, but if you don’t have Auto-Lock on it will be happy to keep that screen shining brightly until you manually turn it off. Not only is this not battery friendly, but it could lead to unexpected calls to Timbuktu thanks to a little accidental screen contact. You can adjust how long the phone will wait before Auto-locking, but the shorter the duration the greater the battery savings (and potentially the more secure the iPhone is, especially if you select an easy to remember but quick to type passcode while you are at it). To adjust this, go to settings/general and select a value for Auto-Lock.

5. Turn off the Equalizer. If you listen to music a lot, this one may be helpful. By turning off the equalizer you can save power over the entire listening session, and depending on the type of music you listen to this could be beneficial over time… Apple has suggested this for the iPod for some time now. To adjust this, go to settings/iPod and turn off the EQ.

6. Pack more juice. Just because you are on the road does not mean that you can’t have a backup power source for your iPhone. Several third party solutions are available that give you an easily pocketable power up to keep you running. For example, the 3GJuice gives you an additional 1800 mAh battery that will charge up your phone to 100% in relatively short time.

7. Take advantage of the commute time. Keep a mobile charger in the car, and plug up the phone when out for lunch or getting to a meeting location. Make it very convenient, and the action soon becomes habit, giving you a battery boost when you get to your destination. The same thing goes for keeping an extra USB cable handy when you are working – most devices now have USB ports, and installing iTunes is not required to charge the iPhone from a port.

8. Kill the vibrate. A vibration alert requires a physical process to drive it, and as you would expect this takes a chunk of power to make it happen. You can save some power by being judicious with its use. You can find this (strangely enough) at settings/sound.

9. Turn off Bluetooth. Let’s be honest, Bluetooth is great when it is in use. Wireless headsets are sweet, no doubt about it. But that connection requires an active radio to be on and listening for the headset to connect in and that requires power. By turning off the Bluetooth radio when not in use for extended periods of time you can save a little juice. This can be found at settings/general/bluetooth.

10. Update the phone often. Apple engineers are always working hard to tweak their flagship product to provide the best user experience, and these tweaks come to us through updates via iTunes. (For example, the latest 3.x update is already in beta and expected out soon.) So, if you typically do not sync via a desktop iTunes make it a point to do it on occasion and check for a new iPhone update – you may save power by doing so.

By following these tips and using a little control in the iPhone usage, you should find that getting through a typical day (or two) without a dead battery is not difficult at all. The most important thing to remember is that you are on a limited amount of power reserve when using any mobile device, and weighing your usage goes a long ways to having your device handy and charged when you need it most.

  • Luke

    well if i turn all of those these features off wouldn’t it render the iphone pretty much useless brick? I may as well just stick with a basic cell phone

  • phil

    Yeaaaaa, I’ve done all of that and my battery life still sucks ass. Thanks for wasting not only my time, but also everyone who bothered to click on this link.

  • Sal

    You don’t have to turn off WiFi. The iPhone OS has a timer that shuts down WiFi after 30 minutes if no app has requested data.

  • FrankleeMiDeer

    These are good tips to prolong the battery life for any phone.

    Fortunately, for me, and unfortunately for the iPhoners, I can just pop in a new battery when the old one runs down and I’m in the woods. I have no idea why people buy phones without easily-changeable batteries. I bought 4 spares for my Moto QA30 for $60.00. That will do me for a 2-week-long hike without having to miss mail, news, twitter updates, etc. I love my Moto!

  • Kevin VanderLugt

    I recently released an app called “myBatteryLife” that has climbed the charts faster than almost any other app in iTunes history.

    “myBatteryLife” displays the current percentage of battery life left on your iPhone or iPod Touch. With a large percentage display and a visual indicator, you can quickly view your remaining charge. “myBatteryLife” also determines your type of hardware (it differentiates between iPhone and iPod Touch generations) to calculate a the remaining hours and minutes for different uses.

    It released about a month ago, and after releasing an update last week, I entered the top 100. Today, I’m up to the #9 position of all the paid apps in the entire US iTunes store, and have sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide. “myBatteryLife” is the #1 paid utility app in over 20 countries, and I’m in the top 10 overall paid apps in over 20 countries as well.

  • Carlos Martins

    From the tests I made when I first got my iPhone 3G, having the WiFi and Bluetooth on (but not using it) has negligible impact on battery life.
    The iPhone hardware is smart enough to have it in “sleep mode” most of the time when it isn’t used.

    (of course, if you really don’t use it – no harm in turning it off… But otherwise, don’t worry too much about having it always on.)

  • jgregc

    Informative article, a few things I had not thought of doing.

    @Phil – the article states that a lot of it is just common sense. Not sure what you are doing, but you can’t expect a power saving tip or two to radically change your usage patterns.

    @Sal – most people who would have WiFi would also be running email, and if I am not mistaken the email request for data would wake up the WiFi every poll hit (15 or 30 minutes, etc.).

  • Lucas

    I got a Fueltank by Callpod, it’s got a huge battery in it that can recharge my 3GS 3x when I’m on the go.
    http://www.callpod.com/products/fueltank?afid=22

  • BJ

    @ jregc – The Wi-Fi is turned off on my cell phone, I get e-mail via 3G – it does cut down on battery drain. You don’t need the Wi-Fi on unless you cannot hit the web via Safari. My Outlook, hotmail, gmail, etc. all update and sync via the 3G network. The Wi-Fi is really for when you are out of 3G range and for some users that is all the time. I live in the Dallas, Texas area and I have never had to turn it on to access the web since we are in a good 3G area.

  • http://reversephonedetectivey.com Phone Detective

    It’s pretty amazing what you can do online ..It was not that long ago that you were wondering who just called your when you were not
    at home. Now you can only see who’s the unknown caller .. and also spy on who’s talking to your lover :))

    It’s crazy … You can even find the address by a simple phone number.. Wonder what’s gonna come next ?

  • FDP!

    @Phone Detective: “Now you can only see who’s the unknown caller .. and also spy on who’s talking to your lover :))”

    Explain?

  • Lee

    One tip I haven’t seen mentioned is turning the screen off and using the new voice control feature.

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  • MILE

    Okay, don’t take this personal now—but I’m really fed up with those articles that are basically suggesting to turn everything useful off in order to save some battery life…! Why not turn the whole damn device off and store it in a drawer then…?!

    Maybe it’s just that I’ve never experienced real problems with battery life with any of my previous iPhones or my current 3GS, but if I turn off push and wi-fi and what not—why would I want to have and use an iPhone in the first place…?!

    The only thing I usually have turned off is 3G, but only because EDGE is pretty fast and reliable over here in Germany so I don’t really see a need for using the 3G network…but that’s about it…!

    People need to realize that the iPhone is more than an average cell phone and that—even though they often don’t realize it—they use it much more extensive than just their cell phone or just their iPod…! So of course the battery life is going to be shorter, get used to it and just re-charge it every now and then…

  • Anonymous

    how does plugging my iphone into a charger is a solution for conserving the battery life??!!

  • Anonymous

    Phil and Luke are a bunch of dumbasses! Read the article next time! Why would you leave features on when they are not in use, like WiFi and Bluetooth? Turning off push completely will save your battery significantly. If you want to check email, check it manually. The author left out the obvious…turn off 3G when not using the iPhone. The 3G radio is main cause of battery drain. You don’t need 3G to talk on the phone. When you want to check email or browse the internet, turn on 3G. When done, turn it off. The iPhone has better battery life with 3G than most other phones, but the 3G radio is still a huge power draw. That is the nature of 3G. So if you both think the iPhone becomes a useless brick by turning off features when not in use, then neither of you are smart enough to own one.

  • Johnbo

    I’ve found the biggest drain on the battery is the 3g. Talk time on 3g is only about 5 hours. That means making a 1 hour call will kill the battery by about 20%. Calling on a 2g network has a talk time of about 12 hours. Just think about that…

  • Battery dying type quickly

    Now, if apple would just make some freaking customizable profiles, we could turn all our battery saving stuff on and off with one or two clicks, and not have to go through all he individual menus all the time! Profiles: Day, Night, Battery Saver, Battery Killer… More?

  • Greg rritle

    I love all the info I can get on the iphone,very helpful,no use critisizing others comments.We all learn from each other,but it is of help to use wifi when surfing the web,otherwise keep it off!! This definately helps.

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  • http://twitter.com/deancousin Deano

    Not bad info but IMO you need to have a charger at home and at work.

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  • http://2kad.net Paul

    I bet iPhone owners are hoping that the iPhone4 catches up with the rest of the world and has a changeable battery!

  • Michael Masterson

    Hi there
    I just recieved a new iphone 3gs and was very disapointed with the battery life , but after reading some of the comments on the pages above I have to say that maybe its early days to be critical.Firstly one of the comments was that we should be glad that people bother to post comments ,and give all of us some neat tricks to help us conserve battery life. So thanks to everybody ,

  • Stew D

    I have had my phone since about December. I was quite happy with the battery life until the last few weeks. Now I’ve gone from an ecstatic iphone 3gs owner to a frustrated one. I would gladly purchasea new battery to get back to the life it had before … but I take it the battery is not replaceable and I’m left with this failing battery?

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  • Joe

    Thanks a lot D., for putting all these tips together.
    They are very useful for me without sacrificing anything that I need.
    Cheers!

  • gojin momo

    Ok, Cydia just released a great fix called Auto3G. Here is the description: “Auto3G extends your battery life by automatically turning off the 3G radio (leaving on the 2G radio) when you lock your iPhone and automatically turning on the 3G radio when you unlock your iPhone. This way you always have the speed of 3G when you need it without the battery loss. As explained by Apple, this results in up to 100% greater battery life: “7 hours of talk time on 3G, 14 hours of talk time on 2G.” (apple.com/batteries/iphone.html)”

  • Annonymous#14234567

    @everyone thats complaining about this article: stfu? this guy spent his time telling you ways to keep you from buying another damn iphone battery and yet you guys are complaining ? why would you even read this article then ?

    @phil: your a d!!ick. waste your time ? are you the f(u)cking CEO of mcdonalds? you wasted more time posting the damn comment then reading it

    @luke: a brick ? go buy a brick and put it on your useless head. he means that turn it all off when your DONE using it/your going to sleep.

    @franklimideer or w/e his stupid name is: the motorolas were SO shitty that no one wanted to buy them so they went bankrupt and almost SHUT DOWN. dont compare a moto with something as powerful as an iphone.

    @mile:no one cares about your german crap. if you dont like his info, just dont complain. exit the browser and go jack off.

    @the other annonymous dude: good job. go tell those p3n1s wads to f(uu)ck off.

    please know your things before you make an offending complaint on the subject

  • iphone 4

    Let me get this right… So to keep the phone powered for more than a few hours simply disable the fun features you bought the phone to use…….

  • Clopez_66

    I just came from the apple store and they showed me something that I did hear before in any blog.
    you need to double click in the bottom at the bottom of the phone and hold the applications for 3 seconds to shut them down. Now from cycles of 4 to 5 hours I get a full day. The applications stay open since the latest upgrade and you have to shut them down manually with that process.

  • http://www.noba.co.uk/ Ruby – Event Wifi UK

    Lovely tips! The phone’s wi-fi uses a lot of the phone’s battery. It can sometimes be frustrating when the phone runs out of battery. But these tips will surely make it less frustrating as it will prolong the battery life.

  • JackAction

    Wait, two of these tips are just ‘Charge the phone’. The other eight work well, but I’m trying to conserve battery life because I don’t have access to my charger.

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