Mobile devices have evolved at a pace far more rapid than battery technology. Bigger screens and quad-core processors can drain a smartphone battery in a matter of hour, particularly if the apps on that device are poorly written. There are hundreds of apps, likely thousands, which have pushed to market with no regard for battery optimization.
While there are many culprits within a poorly coded app that causes additional drain on the device battery, a recent study from Purdue University and Microsoft points to ad implementations as the power hog. The study claimed that up to 75% of power consumed by an app was used to serve ads.
The drain is caused by careless implementation of AdMob and iAd SDKs into app code. The SDK can be dropped into the code, attached with a few lines of code. The result is targeted ads served to users, but the haphazard use means that the app is using the resources it does not require.
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For example, a simple app that requires minimal resources from the phone to operate would offer little drain on the battery. The minute that AdMob or iAd is dropped into the code, everything changes. That simple app is now accessing GPS chips for location data, added network communications to transmit user data and receive targeted ad code. Additionaly SDKs are often added on top of the ads to monitor user habits, which are also transmitted to additional servers.
Solutions for building a Mobile app that consumes less battery
All of this background processing is happening with each of the apps that use AdMob and iAd carelessly, but there are solutions.
Until SDK developers improve their code to optimize battery use, most solutions will need to be implemented by the developers:
- Minimize the use of ad-serving SDKs by utilizing static advertising.
- Prompt the user to close the application instead of letting it run in the background.
- Users who find apps constantly running in the background are likely to delete them from their phones. Provide a convenient way to close the app from the main menu.
- Utilize an SDK that allows you to selectively disable unneeded features like GPS if they're not needed in your app.
- Design a UI that works well on dim screens. Users often lower the brightness to conserve battery and will appreciate an app that is still useable.
Today’ mobile devices have powerful features that far outweigh current battery technology. Device manufacturers and software developers need to take extra steps to ensure that their code is optimized to lower power consumption and extend run time. Many users are likely to give up on a great app with poor battery use in favor of a less functional app that maximizes the life of their device.
Brian Taylor is the Owner and VP of Business Development at Forix Mobile, a mobile application development company based in Portland, Oregon. Brian completed his studies at Oregon State university in BS, Business Administration w/ Marketing Option.