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Study says free Android apps can zap your battery life

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Study says free Android apps can zap your battery life
You might think that there is no cost for installing a free app on your Android device. But according to a new study done by Purdue University and Microsoft, while you personally are not paying for a free Android app, your battery is paying with its life. The study took a look at several Android apps including Rovio's Angry Birds and The New York Times app. What was discovered was that as much as 75% of the energy used to run a free app is spent running third party ads that help defray the cost of the app. The New York Times app used a lot of energy even after all the news (which we assume was 'fit to print') was loaded on the screen.

The free version of Angry Birds can waste battery life

The free version of Angry Birds can waste battery life

As a result of the study, it might be suggested that those who are saving money by opting for the free versions of an app could be losing in battery life what they are saving in payments. The study used a tool called an eprof to determine that most apps spend the majority of the time performing I/O functions such as accessing a 3G or Wi-Fi data. Most apps have a "tail" which can keep a handset running full-power even when the app is loaded. For example, with Angry Birds, 45% of the power used to run the app is for the third-party Flurry ad network. Of that 45%, 15% is used by the GPS on your phone to confirm your location and 24% belonged to the 3G "tail".

An Android user can use a lot of energy just opening a search page in the native browser. The GPS and 3G requirements for such an act would add up to 16% and 31% respectively of the total 2,000uAh of battery life burned. Do you ever browse CNN on your mobile device? That will cost you 2,400uAh in power, mostly for data as there is no need to find your location.

To show you how much energy is used after an app loads, a sample app was devised by the guys behind the study and connected with a remote server. 5 packets of data was sent which used 127uAh of energy. After the app loaded, it ran for another 6 seconds, burning 187uAh in energy for a total of 57% of the energy used. That "tail" also happened to occur if the routine was delayed by 5 seconds after the connection was made. This extra use of energy also shows up when a bug called a
"wakelock" tricks the device into running at a high-power state and keeps it running at that level. The study found that such bugs were in Android's Mail program and the Facebook app.

Despite the theory that ad servers were responsible for the vast majority of energy use to run a free app, that most of the energy used to run applications are used for I/O operations. The conclusion of the study was that further research is needed to optimize the use of battery life when running Android apps.

source: PCMag

34 Comments
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posted on 19 Mar 2012, 22:27 6

1. parkwaydr (Posts: 572; Member since: 07 Sep 2011)


I would believe this, if the study wasn't conducted by Microsoft, who would have an obvious reason to be slanted and biased, with a possible touch of over exaggeration.

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 22:39 2

4. TKFox007 (Posts: 303; Member since: 02 Nov 2010)


I totally agree with you Microsoft has been running their mouths lately with little to no proof of their claims and doing publicity stunts that they tipped in their favor.

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 08:53 1

26. cellgeek82 (Posts: 518; Member since: 20 Dec 2009)


That's because Microsoft is wetting their pants from Apple and Android domination. The only thing keeping people smiling at Microsoft is Xbox. In my opinion is the best thing they've ever made. Aside of that I can't stand Windows. I'll take Apple OS or Android over PC.

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 09:00

27. parkwaydr (Posts: 572; Member since: 07 Sep 2011)


I agree, xbox is awesome, I think windows made a huge mistake with metro UI, I have a lot of friends that are die hard pc guys, and they have flat out said that if ms puts metro UI on Windows 8 they will go to mac.

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 22:28 6

2. windowsRocks (Posts: 147; Member since: 28 Oct 2011)


I dont think IPhone is an exception for this.

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 22:37 5

3. Android2627 (Posts: 28; Member since: 03 Mar 2012)


Hey You Have Android Phone as ur Pro Pic and ur profile name is Windows Rock and u write about iPhone Wired!

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 23:03 3

5. CM_Punk (banned) (Posts: 173; Member since: 13 Mar 2012)


I don't think the iPhone has anything to do with this.

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 23:14 3

8. windowsRocks (Posts: 147; Member since: 28 Oct 2011)


Miz is Back

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 23:54 2

12. Whateverman (Posts: 3162; Member since: 17 May 2009)


"I don't think the iPhone has anything to do with this."

Has that ever stopped any article from turning to that discussion before? Unfortunately not.

posted on 21 Mar 2012, 16:08 1

33. CM_Punk (banned) (Posts: 173; Member since: 13 Mar 2012)


Stopped me from doing what?

posted on 21 Mar 2012, 17:19

34. remixfa (Posts: 13902; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


miz, i think the point was that free-ad supported apps drain extra battery. the iphone or even WP7 apps will be no different by the very nature of how ad support works.

posted on 21 Mar 2012, 17:39

35. CM_Punk (banned) (Posts: 173; Member since: 13 Mar 2012)


You can't even get my name right, so how would you know what the point is?

#bestintheworld

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 00:08

15. Lucas777 (Posts: 2121; Member since: 06 Jan 2011)


no it is… this is one of the few benefits to ios multitasking.. it has little to no impact on battery life… which for some people might be a huge advantage… personally i like a mix of the two (for anyone who has an iphone and wants it just download backgrounder… then you can choose when to do android multitasking)

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 01:23

20. thelegend6657 (unregistered)


Backgrounder rapes my battery !

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 01:51 1

21. Whateverman (Posts: 3162; Member since: 17 May 2009)


And is ios multitasking really multitasking? It does what it does well, but it only works for certain apps, not all.

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 09:01 3

28. SleepingOz (Posts: 2483; Member since: 22 Oct 2011)


nopes, ios "multitasking" 's real name is multithreading.

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 15:23 1

31. nnaatthhaannx2 (Posts: 819; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)


multitasking has nothing do to with ads and gps. try again.

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 20:23

32. Lucas777 (Posts: 2121; Member since: 06 Jan 2011)


ya but putting it straight into the background to run is the same-- still uses the ads and gps

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 23:08

7. frydaexiii (Posts: 1157; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)


Hmm, all thanks to those freemiums like those games from GLU which always has push notifications on for ads. I swear it's so annoying to have to keep killing the task, I would rather just pay a fixed price and have them leave me alone...

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 23:18 1

9. sprockkets (Posts: 944; Member since: 16 Jan 2012)


In a completely unrelated story, all apple apps are paid apps, never display iAds and never, ever, ask for your location history. All apple devices clearly show what has been using the battery, and so does WP7.

Also, all android phones prohibit turning off the GPS, 3G or wireless functions, which are very well hidden in the power widget.

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 23:20

10. Sinaps (Posts: 60; Member since: 27 Jul 2010)


Did you get this from reddit? I read this article on reddit yesterday.

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 23:30

11. JGuinan007 (Posts: 607; Member since: 19 May 2011)


Um no at the bottom it tells you they got it from PCMag probly the same place reddit got it.

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 23:57 1

13. gallitoking (Posts: 4630; Member since: 17 May 2011)


Nothing is free... Androids.... nothing... who cares who did the study it does make sense

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 00:33 1

16. frydaexiii (Posts: 1157; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)


Denial at it's finest, of cause you feel that way, you probably already spent hundreds of dollars on apps at the Apps store that we could get free on the Play Store. To me it doesn't really matter about battery life, since my battery, even with what the research says on free apps, still last about 13-14 hrs a day...

posted on 19 Mar 2012, 23:58

14. VJo003 (Posts: 316; Member since: 11 Mar 2012)


I guess the difference between apps for money & apps for free is that apps for free actually cost more !!!!

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 00:42

17. pongkie (Posts: 492; Member since: 20 Aug 2011)


nice try MS, Nice try

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 01:01 1

18. mercorp (Posts: 954; Member since: 28 Jan 2012)


well,a way to overcome this and these ads is to switch off packet data and wifi.saves battery life.

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 08:05

25. Leo_MC (Posts: 394; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


Some apps don't let you start them without being connected to data.

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 01:02 1

19. djg71087 (Posts: 70; Member since: 10 Oct 2010)


of course to buy something is always the answer!

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 04:00 1

22. darktranquillity (Posts: 284; Member since: 28 Feb 2012)


The police in the country is good for nothing, they arrested me twice. Once for beating up my wife and another for selling drugs.

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 06:58 1

23. saiki4116 (Posts: 302; Member since: 31 Mar 2011)


"wakelock" isn't a bug.It's what devs use to keep phone awake mostly for games...

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 07:20 1

24. tward291 (Posts: 559; Member since: 14 Feb 2012)


i believe this study i use bbs and there is a wakelock on the facebook app so unistalled because i could never kill it also there is a constant wakelock for media and i can never kill it im just tired of android and as soon as tmobile get a great windows phone im talking lumia 900 or titan 2 in terms of specs i will be jumping on that

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 11:32

29. 0o0blackstar0o0 (Posts: 86; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)


This is just common sense .. it applys to all operating systems that have a market ..

why is this even news ?

posted on 20 Mar 2012, 13:48

30. networkdood (Posts: 5562; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


I wonder if Adaway helps with this....

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