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How to Improve Nexus 5 Battery Life

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The recently released Nexus 5 by Google and LG is the best Nexus smartphone to date, and one of the better Android options available today. Being the first Nexus with a full 1080p HD display, 4G LTE, and then adding a powerful quad-core processor could have many worried about battery life. Especially considering there’s only a 2,300 mAh battery under the hood.

Thankfully the Nexus 5 actually performs quite well here. No, it won’t compete with the DROID MAXX, LG G2, or Galaxy Note 3 due to the smaller battery, but the N5 has the best battery life of any Nexus smartphone to date. While we’re still in the testing phase on our own unit, I’ve easily made it through an entire day all week long. At least 10-12 hours of heavy heavy usage. However, there’s always a few tips and tricks to improve battery life, and we’ll detail the easy and quickest options below.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 11.28.26 AM

For starters, Google’s made huge strides and has been working hard on making Android faster and smoother, yet more efficient at the same time. KitKat should offer some of the best performance over compared to previous releases, and Nexus 4 and other device owners can expect an increase to battery life.

Second, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor under the hood is the latest and greatest in CPU technology, and is one of the fastest and most efficient mobile processors on the planet. Combine those with some new battery saving features, and the tips and tricks outlined here and your Nexus 5 should have no problems lasting all day, and more.

Screen Brightness and Sleep Time

Having that 5-inch 1080p HD display turned on displaying Facebook messages, tweets, or while browsing the web will be the biggest drain on the battery. Screen On time under the battery stats page in settings is important, as the display will use more battery than anything else. You’ll want to head into Settings > Display > Brightness and choose something that works for you. Auto isn’t ideal for conserving battery, and I use somewhere around 20% brightness.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.06.31 AM

At the same time, you’ll also want to set the display sleep time. This sets how long the display will stay powered on and lit up while not in use. Many just set a device on a table after use, and if this is set to two or five minutes, your battery will drain. I use 30 seconds personally, and always manually sleep my display after use, instead of just setting the device down. Others might suggest heading into Developer Options and disabling all of the animation effects, which can also increase battery life at the cost of the user interface and experience not being as smooth or pretty.

WiFi, 4G LTE & Bluetooth

As the obvious, if you aren’t using WiFi or Bluetooth, you might as well turn them off. Even though they’re minimal when it comes to battery drain this is one more quick and easy step. If you’re in a WiFi location (coffee shop) yet not using WiFi, certainly turn it off as the device will continuously search for a network. Bluetooth being enabled isn’t much of an issue, but while we’re here, disable it if you haven’t a need for it. Head into Settings and just slide to off both WiFi and Bluetooth. It’s the first two options, you can’t miss it.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.05.34 AM

Then as shown above, we have two more suggestions to help improve the battery life on your new Nexus 5 smartphone. One awesome new feature is the “Hotword Detection” of Google Now. Essentially letting your phone always listen for the keyword “OK, Google” to start a search using Google Search/Now. This is reported by Qualcomm and others as minimal for battery drain, but it’s still firing up a sensor, thus disabling it can help preserve that battery. While we’re here, try saying “Hey Google” “Listen Google” and other things, as many other commands work great. It’s fun, but disable it if you’d rather just tap the microphone button manually.

Second on the image above is Preferred Network Mode. This is one we’re not really a fan of. Why have the latest smartphone with 4G LTE, only to turn it off to improve battery life. It makes no sense to do so. However, those traveling in and out of good network services, or who don’t actually have 4G LTE can simply disable this. Under Settings > More > Mobile Networks > Network mode you can set the Nexus 5 to 3G only. Or even the dreaded 2G and enjoy feeling like it’s 2008 again.

Control Location Services and GPS

When your device fires up GPS for Google Maps and Navigation, or Facebook wants your location to share with the world, GPS will need to power on and is quite the battery hog. In Android 4.4 KitKat Google’s finally changed this system, and will give users more control over how all aspects of location services uses GPS, and thus, the battery. Settings >Location > Mode and select Battery Saving.

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If you want to be really extreme, flipping location services completely off will be a big saver when it comes to battery. Just don’t expect Google Now to be as useful, give you directions, or find nearby restaurants and businesses. Facebook and Messenger apps won’t share location, and Instagram or photo uploads won’t have location data. In general leaving Location services enabled and on Battery Saving is ideal. As this uses mobile networks, towers, and WiFi access points to determine location, instead of the power hungry GPS chip inside your smartphone.

Data, Gmail, and Google Sync

Controlling what is automatically backed up, synced with Google, and otherwise transferring data is a big one. For obvious reasons you’ll want to keep most of Google’s sync settings enabled for Calendar, Contacts, Gmail, and other things, but if you don’t need Gmail syncing and checking for emails every minute, change it. Gmail can be set to check whenever you’d like. From push, to 30 minutes, to never. Settings > Accounts > Google > and selecting account will show the sync options

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This is another area that makes Android powerful. Having Google sync everything from Music, Chrome browsing history, and even saving app data and settings. I’d keep this all enabled, but if you’d like to preserve battery here’s another way to do so. Auto Backup of photos by Google +, DropBox, Google Drive, or any other service falls under the same category here. Either disable it, or have it set to only backup over WiFi, instead of mobile data. Google Photo Sync is a biggie, so use that with caution if you’re snapping multiple photos per day of the family, or selfies.

Notifications

The image above also covers sync and notifications for apps. Everything from Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and others all have notifications that could be draining the battery. If you’re using 3rd party Twitter apps, elect to only have it update your feed every 30 minutes, or every hour. Not every 5 minutes as that will constantly wake your device, and slowly drain a battery throughout a workday.

The same rule applies here throughout the OS. Only have apps that sync or access mobile networks sync or notify users when over WiFi only, if that’s an option. There’s no need for the Google Play Store to automatically update all your apps while you’re away from home relying on that battery. Select WiFi only, so it’ll update apps when you’re home. Alternatively disable this completely, as I do.

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Other Quick Tips

Above we outlined a few of the quickest and easiest changes to actually make a noticeable difference on battery life, but you can always get apps like BetteryBatteryStats to follow what uses what, and help single out any battery draining issues. Then, here’s a few other quick tips that aren’t daily options, but can help.

Set Airplane mode if needed. This kills all radios and will seriously save a battery for days and days. On a flight or taking the train with no service, enable airplane mode to save it for when you arrive. Occasional restarts can also help to flush out the system and memory, and give your device a clean slate for the day or work week. Some might also suggest to opt not to use live wallpapers or widgets, but Android’s so efficient those shouldn’t cause battery drain. And they look pretty.

These are just a few of many different options available to users without getting deeper into the Android OS. Anything from custom ROMs and kernels can also severely impact battery life for better, or for worse. Enjoy the quick list, and your Nexus 5.

18 Comments

  1. Brandon

    11/07/2013 at 1:27 pm

    When switching from LTE to 3G, does the Nexus 5 still use HSPA+? I find my Nexus 4 to be quite fast on HSPA+ and don’t really miss LTE. I understand LTE uses more battery than HSPA+, so it seems if there’s a way to disable only LTE and still use HSPA+, you can have the best of both worlds – still quite fast data speeds and less battery consumption. Is it possible to do that on the Nexus 5?

    • Jason

      11/07/2013 at 7:49 pm

      On AT&T I just see E for Edge (2G), H for HSPA (3G) or LTE depending on what I have selected for network preference. I have the N4 as well, I ges HSPA+ in my area, got 8Mbps yesterday before moving my SIM to the N5, I had to have AT&T provision my IMEI in order to get LTE, I was only getting 3Mbps on HSPA, with LTE I just got 12Mbps.

      So in my 2 days of experience the answer is no HSPA+ on the D820, perhaps it is different on the D821 ( Non North American Version) as LTE hasn’t been as widespread in Europe in recent years.

      • Hrushi

        11/08/2013 at 4:40 am

        Can you please share the experience with N5 and is the battery life and different from N4. Please post any other pros/cons if found any.
        Thanks.

        • Jason

          11/08/2013 at 9:39 am

          Battery life is always going to be a subjective topic.If you use your phone alot the battery is going to discharge faster as the display is #1 in power consumption.As far as I’m concerned the tips metioned above ring true with this and any other smartphone.I’ve really only had the phone in hand for 2 days, and being that it is a new toy, I’ve been playing with it alot more than normal. It seems on par with the N4 perhaps a bit more life.

          I don’t really see it as a huge step forward from the N4, Sure it is faster at loading apps or browsing the web, but personally it seems pretty marginal. LTE is giving me a 50% increse in speed over HSPA+ (8Mbps on HSPA+ vs. 12Mbps on LTE)

          The N5 Screen is very nice, the camera seems to take better pictures, but HDR+ creates some shutter lag, have’t tried the Photosphere yet to see how the new stiching works, Audio Playback seems odd trough the built in speaker depending on the source and I wish it had Front Facing speaker(s) like HTC One (N5 has one speaker, the other grille is for the mic.) 4.4 is enjoyable, but isn’t revolutionary, Google Now integration to the homescreen is neat, but if it is going to be part of the launcher going forward I’d like to be able to say “OK Google, Turn off Bluetooth” It recognizes the command, but reports “Function not supported.”

          All in all I lke the N5, but would have prefered the style on the N4. The way the glass curved over the edge of the screen, I really liked the look and feel of the the glass back despite how it liked to wander off any surface that wasn’t level.The N5 feels solid,soft touch is okay, but the glass feels more premium and less slipery. The little refective dots were a nice cosmetic touch. The edges of the N4 round down to the back feeling a bit nicer in hand. The N5 isn’t bad, but feels a bit clunky as the back is a little wider than the front.

          I like the N5 Ceramic buttons, they may rattle a little if you are for some reason are shaking the phone buy your ear, but to me they feel a bit more crisp with each push.

          I wish I could speak more toward Battery life as you asked, but it will take a while before i get into a regular usage pattern with this N5.

          • spy

            11/08/2013 at 5:45 pm

            This may not be very relevant to the OP’s question since the question is about N5 vs N4. But I still want to share…
            I just switched to N5 from an iPhone4. I gotta say, the fact that I am in this website in the first place, is a problem in itself. I started out with a 100% charge at around 9am, and by 5:15pm my phone is asking to be plugged in. It is a weekday and I am at work, so not much time to browse or play games etc. Screen brightness was already set at 20% (like recommended above), I have shut down background apps a few times over the day.
            On a very generic scale, I used my N5 as much as I used to use my iPh4 on a working week day with comparable settings (low brightness, location services running, wifi connected..etc) and I would be charging my iPh4 the following day as I would be left with only 10% or so. I usually play games and browse on my phone at night, so the 10% is after doing all this.
            So clearly the N5 battery is a major concern (to me) on day2. I understand that the later revisions of the iPhone are not very great for battery life, but I don’t know.

            Other than this, I absolutely love the phone and the feel of android. It is a great change from the standard iOS interface. My rantings above are not dissing of an apple fan boy, just a disappointment with my first much awaited android device. Hopefully the suggestions in this article will help me out …sigh!

          • Plant

            11/16/2013 at 8:52 am

            I just returned my N5 because I was dissapointed with battery life. I made all the adjustments to save battery, but couldn’t deal with the hassle of trying to charge-up at 6pm as I was running out the door to do other things. Jason’s comments above are right-on, and it’s a great phone if you can deal with the battery issues.

      • Chr Borchgrevink-V (@VoxCuriosa)

        11/25/2013 at 12:29 pm

        Any news on this? Have ordered a US version home to Norway, and really hope H+ is turned ON when LTE is turned off.

  2. Reuben Jones

    11/07/2013 at 2:40 pm

    How about switching off the phone to save battery? These Google phones are such a waste of money. There is no long term google support for these stupid phones. I have a galaxy nexus which I bought two years ago and Google does not want to do a software update for this device. Google will do the same for nexus 5. Stupid Google! Don’t buy this crap!

    • dean

      11/09/2013 at 12:15 pm

      you are a moron

      • Reuben Jones

        11/26/2013 at 1:00 pm

        In one year, it will make sense, but then morons like will not be able to see the difference. Morons like you don’t know they are morons!

  3. quelq1

    11/07/2013 at 7:22 pm

    20% brightness? I lol’ed.

  4. honi

    11/08/2013 at 1:02 am

    my co-worker’s mother-in-law makes $65/hr on the computer. She has been without a job for 6 months but last month her payment was $19711 just working on the computer for a few hours. a knockout post ………. http://iop.li/2Rr

  5. e.rivera

    11/08/2013 at 12:09 pm

    Thank you for this. I love new specs and technology but am not that knowledable. My N5 has a horrible battery, would last till only noon before it was on code red about to die. I followed each and every instruction on here. Hoping it helps preserve some battery.

  6. Sohil

    11/09/2013 at 3:01 am

    Undoubtedly, starting to the end are awesome tips and it help me too, I was knowing them. But, the last one tip was unaware to me says “Notifications”. Thanks for that!

  7. th1nk

    11/09/2013 at 11:12 am

    I run on minimal brightness and it is very readable unless you are in direct sunlight. I also have 3g on instead of lte, and disable the gps whenever I am not using it for direction. Nexus 5 last a full day for me. It also helps if you set the applications to poll for new mail or post every two hours instead of every 15 or 20 minutes.

  8. Si

    12/05/2013 at 9:44 am

    I never understand these suggestions, I mean, the phone manufacturers come up with awesome features and these articles tell us to turn them off to save battery. Why on earth would I dim my fantastic Nexus 5 super quality screen? Why would I turn off the gps? None of this makes sense to me. The failing is, the phone manufacturer should tell us realistic battery times before we buy them. My Nexus 5 would not make the day without plugging it in somewhere. I have to take a portable battery with me if I can’t plug it into the car or a pc somewhere.
    Bottom line is, if I need to turn off all the cool functions of my phone then why bother buying a phone with them…really? or…spend ages turning things on and off in a constant battle with the battery.
    There needs to be a universal benchmark set up that shows us how long the batteries will last on phones and they should be tested to this with a score to gauge to. For reference, my iPhone 4s lasted a day with similar usage, if I scored that a 8/10 then the N5 is 3/10. My Nexus 7 (2013) is 10/10 for sure.
    (my wife’s motorola pebble lasts all week on a charge)

    Si

  9. Nicholas Williams

    03/21/2014 at 8:24 pm

    MY Nexus 5 won’t connect to my bluetooth in my Sienna Van. If it connects it just puts numbers on the navigation screen.

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