Image: Jack Wallen

The COVID-19 pandemic has made for some challenging times for many. One of the biggest changes we’ve had to make in our daily lives is how we meet and communicate. If you want to see someone while you chat, you have to turn to video chat tools. One such tool is Google Duo.

The primary reason I’ve opted for Google’s take on the video call tool is the video quality cannot be beat. However, that high resolution call comes with a price–battery life.

A 20- to 30-minute Google Duo call can easily wipe out anywhere from 25-50% of your device battery. That’s fine if you’re at home and have constant access to a charger, but what if you’re on the go (which most of you aren’t at the moment)? What do you do?

Honestly, not much. You won’t prevent Duo from draining your battery faster than you’d like, but you can slightly lessen the effect. Let’s take a look at a couple of options you can make use of, to help you keep as much battery as possible.

SEE: The tech pro’s guide to video conferencing (TechRepublic download)

The obvious approach

When using Google Duo, I’ve started placing my phone in it’s wireless charger. Since I have a Google Pixel 4, I use the matching Pixel charger, which happens to be the perfect angle for making video phone calls from my desk (Figure A).

Figure A

Live long and video conference.

Okay, “perfect” is an overstatement. Everyone knows video calls that place the camera pointing up from a lower angle are not the most flattering. However, when given the choice between saving battery and getting that ideal angle, I’ll go with battery every time. That doesn’t mean you can’t make slight adjustments to keep you from looking a tad monstrous. Step back a bit so you’re shot from the torso up and you’ll appear a bit more “user-friendly.”

By taking this approach, you don’t have to worry about the battery drain on your device, because it’s charging while you’re using it.


Or, rather… Obvious!

The less-than-obvious approach

There are two settings with Google Duo that you can change to help ease the battery drain a bit. This solution isn’t going to drastically change how quickly the app will suck dry your battery, but it does help.

The key is in video quality.

Open Google Duo and tap the menu button (three vertical dots) in the upper-right corner. From the popup menu, tap Settings. In the resulting window (Figure B), tap Call Settings.

Figure B

The Google Duo Call Settings window.

There are two settings to change:

  • Low Light Mode: Ensures your calls look good, even if there’s not enough light.

  • Data saving mode: Lowers the video quality to limit data usage. For those that are interested, normal mode video quality is 720p, whereas data saving mode video quality is either 360p or 240p.

Disable Low Light Mode and enable Data Saving Mode (Figure C).

Figure C

Changing the video call settings in Google Duo.

At this point, the video quality presented to those you are chatting with will decrease, but Google Duo won’t place as much strain on your battery. Yes, it will still gobble it up more than any other app on your device, with the exception of other video conference apps, but it won’t be quite as bad.

Is this an ideal solution? No. In fact, whenever I get the chance, I opt to use Google Duo from the web interface. That, my friends, is the only guaranteed way you can save your mobile battery from being drained by Google Duo. But, unless you have a webcam up to the task, you’re stuck with using Google Duo from your Android or iOS device.