New tool to reduce smartphone battery drain by 16 percent by intelligently suppressing background activities

Smartphones manufactured these days, be it a budget friendly phone or a premium phone, come with a lot of features, applications and games that tend to drain the phone battery faster. As a result, charging of the smartphones regularly on a daily basis has become a necessity to keep the phones running.

Though there are many kinds of hugely promising battery innovations around that involves things like hydrogen, aluminum, and solar power sources, they are not of much use for the users with devices that run on current-generation lithium-ion batteries. So, what can be done to get that little extra juice out of your smartphone? Is there any tool? Yes, there is.

A new tool for the Android users have been developed by the researchers at Purdue University in the U.S. that would reduce the draining of battery by forcibly ending the apps that are running in the background.

The researchers at the Purdue University in conjunction with Intel and Indiana-based battery startup Mobile Enerlytics studied the use of 2,000 Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 smartphones across 191 mobile carriers in 61 countries.

In a press release, Y. Charlie Hu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering said “This was the first large-scale study of smartphone energy drain ‘in the wild,’ or in everyday use by consumers.”

The team discovered that 45.9 percent of daily battery drain happens when our smartphone screens are off. It also found out that 28.9 percent of battery power drain is due to the frequent waking up and running of apps in the background of your device.

To make sure that the communications systems of your phone are running, many of these apps may look important to the operation of your phone. However, not all of them are important. Basically bugs and inefficiencies due to insomniac-style apps that just simply wake up and can’t go back to sleep when it’s their rightful bedtime causes a fair amount of battery drain, say the researchers.

“During screen-off, the phone hardware should enter the sleep state, draining close to zero power,” Hu said. “Apps wake the phone up periodically during screen-off to do useful things, but then afterward, they should let the phone go back to sleep. They are not letting the phone go back to sleep because of software bugs and, specifically, due to the incorrect use of Android power control application programming interfaces called wakelocks.”

Researchers presented findings this week at the ACM MobiCom 2015 conference in Paris. The ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery Inc. The researchers detailed their code-based solution to the problem, called HUSH. Depending on the users regular activity, the code recognizes the apps that are important for the user and suppresses the operation of the apps that are not considered important. The HUSH system can reduce overall battery drain by as much as 15.7 percent, according to the researchers.

“The big picture is that we want to double the battery life for smartphones,” Hu said. “This is going to be a non-trivial journey because much of the battery drain is caused by various apps when the screen is on and also legitimate maintenance functions.”

The research paper was authored by Purdue graduate students Xiaomeng Chen, Abhilash Jindal and Ning Ding; Hu; and Intel researchers Maruti Gupta and Rath Vannithamby.

“We presented the first study a few years back showing wakelock bugs could cause significant energy drain,” Hu, said. “But this is the first study showing that wakelock bugs appear prevalent on real users’ phones.”

The “in-the-wild” battery drain study also was detailed in a paper presented in June that included data from the use of about 1,500 phones. The work was described in a Scientific American podcast.

“Being able to reduce the total daily energy drain by about 16 percent is rather significant because you can extend the battery charge by one-sixth,” Hu said.

The good news is that the researchers have made HUSH available for free on GitHub. The tool can be downloaded here for free. In order to use it, you will need to know how to compile the code yourself, as its not been packed in app form yet. The researchers plan to do this soon so that all Android users can use it.

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