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Updated: December 16th, 2009

image It's not a secret that my Sprint HTC Hero has been having trouble keeping battery charge – by the time I came home from work, the battery level would oftentimes be at 10% or the phone would be simply dead.

One would give up and accept this futility but I had 2 reasons to keep trying to figure out why:

  • my co-worker's battery would consistently hold twice as much charge as mine – by the time I was at 50%, he was at 75%
  • a wide range of responses on Internet forums and blog posts suggested some people experienced excellent battery life, while others, like me, did not have as much luck

I received feedback from many people that the solution outlined here has helped them double their battery lives not just on their Android phones but also their Pres, Windows Mobile, and others. These people, like me, did not realize the drastic effect of the settings described here on battery life.

I thought I tried everything:

  • I kept WiFi and Bluetooth off when I didn't need them (I even got an app that turned WiFi on and off on schedule – Timerriffic; unfortunately until Hero gets Android 2.0 we won't see automatic Bluetooth scheduling)
    image
  • I tried to use the Spare Parts app which provided insight into battery usage history. I did not, however, find out anything significant
    image
  • I tried to avoid using GPS altogether – at one point Spare Parts told me GPS usage by Google Maps, Camera, and Bump were 5-6 hours each, even though I turned the GPS off. I think it's a bug in Spare Parts itself or what Android was recording but it made me paranoid.
  • I switched to using Handcent SMS due to the bug in default Message app (which was later fixed in the firmware upgrade).
  • I got a task manager (Advanced Task Manager) to see what apps are running and make sure especially heinous is eating up my resources. It would also automatically kill long running apps and certain apps I know I don't use and which I can't uninstall, such as IM, Gmail (I use Mail), and Finance.
  • On some days, I stopped using the phone altogether, just to see how long it would last. The result, however, was the same.

Nothing worked. Consistently, my phone would run down to 80% by the time I got to work and by about 3pm, it would be at 50%.

The Solution

Finally, a few days ago, when comparing my phone with my co-worker's, I noticed he didn't set up automatic email checking, opting in for the manual method instead. I, on the other hand, set up my email the day I got my Hero and never revisited the settings since. "How much power can downloading emails suck out?" I thought. Boy, was I wrong…

This solution is for people using the Mail app – not the Gmail app. The Gmail app uses the push method of getting emails – not pull, but doesn't suit my needs, which is why I am using the Mail app.

Turns out a LOT. I had 3 email accounts and they were checked at the following intervals:

  • my gmail was being checked every 5 minutes – I wanted near real-time notification but could not even fathom the consequences at the time
  • my beerpla.net account was hit every 15 minutes
  • my Plaxo work Exchange email fired every 30 minutes

In order to change these intervals, load up each email account's inbox, click Menu, find Settings, go to Send & Receive and then Set Download Frequency.

After I set each email account to check every hour instead, my battery life improved dramatically. To be fair, I watched the battery use for the last 3 days without changing my usage habits and recorded the results.

Here they are:

  • by the time I left for work in the morning, before the change I would oftentimes be between 85 and 90% battery. After the change, I was at 95-97%.
  • by lunch time, my phone would usually run down to 50-60%. After the change, the battery had 75-80% juice.
  • by 9-10pm, after I came back from work, I would usually need to put the phone on a charger because it was <15%. After the change, I was at least at 50%!

The Side Effect

Lately, I started to realize that having email notifications pop up this often was actually more distracting than useful. I was losing concentration and constant context switching made me less productive.

The fix for my battery problem was, incidentally, also the fix for my concentration problem.

Conclusion

Be very much aware of your email polling intervals or they will suck all the life out of your phone.

I would love to hear about your experiences with tweaking email settings and the effects those tweaks had on your battery life, as well as other dramatic Android battery saving tips. Feel free to share in the comments.

● ● ●

Artem Russakovskii is a San Francisco programmer, blogger, and future millionaire (that last part is in the works). Follow Artem on Twitter (@ArtemR) or subscribe to the RSS feed.

In the meantime, if you found this article useful, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee below.



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  • Nivek

    I am using Touchdown (MSExchange client) on my htc magic. I had set it up to sync every 30 minutes, but also activated the push option.

    I was having battery issues, running out of power before day end, until I recently deactivated the push option.

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      Thanks, Nivek. Makes sense – push needs to maintain a pretty much always active connection, as far as I understand, which is taxing the battery harder than pull.

  • love69walrus

    Hi there guys, I had a similar issue with battery on my UK Hero, but found an alternative to your solutions that has provided better results.

    I only use the built. in Gmail app as it appears its near dam impossible to stop it running/polling every 5 mins anyway…..no point fighting the inevitable!

    Simply log into your Gmail account on your PC, click settings and import mail account…then follow setup instructions.

    This will then make Gmail do a Blackberry style poll of all your email accounts server side every 15 mins-therefore using Googles power and not yours.

    All your emails are then delivered into 1 inbox, all labeled up with there respective account names.

    As your not getting several apps to do the same job, several times an hour, your battery life should improve even more.

    Hope this makes aense and I'm not just repeating what someone else has already recommended.

    Walrus :o)

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      Hrmm…

      it's possible to turn off Gmail app sync very easily – go to Settings, Data Synchronization, Google and uncheck Gmail.

      As far as using the Gmail app for email – I have 3 email accounts I want to check on my phone and Gmail only supports one if I understand it correctly – gmail. Additionally, it seems slower and less powerful than the mail app. I see now you suggest connecting multiple email accounts to Gmail, but it seems it can either be done on a one-time basis as an import or continuously using POP3. However using the Mail app allows me to use IMAP, so that I can enjoy its benefits (syncs read, deleted, etc emails with my Outlook).

      Your solution may just work for a lot of people who don't have complicated needs like me. Thank you.

  • http://www.plaxo.com Quang

    I'm offended. We all know that I'm the one that got the idea that it was your emails destroying your battery. You simply did extensive testing to confirm that it was the emails.

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      Details, details, Quang. This coming from a guy who still can't clone his harddrive to his SSD? :)

      BTW, my SSD shipped a few minutes ago.

  • Kelly

    Awesome, thanks for the tip. I don't like the phone checking my mail every few minutes anyway, I prefer to look when I want to. I just reset mine to every 2 hours.

  • Ted

    I changed my settings to check e-mail every hour. I did this about two weeks ago. No change in battery drainage. I then powered my phone off and powered back on and voila, my awake time is now at 3%. Don't know if everyone will need to do this but it helped me…

  • http://personalcameras.info/digital-camera-report-do-not-buy-the-panasonic-lumix-dmc-zs3-until-you-read-this/ Dan C

    I had gone through multiple Hero's through sprint before I had one that had a good battery. I love the Android platform and almost gave up on the phone due to this issue. I am very glad I got it fixed.

  • will sung

    Hi hi!
    I'm not sure if I'm doing this wrong but ive changed my settings for my email to update manually but notifications still pop up automatically to advise I have a new email.
    I did this through settings in my email inbox. Any ideas about what I may be doing wrong?
    Many thanks in advanced.

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      Not sure what would do that – maybe you have both the Gmail app and the mail app or 2 mail apps?

  • Aaron Harding

    My battery lasted pretty much exactly 24 hours, or less.

    Just changed my e-mail settings to once a day, Facebook and Twitter settings to two hourly.

    I really liked the notification feature, but if my battery life is improved by changing these, I'm going to be both happy and sad. Happy cause my battery life has been improved, but sad because I liked the whole 'almost-instant-notification'.

  • Lance

    Would it be worst on the battery life if you set your server email account to send a text notification to the phone? This would be instant notification and you can just start the email client on mobile phone when you want to. Note: I am considering getting the htc hero on an unlimited text plan and I've only use phone for talking only… but would like make the leap

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      Lance, I don't know about you but to me it would be too annoying and slow, as the text would probably not include the link to your Android email client.

      It would most likely be more battery efficient though, as it essentially emulates push email, except with even less data than email.

  • Cody Kloepfer

    This is very helpful information, I also have a Sprint Hero and it doesn't even last a day without needing a mid day charge. Once I get home, I will apply your fix and enjoy the all day battery life.

  • http://twitter.com/thefatrat Andy King

    what about the 'as items arrive' setting in mail.app? is that not true push?

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      I think it is but I'm not 100% sure and I'm not sure what effect it has on the battery.