Time for something we all have to deal with in one way or another. Battery Life. Batteries power our favorite electronics from our phones to our laptops to our remote controls to even our cars to that battery-powered electric cat food can opener/flashlight/MP3 player (patent pending) you saw on TV at 3:00 in the morning. The biggest issue with batteries is something we’ve been accustomed to but always still hate. The fact that they die. How do we make them last longer?
Well, usually it depends on the electronic item itself. For these examples, we will use consumer products that have screens like cell phones and laptops, as that’s where battery life is a primary concern. Sorry cat food can opener… We’ll get to you later.
Electronics use electricity in a number of ways. Some of the electricity is used to power the processor. Some is used to power the screen. Some is used to power the hard drive (if applicable.) Some is used to power the radio antennas so you can connect to the Internet. But most… most of the power is used to power the screen.
Brighten Up Your Battery! Turn the brightness down.
Your screen has a series of LEDs behind it or on the side of it like in the picture below. These LEDs are what brighten and darken your screen. If these LEDs were turned off, but your screen still remained active (that is, the LCD part still remained active) you could shine a bright light in front of the screen and still see your work, but just barely.
These LEDs are the biggest battery hog of all the components. They generally pull the most power and the more light needed, the more power needed. Much more. This puts a significant strain on the battery. If you want to save yourself some battery power, lower the brightness on the product you are using. It may be a little less convenient, but it’s a whole lot more convenient than being stuck somewhere without an outlet and charger to connect to.
Put a pause on that processing power.
The next biggest culprit, on average, is processing power. I should put this in with a star, as it is actually the most powerful and prominent puller of power, even more so than your LED screen, but your device is not using its full processing power most of the time, it’s not as much a strain as your screen is. Processing power takes a huge amount of electricity. Our devices in our pockets are mini computers – all more powerful than the computers we used to launch our astronauts to the moon. These little computers take millions of calculations, gives out a result and sends it to a visually stimulating representation on the screen. All of this takes a huge amount of power, particularly if your device has to work harder than normal. The best way to save this power is to not use it at all while on battery, but if that is unavoidable, then more often than not today’s devices have battery saving features built in. With one click, you can change your product’s processing speed by dropping voltages applied to the processor and RAM which means less power is used. This also makes your processor slower, so things may slow down a bit, but only if you’re trying to play a game or something that makes that little computer of yours work harder.
I hate listening to the radio… too many commercials.
Well, not that kind of radio. A “radio” in the case of a computer, phone, laptop or tablet is a device that connects you to external communications bands in some way. The more common known ones are Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and Cell radios. These radios are constantly blasting out or searching for frequencies on its band hoping to either hear or be heard. This blasting sucks up battery life at a fairly considerable rate. Turning off any radios you don’t have a use for, such as Bluetooth if you’re not near your car or have a headset or WiFi if you’re in the middle of the jungle, will save you a good amount of power down the road. Often, if you are in a remote area and you are barely receiving any cell service, it is also a good idea to simply turn your phone on to “Airplane” mode, which turns off all radios. Turning off the cell tower when you barely have reception will save your battery a lot of strain because when a phone cannot get a good enough signal, it works harder to try and keep/amplify the one that it has.
Tomorrow, we will talk about battery conditioning and how to make your battery have a longer overall life.