Since the introduction of smart devices, battery power has been and still remains a precious commodity. In this article we will review many of the features and settings of iOS devices that impact battery life, and make recommendations about how to conserve power.
One important thing to keep in mind is that battery life is complex, and the impact of one setting for a specific user may not always reflect the impact of that same feature on another user’s device. It’s also important to note that after you make any changes, be sure to charge your iOS device on a wall charger overnight. This full charge is often needed before any changes will be effective.
Backup your device just in case, then install any pending iOS updates to make sure you have the latest performance updates. You can update your iOS device’s software by tapping Settings > General > Software Update. If there is an update pending, you’ll be prompted to download and install it.
Turning the brightness down will make the display use much less energy. To adjust this, go to Settings > Wallpapers and Brightness, then slide the brightness slider down to the lowest point where you can still thoroughly enjoy your device. Turn Auto-Brightness off so your brightness setting does not change.
In situations where you need more brightness temporarily, access Control Center by swiping from the bottom up, and adjust the brightness there.
Location Services: On vs. Off
Turning off location services will make a significant difference in battery life. However, if you turn it off, you will not be able to locate your iOS device if it is lost or stolen, so you have to decide if having Location Services turned on or off is best based on your circumstances. You can turn this feature off in Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
Location Services: App Settings
Rather than disabling location services system-wide, you can go with a more granular option of disabling it for specific apps. For example, the Maps app obviously needs to use location services for directions. However, you can turn it off for apps you rarely use, or apps you don’t feel it’s necessary to use location services. For example, I don’t use Passbook, and I don’t feel the CNN app needs to use my location to be effective, so I turned location services off for those apps. I recommend leaving this featured enabled for Reminders, so location-based reminders continue to work.
Location Services: System Services
Another section in the Location Services settings page allows you to toggle GPS access for certain system features. To get to this page, scroll to the bottom of the Location Services settings and select System Services.
You can safely turn off Diagnostics and Usage and Location-Based iAds without much consequence. Disabling Frequent Locations will help save some battery life, but Notification Center will no longer be able to give you estimated travel times for your job or other frequently-visited locations. Based on your lifestyle, you can also turn off Traffic, Setting Time Zone, and Popular Near Me (which will disable the App Store feature for finding popular local apps).
Bluetooth is generally used for sending audio to Bluetooth speakers, headphones, or car audio systems. It should be turned off unless it is being used. To turn Bluetooth off, access Control Center by swiping from the bottom up, and tapping the Bluetooth icon.
Turn off Wi-Fi in situations where you are not using it. For example, when you are walking around in an urban area, your phone is recognizing each wireless network that is in range. If you turn off Wi-Fi in these situations using Control Center, you will save some battery power.
Apps running in the background can affect battery life. To quit them, double-click on the home button and use a swipe-up gesture quit each app. You can do this to all the apps that are currently running, since you can always open the app again if you need it.
Email Accounts: Push and Fetch
If you have any Mail accounts set to receive Push email, your phone is constantly checking for new messages from the server, which uses up power. To turn this off, access Settings > Mail, Contacts and Calendars > Fetch New Data and scroll down to Push. Changing this setting to off will save power, especially if you have several email accounts. However, you will need to manually open the Mail app to get any new emails.
A good compromise here is to use the “Fetch” setting with a suitable fetch time. With this setting, your phone will connect to the server and check for new mail only a few times (once every 15 minutes at most). This decrease in network activity can help mitigate battery drain while still delivering your email automatically.
Background App Refresh
This feature allows apps running in the background to refresh their content automatically. Each time an app wakes up in the background to access the network, it uses battery power. To change this, you can go to Settings > General and scroll down and tap Background App Refresh, and turn Background App Refresh to off. When prompted, tap Disable Background App Refresh.
As with most other settings, disabling Background App Refresh can impact certain features that you rely on. For example, the “Today Summary” feature in Notification Center relies on both Location Services and Background App Refresh in the weather app to function. To avoid disabling system features you enjoy, you can toggle the feature for individual applications just like Location Services.
Unlike Location Services, however, apps don’t need to ask for your permission to use Background App Update, so be sure to check this list often and see if any recently-updated apps have registered for the service without telling you.
Disable 4G or LTE
If you live in an area where your cellular carrier offers 4G service, turning this feature off may make cellular data load more slowly. If you live in an area where your carrier does not offer 4G service, turning this feature off will not make any difference in your cellular data speed. Either way, if you turn it off you will save some battery power. Access Settings > Cellular and turn Enable 4G off.
Music and the Equalizer
When you use the speaker on the iOS device to play audio, it uses a great deal of power. When you play music using earbuds, much less power is used.
There is also an Equalizer setting in the Music app that allows you to control the sound of the audio. Enabling the equalizer uses much more power than the default setting. To turn the equalizer setting off and save power, tap Settings > Music > EQ and change the setting to Off.
Some games are very demanding on the processor. One of the main reasons I mention gaming is not to recommend against it, but to make sure that if you are gaming you consider using earbuds. Playing certain games through the speaker can drain your battery completely from a full charge in just over an hour.
Certain apps can use an unreasonable amount of processing power and cause problems. Prior to iOS 7, flashlight apps were popular and used battery power even when the flashlight was not being used. The Facebook app is also rumored to cause performance problems and use an inordinate amount of power. You can uninstall any flashlight apps and the Facebook app to save battery power. Then use Safari to access Facebook and Control Center to access the flashlight.
Restore and Setup as New
If none of the measures above are resolving battery life issues, perform a Restore and select Setup as New in the iOS setup assistant. First back up your device, just in case, then access Settings > iCloud and make sure all the data you want is synced to iCloud, such as your contacts and calendars.
Then tap Settings > General, scroll down, and choose Reset. Select “Erase All Contents and Settings.” Type your passcode if prompted and then tap Erase iPhone twice. If you have Find My iPhone turned on, you will then be prompted to enter your Apple ID password to erase the iPhone.
Your phone will restart and you will be on the setup screen as if your phone were new. When asked whether you’d like to restore a backup, choose Setup as New instead. After that, you will be asked to enter your Apple ID for iCloud. This will bring back your contacts, calendars, and other iCloud data. You can get your apps back from the App Store by tapping Updates at the bottom right, then Purchased at the top. Tap the cloud icon with the down arrow to download apps again.
Your purchased music can be restored from the iTunes Store by tapping More at the bottom right and then Purchased. Tapping a media type like Music, Movies, and TV Shows displays your purchase history. In Music, tap All Songs and you’ll find a convenient “Download All” button at the top right of the next screen.
Charging Cases and Other Devices
If you still aren’t getting enough battery life out of your iOS devices, you can always use a charging case, like the Mophie Juice Pack Air. However, some people don’t like the extra bulk that results from a charging case. To get the extra power without the bulk, you can choose from a wide variety of external batteries.
One product I’ve found helpful is the Halo Pocket Power 2800. It will charge your iPhone 1.5 times, and at 2.5 ounces (71 grams) provides a lightweight, affordable, compact solution you can keep in your jacket pocket. For something more formidable, you might try the Anker Astro E5 15000mAh Dual External Battery Pack, which can charge your iPhone 7 times.
Of course, as noted above, battery life is a complex issue that can be affected in different ways for different users. If you’ve got a great battery-saving tip, be sure to drop it in the comments section below.