ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Deep Sleep Battery Saver Review (Android)

A month ago, I wrote about my decision to invest in the tablet market personally. Last week I unboxed my tablet of choice and gave my thoughts on the experience thus far. Now the tablet saga continues, but on the software side. Smartphones are no strangers to short battery life, but things get worse in the tablet arena. Although the larger form factor allows for a larger battery, tablets also feature larger screens which drain more juice. Current batteries might be adequate for a day’s active use, but what of when you aren’t using the tablet? Shutting it off all the way to save battery makes it inconvenient to use right when you need it—and isn’t the point of tablets to be more convenient than laptops or smartphones? Thankfully, for Android users, there is yet hope.

Openness has its advantages. The vast majority of Android users realize this, and in fact is why they are Android users in the first place. It’s also why the jailbreaking scene on the Apple side is so popular. Having deep access to your hardware and software opens up all sorts of possibilities for tweaking and making a device as useful and convenient as possible. Essentially, the OS developers allow their OS users to do some of their work for them. Users get the best experience possible as a result, and developers don’t even have to pay for the work. It’s a pretty sweet deal all around.

When it comes to Android phones and tablets, one area that definitely needs some client-side influence is battery life. Leave a Nexus 7 on sleep mode overnight, and you can expect to see as much as 40% battery drain by morning. Well that pretty much eliminates it from surviving another day’s use before charging. And the Nexus 7 is not alone, either. Powerful devices require a lot of juice, and at least for now there’s no getting around it on the hardware level.

That’s where DS Battery Saver comes in. The premise of the app is fairly simple: shut off unnecessary services and processes when the device goes to sleep, and automatically restart them when it wakes up. That way no CPU cycles are wasted, wireless connectivity is not accessed, and apps don’t continue to run silently in the background when they aren’t needed. It’s much like what happens to your PC or laptop when you put it in hibernate mode, only in this case the system itself is left running so you still get that instant-on action rather than a shorter boot sequence.

How much of a difference does it make? With DS Battery Saver on the ‘Slumberer’ setting, the same Nexus 7 that previously lost almost half a charge overnight suddenly jumped to only losing 4-6% overnight instead. That’s not just an improvement, that’s a game changer. For just a couple charges a week, I can have my Nexus 7 always at the ready. Of course on days where I use my tablet extensively I have to charge it up again at night, but my normal tablet usage is pretty minimal from day to day—usually I just catch up on social networks, browse the web, and play a game for a few minutes. Beforehand, those light tasks were being offloaded to the cramped screen of a smartphone or else I’d ‘suffer’ through the general slowness of using a full desktop computer. Even though the tablet was the best device for the job, I couldn’t use it right away because it was either completely off or out of power. In my case, DS Battery Saver is not just helpful, it is essential.

And how good is the app itself? Well, lets just say you better be comfortable digging through plain rows of options menus to get the most out of the app. If you aren’t, don’t let it stop you from giving it a shot—DS Battery Saver’s main UI is simple and effective enough to get you the basic setup—but in order for the app to be most effective and convenient, you’ll want to look through all of the various options it offers. The good news is, you pretty much only need to do this once. After that, just let the app do its thing and you won’t even need to know it’s there.

DS Battery Saver offers multiple sleep levels so that you can shut off every process you don’t need and maintain the ones you do. For most cases I recommend the deepest sleep setting, but be warned that this will suspend open apps when your device goes to sleep. They’ll still be open when you wake it up again, but if you paused a game, for example, it would revert to the main menu instead of jump right back to where you left off. In non-game apps, on the other hand, the difference is completely negligible if not entirely unnoticeable. Still, the options are there and it’s up to you to decide how to balance battery and performance. In the options menu you can always whitelist specific apps not to suspend and otherwise leave the deepest sleep setting enabled, but of course this does sacrifice some battery power.

DS Battery Saver is ‘freemium’ software, so you can download and use it indefinitely at absolutely no charge, but a few special features are reserved for premium users only. The app can be upgraded to premium for $3.28, but considering how much of the app is free and there are no nag screens to speak of, paying up is really not necessary.

Of course, due to the nature of Android and the app, your mileage may vary. Some users report that DS Battery Saver doesn’t automatically stop all of the processes it should, or doesn’t restart them after coming back from sleep mode. It’s understandably difficult to program a battery saving app to work with the core system of every version of Android and the changes applied by carriers, though. And since it’s free to try out, you aren’t losing anything by giving it a shot.

Personally I am very impressed by my experience with DS Battery Saver, and intend to keep it as a staple app on my Android devices. If you’d like to squeeze some more life out of your phone or tablet, I highly recommend giving it a whirl.

Check out Deep Sleep Battery Saver for Android on Google Play