Software Development

Save battery and eke out a bit more speed on your Android tablet

Jack Wallen provides some tips and tricks for getting the most out of your Android tablet battery and CPU.

One of the things that people most appreciate about Androids tablet is their flexibility. But Android's flexibility comes with a price -- battery life and power. Although the tablet hardware is becoming increasingly powerful, the Android OS is demanding. With that in mind, it's often a good idea to optimize your tablet for best possible battery life and/or performance (they are not mutually exclusive). So, let's examine a few quick tips and tricks for getting the most out of your battery and your tablet's CPU.

First, let's take some steps to help get more battery life from that tablet.

Wi-Fi

Network usage can really suck down the battery. The thing is, if it isn't set up properly, that network connection will continue on, even when the tablet is sleeping. That's right -- wireless is still on when you're not using the tablet. On the positive side, the wireless is immediately available when the tablet comes out of sleep mode. I tend to prefer that model. But for those that need more battery life from their tablets, you'll want to change that behavior. Android tablets have a little built-in feature that makes this easy. Here's how you do it.

  1. Fire up your tablet
  2. Open up the Settings tool
  3. Tap Wireless and networks
  4. Tap Wi-Fi settings (Figure A)
  5. Tap Wi-Fi sleep policy
Figure A

Here you see the Wi-Fi settings on a Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Tab.

When you tap on the Wi-Fi sleep policy, three options will present themselves:

  • When screen turns off
  • Never when plugged in
  • Never

Obviously, to save more battery, you want to select the first option. For the most convenience, select the third option, but just know that your battery will drain faster.

Battery usage

There's a nice little tool, tucked inside Android, that will let you see what's using your battery. Tap on Settings | Applications | Battery use to reveal what applications are consuming the most battery. Figure B shows the battery in my Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Tab is being primarily consumed by the screen. Figure B

In battery use, we see a dramatic drop from the top spot to the second spot.

Now that we know it's the screen causing the problem, we can take action on that and dim the screen so it consumes less battery.

Gain some speed

We all want more speed. Always. The faster the better. The Android tablet -- for the most part -- has plenty of speed to offer. For those that want to eke out a little more, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve.

The first of these tricks is to disable some of the fancy animations on the screen. Yes, they are nice, but they do consume processor cycles. In order to disable some of these animations, do the following:

  1. First, make sure you aren't using any live wallpaper
  2. Go to Settings
  3. Tap Screen | Animation
  4. In the resulting window (Figure C), tap No animations
Figure C

The difference in appearance might seem subtle, but the speed increase will be noticeable.

Reduce icons and widgets

Believe it or not, all of those icons and widgets do consume processor cycles. This is especially true if you're using widgets that sync with social services, email accounts, or calendars. I tend to keep a very minimal screen on my personal tablet to ensure the speediest performance. Icons aren't as bad as widgets at consuming cycles,  but having a home screen filled with them is never a good idea. Pare those icons down to only the apps you frequently use. Starting all other apps is just a couple of extra taps away.

Use a cache cleaner

There are plenty of tools available on Google Play that will wipe clean your cache (such as Easy Cache Cleaner). These tools clean up left over application cache files that can consume precious storage and, in some cases, RAM. It's not necessary to do this daily, but you should see a noticeable increase in performance when you do clean up the cache.

Every cache cleaner works differently, but their purpose is simple -- scan your entire device for cache files and allow you to select which ones to delete (Figure D). Figure D

Here you see the results of an Easy Cache Cleaner scan.

Obviously, not all tablets are created equally. Some tablets are simply more powerful than others. And, as you might expect, some users demand more performance than others. Although you won't be super-charging your tablet into uncharted speeds, but you can refresh an aging tablet or gain just enough speed to make a difference. And with the tips offered for battery life, you should certainly see a noticeable difference in the span of your daily battery life.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

8 comments
hardslog
hardslog

I know that this isn't for the feint of heart, but rooting the tablet (if it is Android of course) would be beneficial for speed and battery. Remove all the apps you don't want, like facebook etc and only install productivity apps might make the tablet more viable in business. Removing the bloat will increase speed and make it snappier. If you have an IT department that is familiar with this they could root the tablets, only install the necessary applications on it and then un-root it so the user's are stuck with whatever is on there.

GSG
GSG

I have a Wi-Fi only tablet that was running the battery down very quickly, even with the brightness turned down, and the wi-fi turned off. I used the utility that tells what's running your battery down, and the problem was that the tablet kept trying to find a phone signal even though it's wi-fi only. It seems that the G3 and Wi-Fi tablets are exactly the same except for the addition of the sim and another piece, so the tablet kept trying to find a signal. My battery life doubled when I set it up to always run in airplane mode. I always make sure that unless I'm actively using an app that requires wi-fi, that it's turned off. It saves battery, plus, if you're playing a game that has advertisements, those are off when wi-fi is off.

LarsDennert
LarsDennert

Wifi sleep policy of off when screen turns off is fine but only if the tablet doesn't then switch to a 3G connection instead. That is what happens on devices that also have 3G and that uses more battery instead of less. Motorola devices have a further layer of power saving settings to address this issue.

Aysgarth
Aysgarth

There is an App that automates many of these tricks. It is called Easy Battery and it also has a companion Easy Task Killer. My Galaxy S can run three days between charges if not used much, and easily runs two days at any time. It works on tablets too, plus there is a free ad supported version. I use the free one, the ads are not intrusive. Select "Intelligent" as the working mode and see the magic occur.

scndtnr
scndtnr

I don't think you want to frighten your tablet to get its battery to last longer. I think the word you're looking for is "eke"... Hey, somebody had to point it out...

dblizard87
dblizard87

What kind of tablet do you have? My Dell Streak 7 used to have that problem, but after Dell finally released Honeycomb, I haven't had that problem since. I still have a problem with the battery life, but that is due to the fact that Dell put the worst battery possible in it.

GSG
GSG

I have the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet. That particular model has a slot for a sim card despite being wi-fi only. It makes sense that they would save money on manufacturing by making them identical except for the inclusion of the HW to support G3/G4, but they should have something set up where it won't constantly search for a signal if it's wi-fi only. So, I just leave it in airplane mode all the time.

dblizard87
dblizard87

The Thinkpad should have Honeycomb, right? If so, it's weird that it would still be searching for cell signal. If you don't have Honeycomb, I would recommend seeing if you can upgrade it. It helped my tablet out quite a bit. My Streak 7 came with a Sim slot too, but has a plastic card in the slot that is permanently there. I'm sure yours is similar; Slot there, but not usable.