Mobile Phones

Friday 28th March, 2008
Do you have a modern mobile phone? Does it have 3G? If so, you could be wasting energy without even knowing it.

On a daily basis, I use a Nokia E90 Communicator. It's a powerful piece of kit, 2 large colour LCD screens, stereo sound...everything you need to really drain some power. It has a large high capacity battery to compensate, but battery power isn't needs to be recharged. Obviously the longer you can make the battery last between recharges, the better.

Most people know that functions like Bluetooth drain the battery a little quicker, especially on older phones that adopted the technology in it's early days. Turning Bluetooth off can saves some battery life but, in reality, it's impractical to keep turning if off/on as needed. You don't want to be driving down the road, hear the phone ring and then realise that you're not connected to your car kit.

You can change the timeout settings on your phone display so the backlight turns out quicker, saving a bit more battery life. In theory it's sound, in practice it means you're going to be pushing buttons to wake the thing back up again before you've finished reading the long joke you received on a txt message. So another option that isn't really so practical.

So how can we really safe battery life? Apart from silly ideas like using it less, disabling vibration and turning it off when it's not in use.

Let's go back to 3G...

3G, or UMTS as some of the geeks may refer to it, is the 3rd generation in mobile phones. First we had those awful analog bricks, then GSM came along and we went all digital with clearer phone calls. With 3G we get exactly the same except we gain a high speed data link. This is useful for picking up emails, surfing the net and other data services. It's also used for video calling at something like £1.50 per minute. But how often do you actually use it?

Does it help with phone calls? No. In fact, 3G has less coverage than GSM which usually means your signal strength is less. In fact, you might find your phone disconnects from 3G to make a phone call.

Does it help with txt messaging? No. In fact many phones, as with a voice call, will drop the 3G connect to send a txt message.

One of the things that really hammers battery life on a phone is connecting to the local mobile phone base station. During this fairly lengthy negotiation a lot of data is sent and received. If you're travelling in a car or on a train, this re-connection can occur every couple of minutes which is why you'll find your battery is really hammered after a long journey.

On a 3G phone, this negotiation is usually doubled as it first connects to the GSM connection and then, when it finds an available 3G source, it upgrades the connection with another hefty negotiation. Sending or receiving a txt drops and re-establishes this connection hammering the phone some more. If you have delivery reports enabled, all this traffic is doubled.

So why do I need it? Well, maybe you don't...

Do you regularly pick up email on your phone? Do you browse the web on your phone? Do you use video calling? If not, you can just go into your phone options and disable 3G. This won't break anything and even things like browsing will be pretty much unaffected as the GPRS function on the old 2G/GSM service will be perfectly adequate for mobile optimised "WAP" services.

I disabled 3G on my phone over the easter break...I've not charged it since. I'm getting at least DOUBLE the battery life, purely because I turned off this network function for which I have no use. This is not only very green, it's convenient too as you don't have to put your phone on the charger so often.

So dig out those phone menus, turn off 3G and watch as your battery doesn't go down like it did. Add a comment if you find this tip has worked for you.

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