Keeping your Android alive

These days, mobile phones have become more of a necessity than a luxury. Smartphones, in particular, can do so much that us humans have become overly reliant on the services of these trusty little gadgets.

Instead of only allowing us to connect with other people, smartphones also offer the capability to surf the Internet, capture pictures, play music, and navigate us to our intended destinations, just to name a few.

So, what happens when our powerful all-in-one device runs out of juice? Despite the never-ending list of ways our device can assist us, it is nothing more than a fragile brick if it cannot be switched on.

Smartphones are no longer like the mobile phones of yesteryears which could last for days and even weeks. The simple truth is that, as we strive for devices with more processing power and bigger screens, more battery power is required to keep them running.

With data plans becoming more affordable, many smartphone users have their devices connected to the Internet 24/7. This further consumes energy, and it is not reasonable to expect most smartphones to last longer than a day, even for those who only use their devices moderately.

Useful features come at a price. For example, nearly all smartphones come with GPS navigation software, which is undoubtedly very useful but practically one of the fastest ways to drain the battery dry.

So, how do we get the most out of our trusty little technological sidekicks?

Firstly, it is always best to disable features that aren't being used. Some people leave their WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS on even when not in use and this can cause unnecessary drain of energy.

It is also better to keep the screen's level of brightness at a minimal level. It will not be as pretty compared to a higher level of brightness, but it will make a world of a difference in terms of battery life.

I personally do not recommend using the auto brightness feature that can be found on most smartphones. This is because it seldom gets it right, plus having the light sensor constantly trying to detect the amount of ambient lighting will definitely consume more power.

Another handy tip is to reduce the screen timeout to the minimum. This is the amount of time that the device will wait before the phone locks the screen. However, the lesser time set, the more annoying it will get when using the phone, especially when playing games.

Having a poor network signal can also adversely affect battery life. If you are at a place where your telecommunications company has bad coverage, the phone will constantly be searching for a better signal, and thus eat up more power.

For those who aren't fussy about the speed of their Internet, another way to prolong battery life is to switch mobile data from 3G to 2G. The speed will be slower, but will require much less power to run.

There are also apps available in the Google Play Store for Android users that can aid in reducing power consumption.

One of the more popular options is Juice Defender ( I've tried this app out and it did greatly improve my smartphone's battery life, but at a cost. How the app works is that it disables the mobile data network and switches it on intermittently.

This means that it is useful only for those who usually leave their data network on all the time. When the app is running, you will only receive any notifications or chat messages which require the data network at a delayed time.

Those who are concerned about battery life should disable the option for your smartphones to auto sync e-mail messages and social media apps. This will sacrifice the timeliness of your updates as you will receive your messages and notifications late, but manually syncing is a very effective method of prolonging battery life.

Alternatively, for those who find it a waste to have invested so much in a smartphone only to have to skimp on its usage just to keep it alive for a day, there is also the option to purchase either an extended battery or an external charger.

Extended batteries are units with either the same or slightly larger capacities. It can also come in the form of a casing which can charge the phone when switched on.

On the other hand, external chargers are proving to be very popular. The portable devices, commonly known as power banks, can be charged and will store a certain amount of power. It will then charge any smartphone devices that are connected to it.

The good thing about power banks is that they are compatible with any smartphone, provided you have a compatible USB cable with you. The downside is having another device to carry around.

One word of caution with power banks is that there are many imitation and low-quality products out in the market. There have been cases of cheap units catching fire because of the subpar components being used.

There was even a case whereby the power bank was opened to reveal that only a small battery was being used inside and the other parts of the power bank being filled up by sand bags. As materialistic as it may sound, our mobile phones have a part to play in our daily lives. As such, it is important to keep our precious devices operating.

Donovan is a full-time auditor and big-time gadget lover who discovered the wonders of the Android world back in October 2010.