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Girl on the lawn playing with a smart phone

©Martial Colomb/Getty Images

With features to help us stay connected, in touch, and organised, the smartphone is now firmly in the palm of our hands. The downside is poor battery life—meaning we we have to charge up every day or so, consequently using more electricity and reducing battery lifespan.

There are a number of simple things you can do to reduce energy use and get the most out of battery life.

  • Your mobile phone charger is using power even when it's not being used. Switch chargers off at the wall once charging is complete. 
  • Avoid charging overnight unless you need to—once the battery has been fully charged it doesn't need to sit there using electricity all night. Another option is to recharge in the car, most cars have a connection if you have the right adapter.
  • Reduce screen brightness and turn off live wallpapers (animations)—a major cause of power drain.
  • Turn off Bluetooth and GPS when you're not using them. These radio signals use a lot of power. You can set the GPS to 'automatic' so it activates only when needed.
  • Most mobile phone batteries these days are lithium-based rather than nickel-based. It's not advisable to fully discharge a lithium-ion or lithium-polymer battery because it can quickly lose its ability to hold a charge. It's better to do many small charges. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • It's important to keep your phone out of the sun or a hot car as heat will significantly degrade your battery's performance.
  • If your phone allows access to the battery, remove the battery when the phone isn't going to be used for an extended period of time to prolong battery lifespan.
  • Keep the phone in an open area when you don't need to hide it away for security reasons. When hidden away in a desk or handbag it has to work harder to maintain a signal, using more battery.
  • Shorten the amount of time for the screen to turn off automatically—try 30 seconds.
  • The more applications your smartphone has, the more power it will use (this particularly applies to Android phones). Consider uninstalling any applications or widgets you aren't using. You can check to see what's hogging your phone's battery—look for 'Battery use' in your phone's settings.
  • Set your social media alerts to check at 30 minute intervals (or more) and close the applications when you don't need them. This can also make a big difference to your data usage.
  • Consider connecting to online services using 3G or 4G instead of a Wi-Fi hotspot which uses lots of power. A 3G connection will generally use more data, which may impact your costs depending on monthly data allowance. Higher-speed 4G devices will use more. If you’re streaming movies on a 4G device, consider switching the video playback to standard definition to avoid 4G bill shock.Your phone may have a built-in data usage monitor to alert you when you're approaching your limit, or download a third party application to do the job. Some apps  automatically switch off data services when you reach your limit. If you’re connecting with Wi-Fi at home or secure hotspots, switch it off when you’re done.
  • 2G coverage is fine for calls and messaging so switch off 3G or 4G until it's needed. It's really only useful when you're web browsing or downloading files.
  • It's worthwhile protecting your phone from malicious software and keeping your information secure.

Cordless phones

Power consumption on cordless phones may not seem significant compared with larger appliances but they use energy 24 hours a day.

  • Consider switching to a conventional cord phone which uses only a trickle of energy via the telephone line. These phones also have the advantage of not being cut off during power failures.
  • If you have a number of cordless phones in your home, consider keeping just one cordless phone strategically placed and use cord phones in other locations throughout the household.
  • Some phones consume less than 1 watt when in standby mode. Look for phones that display the voluntary ENERGY STAR® mark to identify energy-efficient models.