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How to make your phone battery last for one week and longer with this simple trick

written by Robin Schubert on 2021-03-03 | Tags: miscellaneous

Sure, it sounds like a click-bait headline, but I'm serious. I've bought my Android phone, a Google Nexus X5, second-hand from ebay. It's a great device, popular with developers but it's not known for its long lasting battery. In fact, I had to charge my phone at least once a day, if not more often.

But not anymore. During the last three weeks I charged it twice, no more. I didn't just turn it off. What I did is simple: I stopped using it. I turned off the WiFi, the mobile data connection and as a result I don't have much reason to look at it very often. Sometimes not even once a day. I do get phone calls from time to time, and I even play some puzzle games while I brush my teeth, but that's it.

Why no smart phone?

I would say I was an average smart phone user. I do some of that social networking thingies, message with friends and family and if I don't know the answer to a random question I ask duckduckgo. I've not been a poweruser, I don't have a zillion followers on any platform, and I don't take pictures of me or my food or my cats (don't have any) all the time. But I did use my phone regularly to check my email, my calendar or via termux work remotely on several Linux servers.

I cannot give any reliable numbers about the amount of time I've spent staring on my smart phone, but I can tell that I took it everywhere. I took it to the toilet to read my mastodon timeline and I took it with me when I went to bed to read my RSS feeds. I had it lying next to me on the table during meals or at work, so I could peek at incoming messages.

After a couple of weeks without using my smart phone now, I can tell that I miss none of that. I integrated some things into a more or less regular schedule, like checking feeds and mastodon on the laptop only once a day before I go to bed. It saves a lot of time and I never had the feeling I would miss anything. However, I find much more time to read books or play some guitar now, which I enjoy very much.

I spending a huge amount of my day in front of a screen anyway, due to my job and hobbies, but I feel that dropping the phone is absolutely beneficial for my health and also I could be the better role model for my children.

How no smart phone?

That leaves us with the question: What apps/services to drop and how to replace those that I'm not willing to drop?

The obvious

The easiest part was to port the most phone actions to the laptop. I did read mails on the phone a lot, though I didn't reply very often. Sometimes I just flagged some as important and left the work for later. Doing email on my laptop only resulted in more consistency and structure for me, and additionally saved quite some time and stress in my off-work time.

Randomly browsing the web or looking up stuff on Wikipedia, just like reading feeds and timelines was also easy to replace and led to more structure and much less distraction. Interestingly, I don't think that I'm spending more time on the laptop now, but I never took any measure to verify that ;)

I used my phone as second factor for some two-factor authentication logins. For now I also replaced that with the OTP module of my password manager pass. It still is a valid second factor, as I need the laptop additionally to the password, however, I think I will replace that with a security key in future.

I still enjoy Spotify sometimes. To make that work without my phone, I installed spotifyd on my raspberry pi, which I use as media center. The daemon just serves as the player, while I'm controlling the playlist from my laptop (using a beautiful TUI written in Rust, called spt).

The messaging

I'm using Signal as my main messaging app, but also joined some Matrix rooms on different servers and even follow some Mattermost conversations. Since I never seriously used IRC on the phone, I instead tried to integrate the messaging to my favorite IRC client weechat, with quite decent success.

I'm running signald on my weechat server and fixed some on the signal-weechat plugin and message happily ever since. Signald is a java app that subscribes to my phone number and provides a socket that can be used to interact with the API. Is it as secure as the official Signal app? Nope. But that's not my threat model ;) It's way better than the crappy electron app, in my opinion.

After I configured that, I realized that there are also plugins available for matrix and Mattermost (the latter of which is in pre-alpha, but hey). Using weechat for all my messaging feels great and to me is a big improvement over the phone (and over web- and electron clients). I know that there may be security drawbacks, not in transportation but in the way data is stored on my server. Luckily I can address these issues and I can do that independent of any app.

The rest

I thought that I could just drop everything that I cannot port to laptop. However, I hardly found anything I had to give up. I still use the phone to take pictures sometimes (never took many) and use the audio recorder occasionally. I play less random games.

The only thing I miss is the calendar functionality. I do have an excellent calendar on the laptop, or course (khal). But sometimes I would like to quickly glance at my upcoming events or schedule an appointment without being on the laptop. I will need to think how to do that without going fully analog on this one again. I'm having an eye on the Mudita Pure which I think would support me in exactly the way I chose to take.

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