I'm a Sprint customer with a Samsung Galaxy S5 and I was excited to see that the latest version of Android, 5.0 (also called Lollipop) was available for my device a couple of weeks ago.
Lollipop has a stack of benefits:
- A smoother, more refined user interface
- Better notification capabilities
- Device sharing/guest user options
- The ability to switch between application functions (multiple browser tabs in Chrome for example) more easily
- Automatic encryption for enhanced security
- Better performance
This was an easy sell for me especially considering the price (free, of course). I kicked off the upgrade and then explored the new interface after it completed.
True to the hype, the OS did seem faster and more responsive. I noticed that when I got a text message a notification box would appear where I could view the message, call the sender or reply.
I checked out the App Switcher by hitting the Menu button and I could see all of my open or recent apps:
It was very handy to flip through and access different programs. Overall, I found navigating the OS to be more intuitive and it had a professional feel. Done, and done, I thought.
I was wrong. As is the case with many upgrades, I quickly ran into a troubling side effect: significant battery issues.
My standard 2800 mAh battery barely lasted throughout the day - even with moderate use. In fact, it was generally drained by 7 pm (12 hours after I get up and unplug my phone) unless I took steps to charge my phone while at my desk or in the car. And as I said - that was moderate use. If I had played MP3s or watched movies, as the Galaxy is often doing in ads, the battery would have been dead by teatime if not sooner.
The issue of battery life seems a chronic plague which we as a technological society need to solve. I've written about it before, discussing some common Android tips to preserve battery life as well as some upcoming developments which will solve the problem once and for all (we hope). Suffice to say that dealing with these battery issues on the devices we have is like having to hand-crank a brand new Toyota before you can drive to work. It's a cankersore upon mobility and the millions who depend on their devices.
However, I did my due diligence as a tech guy, making sure my device was as tidy and ship-shape as possible. I powered off the phone then brought it back up in case some service or app was hiccupping. Then I did the following to try to make the battery situation better:
- Ran JuiceDefender and Clean Master to minimize energy use and application clutter.
- Stopped all unnecessary apps and removed all junk data.
- Changed my wallpaper from a live one to a simple background, turned down screen brightness and lowered the display timeout threshold.
- Changed my GPS location method to power saving mode.
- Removed and reinstalled FB Messenger, which was identified as the possible culprit.
- Shut off Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity when I didn't need it.
- Put my device in airplane mode when I went into my company's data center to work (coverage being spotty there) or while I was exercising at the gym.
- Switched to the Nova App Launcher, which reportedly offers better performance and battery usage. However, it didn't seem to help nor offer much that was different so I removed it (I know some people swear by Nova Launcher but I just didn't find it compelling; it has a lot of nooks and crannies I likely won't ever use). I prefer the default TouchWiz interface which looks better and has widgets I rely on like a more comprehensive Weather accessory and Mini Today to show my day's schedule.
None of this made any measurable difference, unfortunately. And frankly some of this stuff is like throwing salt over your shoulder: you do it because, hey, why not? But in the end it's can be really hard to tell what's valid and what's just tilting at windmills. Such is technology.
So I decided to try clearing the cache partition, where temporary files are stored, since this can be helpful in situations like this. To do so on my Samsung Galaxy S5 I needed to reboot into recovery mode, which involved pressing the power button to turn it off, then holding the power, volume up and home buttons.
Unfortunately, this took a few tries before anything happened. You have to be patient. Finally I booted into recovery mode.
I used the volume up/down buttons to scroll to "wipe cache partition" and pressed the power button to complete the task. Then I used the volume keys to scroll to "reboot system now" and pressed the power button again. My phone rebooted and loaded the OS.
I went to bed to reboot my day and start over the next morning. I used my phone often throughout the next day to get a feel for how normal operation would affect the battery.
Here's how my phone battery looked after about 4 hours of operation:
Here's how it looked at 6:45 pm:
I hit 29% remaining battery life exactly 12 hours after my battery was at 87%:
And finally by 12:22 am I was down to this:
That's not bad - comparatively speaking. Right now the battery life is much better than before I wiped the cache partition. As of about 7 pm I still had nearly half the charge remaining, and the results showed I could get through an entire day on a standard charge with normal phone operation.
I can live with that so long as I have a charging outlet available to use throughout the day. However, it's still not as good as it was when my phone ran Android KitKat 4.4. That gives me two more options I can try to improve battery performance:
1) Downgrade my OS to Android KitKat 4.4
It's a thought, but the rebel in me sneers: "Downgrade? Never look back!"
2) Perform a full factory reset
This involves wiping the device and starting over. All data will be lost, of course (you should back it up on a routine basis via Settings / User & Backup as well as right before kicking off this process). While you may have to redo some settings, if you back up your data you can recover some things like WiFi passwords and application data. It helps if you are an avid Google user since it will smooth the recovery process of getting the phone back to the way it was.
I was reluctant to consider this possibility while troubleshooting the problem, but the fact is you can't be tied to your operating system or what's on it - you have to know how to rebuild it if need be. Lots of IT guys (like me) can tell you stories about That One Old Server in the corner that nobody dared to shut down since they didn't know what might break.
To factory reset the Samsung Galaxy S5, go to Settings, User & Backup, and select Backup and Reset. From there, select Factory Data Reset. From there, select Reset Device and then Delete All.
It's also possible to perform a factory reset from recovery mode. Follow the steps I outlined above and choose "wipe data/factory reset."
I will probably give this a try for the sake of science (and also to document what's involved for future reference) so stay tuned. In the meantime I'm carrying a charging cable with me wherever I go!
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.