Tips and Tricks Specific to Android
The Battery Use Screen
Buried deep inside the system settings menu, specifically Settings>About Phone>Battery Use, is a very useful tool. It’s so useful, in fact, that as of Android version 4.0, it has been moved to Settings>Battery. It’s the battery use screen, and it provides vital information regarding just what exactly has been using your battery, and how much of it. Checking this screen periodically throughout the day as well, as before plugging in your device at the end of the day, can give you insight on how your various usage practices affect your battery life.
Just as important, it lets you see which apps might be running amuck when you don’t want them to. Once you know which apps are problematic, you can explore their settings to see what might be putting extra strain on the battery. Allowing apps to sync often or run in the background can have a significant impact on battery life. Uninstalling unruly apps is always an option, too.
The Right and Wrong Way to use Task Killers
Android is unique in that it gives applications a lot of freedom to run in the background. WP7 and iOS are much more limiting in this regard. The result is that a lot of Android apps keep running even after you’re done using them, and in cases like that, a task killer app can be useful; however, task killers can also be detrimental to your battery.
Automatic task killers that periodically kill all but essential apps should be avoided at all costs. Some background processes, once killed, simply start back up again. Continually reloading apps is bad for battery life. Additionally, many background apps aren’t actually doing anything in the background, so killing them serves no purpose.
There are only two times when a task killer is particularly useful. The first is when an app continues to use up processing resources after you’ve left it. Killing apps like this will improve battery life as well as system performance. The second is when you want to kill all non-essential apps before running a benchmark in order to show off to your friends.
The Joy of Widgets
Android is all about widgets. It’s easy to fill your screen with all sorts of quick tidbits of information right at your fingertips, but this isn’t always the best for your battery. Many widgets, especially the more extravagant ones, eat up CPU cycles and sync every time you unlock your phone. Cramming as many of these widgets onto your home screen as possible not only has the potential to make your phone feel sluggish, but also drain your battery. The key is moderation, and always check widget settings when available to ensure they aren’t running when you don’t need them to.
There are also handfuls of monitoring widgets that can give you additional insight into what’s going on under the hood of your phone. Battery widgets can keep you updated on how much charge is remaining as well as battery temperature and output levels (Battery Widget is often a top choice for this). CPU and task monitoring widgets can let you know if any applications are misbehaving (Mini Info is a prime example of a full-featured monitor widget).
Lastly, widgets are great for creating shortcuts to toggle battery draining settings that you still would like to use often, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The Power Control widget that is included with Android out of the box offers many of these toggles, but the marketplace also has many others.