Thursday 19 September 2019

Ask Adrian: Our technology editor tackles your trickiest tech problems


Alert: Turning off some 'push' notifications on your iPhone can help preserve the battery life
Alert: Turning off some 'push' notifications on your iPhone can help preserve the battery life
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air
Apple iPad Air
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Question: My iPhone 7's battery has gotten really poor lately. By lunchtime, it's usually down at 30pc and I'm not using it for anything more than I used to. I'm wondering whether I should upgrade to a new phone? My son told me that I can change the battery, but is that worth it?


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You can change the battery of an iPhone - it costs €49 for an iPhone 7. (If, by any chance, you paid for AppleCare when you bought the phone, then it's free.) There are a few shops that will do it, including Compu B and Harvey Norman, both of which are official Apple repair centres. In some cases, they can do it while you wait, but if they're busy, they'll tell you it might take a couple of days.

Generally, you're encouraged to book an appointment in advance through their websites. Other mobile-phone shops will do it for you, but you should know that Apple takes a harsh view of non-approved dealers opening up their phones, to the point where they'll cancel any outstanding warranty if there's a follow-on problem.

If you're otherwise happy with your iPhone 7, and are not due a low-cost upgrade based on a phone contract you're paying for anyway, then I would get the battery changed rather than spring for a new phone. In general, a phone's battery should last around a year before you start seeing a noticeable decline in its ability to hold a charge. There's no conspiracy or built-in obsolescence attached to this. It's a basic law of electronics that virtually every battery loses a fraction of its capacity every time it's charged. This is as true for a phone battery as it is for a laptop battery, a car battery or a camera battery.

Having said that, there are some things you can do to mitigate what might be unwittingly accelerated battery usage on your part.

It does help, for example, to use the newest version of iOS. As a rule, newer versions of an operating system (as well as newer phones) do a better job of organising your apps and functions so that you get to maintain your battery life longer. This is one reason why iPhones generally have significantly smaller batteries than Android phones of the same price, but still get close to matching them on battery life - Apple controls all of the hardware and software, meaning it can optimise things that Android phones can't because they're split between, say, Google and Samsung.

(For any readers with an Android phone, you should be using the latest 'Pie' version of Android, even though some phone manufacturers haven't provided updated versions of that yet. If you don't have that update, it would still be good to be on 'Oreo' [the version from last year] or even 'Nougat' [the one before Oreo]. Earlier versions may not handle power management as well as the newer iterations. If you're not sure, go to settings and check which version you're on.)

Other things you can do is to make sure that certain apps aren't drawing down on your phone's battery while they're in the background. For example, some email and messaging apps can use up power in the background because they're forever synchronising and updating. This is especially so for those that 'push' notifications to you. (A 'push' notification is when you get an alert or beep that you have a new message or email.) Obviously, switching 'push' settings off is a compromise: most of us want to be notified if we get a message. But I have found that it's possible to minimise the number of apps or services that do this, saving yourself quite a bit of battery life. In a similar vein, a small amount of power is taken up by functions such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Note that when I say 'Wi-Fi', I don't mean data: I mean getting data with your Wi-Fi switched on in settings. Because we all have monthly data allowances with our operators these days, you don't always need your Wi-Fi setting on, especially when you're out and about. Indeed, if you're really stuck and don't feel that you need data services constantly, you can even switch mobile data off entirely on your phone for an hour or two. This will save you battery life, but you won't get any updates other than SMS messages or phone calls.

Outside apps, there are some obvious battery-saving methods that many people ignore. Your screen is one of the biggest energy-sappers: using your phone's auto-brightness can save a lot of juice. (You don't need your screen to be on full brightness in a dim room, for example.) Similarly, in settings, check that your auto-lock is set to a short period, so that if you put your phone down on a table or back into your pocket, it's not still lit up (needlessly) for a couple of minutes.

There are a few other software and usability tips and tricks you can employ, but they will still only get you so far, especially if you're someone who likes to use their phone for extended periods to read, catch up with friends on social media or take in some video.

Recommendation: replace battery (€49 from Compu B or Harvey Norman)

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