How to improve battery life on any mobile device

Poor battery life is a problem that affects all mobile users. This guide could help you better understand what is draining your battery.

We have written numerous articles with tips and tricks for improving battery life on iOS and Android, some of which you can find here, here, and here, but not everyone owns an iPhone or Android device. Despite which kind of mobile device you prefer, battery life tends to be an issue that we all face. Understanding what is draining your smartphone or tablet will help you squeeze the best possible battery life out of your device.
Display brightness

The screens on our mobile devices seem to be getting bigger and more vibrant with each passing year. We now have smartphones, like the LG G3 for example, with incredible 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution displays. While these screens are pretty to look at, they are killing our batteries. Unfortunately battery technology hasn't progressed nearly as fast as other sectors of the mobile industry.

Reducing the brightness of your display will help to improve battery life. You should also avoid using automatic brightness settings. This mode utilizes the phone's sensors, which, because they're in use all the time, actually drains your battery more rapidly than adjusting your brightness manually. Auto mode will also sometimes leave your display at a level that is far too bright for your environment.
No service

For cellular-connect devices, having no service can be a real pain. Unless a Wi-Fi network is available, your device becomes fairly useless if it doesn't have the ability to connect to the Internet. You may have also noticed that your battery drains more rapidly when you have an inconsistent signal. This happens because the device is continuously searching for a signal and attempting to communicate with a cell tower.

To conserve your battery, I recommend enabling Airplane mode or connecting to a Wi-Fi network (if available) if you will be in area with no service for an extended period of time.
Streaming video and playing games

As mentioned above, the display draws an incredibly large amount of power. Even more power is required when you are playing a game or streaming a movie. A few minutes of Angry Birds won't kill your device, but streaming an HD movie or playing a high-end video game can cut your battery life (and increase your data usage unless you are connected to a Wi-Fi network) by more than 50 percent.

If you will be away from your charger for a long time and don't have a portable juice pack, understand that battling your friends in the latest Clash of Clans war will see your battery life quickly reach zero.
GPS and location services

Have you ever noticed that your phone always seems to be on the verge of dying when you are lost? This is because of the GPS and navigation app you are using to try and get back home . Location services, which allow location-based apps and websites like Foursquare, Google Maps, and the camera to determine your location, can quickly drain your battery.

Using GPS and geotagging features, such as recording the location of your photos, sparingly will help keep your mobile device alive for longer. You can also disable location features for select apps and services in the settings menu of your device.

On an iPhone or iPad, head to Settings, select Privacy, and click on Location Services. Then, scroll down and choose System Services.
On a stock Android device, enter the settings menu, and click on Location.
For Windows Phone, click the Start button, select Settings, and tap Location
BlackBerry 10 users will find the option by entering Settings and selecting Location Services.

In addition to the GPS, having Bluetooth, NFC (if applicable), and Wi-Fi enabled will also cause some battery drain. If you don't use a pair of Bluetooth headphones or if your car doesn't have it, I recommend disabling it. The same goes for NFC, which many people don't actively use to begin with. As for Wi-Fi, I would toggle it on only when it's needed.
Background data

To ensure you never miss an email, headline, or an appointment, the apps on your mobile device are constantly pinging a server, satellite, or cell tower. This can sometimes lead to battery drain and even data overages. I recommend setting certain apps to only update and refresh over Wi-Fi, or not at all.

To disable background data on iOS, go into Settings, select General, followed by Background App Refresh. From here you can select certain apps you wish to prevent from running in the background or disable all of them.

On stock Android, enter Settings, select Data usage, click on an app, scroll to the bottom, and check the box that reads "Restrict background data." If you would like to restrict all background data, click the three-dot icon at the top-right corner of the Data usage menu and check the "Restrict background data" box.

Windows Phone 8.1 owners will find options to restrict background app data in the Data Sense app. As for BlackBerry 10 users, enter Settings, select Security and Privacy, followed by Application Permission, and change the Permissions bar to Run in Background. Once here, simply select an app from list that you would like to prevent from running in the background.

Sharp's new smartphone has a bezel that's barely there

The company's new Aquos Crystal line is rumored to be making its way to US shores, bringing a dazzling edge-to-edge design along with it.
If you believe the latest iPhone 6 rumors, the next Apple handset will have considerably less bezel surrounding the screen than its predecessors.

But nothing quite like this.

According to photos and news discovered today by PhoneArena, Sprint will unveil the new Sharp Aquos Crystal smartphone line at a press event Tuesday, August 19. And if the event's name, Take the Edge Off, is any indication, that line will feature at least one model with an almost frameless design.

Indeed, when you look at the Crystal head-on, you see only the tiniest border surrounding three sides of the screen. There's definitely a chunk of bezel at the bottom, one that appears to contain a camera lens and possibly a microphone and speaker. But, overall, there's never been anything quite like this, at least not in the US.

As detailed in press materials from SoftBank, the Japanese company that owns Sprint, the Aquos Crystal (which is rumored to be unveiled at Tuesday's event) is a 5-inch phone that measures 0.39 inch thick -- not far off from the LG G3, a recent model known for its minimal bezel.

Its specs include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 720p display, 1.5GB of RAM, 8GB of (hopefully expandable) storage, and a 2,040mAh battery -- definitely on the smaller side for a phone of this size. The Crystal will reportedly run Android 4.4.2.

Of note, according to PhoneArena, the phone is "equipped with a Harman Kardon sound effects engine with support for 'Clari-Fi' (restoring of information lost when compressing music), 'LiveStage' streaming, and native compatibility with the Harman Kardon ONYX Studio Bluetooth speaker."

Sharp also unveiled a 5.5-inch version of the phone, the Crystal X, featuring a faster processor, 1080p screen, lots more storage (32GB), and a larger battery (2,610mAh). But this model is not expected to launch in the US., at least not immediately.

Pricing has yet to be revealed, so we'll have to see what Sprint's event reveals (CNET will be reporting from it). In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the Aquos Crystal? Does it realize the dream of the (mostly) bezelless smartphone?

HTC One M8 for Windows debuts

The phone, available for purchase for $100 with a two-year contract starting Tuesday, is being sold exclusively through Verizon Wireless.
HTC on Tuesday debuted the new HTC One M8 for Windows smartphone, bringing an operating system option other than Android to the handset maker's flagship phone.

For now, the device is a Verizon Wireless exclusive and only available in the US. It's available for either a promotional price of $100 with a two-year contract or $30 a month through the Verizon Edge financing plan. Customers can purchase the device online starting at noon Tuesday and at retail stores starting Wednesday.

Verizon also sweetened the offer using its exclusive deal with NFL Mobile. Customers of its More Everything plan will get NFL Mobile for the entire 2014-15 pro football season, including access to live streaming games and NFL Network, on their smartphone at no additional cost.

HTC has been working to hold onto customers following many months of weakening sales. Despite offering critically acclaimed products, the Taiwan company has dropped out of the top rankings of smartphone makers, unable to match the much larger advertising budgets of powerhouses such as Samsung or Apple.

Adding a model using Microsoft's Windows Phone could open the HTC One M8 to that operating system's loyal fan base. However, that group of customers remains small, with Windows Phone capturing just 2.5 percent of the smartphone market as of the second quarter, according to market researcher IDC.

Prior reports had anticipated a Windows Phone version of the HTC One M8, which is already available with Google's Android operating system.

The only difference between the Android and Windows Phone versions is their operating systems. They both have the same hardware, including 1,920x1,080-pixel 5-inch displays, dual-lens rear camera, front-facing "BoomSound" stereo speakers, and an aluminum construction. CNET's Scott Stein got an early look at the device -- be sure to check out his hands-on with the HTC One M8 for Windows.

AT&T Stadium offers high-tech way of rallying fans

AT&T installed a 130-foot interactive LED "fan experience board" in its namesake sports arena in Dallas.
For AT&T, it wasn't enough to have the naming rights to the mega stadium where the Dallas Cowboys played. The telecommunications giant wanted to leave a bigger impression.

More than a year after AT&T won the naming rights to the former Cowboys Stadium, the company is poised to do just that with a 130-foot LED "fan experience board" that interacts with a specific AT&T-created app. Fans will be able to send photos to the board, and at critical times in a game, it will go into "Unite This House" mode, which will turn every smartphone in the stadium with the app into a rallying device for fans.

Fans will get their first glimpse of the board, which sits on the eastern platform of AT&T Stadium, this weekend in the Cowboys's first pre-season game, with the official season to start on September 7.

The AT&T Stadium fan experience board represents a step up in the kind of attention a sports venue has received from a carrier. Carriers are increasingly looking to packed stadiums and arenas as a place to make their name when it comes to network quality, often boasting about the amount of traffic they are able to carry and the amount of equipment they have installed.

"It's critically important," said Scott Mair, senior vice president of network planning and engineering for AT&T. "People judge us by our performance."

AT&T and Verizon Wireless have over the past year jousted over the claim of the most reliable wireless network. Networking testing firm Root Metrics ranked Verizon as the best overall network in July, while AT&T has cited Nielsen's research for its own claims of network superiority. T-Mobile meanwhile, has cited Speedtest.net as evidence of its claims as the fastest network.

With the AT&T name emblazoned on the stadium, the coverage better be ubiquitous. Since the naming rights deal was struck last July, the carrier has increased the wireless capacity by 50 percent by bringing in 1,300 antennas and 1,500 wireless access points. There's enough equipment in AT&T Stadium to power a good sized Texas neighborhood, or a typical medium-sized city, according to Mair.

"That's a lot of horsepower packed into one stadium," he said.

Mair, however, said that's the typical treatment a sports venue would get. AT&T covers 75 percent of all major sports venues, he added.

It's clear why AT&T, and the other carriers, would care about hooking up these venues. With so many people packed into one place, the congestion and strain on the network is inevitable. But the last thing a carrier wants at a high-profile event such as a football game or concert are people complaining about coverage. That's a far cry from just a few years ago, when carriers struggled to keep up with rising wireless traffic demands, with AT&T in particular barely able to handle the torrent of iPhone traffic on its network.

Beyond stronger coverage, AT&T has pimped out the stadium. There are eight "experience columns" that look like large mall directories. But instead of directions to Old Navy, there are high-definition videos of Cowboy players and cheerleaders. The content can also be changed to fit a concert or other event.

The highlight is the large LED panel, which is made of 40 independent, robotic, mirrored, louvered panels that can rotate for different images. Fans can upload photos to the board, and some of their names will appear on it, connecting through the AT&T Stadium App, which will be available for iOS and Android devices. The app is free, and you don't have to be an AT&T customer to use the app; you just need to be within the immediate vicinity of the stadium.

"Unite This House" is its marquee feature. At specific times, a message will pop up on the phone of every fan who has downloaded the app, asking them to touch the screen. That triggers the phone to vibrate "significantly" and flash its camera LED like a strobe light. The idea is that every fan in the stadium participates, creating a massive rumble and light show that crescendos with a boom on the LED display.

"It made me feel it this morning," Mair said, noting it was his first time experiencing "Unite This House" in action. "When 80,000 strobe lights go on and off and vibrate, it's going to be really impressive.

Mair teased more features to come, and said "it would build over time."

Xiaomi to launch $13 fitness band next week

The ridiculously cheap fitness band will go on sale Monday, but don't pull our your wallet just yet. There are a couple of caveats.
Chinese vendor Xiaomi will launch its new rock-bottom-priced fitness band on Monday. Known as the Mi Band, the device will sell for 79 yuan, which translates to about $13 or 10 euros.

The first wearable gadget from a company known for its increasingly popular smartphones, the Mi Band can monitor and help with your exercise routine, wake you up when you oversleep, and last for 30 days on a single battery charge. The Mi Band can also track your swimming routine since it's water resistant at a depth of more than three feet.

So what's the catch?

Well, for now the device apparently will be sold only in China, and Xiaomi has yet to reveal any global availability. Like other fitness bands, the Mi Band takes on extra powers when paired with a smartphone such as unlocking your phone when the two devices are nearby -- but this bonus works only with Xiaomi smartphones. Of course, you can still use the Mi Band as a fitness tracker without pairing it with a phone.

Outfitted with Android 4.4 and Bluetooth, the Mi Band comes in a range of colors, including blue, pink, brown, black, purple, and gray.

Based on price alone, the Mi Band could be a hot seller whether it stays in China or branches out to the rest of the world. Other fitness bands sell for considerably more, notably the Withings Pulse O2 at $120, the Jawbone Up24 at $150, and the Pebble Steel at $250.

Android, iOS dominate smartphone market as Q2 shipments hit 300M

Google's Android and Apple's iOS have combined to downright dominate the smartphone market, but it's Google's mobile operating system that continues to make its presence felt, according to new data from research firm IDC.
During the second quarter, over 255 million Android-based devices shipped worldwide, representing an 84.7 percent market share, IDC reported on Thursday. Apple's iOS came in second place with 11.7 percent market share and 35.2 million shipments. Combined, the Google and Apple operating systems own 96 percent of the global smartphone market, according to IDC.

Vendors shipped a total of 301.3 million smartphones worldwide between April and June, said IDC.

"It's been an incredible upward slog for other OS players," Melissa Chau, a senior research manager at IDC, said in a statement. "Windows Phone has been around since 2010 but has yet to break the 5 percent share mark, while the backing of the world's largest smartphone player, Samsung, has not boosted Tizen into the spotlight."

Windows Phone was only able to nab 2.5 percent of the market in the second quarter on 7.4 million shipments. Blackberry came in fourth place with 0.5 percent share, according to IDC.

During the same period last year, the Android and iOS combined to own 92.6 percent of the space. Still, IDC's study shows further consolidation in the marketplace and even more power for Google.

During the second quarter of 2013, Android owned 79.6 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, meaning Google's software saw a 33.3 percent growth rate over the last year. Save for iOS, which saw shipments jump 12.7 percent year over year, all other operating systems' market share fell during the period. Android's success during the period had everything to do with its value for budget-focused device makers, according to IDC.

"With many of its [original equipment manufacturer] partners focusing on the sub-$200 segments, Android has been reaping huge gains within emerging markets," Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team, said in a statement. "During the second quarter, 58.6% of all Android smartphone shipments worldwide cost less than $200 off contract, making them very attractive compared to other devices."

Looking ahead, things don't appear to look any better for other operating systems. IDC says that Android's iron-like grip on the sub-$200 market will only boost its market share in the coming quarters. The research firm also believes that software developers will drive more customers to iOS and Android as they see little value in creating apps for less-popular platforms.

"The biggest stumbling block is around getting enough partnerships in play - not just phone manufacturers but also developers, many of which are smaller outfits looking to minimize development efforts by sticking to the two big ecosystems," Chau said.

Intel wearable devices to aid Parkinson's disease research

The chip maker partners with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research to use wearable devices and data analytics to help monitor patient treatment.

Intel's upcoming wave of wearable technology won't be aimed at helping the chip maker establish itself in the budding consumer electronics' space now filling up with smartwatches and fitness bands. Rather, Intel's devices will serve a grander purpose: helping research on and treatment of neurodegenerative brain disease.

Intel announced Wednesday a partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, the nonprofit founded in 2000 by the "Back to the Future" movie actor and Parkinson's advocate who has suffered from the illness since 1991. The goal will be to combine Intel's hardware and software -- specifically an upcoming mobile app, new wearable devices, and a data analytics platform -- for a multi-phase research study that will take advantage of monitoring techniques unique to technology.

The hope is that wearables and analytic studies of the data they produce could better record a patient's symptoms, such as hand tremors, and offer new insights into Parkinson's disease and its drug treatments, which have been difficult to study objectively on a widespread scale in the past.

"Nearly 200 years after Parkinson's disease was first described by Dr. James Parkinson in 1817, we are still subjectively measuring Parkinson's disease largely the same way doctors did then," Todd Sherer, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation, said in a statement. "Data science and wearable computing hold the potential to transform our ability to capture and objectively measure patients' actual experience of disease, with unprecedented implications for Parkinson's drug development, diagnosis and treatment."

The Michael J. Fox Foundation will supply funding to equip patients of the study around the country with wearables. An added benefit will be the ability to rope in those with Parkinson's who do not live near research facilities, widening the research pool. Though Intel has thus far provided patients with its own wearables, the study is allegedly device-agnostic and will use a wide range of devices to measure patient activity.

Intel has become increasingly interested over the last few years in wearable technology that can be used not so much to capture consumers that, at the moment, are being courted by Google with its Android Wear smartwatches and will be the primary target for Apple with its forthcoming wearable device. Intel cares more about what those wearables can do with data for health science purposes.

"We're exploring how to pull data out of devices in real-time," Ron Kasabian, general manager of Intel's Big Data Solutions group, told Reuters. "We can mine data to improve research, and better understand the behaviors and progression of the disease."

Intel acquired Basis Science, a maker of health-oriented smartwatches, in March of this year, but has also dabbled in the consumer space. Intel is an investor in Recon Instruments and Thalmic Labs, two consumer focused companies working on heads-up displays and human-computer gesture control technology respectively.

Intel's Big Data Center Group is the division responsible for helping integrate the company's technology with the foundation's medical research tools. The open-source analytics platform will gather real-time anonymized patient data from the wearables, where it will be aggregated and analyzed.

"The platform supports an analytics application developed by Intel to process and detect changes in the data in real time," the company explained. "By detecting anomalies and changes in sensor and other data, the platform can provide researchers with a way to measure the progression of the disease objectively."

In the next phase of the study slated for this fall, Intel will use both wearables and a dedicated mobile app to monitor patient data and integrate with self-reported information like medication intake and mood.