Tips to improve the battery life of your Windows Phone

In order to get more battery life out of your Windows Phone you have two viable options. The first is to purchase an external or extended battery and connect it to the smartphone -- that is not quite convenient as it adds more weight and bulk -- and the second is to tweak Windows Phone for the device to consume as little power as possible, preferably without sacrificing any important functionality.

Taking the former route involves spending time to research the available options -- there are many of them, but only a couple may suit your taste and preference -- and spending money, while the latter requires considerably less effort on your end and, best of all, has no price tag attached to it. Since you are reading this article I can only assume you are interested in finding out more about the latter option, so let us take a look at the following tips.

Set a Low Screen Timeout

Out-of-the-box, depending on your device, Windows Phone may set the screen timeout to keep the display on for a considerable amount of time after any user activity ends (on my Nokia Lumia 920 the default is one minute). This hurts battery life, but you can use a lower value -- I prefer 30 seconds -- by going to the Settings menu, tapping on "lock screen" then "Screen times out after" and choosing "30 seconds". The lower the better.

Configure Adaptive Brightness

Adaptive brightness is designed to make the displayed content easy to read in various lighting conditions. It automatically raises the brightness when the smartphone is used in sunlight and lowers it in dark surroundings to avoid eye fatigue. In turn, this sips more power as your Windows Phone has to constantly use the ambient light sensor to make adjustments.

You have two options. You can either disable adaptive brightness or configure the level -- low, medium or high -- Windows Phone uses as a reference to adjust it. This can be done from the "brightness" menu, found in operating system's Settings.

Toggling "Automatic adjust" to off will disable adaptive brightness. On my Lumia 920 the "level" defaults to "high" after doing this (it can be set at another default value on a different device). Set it to medium or, preferably, low to improve battery life.

If you turn adaptive brightness back on afterwards, Windows Phone will use the currently set level to adjust the brightness, meaning it will try to keep it in the low range, for instance, for as much as possible if you previously selected "low".

Use Dark Colors with AMOLED Displays

An AMOLED screen turns pixels off to show black -- it will consume increasingly less power the darker the displayed content is. If your Windows Phone has an AMOLED panel -- like the Samsung ATIV S, Lumia 820, Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020 have -- you can leverage its strength by using a black background for the operating system, and dark themes -- when available -- for installed apps.

To use the black background in Windows Phone open Settings, go to "theme", tap "Background" and then select "dark" to enable it. It should be set as such by default, but in case you are using "light" change it to this recommended setting.

As I previously mentioned, not all apps support dark or black themes but here are some notable examples of the ones that do: Twitter, Nextgen Reader, 6sec and 6tag. The theme can be changed from the app's settings.

Disable Connectivity Options When They're Not Needed

Connectivity options, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS and mobile data, negatively impact battery life when they are enabled. Of course, permanently disabling them would affect both the operating system and installed apps, which is not a preferred outcome.

But the said connectivity options can be selectively disabled when they're not used or needed. To give you an example, there is no point in keeping Bluetooth enabled when your Windows Phone is not paired with another device, like your car's infotainment system or smartwatch. The same goes for Wi-Fi, GPS, mobile data and NFC, which can be turned off at times without any side-effects.

These connectivity options can be enabled and disabled from the Settings menu. There are dedicated submenus for Wi-Fi (called "Wi-Fi"), Bluetooth (called "Bluetooth"), GPS (called "location"), mobile data (called "cellular") and NFC (called "tap+send"), which allow you to toggle each of them on and off. You can also use an app like System Tiles to pin shortcuts for connectivity options on the homescreen for easier access.

Enable Battery Saver

Battery Saver will prolong the battery life of your Windows Phone by disabling background processes and automatic email sync as well as other features. It can be enabled to kick in only when the battery reaches a certain percentage (25 percent is the default value, which some battery apps may alter depending on the user-set preference) or at all times.

I recommend choosing the former option, by opening Settings, tapping on "battery saver" and toggling "Battery Saver" on (it automatically defaults to improve the battery life only after it goes below that threshold, but can be manually set to "always" from the "advanced" submenu).

Disable Unneeded Background Processes

Some apps create background processes which are automatically enabled once the app is first opened, to perform some tasks while the program is closed. For instance, Weather Flow's background process allows it to frequently fetch weather information in the background and display it on the lockscreen and/or on its live tile.

But there are some background processes which are enabled even though you may not need them to be. A good example is myTube -- its background process only updates live tiles with captions from your subscriptions' latest uploads, or a popular feed.

To disable background processes go to Settings, swipe sideways to reach the "applications" tab, tap on "background tasks", select the app and press the "block" button. To re-enable a background process tick the "Turn background tasks back on for this app the next time I open it". There is always a description offered for each background process, so you can assess whether it is important or not for you.

Uninstalled Unneeded Apps

There are some apps that create background processes which cannot be disabled. You can see which ones those are by tapping on "advanced" in "background tasks" and going through the items in the list.

Such apps will affect battery life, and the only way to remedy this is to uninstall the offerings that you no longer use or need by long pressing on the app, in the Windows Phone app list, and selecting "uninstall" from the dropdown menu.

Close Unused Apps

Multitasking is an essential feature for any modern mobile operating system. Windows Phone is no exception, as it allows users to have a maximum of six offerings opened at the same time in order to quickly switch between them. It can increase productivity, but it also affects battery life as the tiled OS has to allocate resources to keep them running or handle some tasks on their behalf.

To close apps on Windows Phone 8 Update 3, all you have to do is open the multitasking menu, by long pressing the back capacitive button, and tap on the round X icon shown at the top right corner of each card. For those whose devices are running an older version of the OS the same can be achieved also from the multitasking menu, but by selecting the app and, once it is in the foreground, tapping the back capacitive button until it disappears.

Prevent Some Apps From Using the GPS

Some apps, like Foursquare, HERE Maps and HERE Drive, require GPS in order to function properly -- for instance, pinpoint the user's location for check-ins, turn-by-turn navigation, speed or altitude. Others, like Facebook and Twitter, require GPS access in order to display the users' location alongside posts or enable folks to check-into places. Decide which offerings should be granted access on a case-by-case basis, and deny or revoke access to ones that you want to prevent from using the GPS. By exercising good judgement you can improve battery life, and increase your privacy.

Use a Battery App

Such an app will not improve battery life per se, but it will allow you to keep a closer look on the remaining percentage which, in turn, may allow you to take swift decisions regarding the state of Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi or running apps, in order to get through the day or until you can find the nearest charger. As I explained in my Best apps for your Windows Phone roundup, I recommend Battery.

A Word of Caution

There are other things that you can do to improve the battery life of your Windows Phone, but there is a good chance that they will have a negative impact. For instance, setting lower intervals for syncing emails (instead of push or automatic) improves battery life but will delay the arrival of emails. Similarly, disabling sounds or vibrations can also help, but may prevent users from hearing important notifications or sensing when someone is calling (however, disabling the camera shutter and key press sounds is fine). Disabling the automatic backup of the list of apps and settings, messages and photo and video uploads also has a positive effect on battery life, but if the smartphone is stolen that data will be lost. Optimizing battery life without compromising the functionality of a smartphone only works up to a point.

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