March 20, 2013 — -- "Do you know where there is an outlet to plug in my phone?" you ask as you scour the lower part of the wall for a plug. "Does anyone have a charger I can borrow?" you ask friends at the bar as your phone warns you of low battery and you start to sweat.
OK, maybe you haven't been in those exact situations, but you've experienced something like them: Your phone battery is about to die and you wish you had saved power when you had the chance. Or you just wish you had power now.
Tip 1: Turn off the radios you aren't using.
This might be obvious to some, but this is one of the biggest causes of fast battery drain. Turn off the radios in your phone you aren't using; even when they are idle they suck power. That means switching off the WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth when you don't need them.
Chances are you will want to keep the cellular radio on in most situations, but if you are in an area with no service, turn off the cellular or just put the phone in Airplane Mode.
Also, turn off all the apps that are using GPS or location; many of them will keep using the GPS to determine where you are and feed you information based on your location. (On the iPhone this is in the Settings menu under Location Services.)
Tip 2: Turn down the screen brightness.
The screen is the biggest power sucker on your phone. Keep the brightness low whenever you can and set the auto-lock so it turns the screen off when you aren't using it. The iPhone and Android phones also have auto-brightness settings, but you are still best keeping the screen in the 30 percent to 50 percent range if you can.
Many even say setting a darker wallpaper will save some power. And Android users, whatever you do: stay away from the live wallpapers. You are just asking for battery drain with those.
Tip 3: Kill the apps you aren't using.
How many apps do you have open on your phone right now? Go on, check. If it's more than 10 you need to heed this advice. Close apps you aren't using, or at least some of them. iOS and Android phones do a decent job of not allowing all open apps to suck your battery, but keeping more than 10 open is never a good idea. On an Android phone also kill the widgets you don't use; even if they look pretty, they are constantly updating and draining your battery.
And for those who don't know, on the iPhone, you can close apps by double-tapping the Home button to bring up the open apps. Then press-and-hold one of the apps so they start to dance. Select the minus button to close the apps. Hit the Home button when you are done. On Android phones, you can go to the "Manage applications" area in settings or you can select the open apps menu and swipe to close the app.
Tip 4: Turn off or limit notifications.
Notifications are very useful, but they can also tax your battery. Be smart about which app notifications are enabled. Do you need notifications from your recipe app or Yelp? Also make sure those apps that are always busy -- like Twitter or Facebook -- aren't always refreshing with new updates and notifying you of them. With email, make sure you don't have notifications enabled for every new message.
Tip 5: Buy a mobile charger or battery-equipped case, like the Mophie.
The aforementioned software adjustments will help, but they will only go so far, at least after a day of heavy use. If that extra juice doesn't go far enough, take the plunge: buy a mobile charger or case on hand.
There are a number of mobile chargers with Micro USB or Apple's charging connectors. I particularly like the $50 PowerStick and Mophie's JuicePack Power Station. If you have an iPhone or a Galaxy S3, though, the best solution is the Mophie case. The phone case has another battery inside it. It makes the phone pretty chunky, but it also doubles your battery life. It's all about compromise.
The new Mophie Juice Pack Air for the iPhone costs $100 and the version with the smaller battery, called the Helium costs $79.95. Both of the cases can be turned on and will charge up your iPhone when it's almost dead.
When my iPhone 5 had 5 percent of a charge left, I got a full charge with the Air and about 80 percent of a charge with the Helium. Still, having either option will eliminate the anxiety you have about losing power throughout the day and that dance of looking around for a power outlet.