What’s Draining Your iPhone Battery?

What’s Draining Your iPhone Battery?

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The two things that cause the most battery drain in your iPhone are its screen and cellular service. Obviously, you know when you’re actively using your phone, but a lot of the time, your iPhone is performing tasks in the background and even lighting up your screen without you noticing. For example, your iPhone may use cellular data to check for new Instagram posts in your feed and then turn on the screen to notify you that there are new posts.

Thankfully, it’s possible to optimize how and when your iPhone performs tasks to fix these issues. And with a bit of awareness about how you use your iPhone and the apps you’re running on it, you can curb your phone’s battery-draining tendencies.

iPhone showing iOS 15 Battery Settings page.

Find out which apps use the most battery

There’s an easy way to see which apps are using up the most battery. Go to Settings > Battery. When you scroll down, you can see the percentage of battery used by each app in the last 24 hours. Tap the “Last 10 days” tab to get a more accurate picture of which apps are the biggest battery hogs. You don’t have to stop using these apps entirely to keep your battery going, but knowing what’s likely to drain your battery is the first step to fixing it.

Then, tap on “Show Activity” at the top of the list of apps will show how much battery drain is from actively using the app compared to how much battery drain comes from the app running in the background. Pay special attention to background use – these are the apps that are draining your battery life without you even noticing.

Next, view all the apps that are allowed to run in the background. That’s fine for apps where you want to be alerted in real-time (say, email or a ride-hailing app), but many non-essential apps probably don’t need this function. Head to Settings > General > Background App Refresh. You can disable all background app refresh, have apps refresh only when connected to WiFi, or manually choose which apps refresh when you’re not using them.

Last, if you use free ad-supported apps, you’re burning a little extra battery power to download and display advertisements. If you like an app enough to use it all the time, why not go ahead and pay a dollar or two to buy it instead of making your phone download advertisements every time you open it? Trust us: your battery will thank you.

Limit streaming and downloading

Downloading lots of data doesn’t just burn through your monthly data plan; it also burns through your battery life as your phone works to download that data. That means anyone concerned about battery life will want to avoid apps that are a major data drain.

The most common culprits are anything that streams video or music: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, YouTube, TikTok, Spotify, Zoom, and FaceTime. Some services, like Netflix and Spotify, will let you download videos and music to your phone. If you know you’ll be without a charger, download your music and videos ahead of time.

Even services that are mostly text-based, like email and social networks, can be problematic: your phone constantly checks for new email and social networks are packed with photos and videos.

Though text-based status updates – including tweets and Facebook posts – are small, photos and videos are larger files, and viewing lots of them will leave you with less battery life. When you’re on a strict battery budget, limit the time you spend browsing Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and any other image-intensive websites. And if you just have to stay connected, skip uploading your photos and videos until you have a full battery.

Don’t close apps

If you think that closing apps you aren’t using will save you battery life, think again. Back in 2016, Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, dispelled that myth saying “there’s just no need to quit your apps to save battery life.”

The truth is that your iPhone is pretty good at managing multitasking without your help. Apps “running” in the background usually aren’t really running – they’re frozen, waiting for you to fire them up again. The only exception is apps that are designed to do things in the background, like navigation apps giving you turn-by-turn directions or your email client keeping tabs on new mail.

However, there are other, easier ways to prevent applications from burning battery in the background. You can turn off notifications, location service and background refreshing, all of which can help minimize an app’s battery use. Why bother closing apps when you can just tweak some settings – and never have to swipe through apps to shut them down?

Keep your phone face down

When notifications are allowed on the lock screen, the iPhone screen will light up when one comes through, using battery each time. But if you keep your phone face down, the phone knows, and the display won’t turn on. This allows you to have notifications – minus the distraction (and battery drain).

19 settings you can change to save your iPhone battery

There are lots of things your phone can do that will cause your battery to drain faster. Here are some common battery culprits and how to disable them if and when you don’t need them.

1. Reduce screen brightness

Keeping your screen brightly lit at all times can be a massive battery drain. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness, and set the brightness slider to the lowest level you’re comfortable with. Then enable Auto-Brightness, which automatically makes the screen darker or lighter in response to current lighting conditions.

If you have a newer iPhone with an OLED display (iPhone X or later), selecting the Dark (versus Light) appearance for your phone background can also save a significant amount of power. You’ll see the most savings from this trick when you have the brightness turned up or you’re using the phone outside on a sunny day and have Auto-Brightness turned on (which turns up the brightness so you can see the display).

2. Set Auto-Lock to 30 seconds

You can also reduce screen drain by setting your phone’s screen lock to kick on as quickly as possible, reducing the amount of time the screen is needlessly lit. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness, you’ll find Auto Lock, which locks your screen when you haven’t used your phone for a certain period of time. For maximum battery life, we recommend putting it at the lowest possible setting: 30 seconds.

3. Turn off Raise to Wake

The Raise to Wake feature (available on iPhone 6s or newer) wakes up your phone whenever you pick it up. It’s handy, but as we’ve already mentioned, having the screen turned on is one of your phone’s biggest battery drains – and if you want to turn it on, it just takes a button press. Turn it off by going to Settings > Display & Brightness, and then toggling off Raise to Wake.

4. Turn off notifications

While it’s handy to get notifications when an app wants to tell you something, it also means that your iPhone is always burning battery life to track what the app is up to. Even worse, a lock screen notification lights up your screen for a minute to show it to you – and as we noted above, keeping the screen lit can be a significant battery drain.

Turn off notifications for individual apps under Settings > Notifications. When you first install them, many apps want to notify you about everything – we suggest disabling most of these notifications so you only get the notifications that matter.

To configure notifications for individual apps, scroll down the list of apps and click each app to see what kind of notifications it sends. If you don’t want any, move the slider from green to white next to Allow Notifications to turn them off. If you want some notifications, you can choose whether you want to play sounds, show notifications on your lock screen, and whether to show a banner or an alert when your phone is unlocked. We recommend turning off lock screen notifications for most apps.

The fewer apps sending you notifications, the better your battery life will be.

5. Turn off vibration

Each time your phone vibrates for an alert or phone call, it drains a little of the battery. If your phone is already sounding for alerts and phone calls, having vibrations enabled is an unnecessary battery sink.

Head to Settings > Sounds & Haptics to toggle whether your phone vibrates on ring, on silent, or not at all.

6. Turn off location services

Location services are terribly convenient, letting apps know where you are and providing useful, location-specific information, from offering directions to looking up local restaurant reviews. However, keeping your iPhone’s GPS running can go through your battery power very quickly. You can tell when something on your phone is using location services by the arrow icon that appears in your menu bar at the top of the screen. If you’d like to save battery life, you have several options where location services are concerned.

If you don’t think an app needs access to location services, you can disable it entirely or limit when the app can use location services. Just open Settings > Privacy > Location Services, and find the apps you don’t want to access location data. Click on the app and then specify whether you want it to never access location information, only access location information while you’re using the app, or always access location information. If you are using a widget for an app, you can also choose whether the widget can access location information.

In our opinion, the only apps you want with full access to location information, even when you aren’t using the app, are navigation and weather apps. This lets navigation apps give you turn by turn directions even when they aren’t on screen and lets weather apps notify you if a thunderstorm is headed your way.

You can also disable location services entirely if you aren’t using them (or just want to save some battery power). From Settings > Privacy > Location Services, move the slider by Location Services to the off position.

7. Turn on Optimize Battery

All rechargeable batteries, including your iPhone battery, degrade over time as their charge is drained and refilled, resulting in a lower battery capacity that becomes noticeable in daily use. Get a handle on the overall health of your battery at Settings > Battery > Battery Health. There, you can view the maximum capacity of your battery and whether it is operating at peak performance, plus check that you’ve enabled the Optimized Battery Charging setting, which can help reduce battery aging.

8. Turn off automatic downloads

Another battery drain is automatic downloads from the App and iTunes Stores. Under Settings > App Store and Settings > Music/Books, you can choose to have music, apps, books and software updates downloaded automatically. While this is certainly handy, checking for new content and downloading it when you’re on the go puts a strain on your battery. For the best battery life, toggle off “Download over Cellular” for Music and Books. For Apps, scroll down to “Cellular Data” section and toggle off “Automatic Downloads.”

With updating over cellular data disabled, your phone will only update over WiFi, which is typically less of a battery drain – and less of a data drain, to boot.

9. Check your email less frequently

Many of us use our phones to check our email, but how often you check your email can make a big difference to your phone’s battery. The iPhone lets you set up new mail to be “pushed” to your phone immediately (although not all email services support this) or be “fetched” from the mail server at certain intervals.

Pushing email to your phone requires a constant connection. Fetching email on a schedule uses less battery life. To change how often your phone checks your email, go to Settings > Mail > Accounts > Fetch New Data. For best battery life, turn Push off and reduce your Fetch interval or set it to Manual. If you really need mail from a specific account fast, you enable Push and select it for the one account.

10. Use Screen Time to limit certain apps

As well as providing scary information on how much time you spend on your phone, Screen Time can also be used to set time limits on app usage. If you find that certain battery-loving apps are taking up a bit too much of your time – say, Instagram or TikTok – limiting how long these can be accessed per day can help save both battery and mental focus.

Head to Settings > Screen Time > App Limits and select “Add Limit.” To set a time limit on any battery-hoggers, select the app, select “Next” and add a time limit. If you select multiple apps, the time limit will apply to all apps selected.

11. Disable Bluetooth if you don’t use it

If you don’t use any Bluetooth accessories, turn Bluetooth off under Settings > Bluetooth. You can also swipe down from the top right your home screen to bring up a mini settings menu, and click the Bluetooth icon to shut off Bluetooth – which is a lot easier if you want to turn Bluetooth on and off as needed.

12. Turn on WiFi calling

If you’re in an area with good WiFi, turning on WiFi calling can help save battery life. Go to Settings > Cellular > Wi-Fi Calling and then toggle on Wi-Fi Calling on This Phone. You’ll be asked to input an Emergency Address to help emergency services respond to your calls.

13. Disable WiFi if you don’t need it

If you aren’t using WiFi, it’s best to turn it off to preserve battery life. Otherwise, your phone will constantly check for available WiFi networks, draining your battery in the process. You can disable WiFi under Settings > Wi-Fi or by swiping up from your home screen and tapping the WiFi icon. Just don’t forget to turn it back on again when you need it or you’ll end up using cellular data, which will drain your battery faster than WiFi would.

14. Let your iPhone decide when to use 5G

If you have a 5G iPhone (iPhone SE 3rd gen, iPhone 12 models and iPhone 13 models), using available 5G networks can save on battery life. However, 5G coverage is not universal. When a 5G network is not available or the signal is weak, your battery can drain faster. Go to Settings > Cellular > Voice & Data and select “5G Auto” so your phone will automatically connect to the fastest network, whether it’s 5G or the slower LTE network.

15. Turn off Siri’s voice activation

If you don’t often ask Siri to do things like set timers or open apps, you’ll save some battery by toggling off the setting that has the phone listening for the sound of your voice saying “Hey Siri”. You’ll still be able to use Siri by pressing and holding the right-side button on your iPhone.

Head to Settings > Siri & Search to select how you want to access Siri.

16. Turn on Airplane Mode (in certain situations)

If you’re in an area with poor cellular service, your phone will constantly hunt for a connection… and your battery life will plummet. If you know you’re in an area without service, just turn on Airplane Mode to shut down cellular access and save your battery power. This disables a lot of other connectivity-related battery drainers, including Bluetooth and WiFi, but if you need either of these you can enable them even with Airplane Mode on.

Enable Airplane Mode in Settings or by swiping down from your home screen and tapping the airplane icon. If you need to use WiFi or Bluetooth while in Airplane Mode, just click their icons to turn them on.

17. Turn off AirDrop

AirDrop is a great way to wirelessly share images and other data between your Apple devices (check out our guide on how to AirDrop). But when you don’t need to share things, it can use up your battery life in the background while it stays alert for file transfers. Toggle it off by going to Settings > General > AirDrop, and then selecting “Receiving Off.” If you want to send or receive files later, simply repeat the process to turn it back on.

18. Turn on Low Power Mode

When your battery gets down below 20 percent (and again at 10 percent), you’ll get a low battery warning and the ability to go into Low Power Mode. In Low Power Mode, your phone will automatically stop or reduce mail fetch, background app refresh, automatic downloads and some visual effects.

However, if you know you need to save battery life, you can manually turn on Low Power Mode. Just go to Settings > Battery and switch on “Low Power Mode.” You can also swipe down from the top right your home screen to bring up a mini settings menu and selecting the battery icon. Even though you’ll lose some phone features, you’ll still be able to do most things you need.

19. Turn off Fitness Tracking

iPhones have all sorts of cool fitness tracking features, which can be great if you care about fitness tracking. But if you don’t care about the iPhone’s fitness features, your phone is still by default monitoring your motion all the time to track steps. If you don’t need it, turn it off by going to Settings > Privacy > Motion & Fitness and toggling off “Fitness Tracking.” Here you can also toggle on or off specific apps that are allowed to access sensor data.

Keep charged!

Instead of waiting for your battery to run dry, plug it in when you’re at your desk at work or in the car. Be sure to keep a spare charging cable and a car charger with you just in case; even a few minutes worth of charging could make the difference.

Updated on 6/6/2022 with iOS 15 and 5G battery saving tips.

[Image credit: Techlicious]

Natasha Stokes has been a technology writer for more than 10 years covering consumer tech issues, digital privacy and cybersecurity. As the features editor at TOP10VPN, she covered online censorship and surveillance that impact the lives of people around the world. Her work has also appeared on NBC News, BBC Worldwide, CNN, Time and Travel+Leisure.

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