Maximize gadget battery life when you travel
Holiday travel is unpredictable. Even if you give yourself plenty of time to make it to Grandma’s house by turkey time, there’s not much you can do if your flight is delayed or if traffic is majorly gummed up. Not only will delays make you late, but they could also deplete precious resources—the battery life of your phone and tablet. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to extend battery life and save power.
Invest in a battery case
A battery case for your phone adds extra battery life while also keeping it safe from the occasional drop and bump. Most of these cases sport connector plugs that pair up with the phone’s charge port, which is how they deliver the juice. The only downside is that you can't use any dock-cradle accessories without removing your phone from the case.
One of our favorite battery charging cases is the Mophie Juice Pack Plus for the iPhone 4/4S ($100) and the Samsung Galaxy S III ($100). It almost doubles your phone’s battery life, doesn’t add too much extra weight, and you can still sync your phone using the included USB-to-Micro-USB cable. Plus, it has an on/off switch, which lets you control when the case sends juice to your phone. A solid choice for the iPhone 5 is Unu’s Ecopack ($80), which comes in multiple colors.
There are also external battery cases for the iPad and other tablets. You'll particularly appreciate the power boost if you plan on watching videos while on an airplane or sitting shotgun in the car. The Padacs Enduro ($60) is a folio-style polyurethane case with a built in lithium-ion battery pack. This slim battery provides 8000mAh to boost the iPad’s battery life when it gets low—just plug the included adaptor cable into your iPad’s dock-connector port and hit the On button when you need more juice. The Enduro is available in different models for the iPad mini ($60), fourth-generation iPad ($60), and for the third-generation iPad and iPad 2 ($60).
Opt for emergency backup
If you can’t find a battery case that’s made for your phone, try an external battery pack. Incipio’s OffGrid Universal Backup Battery ($70) is compatible with any micro-USB powered device and also has a connector cable for Apple 30-pin dock connector devices. This small battery fits in the palm of your hand; just charge it up at home with a standard wall charger and carry it with you for emergency backup.
For off-road options, check out the Joos Orange battery pack ($159), which is solar powered, or the Tekkeon TekCharge ($25) which charges your device with regular AA batteries. Both of these battery packs include multiple adapters and can charge a wide variety of mobile devices.
A car charger is also a must for road trips. The Scosche Revolt C2 Dual USB car charger ($30) is super powerful and has two USB ports to charge two devices at once. Each port supplies 10 watts of power, which is enough to charge two tablets at their normal charging rate.
Tweak your gadgets' settings
Saving your battery's charge can be as simple as tweaking some settings on your phone or tablet. While the step-by-step process for these will vary by device, there should be workarounds for every model starting with the general settings section.
Dim the screen: Most phones include an auto-brightness feature that automatically adjusts the screen's brightness to suit ambient lighting levels and system activity. This mode uses less power than constantly running your screen at full brightness would, but you'll get even better results by turning your screen's brightness down to the lowest setting that you can tolerate and leaving it there.
Adjust your screen timeout: When your device has been idle for a certain amount of time, the screen shuts off and goes back to black, thus reserving precious battery life for when you actually need to use it. Some devices have buttons that will turn off the screen; others have settings that let you adjust when the screen will lock or time out. Set your screen to timeout quickly, at about one minute if possible.
Turn off Wi-Fi: If you're not using Wi-Fi, turn it off. Same goes for Bluetooth.
Turn off, or limit, notifications: If you’re an iOS user, you’ll have to do this manually for each app. Go to Settings > Notifications, then tap each app that you’d like to adjust and toggle Notification Center switch to Off. If you're an Android user, disable syncing on services you don't use. Go into Settings, head down into the Accountssection and turn off syncing for the services you don't use.
Minimize unneeded apps and options: Speaking of apps, kill extraneous apps that aren’t in use. Because our smartphones are excellent multitaskers, they tend to keep apps running in the background until they are forced closed. Apps are heavy energy consumers. In iOS, double-tap the Home button until the multitasking tray appears, hold an icon until an X appears, and tap the X to close the app. Windows Phone 8 users have a nifty feature called Battery Saver, which limits the apps in use. You’ll still receive texts and calls, but apps run only when you open them and email must be synced manually.
Turn on Airplane Mode: This disables all of the wireless features of your device, including cellular data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and other location services.
Turn off location services: This will save a lot of power, not to mention some money if you’re traveling internationally.
Turn off vibrate: Vibrating uses much more power than playing a ringtone does. If you’re in a place where you don’t want to disturb others with loud noises (like an airplane), consider turning off all notification indicators and leaving your device where you can see it.
One more thing: Don't let your device get too hot or too cold. Apple recommends keeping your device between 32 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the general safe-zone for other devices as well. So if you’re traveling anywhere with extreme temperature conditions, consider leaving your phone somewhere that's insulated from the ambient temperature.