The best Android apps for boosting battery life

These smart Android power management apps can help you add hours to your smartphone's day

The single most common complaint you'll hear about any smartphone is how lousy the battery life is. Granted, battery life is like mileage on a car -- it will vary widely depending on your usage. You can always buy more time by making fewer calls or downloading less data. But you probably carry your smartphone in order to use it.

Luckily, there are things you can do to extend your smartphone's battery life without making major sacrifices. The easiest option is to use a third-party app that intelligently modulates your phone's energy usage based on demand and behavior.

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My Android phones -- a stock LG Optimus T and a Cyanogen-modded Motorola Cliq TX -- have always been greedy consumers of battery power. To tame them, I looked at four different programs that can make you and your phone smarter about power consumption.

The best place to start if you just want to survey your power usage habits is Battery Indicator. To follow that up with actual power management, Green Power and JuiceDefender are your best bets. 2x Battery is not a bad program, but it's limited to managing cell data and not Wi-Fi connections. If that feature were added in a future revision, 2x Battery would be a real contender.

Working with these programs revealed a whole slew of little quirks and eccentricities about power management in Android, many of which I wasn't previously aware of. For instance, some breeds of Android phone -- such as the original Motorola Droid and the Samsung Moment -- only display battery levels in 10 percent increments. This makes it difficult to gauge battery life properly on those phones, even if you're not running the stock version of Android.

One of the biggest reasons for shortened battery life is background applications that persistently attempt to maintain connections (for push notifications, for instance). I found I had a couple of these programs running in my 'Droid -- neither of which were essential, thank goodness -- and had to either uninstall them or force-kill them to prevent them from slurping up my battery. One was the Facebook app, which I've since substituted with just accessing the site via my mobile browser.

Some system management apps for Android have a function that allows for blacklisting or force-closing apps you don't want to run, such as the auto-launched apps often installed in many handsets by a given wireless provider. I'm not fond of doing this because in my experience constantly force-closing apps leaves the system less stable over time. Thankfully, the more capable power management apps provide a more elegant solution.

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