Take a picture. Send a text. Play a game. Check email. Make a call. Get directions. Then, all this threatens to stop cold in an instant.
A smartphone or tablet’s low battery warning is the only warning that most people take seriously. A dead battery doesn’t have to happen to you. Turning off a few features and changing some settings can give your gadget’s battery life a dramatic boost.
1. Let there be (less) light
One of the biggest battery drains is your gadget’s screen, especially for larger smartphones. The longer the screen is on and the brighter it is, the faster your battery goes. That makes sense. Something has to power those pixels.
Android, iOS and Windows Phone automatically adjust the screen’s brightness for you based on two things: the light in the room and how long the screen has been on. Take control back.
Try setting the screen as dark as you can stand it and still read a text. Darkening the screen, by the way, is common among teenagers. It makes it really hard for Mom and Dad to see what’s showing on their phone or tablet.
In iOS, go to Settings>>Wallpapers & Brightness. Set it to manual and turn down the brightness to the lowest level you can comfortably use the gadget.
You can also tell the screen how quickly to turn off when you aren’t using the gadget. The faster it shuts down, the more power you save. Go to Settings>>General>>Auto-Lock to adjust the timer.
For Android, go to Settings>>Display and tap Brightness. Uncheck “Automatic brightness” and adjust the slider. Then go to “Screen timeout” below it to adjust how fast the screen shuts off.
On some phones, you can also swipe down from the top of the screen and the brightness controls will be above the notification area.
For Windows Phone, swipe left from the Start screen and tap Settings>>Brightness. Turn off automatic brightness and choose either “low,” “medium” or “high” brightness. You’ll want “low” as long as the phone is still usable.
2. Turn off the signals
Your gadgets do a lot of communicating in the background. They’re checking for things like new emails, text messages, Wi-Fi signals, Bluetooth signals, your location and more.
This activity does a number to drain battery life, so you want to turn off whatever you aren’t using.
For iOS 7, go to Control Center – just swipe up from the bottom of the screen. There, you can turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. If you don’t use AirDrop – it lets you share files and photos with other Apple users – turn it off, too. Control Panel and AirDrop are both features you should be using when you do have a charged battery.
Some Android gadgets have home-screen widgets to control Wi-Fi, etc. Others let you swipe down from the top of the screen for quick-access buttons. Otherwise, you can go to Settings>>Wireless & Networks to turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
In Windows Phone, go to the App list and tap Settings>>Wi-Fi and turn off Wi-Fi networking. If you only want it off for a while, go to Turn Wi-Fi back on and choose when it should turn back on.
Location Services is another feature that drains your battery. It uses GPS, Wi-Fi and cell towers to tell apps your location. In your settings, you can specify which apps have access to Location Services.
To turn it off in iOS 7, go to Settings>>Privacy>>Location Services. For Android, it’s under Settings>>Personal>>Location Services. Windows Phone has it under App list>>Settings>>Location.
3. Know your apps
Not every app is as battery efficient as you might like. Some iOS apps run continually in the background even when you aren’t using them. To turn this feature off, go to Settings>>General>>Background App Refresh.
In Android, see what apps are draining your battery under Settings>>Battery Usage. You can then close or uninstall problem apps.
For both iOS and Android, you can get more powerful free third-party battery apps like Battery Saver. For example, it monitors your phone to see which apps are burning up your battery life. That makes it easy to get rid of or turn off power-hogging apps you don’t need or use.
4. Turn off notifications
Another way to improve battery life is stop the constant flow of notifications and updates from Facebook, email, games, sites and apps.
Your phone will automatically pull these when it’s connected to the Internet, and they can have a noticeable impact on battery life.
To stop email updates in iOS 7, switch your email settings from “push” to “fetch.”
Go to Settings>>Mail and select Contacts and Calendar. From there, change the mail settings to Fetch.
If you’re getting buried in Candy Crush updates, turn off these notifications to save juice.
Go to Settings>>Notification Center. From there, find the Include section and choose which notifications you want to turn off.
On Androids, you have to turn off Notifications in the settings menu for each individual app. If you turn off notifications for email or social media, you can still check these manually.
5. Battery saving mode
For a quick way to extend your battery, simply put your gadget in Airplane Mode. If Airplane Mode is too limiting, some phones have a specific battery saver mode.
This shuts down non-essentials like Wi-Fi, automatic email checking, some updates and more. As an extreme example, the Samsung Galaxy S5 turns on a custom energy-saving look for the operating system and basically just works for phone calls and texts.
For Android, go to Settings and turn “Power saving mode” to “On.” In Windows Phone, go to the App list>>Settings and tap Battery saver.
These tips are great for now, but both iOS 8 and Android “L” are coming later this year. iOS 8 will improve its battery usage monitoring to give you more control, similar to what Android has now.
Android L is getting serious tweaks to how it uses power across the board. In early testing, it improves battery life more than 30 percent over the current version of Android.