Cell phone: off or on to make battery last?
November 23, 2005 4:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm sure somebody else who's travelling over Thanksgiving could also benefit from this knowledge. I brought my cell phone with me on my five-day trip to my parents' place, but of course I forgot the charger. The question I ask is: 'tis nobler to leave the phone on continuously and hope the battery pulls through, or is it a better idea to turn the phone off every night and turn it on only at the point in the day when I plan to use it? Does powering off and on drain more battery power than idling / the cell phone equivalent of "sleep"? FWIW, I have a relatively new Nokia 6682, and the battery is currently showing a full charge but I suspect it's lying, as I think it's been at least 24 hours since I charged it (that said, this battery's done five days unplugged before).
posted by logovisual to Technology (23 answers total)
ey... turn it on a couple times a day to check for voicemail. take a break from it. i hardly think that a five to ten second boot-up is going to suck the same power as hours on end of constantly searching for a signal, maintaining cache charges, and sending signals back to the tower (which it does).
posted by trinarian at 4:33 PM on November 23, 2005

I would say turn it off. Let important calls roll to voicemail, and then listen to the messages and call them back on a land line. Or, you can keep it on, but don't use it for phone calls- that's what drains your battery. Check your voicemail every few hours for those important calls. Maybe even mention on your outgoing message that your phone has no power.

Remember what life was like before cell phones? (-;
posted by id at 4:35 PM on November 23, 2005

For a 5 day trip, it isn't gonna last all 5 days...

Turning it off when you sleep will help, but I still highly doubt you'll get 5 days out of it if you talk on it at all...

Why not just pony up the $15 or so it'll cost you for a travel charger? It'd be useful to have in situations like these.. leave your normal charger at home, and keep this one in your travel/carry-on bag so you never forget to take it with you...
posted by twiggy at 4:42 PM on November 23, 2005

Turn it off and use sparingly, definitely.
posted by fire&wings at 4:48 PM on November 23, 2005

I have a really hard time believing that powering down/up five times would drain more power than being completely off for 32 to 40 hours. Stranger things have happened, I guess, but I'd bet heavily on the "off" option using less power.*

That said, I think id is right -- unplug. Leave the damn thing off for 5 days and enjoy your time with your family.

(*) In order for power up/down to use more power, let's assume that each one uses the same power. That's 10 changes from on to off or off to on. Let's assume your staying for 5 days and 4 nights. That's nominally 32 hours of sleep. Thus, each power flip would have to consume more than 3.2 hours of standby consumption in order for it to be better to leave the phone on. That seems extremely unlikely to me.
posted by teece at 4:49 PM on November 23, 2005

I'll join the consensus that turning the phone off for most of the time and checking in occasionally seems to work fine in such cases, unless you have to be instantly reachable (in which case you just have to suck it up and borrow or buy another charger).

I would also note that the only time my phone seems to drain really quickly is when it is out of range of any network, in a cell phone dead spot. It seems to waste power searching for an available network and is dead much faster than it would be under normal circumstances. If I know I'm going to be in such an area for a while, and won't be able to charge my phone, I always try to turn it off right away.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 4:50 PM on November 23, 2005

Take it to a store that sells the phones, and they'll charge it for you. Pick it up the next day.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:56 PM on November 23, 2005

Having lost my charger a while back, and endured an ebay/post office fiasco getting a replacement, with occasional charges from friends, I can say quite confidently that turning the phone off works better. My phone lasted weeks of doing this (leaving it off, checking for SMS/voicemail every couple of days, and using it as an electronic phone book).
posted by pompomtom at 4:58 PM on November 23, 2005

Any chance your parents or another guest have a compatible charger? It won't last 5 days if you leave it on the whole time.

I am a nut, and I have a charger for home, for office, and for car, so of course I want to say buy an extra.

If all else fails, remember that you can always check your voice mail from another phone - I have Verizon, and I can just call my phone number and hit my passcode (I think that's how... but I know it's easy). Then you could leave the phone off unless you need to make a call (you could change your outgoing message to say you'll be checking voice mail twice a day or whatever).
posted by Puppy D at 5:03 PM on November 23, 2005

Turn it off except when you are expecting a call. During that time, make sure it it set not to ever go into roaming mode, since that eats up batteries like some sort of battery-eating monster. If you have to make a call, turn on the phone to get to your address book, then use a land line. If you can, go ahead and buy another charger, since it never hurts to have two.

Shouldn't be a problem, I've gone longer between charges in this manner.
posted by Hildago at 5:07 PM on November 23, 2005

Forward your calls to your parents' land line. Check the call settings options, poke around a bit. That way you won't miss anything and you save the battery.
posted by MrZero at 5:20 PM on November 23, 2005

It's a Nokia, and the joy about them is that every single handset uses *the same charger*. Just find someone who has a Nokia phone and visit their house.

I always buy them for just that reason.
posted by bonaldi at 5:36 PM on November 23, 2005

Forward your calls to your parents' land line. Check the call settings options, poke around a bit. That way you won't miss anything and you save the battery.

My carrier would charge me 10 cents a minute for that. A few holiday calls from friends could make a replacement charger cheep in comparison.

The last time I forgot my charger, I bought a cable that I could use to plug into the USB port to charge the phone. It wasn't the data cable variety, it was just for power. Even if you didn't bring your computer with you, you can use your parents' PC to charge up the phone and have a much smaller cable to keep in your bag.

Short of that, definitely turn the phone off when you're not using it... especially if you'll be in a place with spotty reception. Your phone has to work harder [use more batt life] to lock into a signal. If you're only getting a few bars, it will not make it overnight.
posted by birdherder at 5:40 PM on November 23, 2005

Unless I'm using the phone actively, my Samsung with the extended battery would easily last the five days if I turned it off each evening. Heck, I'm pretty sure it would last five days 24/7 if there was a decent signal in range.

That being said, I chime in with the "turn it off" crowd.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:39 PM on November 23, 2005

The Nokia 6682 is a GSM-only phone, no analog / AMPS fallback capability, which in this case is a good thing. When I head up into the mountains and out of range of digital cellular, my cell phone switches to the available analog signal and 4 hours later oh my freaking god my battery's dead! Dammit!

You won't have that dramatic of a problem, but a related issue to consider is that your parents' house may be farther from a tower than your home/work is, so it might suck power faster since it has to transmit "louder" for the tower to hear it. And yes, they do transmit even when idle, just not that often.

And yeah, turn it off.
posted by intermod at 8:30 PM on November 23, 2005

I think someone said this before, but just record a message saying that you won't be able to access your phone much during the next few days, so if it's important call me at [your parents' number]. And then check your vmail every once in a while.
posted by apple scruff at 8:32 PM on November 23, 2005

Another data point: I carried a cell phone with me on a long distance hike (3 months) and only turned it on once a day to check for urgent messages. The battery held out just fine (though I did end up charging it once or twice.)

So yeah, turn it off, though if there's a party that might need to contact you urgently (as in life-or-death stuff), you might want to give them your folks' number.
posted by Opposite George at 8:34 PM on November 23, 2005

Oh, and I ended up charging the phone a couple of times not because it told me it needed a charge but because I couldn't believe it didn't.
posted by Opposite George at 8:35 PM on November 23, 2005

bonaldi writes "It's a Nokia, and the joy about them is that every single handset uses *the same charger*. Just find someone who has a Nokia phone and visit their house.

"I always buy them for just that reason.
"posted by bonaldi at 5:36 PM PST on November 23 [!]"

The newer Nokias have different chargers. I just rolled out a ton of new phones for my userbase at work, and that was the universal complaint about the new Nokia 6102 clamshell model. I now have a drawer full of those old boxy Nokia chargers.
posted by HyperBlue at 9:13 AM on November 24, 2005

That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Jesus, Nokia.
posted by bonaldi at 11:00 AM on November 24, 2005

Any major hotel (Hilton, Raddison, Marriott, etc) will have a HUGE box of phone chargers in their "lost and found" behind the front desk- AFAIK phone chargers are the #1 most common item left behind by business travelers.
Walk into any major hotel, explain that you recently lost your Nokia phone charger, and they will usually let you take on from their lost and found.

being extra polite when you ask always helps.
posted by crazyray at 7:44 PM on November 24, 2005

Good call crazyray. That's exactly what I usually tell my starfish when they lose or forget their chargers while traveling. Completely slipped my mind, but that would be the short answer to logovisual's dilemna.
posted by HyperBlue at 8:26 PM on November 24, 2005

Dollar stores around here usually have a small selection of car chargers for a buck (US).
posted by QIbHom at 2:57 PM on November 28, 2005

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