Android battery life and the tools for monitoring usage have gotten better over the last few years, but the stock options are still sometimes not enough. But there are ways to gauge your battery usage, remaining time, and even hunt down apps that steal your precious juice.
Before we get into the details, though, let’s talk about one thing you shouldn’t do to your battery. We’ve all seen those awful “optimization” apps that promise to improve battery life, but you should stay far away from those. Basically, they operate under the old-school thinking that background apps are chewing through your battery, so they just kill them. That’s really a terrible idea, because these apps are effectively just glorified task killers. And no one should ever use a task killer on Android. Ever.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s dig in to how to really get a better idea of what’s going on with your battery, and what you can do about it when something goes wrong.
Check Your Active CPU Frequencies with System Monitor
System Monitor (free, Pro) is one of my favorite apps for, um, monitoring Android’s system. While it can do a lot of different things, we’re just focusing on one today: keeping an eye on CPU frequencies. This watches the processor’s most-used frequency states—1.2GHz, 384MHz, etc.—and then tracks how much of the time the CPU spends in each state.
For example, if your phone has been lying on your desk for four hours with very little use, you want the top CPU state to be “Deep Sleep,” which means everything is working like it should be—there are no apps keeping the processor alive and draining the battery. But if you’ve been playing a game for the last hour, the top state may be something like 1.5GHz, because it’s more taxing on the processor.
The point is this: knowing what the processor is doing in the background can give you a lot of insight into what’s going on with your battery. If you haven’t been using your phone and the top process isn’t “Deep Sleep,” then something is going on in the background and you’ll need to figure out what it is.
The good news is that System Monitor can kind of help with that, too (though there are better apps for the job, and we’ll discuss them later). One swipe to the right of the CPU Frequencies tab is the “Top Apps” view, which shows you what apps are most active in real time. The top app is always System Monitor itself, because it’s the foreground app. It’s the stuff bouncing around beneath it that you’ll want to take a closer look at.
To keep an eye on what’s going on with CPU Frequencies, I highly recommend using its widget. I always drop it on one of my home screen pages for a quick look at what’s going on—you know, just in case. The only thing worth noting here is that it doesn’t always stay active and up to date, so sometimes you need to cycle through the various states by tapping the widget and forcing it to update.
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