GREEN: Power Play



The increasing trend towards mobile gadgets is not one that can easily be stopped. Convenience will trump a lot of things each and every time, and it is really hard to beat the kind of convenience mobile devices give us. Still, a lot of the activities connected with gadget ownership can lead to rather large environmental footprints, so care should be taken whether you’re looking to swap out for the newest, fastest device, or in the daily care and maintenance of your digital toys. If greening up the place isn’t your style, these little tips and habits can also save you a nice buck.

Cash or charge?

For many of us, charging daily is a way of life. Devices are just so packed full of energy-hungry components, radios, and processes that batteries need to be topped up at least once a day. There’s nothing we can do about having to feed our gizmos, but we can take a little extra care to make sure not a spark of energy is wasted. It might not seem like a lot, but the little power savings do add up, and for the effort you put in, it’s all worth it.

Charge your device during your waking hours. It can be handy plugging in when you clock out for the night, but most device chargers can bring your battery up to full in about two hours. Given that you’ll be out for at least thrice that, you have several hours of extra, unneeded power draw. Sure, chargers and phones have smart circuits that stop charging once the battery gets full, but keeping it plugged in still puts a strain on the device, not the least of which through heat. It’s continued power consumption that causes heat to be produced. That same heat, apart from wasting energy, is also detrimental for battery and circuit longevity. If you’re an office person, you’ll likely be at a desk, so you can charge there, keep an eye on your battery meter and unplug the charger and phone when you’re through.

While we’re at it, use the correct rated charger for your device. It’s likely the best, most efficient match, and will take care of the device for which it was built.

Plug-in play

A lot of the devices we have run on standard-sized cells, with AA and AAA batteries being foremost on the list. In a pinch, it’s really nice to be able to pop into a convenience store and grab a fresh pair of alkalines, it’s best to take a cue from our photographer friends and grab some rechargeable NiMH batteries instead. These offer reliable, and more importantly, reusable power for a reasonably long time. The better brands, costing a little under PHP 200 each, will last well over 1,000 cycles, as long as you take care of them and use the recommended charger.

To make these batteries last even longer, take care to charge them with in fixed pairs, to keep the load the same, and stress the batteries less. While we’re on the topic, bear the previous tip in mind and unplug once you hit a full charge.

Make ‘em last.

Gadgets, admittedly, have a short, planned lifespan. Planned obsolescence makes replacing it after about a year almost certain. Manufacturers stop sending updates, batteries stop holding charge and technology gets left behind. You already know how to make the power source last, so that’s taken care of, but what of poor updates and laggy software? If you’re feeling a little brave, you should give custom ROMs a look. New software can take an old, slow device, give it a fresh coat of paint and have it running the current-, or close to current-generation operating system. A lot of much more knowledgeable people get very attached to their devices and do a lot to make them last. If you know what a custom ROM is, you don’t need us to tell you how to do it, and if you have no idea, it would be best to leave the process to someone else. It’s a cheap (or free, if you do it yourself) process that lets you hold off Jonesing for a new device, as well as add extra functionality to a device that you might otherwise have to toss.

Save, save, save

You can start by turning off non-essential connectivity options. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, mobile data and above all, wireless hotspots burn through batteries like coffee on deadline day. Killing those services can give your devices a considerable endurance boost.

Secondly, animations, background processes, and effects all slowly chip away at your battery’s reserves. While it might not make for the prettiest home screen, but a dead device is far less useful than a plain one, so kill those too, and get a few minutes more.

While you’re in the setting screen, take a quick look at the services that update in the background. Even if they don’t actually get to update due to dead data connections, the fact that they are thinking means that power is being used. Get rid of those, and the extra minutes start to add up. If there are any apps currently multitasking, stopping those can free up processing power and battery life as well.

On laptops, consider switching to an SSD. Not only will you get much better performance, you’ll get better returns on each charge.

These are just a few tips we routinely do to keep our devices running longer, and our device use as green as possible. When it comes to saving, cutting corners isn’t always a bad idea, and can lead to real results. Take a moment to consider these the next time you pick up your smartphone.

First published in Gadgets Magazine, October 2013

Words by Ren Alcantara