Hardcore iPhone battery-saving techniques

11 April 2016, 10:00

Despite being little over a year old my iPhone 6 Plus is starting to lose battery charge capacity. Even without much use it can drop below 50% of full capacity by lunchtime.

In response I implemented a regime of tough power saving tricks and – to my surprise – it’s worked extremely well. Battery life isn’t like it used to be when the iPhone was fresh from the box, where I’d only be crowning 90% usage by midday, but it’s way better than it was.

Swap apps for websites
First, I took a look at which apps are gobbling-up battery life by opening the Settings app, and tapping the Battery heading. The two big culprits on my iPhone were BBC News and Facebook. These services also have very functional sites for iOS users, so I did the following:

1. Deleted the apps (tap and hold the app’s icon, then tap the X in the corner)


2. Visited the sites in Safari on the iOS device, then tapped the Share icon at the bottom, and tapped Add To Home Screen.

From now on tapping the site’s icon on the home screen will automatically open Safari with the site loaded-up.

Obviously, by switching the apps for web links I’m going to lose out on notification messages from the apps. I consider this a fair trade-off. Additionally, for newsflash notifications I find The Guardian app works equally well, and uses much less battery life compared to BBC News. Obviously, my choice of app here is biased because I’m a Brit, and you’ll have to find a news app that works as well for your locality.

Totally control screen backlighting
This trick was perhaps the biggest contributor to my improved battery life, perhaps because I have the bigger-screen iPhone 6 Plus. However, what I did was simple: I turned off screen auto-brightness. This can be done by opening the Settings app, then tapping the Display & Brightness heading, and tapping the switch alongside Auto-Brightness.

This also meant that at all times I had to be much more conscious and also in control of screen backlighting, which can be adjusted easily via the Control Center (swipe-up from the bottom of the screen). As a rule aim for the following setting when adjusting: drag the screen backlighting slider so that backlighting is adequate for the location you’re in, and then drag it down just a notch so it’s slightly dimmer.

Yes, doing this means your iPhone screen isn’t glowing white all the time. But you might be surprised at the battery life difference it makes.

Use built-in iOS apps wherever possible
Apple optimizes the built-in iOS apps and, sadly, the same can’t be said for third-party apps. In fact, battery life optimization often doesn’t even figure on app developer radars.

Therefore, for any given task try to use the built-in iOS app. Yeah, it’s cool to use an app like Microsoft Outlook but does it really offer something extra compared to the built-in Mail app? It’s up to you to make-up your mind on an app-by-app basis but remember: the difference in battery life can make it worth it.

My own crunch point is mapping, because Google Maps is simply infinitely better than any mapping app out there. However, I limit its use to when it’s going to help me – if I’m driving at a busy time period, for example, when its almost psychic ability to reroute me to avoid traffic is useful. However, if I’m driving back home on a Sunday evening, for example, then I’ll use the built-in iOS Maps app.

Ultimately, this is the mantra of the hardcore battery saver: You need to think about apps, and how you use your phone.

Don’t game
This one’s simple but also mean: Stop playing games. They eat battery life. Again, this is down to your personal preferences but if you need your phone to last all day then spending two hours in the morning bashing birds against scaffolding is going to severely trim the hours of usage you’ll get.

Make use of Low Power mode – even when you have battery life
Low-power mode is intended to eke out the last few percentage points from your battery, but you can also use it at other times to keep your phone alive for longer. For example, if you’re in an area where there’s a weak (or no) cellular signal then you can switch it on (Settings > Battery > Low Power Mode) in order to compensate for the battery juice your iPhone is burning through trying to associate with a cellular tower – and, of course, if there’s little or no cellular signal then the fact Low Power Mode turns off things like background app refresh is actually very useful.

Use an external battery charger
This isn’t really a tip specific to iOS but I’ll add it anyway because it’s been very useful for me: Get an external battery pack. These portable little things slip into your pocket and can cost very little but, if you’re out and about, essentially give you back 100% iPhone charge.

The model I use cost the equivalent of $9.99 and is rated at 2,600mAh – not a huge amount but enough to get me back to full charge if I’m away from the home or office. I just connect it to my iPhone via a spare lightning cable, and then slip both into my bag. A few hours later and, hey, my iPhone’s ready for use again.

A few words of caution – as with anything containing a potentially explosive LiIon battery pack, buy from a reputable brand. This isn’t an area where you should be buying cheap unbranded eBay knock-offs.

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