Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

Battery Life on the Samsung Epic 4G

by Eric Stewart on Sep.16, 2010, under Cell Phones & Providers, Technology

If you need an idea as to what’s using your battery life so much, from a “home” screen, go to:

  1. Menu
  2. Settings
  3. About Phone
  4. Battery Use

And you’ll get an idea as to what might be sucking your battery life away from you.

Here are the suggested steps you can take to attempt to extend your battery life, in no particular order:

  • Don’t Play With It: In my experience so far, the screen is the biggest sucker of battery life there is.  If you’re consistently playing games or checking email or websurfing, this is going to impact your battery life big time.  In addition, you might want to put your screen timeout fairly low, like 30 seconds or less (although I know it can get intolerable if you’re reading something and the screen shuts off just as you get ready to scroll to the next page).
  • Turn Off Stuff You’re Not Using: This should actually have been #1 – If you’re not near a stable WiFi location, turn that off.  Turn your GPS off if you’re not trying to find your location for some reason.  Turn off 4G unless you’re actively using it to download files or surf the web.  Turn off Bluetooth unless you’re using it for some reason, like a headset or file transfer.  All of these are easily accessible through the notifications screen – just swipe down the notification bar.
  • Don’t Use A Live Wallpaper: I know they look cool and I use one, but while your display is on, these probably can eat away at your battery life.
  • Charge The Thing If You’re Near Your Charger: Don’t wait for the battery to run down.  Though once or twice you may want to run the phone down all the way, and then charge it back up (like, overnight) with the phone off.  This was reportedly one way to extend battery life with the HTC EVO 4G.  For a while now I’ve always gotten two chargers: one for home, and one for work, and the phone is plugged in when I’m near one.  Also note that your phone will usually charge faster via wall plug vs computer USB port, and if you’re really desperate to charge it up quickly, turn the phone off.
  • Keep An Eye On Your Running Apps: While I no longer use (or suggest you use) Advance Task Killer, there is a Samsung “Program Monitor” widget that will tell you how many programs are actively running and open up a screen that allows you to kill them.  ATK usually reports a lot more running programs than the widget, but it may be that ATK is killing off stuff you’d need, like Email or Facebook services that provide you notices.  Android 2.1 so far has been fairly good at “garbage collecting” on its own, but I still go through and kill stuff myself if I’ve been bouncing around a bunch of apps and they’re still open.
  • Minimize Your Time In Areas With A Weak Signal: (3)Showing up as “Cell Standby” (I think) in your “Battery Use” screen,(/3) I would say that a majority of smart phones out there have a really bad problem when they’re in areas where the carrier’s signal is weak.  With Sprint, if your Sprint signal is just a hair too weak, you’ll often roam on to Verizon’s network … but the phone will always want to hop back on to the home network from time to time.  This constant searching and switching of signals is probably the #2 thing that will kill a battery quick.  A solution to this may be update your profile and PRL:
    1. From a “Home” screen, go “Menu”, “Settings”, “About phone”.
    2. Choose “Update profile” and “Update PRL”.

    (3)You can find your “Time without signal”:

    1. From “Home”: “Menu”, “Settings”, “About phone”, “Battery use”.
    2. Click on the entry for “Cell standby”.  “Time without signal” will be listed with a percentage.(/3)

    (4)If your “Time without signal” is high and you are in areas with a strong signal, you might also want to toggling “Airplane Mode” (put your phone into “Airplane Mode”, and then back out). It’s one of the common suggestions for saving battery life that I’ve come across.(/4)

  • Check Your Update Frequency: Using IMAP?  You probably don’t need to know immediately when you get an email.  I would suggest bumping down your Email Check Frequency to 30 minutes or more.  The same goes for Twitter and Facebook.  On not so busy accounts, Exchange Active Sync and Gmail systems should be okay with Push settings.
  • Turn Your Screen Brightness Down All The Way: It’s been my observation that the screen is perfectly usable indoors with the brightness down all the way.  The quickest way to do this is to swipe the notification bar from right to left.
  • Is The Phone Unusually Warm? Power It Off, And Power It Back On: I had a live wallpaper (at least, that’s what I think it was because that was the only thing different on the phone at the time) that appeared to be burning the battery up, even after I had switched to another wallpaper.  A basic reset of the phone appeared to clear up the problem.

It should kind of go without saying that all of these are fairly standard practices for pretty much any smart phone out there.  While phone and computer technology seems to be advancing at an incredible pace, battery technology has not really advanced all that far.  Hopefully, if you haven’t tried any of these suggestions yet, they’ll give you a few more hours of life to your phone.

(1)As of a recent update, there is one more tip due to issues with the update, and another one I figured I’d add in that may help a bit:

  • Kill The DRM, Kill The Media Hub: (As of the October “DI18” update, there’s been a debate on how effective this is at extending your battery life; the DI18 update resolved a “sleep” issue that has extended many folks’ battery life.  I’ll keep this here though for the time being, just in case.) Turns out the activation of the Media Hub has meant the death of a lot of people’s battery life.  The resolution suggested so far has been:
    1. “Home” – “Menu” – “Settings” – “Applications” – “Running services”
    2. Scroll through the list, clicking on the black entries below any gray entry with “DRM” and “Media Hub” (after a fresh power off/power on, there should be two) and choose “Stop”.

    Mind you, you’ll see a lot of other stuff running there as well, some of which you might think you don’t need (you actually do need the Google Talk service for GMail, for example).  Kill that stuff at your own peril; I would suspect that most, if not all of it, is relatively harmless.  It’s only DRM’s constant polling (every six seconds or so, according to one post I’ve heard) that has contributed to rapid power loss.

  • Sign Out Of Talk: I can’t be 100% sure but it’s possible that, by default, Talk logs you in automatically.  It’s one of the default apps on the phone.  What’s also more frustrating is that it appears as if Talk automatically signs you in when you run the app, independent of the settings, so it’s hard to verify (without a friend) that you’re not signed in.  So, unless you want to be on Google Talk all the time through your phone, fire up Talk and:
    1. “Menu” – “More” – “Settings”
    2. Uncheck “Automatically sign-in”
    3. “Back” – “Menu” – “More”
    4. “Sign out”


(2)(The “DI18” update released in the first week of October has reportedly – and in my observation – resolved this issue.  However, “Spare Parts” still remains useful, especially for those of us that are “battery watchers” and like having all that extra information.)  There have been reports of phones not properly going into sleep mode (both as part of, and independent of, the DRM issue noted above).  The best way to check to see if you’re having this issue is to obtain Spare Parts.  In Spare Parts, providing you’ve had the phone unplugged for a period of time after turning the phone on:

  1. Select “Battery history”.
  2. Choose “Other usage” in the first pull down.
  3. I typically have “Since last unplugged” chosen in the second pull down.

You’ll see, probably somewhere near the top, “Running” as a bar graph.  Your first warning sign will be if that bar graph and percentage are at 100%.  That’s bad.  Click on the bar graph, and you’ll get “Time spent without sleeping:”.  Hopefully this doesn’t match your time since unplugged (one method to get that is to go to “Home” – “Menu” – “About phone” – “Battery use”).

If your phone isn’t sleeping, the only suggestion so far has been to power the phone off completely and then power it back on (and of course do the DRM kill noted above). (/2)

Finally, a reprint of a comment I added to an earlier article:

I did a little battery watch experiment. The final results were:

  • 19hrs 52mins since unplugged
  • blinky indicator/4% (percent taken from a battery indicator widget)
  • Battery usage reported:
    • Display 39%
    • Cell standby 26%
    • Phone idle 16%
    • Media server 7%
    • Android system 4%
    • Voice 2%
    • Android OS 2%

Mind you roughly 8 hours of that 19 was while I was asleep overnight. WiFi was on but I think WiFi goes into a wait state when the phone screen isn’t on.

(1)Added September 29, 2010(/1)

(2)Added September 30, 2010; Edited October 7, 2010(/2)

(3)Edited/Added October 12, 2010(/3)

(4)Added October 25, 2010(/4)


2 Comments for this entry

  • orbanator7577

    I have the Epic as well and I downloaded “screebl” the free version. This app will put the phone in to hibernation when it is laying flat, like when you are sleeping. I have been able to achieve 24+ hours in a single charge. I also downloaded a widget called “battery droid” which gave me a percentage of battery left. I have noticed it will sit at zero for a long time before the phone shuts off.

  • Eric

    The GPS does tend to go into a sleep mode if no application is requesting location, so its impact on your battery may be minor if you leave it on. However, I think it might not be a bad idea to turn it off if you don’t need it or would prefer that nothing be able to get your location without your say so.

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