How to disable ads in your Android apps

Ads in apps could be annoying, and people hates it. This is especially true when it comes to apps we use frequently in our daily life. Ads are annoying not just because some of them look ugly, or the display real estate they take, but they also drain our battery quickly.

Imagine this, while you open an app and do your thing, it’s busy downloading various ads in the background to show to your eye, how do you feel? Ads not only waste your mobile data, but they also have a huge impact on your battery life as it uses internet connection and display. You should know that the display and 3G/4G data are the biggest consumers of battery if you have ever read my post about how to save battery life on your Android handset. If you haven’t read it, I strongly suggest you have a look at it.

In this post I will introduce a few ways to disable the ads in your Android apps, and extend your precious battery life as a result.

Buy the premium version

Some apps offer two versions, the basic and the premium. The basic version is free, but has ads or lack certain advanced features. The premium version is quite the opposite. If you use the app daily and it really helps you, I would suggest pay for the premium version.

The good. Say goodbye to ads.
The bad. You need to pay for it.

Download ads free version

Here by ads free I do not mean the premium version. Some apps just do not have a premium version. Fortunately some people will always try to remove the ads from the app and make an unofficial ads free version. If you just could not stand the ads in the official app, then give the unofficial one a try. However you should always be cautious as these apps can just be found from third party app stores other than Google play, this means there could be a risk as apps could contain virus. So you may want to use an anti-virus app to scan it before installing.

The good. Say goodbye to ads without costing a penny.
The bad. Apps could be infected with virus.

Use ads blocking apps

Some apps could help you disable or block ads. For example, Patcher Lucky (or system tuner pro) and Adblock plus.

System tuner pro is a fantastic app, it is able to stop apps from auto starting, disable an app’s services and activities. That’s why it could be used to disable ads in many apps. It either disables the ad activity or prevent apps from downloading ads. The magic is that some apps create a service to download ads in the background. If you disable the service, then ads could not be downloaded and displayed.

system tuner pro

Adblock plus is quite well known in the Android space. It could block ads in web browser and is available in many Android browsers as a (built-in) plugin. For example, Firefox, Chrome, Maxthon.

AdAway might be a better option. AdAway downloads and uses the hosts file to block ads in apps and web pages so the ads could never be downloaded. It’s better because you can disable or remove the app after the hosts file being downloaded to your handset so there is no noticeable impact on your system resources or battery juice from the app itself. By the way, you can download hosts file from other place without installing the app too.

adaway

If the app could not block all ads, you can use tcpdump to record all DNS requests and blacklist the ads domain name or add it to your hosts file.

The good. It’s easy to use and free.
The bad. You may not disable all ads.

Remove the ads yourself

If you are an app developer, or if you know something about Java or how to decompile / recompile the apk file, then it’s easy to remove the ads yourself. There are many step by step guides out there in case you want to learn.

If you are an Android beginner, try apk editor. This app could decompile, recompile and sign Android apps automatically. You just need to change / replace the code or replace a file / image.

apk editor

The good. Clean and ads free apps.
The bad. You need to learn and DIY.

Others

There are always other ways to disable ads in your handset, and I will update this post from time to time. If you have any suggestion, please drop me a line on Facebook.

2015-Nov-Mon | Category: Phone battery life | Tags:

Why iPhones still have better battery life than Android

Although it has been less than half a year from my previous post about battery life comparison between iOS and Android devices, a lot of important devices have been announced and made available in this period of time. Sony Z3, iPhone 6/p, Moto Maxx, to name a few. So I decide to re-check my opinon and see if any changes I should make.

From all those battery life tests I have read from phonearena.com, gsmarena.com and anandtech.com, Sony Z3 and Z3 Mini have the best battery life in Android, and  later Moto Maxx took the first spot. When it comes to iOS, iPhone 6P is the best performer. iPhone 6P even trounced almost all current Android flag devices but Huawei Mate 2 which has a huge 4100 mAH battery. And it’s a sure thing that the Moto Max will beat iPhone 6P. With a whopping 3900 mAh battery at this display size (5.2′), it’s going to rule for a while.

But if you take a look at iPhone 6, then it’s a different story than you might initially think. With a 4.7 HD display, the battery capacity is merely 1810 mAH. The Sony Z3 Mini has a similar display size (4.6′), but a much larger 2600 mAH battery. So it would be fair for iPhone 6 to fall behind.

phone charging

Let me list the major battery saving techs adopted by Android devices here.

1. Bigger, bigger, bigger battery. Moto pioneered the this field. First with its droid maxx at 3300mAh, then droid maxx at 3500 mAh, and finally Droid turbo at 3900 mAh. The LG G2 has a huge 3000 mAh battery too. Sony also pack a 3200 mAh battery for its flagship phone Z2, and 3100 mAh for Z3.
2. Performance throttling. One of the most effective technique would be performance throttling, lower the clock speed, shut a few cores and force all background processes to quite.
3. Panel self refresh cut the refresh rate in half to easy the workload on GPU.
4. Turn the screen into grayscale mode. This is typically done by Samsung.

Even with these power saving technologies however, Apple still triumph Android OEMs in battery life. But why? I think there are a few reasons.

iPhone charging

First of all, Apple is not keen on display resolution. The stupid pixel race is only popular among Android devices as they have to compete with each other, not Apple.

Second, Apple kind of has the best display on their iOS devices. As we all know, display is usually the biggest consumer of power, this is especially true in LCD devices.

Third, Apple has the most energy efficient SOC on the market. Apple designed their SOCs in the balanced way between power consumption and performance. For example, A7, A8, A8X SOC all have very low frequencies. While Qualcomm, NVIDIA and Samsung all target their clock speed up to insanely 2.7G and still fall back on performance. To push frequency you have to push power, so the Apple way does have its benefits.

In the fourth place, Apple has a lot of money and is constantly making a lot of money from iPhone and iPad. One of the benefits of steady profit is that Apple and continue to invest and develop more power efficient SOC and devices. Apple is the first company to ship a 64 bit SOC in their phone using ARMv8 instruction set. And I need to remind that Apple is also the first to move to the 20NM process.

Last but not the least; Apple has control over both the hardware and software. On the other hand, all other Android OEMs have to rely on Google; they just could not make the optimizations they need to save power on their phones on their own.

With all that said, are Android OEMs really nothing in the battery life department? Of course not. At least Samsung and LG leave us user-replaceable back and battery. I am really glad with the battery life on my Galaxy S5 LTE-A broadband with always a backup which gets fully charged in less than 2 hours, lol. If you own an AMOLED phone, by the way, I recommend an all black wallpaper, you will love it.

2014-Nov-Thu | Category: Phone battery life | Tags:

A closer look at Android battery charging

This experiment is kind of old as it dates back to 2012, a lot of changes happened since then, big and small. However we will still learn something from it since it relates some basics about lion ion battery, which seldom changes tremendously these years.

This post will cover two aspects: how to take advantage of the quick charge feature on your handset, and do you need to plug out immediately your phones indicates charge completed.

The test started with an Android phone U8800 by Huawei, an original charger at 1A, and an iPad charger at 2A and a power meter. As you might know the quick charge tech introduced by Qualcomm charges a battery much faster. So people generally will think a 2A charger reduces the charging time. And it does in most cases but that’s not always the case.

U8800

I started charging the phone once the battery went down below 30%. At the same time, wrote down the time, battery level and input power. The first charging was done using the iPad charger, second with original charger. The charge typically ended when the power meter reading stopped changing.

The test first began with iPad charger. As can be seen from below diagram, it took nearly 5 hours to charge a 1500 mAH battery from 35% to 100%.

iPad charger battery level

When the phone showed the battery level at 24%, it took about 5 minutes to reach 31% and the input power is 3.04W. The whole charging progress slowed after the battery level went up to 40%. For instance, it cost 29 minutes from 80% to 87% and input power remained at 2.93W. Eventually the input power went down gradually until it reached 1.63W, and it stayed at that forever. This is only naturally as the voltage increases and the battery got full slowly. However it does remind us that the battery is not really full even the phone showed 100% battery level.

ipad charger

The same holds true with the original charger. It took over 5 hours too, see below diagram. It seemed to me the iPad charger does not work as expected. This might be that the phone only accept no more than 1A current to protect itself. So if you have a quick power charger, you also need a phone supports quick charge to make it work.

original huawei charger

I next went to test if I can get more current into the battery after Android says it’s full. The test was easy, plug out immediately when the phone shows 100% battery level. Then kill all processes and services, watch an online movie until the battery goes dead, and record the time. Now charge it again until the power meter readings do not change, and play the same online movie again and again until the battery dies. And here is the result, a 12% difference. Check out the chart below. It did prove that you should continue to charge your phone even it says battery 100% full, but no more than an hour and a half. Any time longer than that is in vain.

discharge time

The whole test took over 30 hours and here are what I learned.
1. The battery level by your phone is not accurate; this is especially true during 5% and 25%. A 1% drop does not mean anything, but a 15% drop does.
2. You need both a quick power charger and a quick charge enabled phone to speed up the charging process.
3. You need to charge your phone one more hour even your phone says battery full.

Quick charge 1.0 was first announced by Qualcomm back in 2012 which claimed to charge your phone up to 40% faster than older chargers. Quick charger 2.0, however makes the charger 75% faster than the old chargers, and about 25% faster than quick charger 1.0. Qualcomm claims that the new tech will charge a 3300 mAH battery to its 60% capacity in 30 minutes.

quick charge

2014-Nov-Mon | Category: Phone battery life | Tags:

Why iPhones have better battery life than most Android devices

Although I never own an iPhone, I have the impression that in terms of gaming, video playback and internet browsing those iOS devices always have better battery life than most Android phones, if not all. This has changed a bit since the release of LG G2, which has unbelievable battery life. For the first time, an Android flagship outlasts iPhone for comparable performance. A year later, Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC M8 followed suite and beat iPhone series in battery longevity.

However if you look into the matter a little bit deeper, you will find that those three Android flagships all have one thing in common, big batteries. Although they all come with large screens too, the battery capacities are much higher than that of iPhone. For example, LG G2 has a 5.2′ screen that is 1.68 times bigger than in iPhone. However the screen area of G2 more than doubles iPhone 5/5s’s! If Android has something to learn from iPhone, battery life is surely among one of them.

iPhone 5s battery life

In this article, I will try to explore where iPhone excels Android devices in battery life both in terms of hardware and software.

Display

I will begin with screen since display is the biggest consumer of battery juice in almost all Modern Smartphone. There are three things that could impact a mobile device’s battery life, size, display type and resolution.

As we all know, iPhones all have small screens. iPhones used to have a 3.5 inch screen, and this did not change until the release of iPhone 5, which saw a small increase to 4′. However that’s still a way too small screen compared to its Android counterparts. Take Galaxy S4 as example, it has a huge 5′ screen.

In addition to small screen size, iPhones have lower resolution as well. Even though iPhone 4 is the first to sport a retina screen, Android phones are already packing full HD and now even 2K displays. The much higher resolution puts a huge strain on battery since it’s a huge workload on GPU as well.

Aside from screen size and resolution, display type matters much too. Many people may not realize that, but the great display on iPhone also helps save battery juice. While Android devices still pack a-Si display, iPhone 4s already used IGZO display, which is much more power efficient. According to DisplayMate, the iPad Air’s use of IGZO reduces the display’s power consumption by astoundingly 57% over iPad 4. Considering display uses over 50% power, this alone could mean huge power savings. Apple later adopted LTPS display on iPhone 5, which further cuts the power consumption by 30%.

CPU and GPU

It’s well known that iPhones have a powerful yet quite power efficient GPU unit. However it’s less known that they have a strong CPU as well. Android absolutely leads the core race, but Apple holds the single-threaded performance lead for a long time now.

Take a look at Anandtech’s benchmark and you will realize that. The A7 chip in the iPhone 5s not only outperforms Qualcomm S800, it’s also much more power efficient. This is self-explanatory as A7 only has two cores running at max 1.3GHz yet S800 has quad cores with a clock speed up to 2.5GHz. To push up frequency you have to push up voltage, so it’s only natural for non-A7 chips to consume more power for comparable performance.

Of course ARMv8 architecture also helps. Many people are only aware of the large virtual address space brought by the new 64-bit architecture, it also features refined power-efficiency implementation.

OS

Without doubt, Apple successfully integrates its hardware with the iOS system, which allows them to optimize the software specifically for their hardware to save more power. Due to the variety of hardware, it’s much difficult for Google to do the optimization work, and the manufacturers just lack the willingness to do so as they are engaged to compete against each other for the limited market share.

Battery life is also Apple’s top priority. Take the sync mechanism as example, all apps running in iOS devices have to deliver the notification and push message via Apple’s push notification service called APNS. Basically iOS devices only have to create and keep a persist connection to Apple’s server for notification. Although Google does have similar services, Android apps often connect to their own server for push messages, which means many links to different servers. This could have a tremendous impact on battery life.

App quality

No body can deny the fact that app store have more quality apps than Android. In order to attract more developers, Google allows them to display ads to the target users. While iOS owners pay for the apps and games, Android users are waiting for their apps to connect and download ads in the background to generate a few bucks for the developers.

Multi-tasking

Android users are proud of the true multi-tasking; it sucks a lot on the precious battery life. Need it or not, many apps auto-start and create more than one services in the background for almost nothing. Even if you exit the app, the service still runs without your knowing.

This could make the battery thing much worse as handsets could not enter deep sleep, which is designed to save power. You could easily destroy your battery in hours with a few services running all the time.

Now iOS also has mult-tasking function, the good part is that you can choose which apps are allowed to refresh in the background.

What do you think? Let me know your opinion at Facebook. If you have issues with your Android handset battery life, check this out.

2014-Jun-Thu | Category: Phone battery life | Tags:

The ultimate guide to save battery on Android

I mostly cover cell phone tracking apps, news and technology on this blog, but sometimes I also write on battery life as it’s the basis for all activities on any device. Without enough power, apps, GPS, WiFi and cell tower triangulation technology won’t work, not to mention to record your handset’s location continually. In a word, we all have to deal with this issue.

I say it’s a issue because most mobile devices won’t last a couple of days with the ever larger screen and stronger hardware. It’s a common fact that we need to charge our phone almost every one or two days even with a 3000 mAh battery inside. That’s why power saving tips can be found everywhere on the net and still we can’t get rid of the charger everyday, and the situation won’t improve until revolutionary battery technology comes out.

However, there are still a lot of things you can do to increase your battery life and I will show you how I doubled mine with many tweaks and tricks. You may find these tips elsewhere but a lot of time and effort are needed as they scattered everywhere, and some of them are even misinformation.

Some basics

We will start with some basics about what parts use up the most power on your Android handset so that we can take measures to tackle them. In general there are about six most power hungry parts in every modern smartphone, namely screen (include backlight), CPU, GPU, GPS, WiFi and 3G/4G model. To see for yourself, go to settings-> power saver-> battery use. You will see there how long your phone is on and how much power each item consumes. Not surprisingly, screen will top the list unless your handset in most time is idle. However for many devices you could not see the percent for things like CPU, GPU and WiFi etc. Well Android lists them in another way, it only shows those apps who use CPU, GPU and WiFi. For example, if you play games a lot, you will se the name of the game on the list. The same is true for WiFi and GPS. If you tap each item, you will see data like CPU total, CPU foreground etc. That data shows how much CPU cycle time that app uses. In-depth research about mobile phone power consumption can be found here.

Now that we figure out the most power hungry parts, I will introduce some major tweaks which can drastically increase your battery life.

Major tweaks and tips

1. Buy a phone with relatively smaller screen and bigger battery

If you don’t own an Android phone, or are planning on buying a new one, this tip is for you if battery life is of real concern. Otherwise, simply skip it.

Screen is the single most important power consuming part in every Android phone. Android devices tend to get ever larger screen. For example, Sony Z1 ultra has a startlingly 6.44” screen, HTC one max comes with a 5.9” screen, even the Galaxy S4 has a 5” 1920×1080 display. These phablets do deliver a superb experience, but at the cost of battery life as you have to lit up the screen whenever you use it. Just consider it, iPhone 5/5S only has half the battery capacity, yet delivers better battery life than many Android flagships. Apart from Apple’s great optimization, smaller screen is one of the most important reason behind the great battery life. Of course, display types count a lot too.

Another thing worths considering is the battery when deciding a cell phone. Although many Android handsets tend to have bigger screen, they are not quite progressive on battery capacity. To the best of my knowledge, only a couple of Android handsets have more than 3000 mAh battery.

It’s really hard to balance the battery and screen size when buy a phone since there are so many choices. Fortunately there are some websites conduct battery test and vote the devices with the longest battery life, which is a good reference.

2 Reduce the screen brightness

Dim your screen is another effective way to cut down the power consumption and it applies to any phone and any OS. Until you are in direct sunlight, it’s not necessary to maintain a very bright screen. Auto-brightness setting is always recommended. But it’s not so sensitive in some case, then you can disable it and go to the dimmest level that you can still read under without straining your eyes.

3. Underclock your CPU and GPU

High end Android devices now come with powerful hardware. While your device runs very fast, they also eat up your battery quickly. But if you underclock / undervolt it a bit, your device could still run much fast while save some significant amounts of power as well. For example, if you have a quad-core handset and the clock speed is 1.9G Hz, you can turn off two of them and lower the frequency to 1.2G. In this way your handset still runs fast and you can increase your battery life a lot. In fact some has doubled his battery life with undervolting. To downclock your device, try setCPU or kernel tuner.

setCPU

If you have a phone which is very popular, there will be many custom kernels available. Some of those kernels will be more power efficient than your stock kernel and allows you to control your CPU and GPU clock speeds. This post has more information about the benefits and how to flash a custom kernel.

4. Proper apps management

One of the iOS’s advantages over Android is the numerous quality apps. On Android platform you probably have seen almost all apps auto start themselves, and lots of apps still run even if you exit them. The most irritating thing is that many apps prevent your handset from entering the sleeping mode even you lock the screen, this alone could drain your battery quickly. For example, your cell phone may drop 10% battery within an hour even you are doing nothing with it.

Once you root your phone, remove those pre-installed apps and bloatware from your handset (remember to backup). For those auto-start apps which you do need, I here would recommend two apps to deal with those apps and all of them needs root access. Autostarts and greenify. An Android app does not only start itself at startup, it could also run itself when you do certain things, like install an app, change the state of WiFi /3G, or change the time. The list goes on and on. Autostarts will list all those events under which an app would run and let you to decide whether toggle it on or off. If you disable all those events, an app will not be able to autorun itself again.

Greenify will do another important task for you. It won’t allow those apps continue to run once you hit home button. In android apps can run in the background if it creates a service, this is one thing Android device owners are proud of and we call it multi-tasking. While it can bring us many conveniences, our battery life will suffer. For example, when you exit an app (which means you do not need it to run now) but it still runs in the background and use CPU cycles to do things like push notifications, download ads and sync files etc. If you do not intend them to do so, it will waste your precious battery. Well Greenify would help fix that. It will list all those apps that could run in the background and eat up your battery and let you to decide. If you do not like them, greenify will stop them from running. But when you actually run those apps, greenify will give them green lights. In a word, it won’t affect your normal use.

5. Turn off auto-sync, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G/4G while not in use

While these features give us great joy, they could also drain your battery very fast. If you do not use them, turn off them, only turn on when in use.

6. Always use WiFi over 3G/4G

Stay connected is important, but if both WiFi and 3G/4G network are available, go for WiFi. WiFi is more power efficient!! When I use WiFi, my battery drops 1% in about 4 minutes. But when I turn 3G on, the time is only 2 minutes. If you want to know more about the power consumption of WiFi over cell phone network connection, check this and this out.

7. Enable deep sleep

Generally, when you lock your screen, Android should cache all those apps in memory, turn off CPU, GPU and all those sensors and then go to sleep. However your baseband processor is still working so that you can receive calls and text messages. This is the most power efficient mode and Android provides a few choices. To enable this feature on your Qualcomm processor, open Root Explorer and go to /system, then open build.prop and search pm.sleep_mode, set the value to 1 (backup first!!). This property has four available values listed below.

pm.sleep_mode=0 -> Power Collapse Suspend
pm.sleep_mode=1 -> Power Collapse (Provides best power savings while sustain communication with your carrier’s network)
pm.sleep_mode=2 -> Apps Sleep
pm.sleep_mode=3 -> Slow Clock and Wait for Interrupt
pm.sleep_mode=4 -> Wait for Interrupt

deep sleep

As a side note, this tweak is debatable and seems it’s only available to Qualcomm processors. It also seems since Android 4.0 deep sleep is enabled by default, which means this property might be redundant.

However another thing about deep sleep absolutely needs your attention. Android system won’t go to deep sleep if any WAKE LOCK is detected. Both system and user apps can apply for WAKE LOCK and keep the system running even the app itself has nothing to do. I here would recommend using a free app called Wakelock Detector from the Google Play to find out which app holds what types of WAKE LOCK and use Greenify to monitor the bad apps or remove it completely.

Minor tweaks and tips

These tweaks would not increase your battery life significantly, but they will affect it to some extent. But you still need to pay attention to them as your overall battery life will improve.

1. Disable vibrations

Vibration or haptic feedback is more power consuming than ringtones. If you are not in a situation to use it like in a meeting, disable it.

2. Shorten Screen Timeout and front key light duration

Well I think there’s no need to explain that.

3. Do not power on/off frequently

Power on or reboot your device consumes more battery than normal use. If you do not use your phone in a while, just lock it. It also helps save your power button, lol.

4. Turn plane mode on when not in use

If there’s no signal coverage or the reception is very weak or you are going to sleep, then enable plane mode and it can save some battery. If you phone scan for signals from time to time, it will consume more battery.

5. Turn down WiFi scan interval

WiFi is truly more power efficient than 3G, but much more power is used when it searches for AP even you are associated with some one. Fortunately we can assign a longer time to it and dictate your device not to scan frequently.

Open Root Explorer or any other file browser and go to /system, open build.prop and search for wifi.supplicant_scan_interval, generally it’s giving a number less than 60 (seconds), you can change it to anything between 120 and 360. You will need to reboot your handset for the change to take effect.

WiFi scan interval

6. Disable animations and do not use live wallpaper

These settings do make our mobile phone look great, but they also use more battery. If you really care about battery life, turn them off.

7. Use white wallpaper if you have LCD screen

White color tend to save more battery than others on LCD screen, but if your display type is LED (AMOLED for example), black is more power efficient.

8. Force GPU rendering

GPU does eat up more battery, but since Android Jelly Bean, it’s turned on by default. The thing is that some apps do not support GPU rendering yet, so Android provides us with an option to force use GPU to render our windows. It also makes our experience smoother and quicker, which will save us some battery juice. If you want to enable it, go to settings-> developer options.

Force GPU rendering

9. Cool your phone

XDA developer Famar has created an app called Famarcool to cool your device. It does not downclock your CPU, but tweak your system and kernel to make your handset cooler. Just make sure WiFi connection is established when implement those changes and restart your handset (again backup first).

10. Do not use power saving apps

There are lots of power saving apps out there, but many won’t help you save any battery, on the contrary, they will use more power. Unless you are sure, don’t use them.

11. Do not use task killers

Why shouldn’t we use task killers? Then answer is quite simple, Android will manage the CPU and memory for you. When your handset needs more memory, Android will automatically kill apps not needed and release more memory. But if you kill those apps required by the system, your phone will restart it again, which results in reduced power efficiency.

You need to realize that unless an app starts a service or timer, it won’t use any CPU cycles once moved to the background (so it won’t waste your precious battery), it’s just cached in memory so next time it will be returned to its original state quickly when you run it, which is more power efficient. Now many Android phones come with 2GB of RAM, so there’s never any need to kill processes manually. If you do not need that app anymore, just remove it from your system.

2013-Dec-Wed | Category: Phone battery life | Tags: ,

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