Once upon a time, phones such as the original Motorola Droid had interchangeable batteries. You could keep an extra charged battery on hand and swap them out when needed. It was a lot more convenient and lightweight than dragging around a heavy battery pack, and it kept the phone going strong over the course of the busiest workday.
But as phone designs changed over the years, swappable batteries were abandoned by phone manufacturers to keep their phones sleeker and accommodate wraparound screens. Improved battery technology means that most phones will get you through at least a full day’s use — unless you are watching a lot of videos or your device is a year or two old.
If your phone is running out of gas before you go to bed, you’ve got a few options. You can buy a new phone (unless you still like your current phone or your budget is limited). You might also be able to have the battery replaced, depending on which phone you have.
Or you can follow these tips to help you monitor and extend the usage of your battery. For this tutorial, we’ll be using a Samsung Galaxy S23 and a Google Pixel 6, both running Android 13. Your experience may differ depending on the phone and the version of Android you have.
Optimizing your battery usage
Samsung devices come with a handy tool that automatically optimizes your battery usage. It closes any apps running in the background and checks to see if you’re running any apps that use up too much battery power.
While Samsung should automatically optimize your battery once per day by default, you can check to make sure that feature is enabled.
- Open the Settings app.
- Choose Battery and device care.
You’ll be able to see the current status of your battery, storage, and memory. While auto optimization is automatically enabled, you can decide whether your phone will restart by itself when needed or whether it will wait for you to manually restart it. For that, scroll down, select Auto optimization, and then toggle Restart when needed on or off.
If your phone has been used for a while, you’ll be able to optimize it manually by hitting the Optimize now button that will appear on the Battery and device care screen.
Pixels and other Android devices
Other Android phones optimize app usage by default, although they don’t have a generalized optimize tool.
Putting your apps to “sleep”
On a Samsung device, you can put apps to “sleep,” which ensures they don’t run in the background when you’re not using them. This means they won’t receive notifications or updates, helping to prevent these functions from draining your phone’s battery. There is one caveat that Samsung mentions on its site, though, which is that sleeping apps “may run in the background if you start to use them again.”
If you don’t want sleeping apps to operate in the background at all, you can put them into a “deep sleep” instead. This option lets apps operate in the background only when you have them open and prevents them from resuming background activity even if you start using the app again.
While Samsung devices come with a setting that automatically puts apps to sleep when you haven’t used them for a while, you can also choose to put them to sleep manually. Just make sure you don’t put essential apps to sleep, like the ones you use for daily communication or work-related purposes, as you won’t get any notifications from them.
Here’s how to manage sleeping and deep-sleeping apps:
- Open the Settings app on your device and navigate to Battery and device care.
- Select Battery > Background usage limits.
- If you haven’t already, switch on Put unused apps to sleep so your phone can automatically put seldom-used apps to sleep.
- Choose Sleeping apps to manually put apps to sleep when not used frequently. To add an app, tap the Plus icon in the top-right corner of the screen. Select the apps you want and hit Add.
- You can remove apps from the list by selecting the three-dots icon in the top-right corner of the screen and choosing Remove. Once you’re done selecting the apps, choose Remove again.
- Follow the same steps above to add or remove Deep sleeping apps as well as to add or remove apps from the Never sleeping apps list.
Pixels and other Android devices
Android devices like the Google Pixel use Doze mode. This is a similar functionality introduced in Android 6.0 that makes sure that your apps aren’t using battery power when you’re not using your phone. There’s nothing you have to do — Doze mode automatically kicks in when your phone has been unplugged and motionless for a certain length of time.
Enable Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness
Two battery-saving features, Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness, learn how you use your apps and screen and adjust them to suit your habits. The idea is that your apps and display will only pull power from the battery when they are needed. You should have both turned on by default, but it never hurts to check and make sure.
To turn on Adaptive Battery on Samsung phones:
- Open the Settings app and select Battery and device care > Battery.
- Select More battery settings and ensure Adaptive battery is toggled on.
If you have a Pixel or other non-Samsung phone, the process is about the same:
- Open the Settings app and select Battery > Adaptive preferences.
- Ensure Adaptive battery is toggled on.
To turn on Adaptive Brightness (this should work for all Android phones):
- Go to your phone’s settings and select Display.
- Find and tap on Adaptive brightness, and enable it if it isn’t enabled already.
Get rid of unnecessary apps
It never hurts to do a periodic check of all the apps you have and either get rid of or restrict any that are unnecessarily using battery power.
The first step is the easiest: go through your app drawer and see if there are any apps that you haven’t used in a while. Why let them use resources? Uninstall them.
- On a Samsung phone, just go back to the Background usage limits mentioned above and tap on Sleeping apps; you’ll have a list of apps you haven’t used recently.
- On a Pixel or other Android phone, go to Settings > Apps and scroll down to Unused apps. You’ll see all the apps you last opened over three months ago and can easily remove any you want to.
Find power-draining apps
It’s also a good idea to find out which apps are hogging battery power.
- On Samsung phones, go to Settings > Battery and device care > Battery > Usage since last full charge.
- On Pixels and other Android phones, go to Settings > Battery > Battery usage.
Regulate power usage
Both Samsung Galaxy and Pixel phones have battery-saving modes that can regulate how apps use power. If you find an app is using a lot of power, find it in Settings > Apps and select the app. Then, if you’re using a Samsung phone, select Battery. If you’re using a Pixel or other Android phone, select App battery usage.
Either way, you’ll now be able to decide how the app uses battery power, especially when it’s operating in the background. You can choose from:
- Unrestricted, which doesn’t restrict background usage
- Optimized, the standard
- Restricted, which restricts battery usage when the app is running in the background
Running out of power?
Samsung Galaxy phones and Pixel phones have different ways you can have your phone minimize battery use if you are starting to run out of power.
On Samsung Galaxy phones
- Go to your Settings app, and then choose Device care > Battery.
- Turn on Power saving. According to Samsung, this will “limit certain things on your device, such as background network usage and syncing.”
- You can also access Power saving in your Quick Settings menu. If you don’t see it there, just swipe left until you see the last icon in the menu, after which there will be a plus button. Tap the button, and a drop-down menu will show you all the available buttons you can add, including Power saving.
On Pixels and other Android phones
- Go to your Settings > Battery > Battery saver and toggle it on.
- Use Set a schedule to decide whether Battery Saver will kick in based on your routine or the percentage of power left. You can also choose at what charge Battery Saver turns off.
- If you find you’re getting really low on power and you have no way to power your battery, Extreme Battery Saver (also on this screen) will turn off all but essential apps. (You can decide which apps qualify as “essential.”)
- You can also use the Battery Saver icon in your Quick Settings drop-down menu on the homescreen. If you don’t see it immediately, tap the pencil icon in the lower-right corner. You’ll see all of the icons that you can put in your Quick Settings menu; just tap and press to move the Battery Saver icon up.
If things get desperate
Sometimes, despite all your precautions and even with a battery-saving mode turned on, you can find yourself with an almost-depleted battery and no immediate access to a power source. In that case, you’ll want to keep your device powered as long as possible so that you can at least make or receive phone calls or texts. There are a number of steps that can help, although some may interfere with normal usage.
- Make sure all of your apps are closed.
- Enable Do not disturb mode to stop notifications.
- Set your screen timeout to 30 seconds so that the screen won’t stay on if you’re not actively using it.
- Lower your screen brightness as much as you can.
- Turn off Bluetooth, location tracking, and Wi-Fi (unless you are actively using it). You can also use airplane mode unless you’re expecting a phone call or text.
- Turn off your notification light if your phone has one.
- Turn off all your app sounds and vibration.
- If your phone has an OLED screen, using dark mode can help save power.
Update May 24th, 2023, 9:58AM ET: This article was originally published on August 1st, 2022, and has been updated to account for changes in the OS.