Battery life on smartphones is a perennial issue. The bigger the phone, the faster it falls. In this article I’ll show you how I got my Samsung Galaxy S3’s battery life up from under a day to getting on for three days by making a few tweaks and installing a couple of indispensable apps.

The GS3 is scarcely up there with the heavy brigade in size terms these days but it’s always had an iffy rep for holding a charge. When mine was new, a year ago, I’d get a day per charge at home but only around eight hours when out and about, even if it was in my pocket most of the time.

Obviously what I wanted was staying-power like this…

S3BatteryLife

…which is what I get now, yay!

Turns out Android devices are very bad at staying asleep. Sure they may look like they’re dozing away. But behind that blank screen there can be a maelstrom of activity going on.

And that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. The default setting on your Android is effectively ‘always on’. Your device constantly checks where you are, listens for wifi connections and polls for email and social media updates even when you think it’s idle.

‘But that’s what I want it to do!’ I hear you cry. Well fine, please stop reading now. It’s a valid choice and one which Google et al encourage you to make, you delicious little bundle of user profile data you. But you’re voting for your phone to eat its battery.

On the other hand, if you seriously desire to own a device that works perfectly well as a phone while also keeping you connected to the worldwide world whenever the set is in your hand and you’re looking at it, do read on.

Five Steps to Android Battery Heaven

Ready? Let’s begin. To get your Android battery life up from hours to days, you’ll have to install a couple of apps, turn off a few features and, yes, alter your expectations (but only a little).

  1. Go to Settings – Location Services and turn everything off. Android will act like you’ve just suggested Something Very Rude to the Queen of England. Ignore it. Location Services is one of the biggest battery hogs on your Android device but unless you need your device to tell you where you are every second of the day (in which case, see a doctor), the only beneficiary most of the time is Google. So switch it off and enable it manually as and when needed via the toggle icon in the notification drawer.
  2. Go to Settings – Accounts.  Work though all your accounts and set the sync option for each one to manual or the longest interval on offer. Doing this will stop your phone waking up every few seconds to check for updates (don’t worry, it will still receive voice calls and texts). This is where you come up against the fact that achieving decent battery life is really a state of mind. With these settings you’ll only get notifications from Facebook, Twitter, email and RSS every few hours, or when you turn your screen on. Weird idea, I know but what you’re actually doing is taking control of your personal comms while at the same time saving a huge number of pointless, battery munching connections while the phone’s in your bag or pocket.
  3. Go into Wi-Fi settings – Advanced Settings. Turn off ‘Scanning always available‘ and ‘Network notification‘. Doing so will help your Android get plenty of restful sleep because it’ll only check for a signal whenever you wake it. You’ll have to run a network scan manually to find public networks when you’re away from home but it will connect to your home Wi-Fi automatically on wake. Unless you have a very generous mobile data allowance, keep mobile data turned off when using these settings unless you’re out and about, since background apps may try to connect over mobile data if the phone is not connecting to Wi-Fi. (see the next section on useful apps to overcome this problem).

Chances are that lack of sleep is what’s been draining your battery’s life. If so, the preceding tweaks should result in a considerable boost. It goes without saying that you should also invoke your device’s power-saving options, like screen time-out duration and CPU power saving. (My S3 screen times out in 30 seconds but I don’t use the CPU power-save option as it doesn’t seem to have much effect on battery life relative to maximising deep sleep).

Android battery buddies. Two sleepy-time apps

Continuing our five steps to heaven, I’ve found the following apps are real life-savers when it comes to your Android’s battery.

  1. Deep Sleep Battery Saver Pro. This app constantly puts the device to deep sleep mode while the screen is off by switching off Wifi and 3G and stopping background apps. It offers a range of wake-up options for automatically bringing the phone out of sleep to download email and sync social media status before putting it back to sleep again (the default is one minute every hour). The paid-for version allows you to customise more parameters, including day/night settings, active period, screen time-out, sync strategy, ignored apps, etc. I’ve got it on all my Android devices and as far as I’m concerned it’s a five-star utility.
  2. BetterBatteryStats. On one level, BBS does what it says on the tin: it gives you a lot of info about your device’s sleep/wake activity and what’s using the battery. What also it’s very good for is highlighting rogue apps that won’t shut down or shut up when they’re not wanted. For example, when I first started trying to find out what was eating my S3’s battery, I installed a CPU monitor app. The S3’s battery life immediately became even worse and BBS confirmed that the CPU app had gone to the top of the list of ‘wakelocks’ preventing the phone from sleeping properly. I uninstalled the app, installed Deep Sleep Battery Saver Pro and haven’t looked back since.

There’s a third app I like to have on all my devices, which is Thomas Hubalek’s Battery Widget Reborn. It offers a nice home screen widget showing remaining charge in percent or hours, and you can tell it to turn off Wi-Fi and syncing at a specified time of day, which makes it handy as a lite alternative to Deep Sleep Battery Saver if you want something less powerful in control of your life …er …phone).

More than a year ago, I speculated that FleetCor would follow up on their acquisition of Allstar fuel by starting to build an integrated, non-leasing, fleet services business along the lines of Allstar’s original owner, PHH.

Sure enough, the notably aggressive (in its treatment of its own customers) FleetCor has bought up Epyx, whose 1Link system is used by many major fleets and leasing companies to handle smr and much more besides.

The fleet fuel and maintenance service business is all about controlling networks of garages and filling stations. And the best way to control networks is to be simultaneously the gatekeeper and paymaster.

  1. Own the mechanism (cards) used by fleets use to obtain fuel and servicing.
  2. Process the payments too wherever possible.

The original AllStar fuel business was able to dominate the fleet fuel market in the UK for two reasons. First, it owned the only card that could be relied on for acceptance at virtually any filling station in the country. Second, they also processed card transactions for thousands of fuel outlets through their ownership of the UK’s only non bank-owned polling bureau.

It wasn’t quite an outright monopoly – not enough to really concern the competition authority – but it it was more than enough for AllStar. The string of companies that owned AllStar before FleetCor, including PHH, Avis and Arval, also ran a maintenance card on similar lines. But like the old AllStar fuel card, the maintenance option was hamstrung by an awful legacy mainframe system. With so many owners trying to get their cash back, the necessary upgrades got put off again and again, allowing nimbler businesses like Epyx to forge ahead with better technologies.

FleetCor has now unshackled Allstar from its mainframe and acquired an up-to-date smr operation. That puts it into a pretty good position. All the same, if the fleet suppliers who use Epyx start to feel that they are getting f**ked over in the same way as many Allstar customers have complained about, it could all turn into a big lost opportunity for the new owner.

When the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) announced last week that May’s car sales data were the worst since 1993, it wasn’t giving the whole picture.

ACEA compared sales in today’s 27-member EU with data for the smaller, 15-member EU of 20 years ago. And 1993 was an unusually bad year for European car markets.

A more informative comparison would have been with May of 2006, which was the first year when ACEA logged sales for the whole EU27. On that basis, last month’s registrations were down by a grim 29%.

The chart below shows annual sales for the EU15 countries* since 1990.

Chart of EU15 car  sales 1990 to 2012

As well as showing 1993 to be an outlier, it also shows that new car sales in the region peaked around 1998. Not entirely coincidentally, that was also about the time that fuel prices began to ratchet up to today’s levels.

It’s hard to say to exactly what extent the huge credit bubble of the first half of the last decade buoyed up sales but there’s no doubt about what happened when it burst.

Unless fuel and energy prices come down considerably it’s very unlikely that EU car sales will ever regain their 1998 levels. All the signs are that oil prices will be even higher in a few years. That raises the question of what the car manufacturers are thinking of selling to consumers in future instead of new cars.

*Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, UK

Modern life is squeezing the UK fleet industry. Britain’s top leasing companies run nearly 20% fewer vehicles today than they did in 2008.

There are many reasons why business is not as usual for fleets. One fundamental issue is that fleets have a growing problem with the supply – and therefore the cost – of fuel.

Here’s why – a not-to-scale graphic that charts four trends which, together, significantly affect the price of conventional road fuels.

Oil export vs domestic consumption chart

Since around 2004, the global supply of crude oil (not to be confused with ‘all liquids’, which includes stuff you can’t turn into fuels) has been virtually flat. That’s the black line on the chart. In the meantime, the oil-producing countries are using more and more of their own oil themselves each year (the brown line) for power, cooling and transport.

Combine flat production with rising domestic demand by producers and you obviously end up with less oil available to importers. That’s the red line. If you’re an oil importing country like the UK, and fewer export barrels are available, you’ll either have to use less oil or pay more to secure the same share as before.

Fourthly there’s the global vehicle parc, which is still growing at a rate of knots as developing countries gratefully get into happy motoring. There are about 35% more vehicles on the planet today than there were 15 years ago.

If you simply extrapolated today’s oil production and consumption trends out into the future, China and India alone would consume 100% of all available oil exports by 2030. Yes, that’s 17 years from now.

Needless to say, it won’t happen quite like that. But it doesn’t take a genius to work out what level of oil price will be needed to achieve a market distribution of liquid fuel when many more players are competing for much less product.

Shrinking

Fleet in the UK is 99% dependent on liquid fuel. So how is it responding to the slow decrease in availability of oil exports? As you’d expect, it’s shrinking.

  • The total leased fleet run by FN50 leasing firms has declined by 17% since 2008 (Fleet News)
  • Professional and managerial drivers have slashed their business mileage (RAC ‘On the Move’ Report 2012)
  • The number of company car BIK-payers has fallen below a million for the first time in 30 years (HMRC)
  • Companies are turning their back on fleet departments; absorbing the function into HR, Finance and Purchasing (Alphabet Fleet Management Report 2012)

The offsetting factor to high fuel prices is the increasing fuel efficiency of new cars, which is 20%-25% better than a decade ago. However, that’s clearly not been enough to allow fleets (or the UK economy as a whole) to carry on as before in the face of $100-per-barrel oil.

What next?

The future of liquid fossil fuels is clear. Less production. Higher prices. Forget the claims you read for ‘unconventional’ sources like tar sands and shale oil. The ‘technically-recoverable’ reserves of these resources are indeed vast but their processing costs are huge and the all-important flow-rates are relatively tiny. The best that shale oil, etc. can do is to marginally slow down the decline in oil exports and rise in prices over the next decade.

Surface transport can and will move away from liquid fuels. However, transport-reliant businesses in the UK do not have time on their side. The years around 2020 look likely to be something of a bottleneck for UK fleet operators, with very high petrol and diesel prices, insufficient electric vehicle numbers and charging infrastructure, and continuing tough economic conditions (which are an unavoidable effect of winding-down energy consumption in an advanced technological economy).

The bottom line is that the market has no interest in saving the conventional fleet model – the one predicated on plentiful, cheap liquid fuels. In fact, the market is ready to price many such fleets out of existence over the next 15 years.

This series of blogs is about why that is the case, how it will happen and what organisations can do about it.

Coming up next: Fleets and the end of ‘waste’.

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