by Al Sacco

Want Better Android Battery Life? Stop Being Such a Cheapskate

Mar 20, 20122 mins
MobileSmall and Medium BusinessSmartphones

New research suggests that you can dramatically boost the life of your Android smartphone by avoiding free, ad-based mobile applications that suck up system resources and power. So stop being so stingy and drop a dollar or two for the ad-free versions of your favorite apps or you may pay a price in battery life.

To say that battery life is not one of Android’s strengths would be an immense understatement—unless, of course, you’re the lucky owner of Motorola’s DROID RAZR MAXX smartphone.


While certain measures can be taken to ensure that you’re getting the most battery life from your Android tablet or smartphone—check out my list of Android battery basics here—a recent study suggests a significant and avoidable source of battery drain may come from an unlikely source: free Android apps, including the uber-popular Angry Birds titles.

The study, conducted by representatives of Purdue University and Microsoft Research, found that in some cases as much as 75 percent of application-related Android battery drain can be attributed to advertising services inside free apps. Such services often use GPS or locations services to find users’ whereabouts and employ Internet connections to serve up relevant advertising, among other things, draining large chunks of battery in the process.

The researchers employed a tool called “EProf” to analyze five popular Android applications on an HTC handheld running Android v2.3: Angry Birds, Free Chess, the Android browser, MapQuest and the New York Times app.

Not all free apps are ad-subsidized and some may still drain battery life finding your location, for a variety of purposes. And some apps are available only in ad-supported versions, so there’s not much you can do in those cases, except avoid the software completely. But it’s safe to assume that many of your Android apps that constantly deliver ads, or apps that use your location, are sucking up some level of battery life that could probably be better used elsewhere.

So the next time you decide to save that dollar and go with the ad-supported ad, remember that not all free apps come without a cost. And it pays to use location-based services within apps sparingly.

The Perdue/Microsoft report is quite lengthy, contains many big words and funky acronyms and probably won’t mean much to the average reader. But Android developers looking for information on how to improve existing apps or build better software in the future, or other interested parties, could probably learn a thing or two from the text. Find the full report here.