Day 10 with Nexus S: Battery mystery, 10 Battery Power Saving Tips #Maxis10

Battery mystery in Google Nexus S

Battery StatusEver since Day 1 with Google Nexus S, I never have the phone fully charged at 100% – the phone always claimed to be fully charged at 94%-97%, and charging the device overnight doesn’t help. Faulty battery?

Nope. Luckily my 1500mAh Lithium-ion battery in Google Nexus S seems to be pretty normal after I did some extensive studies on this phenomena. Not too sure it will occurs in all other Android devices, but apparently fully charged at the battery life of less than 100% in Google Nexus S is not something need to be worried.

In Byron G’s study, he did an extensive study on the charging and discharging conditions on his HTC Droid Incredible and figure out the reason of inconsistent battery drains, especially during a full charge. It’s a lengthy article, which is a pretty interesting one, so if you have about 15 minutes to digest it, do check it out.

As a summary, what I found in the study is that:

1. Modern phones with Lithium-ion battery are using different charging method compared to the older phone to reduce the damage on the battery during charging. Below explained why and how (as quoted in Bryon G’s study):

The time at which the battery stays at [maximum charge] should be as short as possible. Prolonged high voltage promotes corrosion, especially at elevated temperatures. [Source: Battery University]

2. Portable device is best to charge while it is turned off to allow the battery charged at a correct settings. Parasitic load can confuse the charger and hence might degrade the potential of the battery.

3. Even if some of the devices claimed to be fully charged at 100%, but a quick battery power depletion can occurs as the battery gauge is catching up with the reality. If your device is fully charged at less than 100%, but the battery life is depleted in an usual pattern, I would say there is nothing to be worried about.

And before you saying ‘No, my Nexus One doesn’t do this to me, you are definitely wrong!’, here comes the quote I got from xda-developers forum, where a member called swetland (Google Android employee) tells that why Google Nexus S is a little bit different from some other devices:

Yup — once the battery reaches full capacity the charger stops (to avoid undue wear on the battery). The battery will discharge down to ~90% before the charger kicks in again.

On Nexus One we were able to run off of wall power once the battery was charged, significantly reducing the speed at which the battery discharged once full, and improving the chances of it being 99-100% when you took it off the charger. Nexus S has a different charge circuit configuration which does not allow it to operate in this mode. [Source: Xda-Developers]

So, don’t worry if your Google Nexus S (or other devices) doesn’t fully charged at 100%, as it simply shows you the real battery power percentage. However, if your battery power depleted at an unexpected/weird manner, try the 10 tips for saving and improving battery life below (else you might have a bad battery if these tips have no effect).

Source: Byrong via Android Police

Battery Power Saving/Improving Tips

BrightnessAdjust the screen brightness to the lowest (or acceptable) settings – Unlike Super AMOLED screen, Super LCD is tend to use slightly more battery power since it has a different way to display a pixel from Super AMOLED screen – in short, Super AMOLED screen doesn’t require power to display a black pixel. To squeeze every juice from a fully-charged 1500mAH battery, adjust the screen to the lowest brightness (or auto-brightness if you prefer) can definitely help in long journey. You can do this in the Settings > Display > Brightness or use the Power Control widget pre-installed.

Display_SettingsTurn off the window animations – While it is cool to have all the window animations turned on, these animations will somehow use slightly more processing power, which in turn use extra battery power. And by turning it off, it won’t affect the Android experience whatsoever, so no harm done and you gain more battery power. You can turn off the window animations (or partially if you wish to) at Settings > Display > Animations.

Display_SettingsTurn off the screen auto-rotation – If you rarely used Nexus S in the horizontal orientation (since there is still no homescreen in horizontal mode), it is recommended to turn this option off. It will not give you a huge extra battery power, but with the accelerometer turned off from detecting the device orientation, which eliminating the chance of accidental screen rotation, turning it off will still be useful. You can un-tick the Auto-rotate screen option at Settings > Display.

Display_SettingsDecrease the screen timeout – Admit it, sometimes human tend to forget things – this includes leaving the screen turned on without using it. Unless the screen is intended to be turned on, else leaving it on without any activity with it literally means that it is a waste. Decrease the screen timeout to 2 minutes, in my opinion, having the best balance between usability and power consumption. If you wish to have the screen lit up a little bit longer eg. When using the F1 2011 Live app, you can always easily increase the screen timeout. For adjust the setting, you can navigate to Settings > Display > Screen timeout.

powerClose unnecessary running services/apps – Thanks to the Gingerbread in Nexus S, there is now a better battery power management tool available to the user. Using this tool, Nexus S user can closely monitor the battery power depletion pattern, as well as understand the power consumption for each running apps. If you found some unnecessary apps in the running list, turn them off/force stop them. Even though they don’t seem to be running, but they might cause some significant drop on the battery life. I had once experienced it in my Nexus S with the Facebook official app, even though I am not using it and my internet was turned off, but it still keep draining the battery power for no reason. Therefore, if you know you won’t be using the app anytime soon after the first run, turn it off. You can do this at About phone > Battery use; click on the unwanted apps and click Force stop button.

VibrationTurn off the vibration – Although sometimes it is undeniably that vibration can be quite useful, but it is well known for its high power consumption. If you are in a long journey, it is advisable to have vibration mode turned off. Other vibration related option such as haptic feedback, keypress feedback should be also turned off if you wanted to squeeze every juice from the battery. For vibration mode and haptic feedback, you can access the options at Settings > Sound Settings > Vibrate/Haptic feedback. For keypress feedback, access it from the keyboard settings which is located at Settings > Language & keyboard > Android Keyboard (or any keyboard you are currently using) > Vibrate on keypress.

2G NetworkUse 2G Network – It is also well known that the phone tends to drain battery power faster if 3G mode is turned on – no exception for Google Nexus S. If you are in a bad 3G reception area, or you are well aware that you are not going to use the 3G connection, use 2G network instead. It won’t affect your call or text messaging services, but you won’t be able to use 3G services such as the internet. Nevertheless, it is pretty easy to enable the 3G network if it is needed. To use 2G network only, go to Settings > Wireless & networks > Mobile networks > Use only 2G networks.

Settings_1Use Airplane mode – Airplane mode is an option for the user to disable all the network radios (or wireless connection) in the phone while in the airplane since there will be no signal available for the phone. However, if you are in an area that has a very bad network reception, or you won’t be able to use the calling/text messaging/internet for a period of time (for some reason), Airplane mode is also suitable to be used. Why Airplane mode? If you are in a bad network reception area, chances are your device always tries to seek for a better signal, and such repetitive action can drain the battery power quite dramatically. Airplane mode turns off the network searching, and in turn, saving battery power for better usage. To turn on the Airplane mode, go to Settings > Wireless & networks > Airplane mode, though please be aware that you won’t be able to receive any calls or text messages since your phone is now basically isolated from the cellular network.

Settings_1Turn Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/NFC/GPS off – Nowadays, there are more and more communication devices equipped in the smart phones. While it is great to have them on board, but there is a trade-off – high battery power consumption. Besides the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS available in most of the Android devices, Google Nexus S is also equipped with NFC, and for the current situation, NFC is still pretty new and lack of practical use, therefore it is advisable to have it turned off to save battery power. Some goes to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS, turn them off if they are not going to be used anytime soon. You can turn them on/off at the Power Widget, or at Settings > Wireless & network/Location & security.

Charging BatteryBump Charge – If you really in need of the full capacity from your battery,  bump charging might be the one for you, though I must inform that it will wear your battery faster, and you will need a replacement battery sooner than usual. In Bryon G’s study, he did some experiment on the bump charge and the outcome is positive. If you are interested in the procedure to do bump charge, check out his study, but once again, I must warn you that it will degrade your battery faster, and ONLY do this when you really need it.

Use the device. Charge the device. Whenever you can.

While it will be great if your device can last for few days to one week (which obviously smartphones nowadays can’t achieve this yet), but I like to reemphasize what Bryon G advised to his reader:

Beyond that, the best advice I can offer is to stop paying such close attention to your battery gauge and to just use your phone. Charge it whenever you can, and then stop obsessing over the exact numbers. If you really need more usage time, buy an extended-capacity battery and use it normally.

So, use your Google Nexus S at the full potential if you are able to charge it regularly, as explained in Battery University:

Lithium-ion does not need to be fully charged; a partial charge is better. [Source: Battery University]

14 thoughts on “Day 10 with Nexus S: Battery mystery, 10 Battery Power Saving Tips #Maxis10”

  1. Hi,
    My problem is that that it takes almost 4-5 hours to load the phone fully.
    (To be honest, the phone is ON while I am charging.)
    Any comment on that?

    1. Hi Dejan,

      For my device, it takes about 2 hours to fill up 50% of battery life, so I guess it should be fine to fully charge the phone for about 4 hours.


  2. I know it’s Sept 14, 2011, but I just got my Nexus S. The battery runs out so damn fast.

    This is extremely dumb on Google/Nexus S/Samsung’s part, but why couldn’t they come up w/ a feature that automatically turns the phone on or off at whatever time you choose a.k.a. “Auto On/Off”, e.g. Turn Off at 11pm, Turn On at 7am? My super low-end Huawei U1250 has this feature, and it’s stock, not even an app. Saves me 1) a huge hassle in having to remember to turn the phone off every night, and 2) saves me huge battery issues. I barely have to charge my Huawei any more than once a week because of this sweet feature.

    Secondly, why can’t the phone permanently turn off an app when I tell it to turn off? Why must it require me to go to the menu *every time* I turn on the phone to have to turn off the damn app? Isn’t it a futile solution to the very issue I’m trying to fix, which is saving effort and battery?

    1. Hi,

      Answer to your question:
      1) Yes, I have to admit Samsung Nexus S doesn’t have a very strong battery, but it still able to last me a day and a half, so I have no complaint. While there isn’t any auto power on/off feature in Android, I advise you to try Timeriffic:

      Set your phone to turn into airplane mode at 11pm, and turn it off around 7am. You will definitely find that the battery can last very long since it no longer requires power to detect the network signal and keep in standby mode.

      2) May I know which app that you have mentioned? While Gingerbread already has a very good memory management system, you can always install task manager off the Android Market to handle your running apps.

      For best experience, I would suggest you to flash the MIUI ROM to your Nexus S, I has been using it for quite a while and I am quite happy with it.


  3. Force killing programs will actually waste battery in many cases. This is due to the way a Linux system deals with “background” tasks. Linux is not dumb and will not waste resources on something the user does not need. Items which ‘appear’ to be running are truly only cached in memory for quick launching. Killing them means the system must fully boot them on next need, this wastes more power than the illusory save.

    Due to modular programming some processes may not seem to be needed but they are being called by other tasks or are doing very simple low level monitoring of some tasks. For example Skype may appear to be running and wasting CPU but it just has a very low level task running to notice if you want to make a call so it can ask Skype or Normal then launch fully if needed.

    1. Hi Tawan,

      I am totally aware of memory and battery management system in the Android, which will work just fine under ideal condition. However, there are some badly-coded app that can really drain the memory and battery power in a terrible way. I have experienced it on my Nexus S running stock rom, both the Facebook app and Email client are continuously draining the battery power for no apparent reason (which I check through the battery stat), and I have to force kill them to stop the draining. For sure it is not ideal to force kill every single running app, but I will prefer to control the draining myself rather than rely on the management system, sometimes.


  4. Hi Taylor,
    I have followed a lot of the battery savings tips listed above but my battery generally only lasts 6-7 hours before requiring additional charge. Is that normal? I will say I use the phone consistently (e-mail, internet, Tweetdeck, messaging) during that time.

    1. Hi there,

      Do you use the phone with 3G enabled? With your usage of the phone that is largely based on data transfer (email, Internet, tweet deck), I would say it is pretty OK if the phone last around 7 hours with 3G constantly turned on.

      If you dare to take the risk, you can look for some custom rom and kernel that can help in saving the battery time, though it won’t squeeze you another 7 hours with heavy usage. I would say whenever you have the chance to plug in your Nexus S to the power (laptop, PC, car etc.), just go ahead and do it. Just try to do a full power cycle probably once a month, then it will be less worrying.


    1. Hi Cruzer,

      I would say they will not harm the device since the main difference of them are the much higher capacity of storing the battery power, though I myself have concern about third party battery in terms of safety and reliability.


  5. Just turn on the WIFI Tether when charging level reaches 90% , then watch your Nexus S slowly reach full 100% charged ! And you can enjoy more than 2 hours additional juice than before

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