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Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

Irene Tip: How to Keep Your Cell Phone Going as Long as Possible

If power goes out, you may still have access to the cell network – here’s how to maintain that connection.

  • August 27, 2011

You’re probably not going to run out of water, food or batteries for your flashlight, but if the power goes down for a substantial period in the wake of Irene, what about the battery life of your cell phone? (It’s not uncommon for power to go out but cell phone service to continue to be available – here’s a powerful example of that from the floods in Australia.)

cc paulswansen

#1. The number one drain on your cell phone’s battery life are its radios. Turn them off or reduce their power consumption.

Assuming that the primary function of your phone during a blackout is as an emergency connection to the outside world, it’s important to turn off its ability to grab data from the Internet. On an iPhone, turn off 3G access and Data. Turn off WiFi. Also, turn off the Bluetooth radio normally used to connect to headsets and your computer. (Here are screenshots depicting how to do this.)

On an Android phone, it’s the same drill, except some models even let you turn off the GPS location services, as well.

#2. If you must use your phone for Internet connectivity, minimize its use of data.

Turn off all push notifications (iPhone, Android).

#3. Restart your phone to kill all currently running processes.

Make sure nothing is running in the background that could eat up processor cycles by turning your phone off completely and then turning it back on, not just putting it in suspend mode as you would normally.

#4. Reduce the brightness of your screen to the lowest level you find usable.

After a phone’s radios, its display is the second-biggest user of battery life.

#5. Use SMS (text messages) instead of making phone calls.

Text messages use a tiny fraction of the power required to make an actual phone call. In addition, there are very good selfish and selfless reasons to use SMS instead of calling during a wide-spread crisis: Texting helps keep the network from being overwhelmed, and texts are more likely to get through than voice calls.

#6. Charge up your other gadgets so you can minimize the use of your phone.

Need to check Twitter? Don’t forget that your 3G Kindle has a web browser in it. Need a distraction? That’s why you ripped DVDs onto your laptop in the first place. Etc.

Got any other tips or links to good roundups on how to make your phone last as long as possible? Leave them in the comments!

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