Android has some great features, but it also has some irritating ones too. For example, it is easy to get into a situation where the battery is draining very quickly. Why, and what can be done about it?

All phones drain the battery power, even when the screen is switched off and they are not being used, but Android devices are often worse than iOS. It seems that the cost of having a more open operating system is in the high battery drain.

The state of the battery on my Android devices occupies much more of my time than on the iPhone and iPad, where battery drain is often minimal.

Android phones are very sensitive to the apps you have installed and as I load up apps for testing, the battery drain accelerates. As I remove them after testing them, the battery drain lessens. Quite simply, apps drain the battery and the more you have the faster it drains.

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My Samsung Galaxy S4 can lose up to 25% of its charge overnight. I charge it up before I go to bed and when I get up in the morning nine hours later, the charge has fallen from 100% to around 75%. This is while it has been sat idle next to the bed doing nothing.

Now here is an odd thing. If I put the phone into flight mode before I go to bed, it loses only 5% of its charge overnight. Switching just the Wi-Fi off reduces the battery life somewhere in between the two values. Clearly if you are running out of battery power and want to save the remaining juice for emergencies you should put the phone into flight mode. Don’t switch it off because powering down and powering up again uses a lot of battery.

The more apps that are running in the background, the faster the battery drains, so it is a good idea to close them down. You might think that having an app to monitor the battery and an app to kill background apps and services would help, but you have to realise that these are just two more apps you have running in the background. The apps themselves use battery power, even if only a little.

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I prefer to use the built in tools to stop apps running in the background. On the Samsung phone you can long press the home button, press the pie chart icon at the bottom of the screen and tap RAM at the top. The Clear memory button clears inactive and background processes.

This helps, but only in a limited way. As fast as you can, go to Settings, Application Manager (on the More tab on the Samsung GS4), then swipe left to the Running tab. This shows the apps and services that are running in the background.

Android background apps . Android apps running in the background

Many apps and services simply restart again and you can see this in the screenshot above on the right. You might have better luck closing an app by tapping it in this Running list and then pressing the Stop button.

You might expect the Running tab in Application manager to show all the running apps, but it does not. Take a look at the list, then swipe left to show the list of apps installed. Tap a few of them. There is a Force stop button and it is disabled for apps that are not running. Obviously you can’t stop an app if it is already stopped.

The strange thing is that apps that are not listed on the Running tab sometimes have the Force stop button enabled. This suggests that they are running, even though they are not listed. Go through your apps and Force stop ones that do not need to be running. It might help with the battery life.

Android apps running in the background . Android apps running in the background

The best way to improve battery life is simply to uninstall everything you can live without. Apps drain the battery, so if you remove them then the battery drain is reduced. Then turn off Wi-Fi unless needed for some heavy duty internet access, and put the phone into flight mode at night.