Webinar: Understanding Cell Phone Battery Life


On April 28, 2016, we hosted a deep dive webinar about understanding cell phone batteries. This document is the overview transcript and audio of what was discussed in the webinar. The webinar includes topics like: what causes battery drain, what phones have the best battery life, what settings to adjust to improve battery life, how Lollipop 5.1 affects batteries, and much much more.

phone-icons-E-G-X.png This document is intended for Moto E (1st and 2nd Gen.), Moto G (1st and 3rd Gen.), and Moto X (1st and 2nd Gen.) users.


Webinar Host

2.png Before we get started, we'd like to give a little bit of background about our host for this webinar, Jonathon.

Jonathon joined the Republic team in 2012 as one of the original Technical Assistance team members. Since then he's spent his time fighting bugs, resolving outages and testing new products as a Lead Tier III Engineer. 

Jonathon's fiery red hair makes him easy to spot around the office while he roams the halls looking for technicians in distress. In his free time, he lifts heavy objects, runs weekend-long marathons, and leaps over tall buildings. He has two fierce animals at home, who serve as his loyal sidekicks. 

Jonathon finds joy in spending time with friends, family, and helping others. He hopes to soon share his awesomeness with the world through a series of online videos, helpful guides, and has applied to join the Justice League.  

Webinar Content
Member Q & A


Webinar Content 

One of the biggest comments we get about battery life in Support is somebody coming in saying "Hey, my son and I have the exact same phone that we bought at the same time but he can go for twenty four hours without charging but I need to after only being at work" and that’s going to be almost entirely about phone behaviors, what you have on the phone, how many apps you keep running, etc. It's kind of like with a car. Two people, same car, same brakes but for the person who uses their car all day and really puts the work on those brakes, they might last only two years whereas the person who only drives to work and back can make them last three. That's okay! It's your phone/your car so you should use it how you need to but you know you’ll need to charge it more often if you're a power-user. The best way to improve battery life is through the user. 

Cell Signal: So, what will impact drain first off? Signal. Cell phone signal. If your cell phone is in an area with bad cell service, the phone will try its hardest to find the closest cell signal. If it can’t get there, it will bump up its power usage and drain the battery to get that signal. Put the phone in a locker/drawer for the day while you're at work or school and even though the screen was off, the phone was trying to find cell signal if it wasn’t connected to WiFi. Any bad cell area will decrease battery life. 

Temperatures: Generally, extreme temperatures will affect the device and how hard it's working. Heat and sunlight is a more common culprit than extreme cold. Take it to a beach and the sun hits the glaring glass. The phone starts to heat up, the phone will stop working the way it should. If your phone is warm, don’t charge it. That’ll make it warmer and start to degrade parts of the phone. Things like a swelling battery could impact the life length of the phone. Also, don’t charge in extreme temperatures. Phones have a built-in heat warning (there’s one for extreme cold but it’s less likely with normal use). If that warning comes on, don’t do anything to the phone but place it somewhere cooler/in the shade and leave it alone until the warning’s gone. 

Third-party apps: When the manufacturer develops these phones, the hardware and the software are kept in mind during testing but third-party apps will use more juice a lot of the time. For example, Facebook is a big user of battery. Pulling up the news feed, while it seems to only happen when you open up the app, it’s pulling your news feed even when you’re not using it. You can check in your phone’s battery usage to see what apps are using the most battery. Another way to test if it’s third-party is by opening the phone in Safe Mode to see if it’s an on-device function draining battery or a third-party app. 

Charging your device properly will also help you determine what’s using the battery. Modern cell phone batteries want you to charge all the way up and not to let it go down all the way. Going from 0 to 100% over and over will shorten the life of the battery and could start affecting day-to-day battery life. What you want to do is (by the way, you can’t really "overcharge it", the device will shut off charging once it’s done) so you can just keep it plugged in whenever you get the chance. The only times you really don’t want to charge it are when it’s extremely hot. 

Facebook and other social media apps, what can cause the phone to have a less than ideal battery life is syncing. Basically, any app that connects your phone to the outside world. Email, Facebook, social media apps, even when your screen is not on, they’re constantly using battery in the background to make sure when you open the app it has all the info backed up and ready to load. 

Battery Saver Mode: When your phone is at 25% you get a banner that lets you know you’re running out of battery and it disables your syncing. You’ll see the battery last longer during that last 25% than it appeared to do previous because it turns off syncing as well as some of the unnecessary radios. It turns off Bluetooth. So if you’re in a really bad cell area, with Republic Wireless you have WiFi and so you can turn your phone on to airplane mode to disable the cell radio since you know you won’t need it and extend the battery life. 

Widgets, live wallpapers all use battery. A darker black wallpaper that helps your phone not to need have brightness turned up can help conserve battery as well. 

So, I’ve gone over the basics and now I’d like to hear from you guys. Let’s go over some of your questions. 


Member Q & A 

Phone that has the Best Battery Life 

Member Question: So, which phone should I pick if I want the best battery life? 

Jonathan: Moto G (3rd Gen.). This phone will last you a weekend if you’re not too hard on it. Well, what does all-day battery life mean? If you have the phone unplugged overnight, this is the phone you can guarantee will have your 7 AM alarm go off. 

Increase Battery Life for Moto X (1st Gen.) 

Member Question: I just bought my Moto X (1st Gen.) used, is there some kind of magic bullet I can use to increase battery life? 

Jonathan: If you have the Moto X (1st Gen.), the first thing you need to know is the age of the phone. There’s been some charges already used on it so you may not get the battery life you first had in the beginning. But, my parents and my brother all use it and they all love it. One thing you can do is disable the wallpapers and the widgets. It’s one of the two in our lineup that has a 1080 display (along with the Moto X 2nd Gen.). The higher the display, the more power it takes to power it up. Keep it on auto-brightness or just lower it down. That’ll be a huge help. The Moto G (3rd Gen.) has a 720p display and so it takes less juice to power up. Uh…Would you delete Facebook if I told you to? Maybe? No? 

Will: I did. But, well, what a lot of people also don’t know is that there’s a lot of different apps out there that house the mobile Facebook browsing webpage in it so it functions like Facebook on a computer but it doesn’t have the same battery-draining/data-usage background processes the Facebook app has. 

Jonathan: That’s a good point and of course if you’re having issues with any of these third-party apps just open a ticket and we’ll be happy to help. 

Letting Your Phone Drain 

Member Question: I heard that if you let your phone charge to 100, letting it drain back to 0 the first time you get the phone and then repeat that 3-4 times will help expand longevity. 

Jonathan: I play with more phones and tech than most people. Like, way beyond normal. I’ve never run into a problem with my standard habits of charging. I know to just go ahead and charge it while setting it up. I believe that’s something that worked with older batteries and wouldn’t help with newer batteries. Once you get it, plug it in while you set it up. Just because it’s at 100 doesn’t mean it needs to be unplugged or drained to 0. Maybe 12 years ago that was the case but that was mostly for flip phones and because you those batteries had memories/counter with the battery and you were resetting the counter to improve battery usage. 

Will: I believe because those batteries were nickel and not lithium like modern batteries and that's where that rumor came from. 

Replacement Batteries 

Member Question: Given battery degradation as a phone ages, do you have recommendations about replacement batteries? 

Jonathan: The DEFY XT could get your refurbished batteries but otherwise all the batteries are built-in to the devices so I wouldn’t recommend taking the battery out and replacing it unless you really, really know what you’re doing. So, taking the battery out and messing around would put you out of a phone completely when all that was the issue was needing to charge the battery more. I would more recommend using the phone until it’s done and make sure you get the value out of the phone and save your money for buying a replacement phone. Always be really careful and make sure you do your research if you do decide to try replacing the battery. 

Manufacturers and Replacement Batteries 

Member Question: Will cell phone manufacturers ever respond to consumer demand and go back to replaceable batteries? 

Jonathan: Maybe. Not flagship phones, for now flagship phones won’t because if you make them replaceable they’re not going to be as thin. Maybe some of the more mid-range phones will because they’re not as concerned about keeping it slim. Manufacturers in general will probably not. Batteries usually last at least two years which is about how long most people are keeping a phone before upgrading. 

Cost of Replacement Batteries 

Member Question: Is there an affordable way to get the battery in a Moto X (1st Gen.) replaced? 

Jonathan: Short answer: No. Tearing the phone apart to replace the battery has a lot of glue and adhesive you're getting into which can destroy the phone. Most people end up breaking the screen trying this. Replacing the battery is about $100 bucks which would be better used to buy a new phone. I would recommend checking around for a used phone instead of spending the money to replace the battery because you could be out not only the cost of the battery but then have a broken phone when you could have just bought a used phone. The Moto G (3rd Gen.) would be the phone you want right now if it’s battery life you’re concerned about. 

Third Party Battery Saver Apps 

Member Question: Do third-party battery saver apps help or hurt?

Jonathan: Good question, I installed one of those recently on my Moto X (2nd Gen.) It didn’t save me any battery, it just gave me a bunch of pop-up ads that didn’t help and it just probably drained the battery. I can’t give any good recommendations but our Ambassadors and active members of the Community that can give recommendations. Most are pretty safe to use but starting a thread in the Community to get people’s recommendations to help. 

Will: I’ll also add that more than actually improving the battery, they’re more like a monitoring app that, when you get that pop-up it lets you know all the background processes the “battery saving” app has noticed and offers to close those background processes. In a lot of cases, because it’s also running in the background to monitor other apps, it’s actually taking up battery life as well but still relying on you to manually close those processes you can do on your own. There’s a net loss-gain benefit you have to take into account there. 

Jonathan: When it does close off all those currently running apps, Google actually keeps those processes open in the background to make sure they don’t need to reload from the beginning so it could be negatively impacting your battery by needing to reload the app all over again. 

How Much Battery Life GPS Uses 

Member Question: Is there a way to determine how much of my battery life my GPS usage per app. Block specific apps for GPS usage? 

Jonathan: So if you go into battery usage and check apps like Waze (like a Google maps) all the syncing, GPS, location services and the like will be calculated under the one Waze app. It doesn’t necessarily mean that GPS apps use more battery, just that they pull from processes that use the battery as a foundation for what they do. 

Battery Life after Lollipop 5.1 Upgrade 

Member Question: Why is my Moto X (1st Gen.) battery taking longer to charge since the Lollipop upgrade? 

Jonathan: Pro-tips for after the Lollipop upgrade: We’ve heard some members getting less-than-ideal battery life. Updating the OS from KitKat to Lollipop was a big upgrade and meant a new architecture needed on the phone. I won’t get too technical but unfortunately, a factory reset would be the best way to go back to getting good battery life if you are seeing a huge drop in battery performance. When a phone goes from KitKat to Lollipop, not all your apps became optimized automatically with the update. Facebook and the bigger apps are probably fine but apps that take longer to update may run slower/laggier after the update. Do a factory reset, don't start an automatic restore of your apps after the factory reset but manually update your apps from the Play Store and that should help improve the battery. 

Also, phones are really designed to last two years and the battery hold will go hand in hand with that. If your phone is still getting up to 100% but you see it lasting less throughout the day, it’s probably the battery on it’s way out. If it’s less than two years old you may need to use a different charger that gets up to the full 5 Volts instead of 2.5. 

Battery Life and the RW Telephony App 

Member Question: Could the new RW Telephony app be causing battery life issues? 

Jonathan: Any changes in theory really could affect battery life but we’ve tested this internally and we didn’t have any issues but we also don’t use third-party apps when we test new Republic Wireless apps and processes. This adds additional variables and the engineers are testing to find it a product works so if it’s a combo of Republic Wireless' Telephony and a third-party app wouldn’t have been tested so so Safe Mode will still be a helpful test. 

Battery Life and Cell Standby 

Member Question: So at various times, my phone just seems to eat up battery. When I go to my battery screen, the biggest culprits are Cell Standby and Android OS. Any suggestions? 

Jonathan: Ah, cell standby. I was waiting to hear that one! So, like we’ve mentioned, we test all the new updates and phones before you guys get them and we came across that while testing last year and we reached out to Motorola and our Dev team to see what we could do to replicate that. And cell standby is interesting because it’s less so a drainer than a false-reporting. If you look at your notifications at the top of your screen and the percentage of your battery? That’s accurate. But if you go into the Android settings and look under battery usage, that’s what’s inaccurate. That’s where you’ll see cell standby being reported inaccurately. The way you can test that is (funnily enough) downloading a third-party battery application which will show you it’s not accurate. There’s nothing to really do to make the cell standby stop showing so high and it won’t always show the same usage. Sometimes it will even go above 100% which is obviously not the case. It’s annoying and right now there’s no real fix for it but good news is it’s not actually running down your battery. 

Will: What about Android OS? 

Jonathan: Well, Android OS is calculating lots of different things. So OS and your screen should be the two major users of battery use which is because both of those are needed for your phone to run. If you check your battery after your phone has its screen off all day, it’ll just show the OS Because it still needs to run. There’s nothing really to worry about. If you’re not using your phone, it’ll show lots of usage from OS mostly because you’re not using anything else. 

Will: Keep in mind, the percentage of battery usage looks dramatic but it just means of the battery that’s been used so far, not the entire battery. If it’s showing a lot of battery for the OS, it just means of the battery that’s been consumed, it’s been by the OS keeping the phone running 

Using Developer Options 

Member Question: Turning on the Developer's Options setting and enabling "Destroy Activities" seems to help me on my Moto X 2013, is it dangerous? 

Jonathan: Well, I wouldn’t recommend testing that for a few different reasons. First off, that will actually cost you battery life. You load a webpage, you leave it, you kill it which means you need to load the whole app and the website all over again instead of letting it “idle”. I’d say it’s more a privacy benefit than a battery benefit. 

Will: This could help for apps that you don’t use that often (like Google Maps in the middle of nowhere) but Facebook and the like take a lot of battery to boot up and stay running when it’s re-opened so that would run the battery down quicker. They’re really not intended to be a quality of life enhancement and, like the settings are titled, it’s really only good for developers otherwise Google would have built it into the OS. 

Member Question: Seemed to me like lollipop had more animations that slowed it down, I turned them off in developer tools and it is a lot faster and probably doesn't use the processor as heavily 

Jonathan: Yes, probably not by much though. Those animations are generally switching from screens or something like that. It’s not like a constant live wallpaper or widget that’s constantly using the screen. It’s probably not worth it. By shutting down all these animations degrades your experience with Android. Disabling widgets and the like is mostly a tip for the long day where you’re running out battery with no charger. Just make sure you’re bringing a backup charger if you know you’re going to be somewhere without entertainment for a while (like the DMV) but on a day-to-day basis you really shouldn’t need to disable too much. Also, disabling widgets, live wallpaper and the like are less tips to tell you what to keep off (which can ruin the fun experience of a smart phone) but mostly to know what’s using the battery on those days where you’re starting to run low. 

Charging Phone Overnight 

Member Question: A clarifying question about power-cycling the phone. My husband turns his off at night and charges it, and I leave mine on overnight while it's charging. Is one method better than the other for battery life? 

Jonathan: This always makes me think of when I was younger and I'd tell my parents to turn off the car when we were stopped somewhere and they'd let it idle and told me it was actually better/used less gas to let a car idle rather than use the power it needed to shut off and start it back up. That's kind of like what a power-cycle does. It takes up battery to start the phone back up and can run through battery quicker if you're not charging during that power-cycle. 

So, there’s no evidence to show leaving the phone off is better for charging. For those of us on call, turning them off is not an option. It’s usually to reboot our phones that they get turned off and I don’t see battery issues. If you do see battery issues, it’ll probably be related to that end of life battery. If you’re using your phone as your primary day to day advice and you use it for an alarm and need to keep it on at night for a potential phone call, just charging it overnight while keeping it on should be a-ok. 

Background Data in the RW App 

Member Question: Will Republic Wireless implement the ability to block background app data usage in app? 

Jonathan: While that’s not necessarily a feature we have in the Republic Wireless app right now, I know it’s a requested feature and I know where we’re going with the app we don’t have it in there right now. Future versions of Marshmallow and Android N will probably have something in there but the Republic app will probably not do that.

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