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Since their invention back in the 70s, mobile phones have become a necessity instead of a luxury for most Australians. Handset innovations, such as the smart phone and tablets and cheaper deals have given us a strong appetite for mobile technology. We use our phones to juggle work and social lives and many of us see the mobile as essential to personal security.

Girl on the lawn playing with a smart phone

©Martial Colomb/Getty Images

With the allure of attractive 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're dealing with the frustration of having to charge up every day or so, consequently using more electricity and reducing battery lifespan.

There are a number of things you can do to reduce energy use and get the most out of battery life that won't require a degree in rocket science:

  • You may not realise it, but your mobile phone charger is quietly chewing through power even when it's not being used. So switch phone chargers off at the wall once charging is complete. Your phone may even tell you to do this.
  • 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 on your way to work. Most cars have a connection to do this if you have the right kind of 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 chew 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 can be better to do many small (bump) 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 it isn't going to be used for an extended period of time. This'll 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 churn through (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. If you have the option, connect to online services using 3G instead of a Wi-Fi hotspot. Wi-Fi uses lots of battery power. A 3G connection will generally chew through more data, which may impact your costs depending on your monthly data allowance. Check to see if you phone has 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. You can also use apps that automatically switch off data services when you reach your limit.
  • Switch off 3G or 4G until it's needed. It's really only useful when you're web browsing or downloading files. 2G is fine for calls and messaging.
  • Play music from your phone instead of streaming. This'll also reduce your monthly data usage saving you money and energy.
  • Using a smart phone for internet activities like banking and shopping can save you time and petrol. As with any computer, it's worthwhile protecting your phone from malicious software and keeping your information secure.

Cordless phones

While power consumption on cordless phones may not seem significant compared with larger appliances, they use energy 24 hours a day which contributes to your overall energy use, especially if you have more than one.

  • Consider switching back 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.
  • Try to find a phone that consumes less than 1 watt when in standby mode. Look for phones that display the voluntary ENERGY STAR® mark. It can help you identify energy-efficient models.