15 Easy Ways To Extend Your Phone’s Battery Life

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If you’ve had the same smartphone for over a year, the battery probably isn’t what it used to be. And no, you’re not just paranoid. According to two 2014 Nature Communications papers, the lithium batteries used to power our devices wear down over time. Apple even admitted to slowing down older iPhones to compensate for degraded batteries.

Sure, you could always pony up for a new battery (or buy a new phone altogether). But if you’d rather save your cash, there are plenty of ways to get some extra juice out of your current device. Try these 15 tips and tricks to extend your battery life.

1. SWITCH ON BATTERY SAVER MODE.

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This might seem obvious, but most people don’t think about using battery saver mode until their phone is already about to die. Apple’s “Low Power Mode” switches on automatically when you hit 20 percent, but you can head into Settings > Battery to switch it on whenever you want or add it to your Control Center for easier access. Most Android phones offer a similar feature that can be toggled on at any time, which should help your device conserve some power and keep you going all day.

2. CHARGE SMART.

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When you do have to recharge your phone, there are some precautions you should take to make sure you don’t degrade the battery any more than necessary. First, only use fast charging when you’re in a rush. While this feature can quickly top off your battery, it also wears down the battery faster than regular charging. If you have time to spare, it's better to use a regular old charger. Second, don’t charge your phone overnight—it only takes a few hours to get a full charge, and the rest of the time spent plugged in will only hurt your battery life in the long run.

3. TURN OFF BLUETOOTH AND WI-FI WHEN NOT IN USE ...

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If Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are enabled, but you’re not connected to anything, your phone will waste battery trying to find a new connection. Instead, the next time you’re out of the house, try switching off Wi-Fi to keep your battery going a little longer. The same goes for Bluetooth. Whenever you’re not connected to a wireless speaker or headphones, just toggle it off. You can control Bluetooth and Wi-Fi from the quick settings menu on most phones, so extra battery life is just a swipe away.

4. ... BUT USE WI-FI WHEN IT IS AVAILABLE.

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On the other hand, if Wi-Fi is available, you should be using it. Not only does Wi-Fi save data, it uses less battery life than a cellular connection. Don’t forget to switch on Wi-Fi at home, and don’t be ashamed to ask for the internet password if you’re at a friend’s place or a cafe.

5. TURN ON AIRPLANE MODE.

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If your battery is starting to run low you might want to consider switching on Airplane Mode, which will turn off a bunch of features that use up power. That includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but if you need either of those, you can always turn them back on manually without leaving Airplane Mode.

6. LOWER THE SCREEN BRIGHTNESS.

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When it comes to using up smartphone battery life, one of the worst culprits is the display: Whenever it’s on, you’re losing precious power. One way to get around that is to lower your screen brightness from the quick settings menu. Most phones adjust the brightness automatically depending on the current lighting, so you may have to do this every time you switch on the screen. Still, it’s worth it if you get even a few minutes of extra phone time as a result.

7. DELETE THE FACEBOOK APP AND USE YOUR BROWSER INSTEAD.

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Facebook’s app is one of the biggest battery hogs around, but there’s an easy way to get rid of the app without missing out on your aunt’s latest status update. You can access Facebook from your smartphone’s browser for a nearly identical experience. (You can even get notifications.) For quick access, try bookmarking Facebook.com and setting it as a home screen icon to replace the app.

8. TURN OFF LOCATION TRACKING FOR APPS THAT DON’T NEED IT.

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Some apps (like Google Maps) really do need to know where you are to function, but others (like Facebook) probably don’t. Besides the issue of privacy, turning off location services for apps that don’t need it can help extend your battery life, since your phone won’t be working overtime to track where you are. On an iPhone, just go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services to see which apps are tracking you and toggle off the ones that shouldn’t be. Android offers a similar feature, just head to Settings > Security & Location > Location.

9. TURN OFF BACKGROUND REFRESH.

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Background app refresh is another potential battery waster to consider, though it’s not the worst offender. This feature lets apps update in the background so they’re ready to go when you need them. That might sound bad but it only happens at ideal times, like when you’re already on Wi-Fi. Still, if you want to disable it just head to Settings > General > Background App Refresh to switch it off. Pulling this off is a little trickier on Android depending on your phone model, but you should be able to find the option by heading to Settings > Data Usage and then poking around.

10. TURN OFF AIRDROP.

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This one is for iPhones only. Apple’s AirDrop feature is a useful tool for quickly sharing pictures and files with the people around you, but it can be a battery waster too. To turn off AirDrop, just swipe open Apple’s Control Center and tap on it to the feature off. You can also find it in Settings > General > AirDrop.

11. TURN OFF SPOTLIGHT.

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Another iPhone-only trick for saving battery life is to turn off Spotlight, Apple’s intelligent built-in search. Spotlight tracks your activity to show you the best possible results when you search for something on your phone. That’s useful, but it’s also a battery waster. Turn it off by heading to Settings > General > Spotlight Search. From there, you can uncheck items from a list of activities Spotlight tracks (Apps, Contacts, Music, etc.), or just remove them all.

12. TURN OFF “HEY SIRI” AND “OK GOOGLE” HOTWORDS.

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Being able to activate your phone’s AI assistant with a voice command is great, but it comes at a price. If your iPhone or Android device is always listening, that means it’s always wasting battery power. To turn off Hey Siri, head to Settings > Siri & Search and then toggle off “Listen for ‘Hey Siri.’” On Android, open the Google app and tap the menu icon in the top left corner. Then select Settings > Voice > “Ok Google” detection. You should see a toggle labeled “‘Say Ok Google’ any time.” Switch it off and you’re done.

13. TURN OFF VISUAL EFFECTS, LIVE WIDGETS, AND LIVE WALLPAPER.

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Widgets and moving wallpaper are great for sprucing up your smartphone, but they also waste a bunch of battery life. If you’re worried about making it through the day without running out of juice, switch to a simple still background image and delete any widgets that update automatically. On an iPhone, you can also remove any visual effects by heading to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion. Android has a similar option for in-app animations, too: Just head to Settings > Developer options and then disable “Window animation scale,” “Transition animation scale,” and “Animator duration scale.”

14. TURN OFF AUTOMATIC APP UPDATES.

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It’s hard to remember a time before automatic app updates, a time when you had to manually update each app as improvements rolled out. But if you’re serious about extending your battery life, killing those automatic updates may be your best option. Switching off automatic app updates reduces the amount of activity happening in the background on your phone, which means less power is wasted on non-essential actions. To turn it off on your iPhone, head to Settings > iTunes & App Store and then toggle off Updates under Automatic Downloads. On Android, open the Google Play Store and tap on the menu icon in the top left corner. Then, hit Settings > General > Auto-update apps and switch it off.

15. CHECK BATTERY USAGE TO SEE WHICH APPS WASTE THE MOST POWER.

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Finally, if you’re still not getting enough life out of your smart battery, one power-hogging app may be to blame. You can sniff out the culprit by checking your smartphone’s battery usage and then deleting the worst offenders. On iPhone, head to Settings > Battery and then scroll down to see which apps are using the most power. Android works the same way. Go to Settings > Battery > Battery Usage and you’ll see a list of the apps and services that are wearing down your battery.

6 Common Fire Hazards Lurking in Your Home (and Simple Ways to Prevent Them)

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Whether you're a homeowner or renter, a house fire can be a costly disaster. According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires account for more than 2500 deaths and more than 12,000 injuries in the U.S. every year, not to mention billions of dollars in damage. U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 350,000 house fires annually.

The good news is, total fire-related deaths, injuries, and property losses have trended downward in recent years, and that may be due to improved fire-fighting technology at home. Nothing beats the effectiveness of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and a solid fire escape plan, but the newest smart home devices can help you prevent these common fire hazards lurking in your home.

1. UNATTENDED BURNERS

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We’ve all had that moment of panic when we ask ourselves, “Did I remember to turn off the stove?” It’s worth double-checking, since cooking equipment is the leading cause of house fires. Stoves, ovens, and other appliances account for nearly 50 percent of incidents, while unattended cooking is the leading contributor to these fires.

Fortunately, new smart stovetop sensors and monitors will alert you when you’ve left the stove on. The Wallflower simply plugs into the wall with your electric stove, then alerts you when the stove is turned on, when it’s been on longer than usual, and even when you leave the house without turning it off. The crowd-funded Inirv React, meanwhile, promises to be a system of smart stove knobs that use sensors and electronics to detect smoke, natural gas, and motion, while allowing you to monitor your stove remotely.

2. DEAD SMOKE DETECTOR BATTERIES

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Working smoke alarms should be placed on every floor of your home, and inside every bedroom: They cut the risk of dying in a house fire by half.

Basic smoke detectors can get the job done, but newer models can also alert your phone if there's smoke in your home, turn off your HVAC system to slow the spread of smoke, or record video so you can check the situation remotely.

Security expert Emily Patterson of independent review site A Secure Life highlights the Nest Protect as one of her favorite devices for fire safety. “It has CO detection as well as heat and humidity sensors, so it has the ability to distinguish between real causes for concern and burnt toast,” Patterson tells Mental Floss. “You can also enable smartphone alerts, which is handy if you’re not home, and set up automated protocols to unlock doors or record video if the alarm goes off.”

The detector is only as reliable as the battery powering it, though. The Roost Smart Battery allows you to retrofit existing smoke detectors with 9V batteries to be managed by your smartphone and alerts you when battery life is running low (after three to five years).

3. SPACE HEATERS

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Space heaters keep things cozy when your existing heating system performs poorly, but they can also be extremely dangerous. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 1100 residential fires—and more than 50 deaths—are linked to portable electric heaters every year. Fires often occur when the heaters are left on unattended or they’re too close to flammable materials like paper or blankets.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends purchasing only newer-model heaters equipped with safety features like a tip-over switch and automatic shut-off, which kicks in if the heater exceeds a certain temperature. The Dyson Hot + Cool fan heater uses diffused mode heat to warm rooms evenly while the machine stays comfortable to the touch. For a more affordable option, the Smart Ceramic Tower Heater has infrared heat settings, a sleep timer, overheating protection, a tip-over safety switch, and Wi-Fi connectivity that lets you control it with your smartphone—just in case you forget to turn it off before leaving home.

4. OVERLOADED OUTLETS

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Heat-producing small appliances like coffee makers and toasters can pose a fire risk if used improperly—like if you have too many appliances plugged into one outlet. The NFPA recommends plugging only one heat-producing gadget into an outlet at a time [PDF], while smart plugs make it easy to turn off power to small appliances when you’re not home. Some devices even turn off outlets automatically when they’re not in use. There are dozens of options on the market now, from Wemo’s Insight Smart Plug with energy monitoring to the iDevices Switch. Most can be controlled with your phone, and are compatible with smart-home hubs. Be sure to check that the smart plug you choose is equipped with enough power to handle the wattage of your appliances.

5. COMBUSTIBLE LANDSCAPING

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The landscaping around your home can mitigate fire risks—or multiply them. Any plants that are too close to the house can present a fire hazard, especially when they’re dried out, says Cassy Aoyagi, a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council’s L.A. Chapter and president of FormLA Landscaping. “Several popular plants, like pampas, feather, and fountain grasses, marketed in the West as ‘drought tolerant,’ are actually quite combustible,” she tells Mental Floss.

A smart sprinkler controller makes it easy to ensure that your yard is moist and as fire-safe as possible. It can regulate and even reduce your water consumption, too. The Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller is equipped with a weather-monitoring system to adjust water use based on the forecast. The Orbit B-Hyve has fewer bells and whistles, but still offers smart scheduling with a smartphone app.

6. INTENTIONAL FIRES

iCamera KEEP home security system
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Let’s hope you never have to deal with this one, because playing with fire is no joke. The NFPA reports that 8 percent of residential fires between 2011 and 2015 were set intentionally, with 15 percent of civilian deaths happening as a result [PDF].

To keep your home safe inside and out, consider using a smart home security system. The iCamera KEEP Pro from iSmartAlarm has a powerful image sensor, sound and motion detection, event-triggered video recording, and a motion-tracking feature that allows the camera to follow movement around your space. The Wyze Cam 2 is a smaller model with motion-tagging technology and a budget-friendly price tag.

Nothing beats the power of common sense, of course. “Preparedness is the best protection,” Patterson says. “Have the right tools, have an evacuation plan, and know what to do in the event of an emergency. Fires are scary and it can be difficult to act quickly and think clearly in the moment if you aren’t prepared.”

Trulia Now Makes Browsing Neighborhoods as Easy as Browsing Homes

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An online real estate listing can tell you the number of bedrooms, the square footage, and the price of a property, but until you arrive in person, it's hard to know if the location will be a good fit for you. Trulia is looking to tackle that problem with a new Neighborhoods feature, as Fast Company reports, letting you virtually explore your potential home's surroundings before you show up for the tour.

Trulia, a listings site owned by Zillow, already offers all the standard information you would get from any other real estate service. Now, the new Trulia Neighborhoods feature also makes it possible to research various neighborhoods within the app the same way you would research individual houses and apartments.

The Neighborhoods feature includes a slideshow of annotated images of each neighborhood captured by Trulia's team of photographers and videographers. It also has some objective data about the area, like maps of local businesses, as well as first-hand reports from residents. In the "What the Locals Say" section, for instance, you might find that 90 percent of people reported that a neighborhood is quiet, while just 50 percent said it's easy to find parking there. This part also includes personal testimonies from individual users that you can browse by topic, such as "community" or "dog owners." Neighborhoods also allows you to easily access data on schools, safety, and commute times.

Trulia Neighborhoods isn't available for every market yet. For now, you can only take advantage of it if you're house-hunting in one of 300 neighborhoods across five U.S. cities—San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Austin, and Chicago. Trulia plans to expand the feature to more than 1100 neighborhoods by the end of 2018.

[h/t Fast Company]

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