How to figure out which apps are draining your device’s battery

Mobile

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Identify the worst offenders and do something about them.

iPhone with grayscale screen against a colorful illustrated background.

Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

Your super-powerful, ultra-versatile phone, tablet, or laptop suddenly becomes a lot less useful when its battery dies — which is why battery life is so important for gadgets. Whether it’s checking the battery capacity before buying something, investing in a portable power bank, or deploying special low-power modes, we’re all trying to get as much time as possible between charges.

One of the ways to make sure device battery life is stretched as far as possible is to identify the apps that are sucking up the most power: You can then use them less, change their settings to make them less energy-demanding, or uninstall them altogether. This usually isn’t difficult to do, and it means you’ll be much more clued up about what’s draining your battery.

To identify which apps are draining your battery, jump to the operating system you use:

iPhones and iPads

Battery page on iPhone listing battery usage by app on left, and percentages of activity on right.

Battery page on iPhone listing battery usage by app on left, and percentages of activity on right.

iOS will tell you which apps are using up most battery time.

To check battery usage on an iPhone or an iPad, open Settings, then head to Battery

At the top, there will be two toggles that will let you see your battery percentage and enable Low Power Mode. This restricts background processes for apps across the board, and you’ll be prompted to turn it on whenever your device gets down to 20 percent of battery life left.

Below that, you’ll see how battery life has declined since the last time the device was charged up; scroll further down, and the apps that have been draining the battery in that time are shown, together with the percentage of battery life usage they’re responsible for. By default, the Last 24 Hours tab will be open, but you can switch to Last 10 Days to see battery usage over a longer period of time. 

At the top of the apps list, the tab named Show activity lets you see how much time each app has been active for rather than the percentage of battery usage it’s responsible for — this will be split up into the time the app has spent on screen and the time it’s spent running in the background.

To see if there are any ways of managing the demands any specific app is putting on the battery, head back to Settings and choose an individual app. You can, for example, turn off the Background App Refresh toggle switch to stop the app from working in the background or select Location to make sure the app is only able to pull GPS coordinates (a relatively heavy burden on the battery) when it’s actually in use. The controls that are available will depend on the specific app.

Battery usage page on Android, with list of apps, including how long they were used, how long they were in the background, and what percentage of battery they used.

Battery usage page on Android, with list of apps, including how long they were used, how long they were in the background, and what percentage of battery they used.

Battery usage worst offenders, Android edition.

On an Android device, open Settings and then choose Battery > Battery usage

The next screen will show you how quickly the battery level has dropped since the last time a power cord was connected, and you will see a list of the apps most to blame, along with the percentage of the battery usage that each app is responsible for. Scroll down the screen to see more apps.

In addition, under each app entry, you can see the statistics for how much time in total the app has been active since the last battery recharge and how much of that time it’s spent running in the background. If those two figures are close to each other, simply using the app less isn’t going to make much of a dent in the battery life it uses up.

Tap on any app in the list for more options. You will be able to set the app as Restricted (not allowed to do much in the background), Optimized (Android will decide on background usage based on battery levels and how much time you spend in the app), and Unrestricted (no restrictions on background processes). The Optimized option is the best one for most apps that don’t need to be constantly running.

If you’re finding that an app is particularly egregious in terms of its battery usage, you can get rid of it by tapping Uninstall on the same screen. It might also be worth going back to the app’s entry on the Play Store and sending the app developer some feedback to see if they’re able to push out a future update that would make the app less of a battery hog.

Activity monitor page on Mac, including app name, energy use, and power drain over last 12 hours.

Activity monitor page on Mac, including app name, energy use, and power drain over last 12 hours.

Find out where all your battery life is going on macOS.

If you’re using a MacBook, you’ve got a few options when it comes to monitoring battery usage by app. You can click on the battery icon on the menu bar, for example, which will give you a very quick look at programs that are “using significant energy” — the software that right now is placing the most demands on the battery.

You can also open the Activity Monitor utility (which you can launch from the Utilities page in Finder or find with a Spotlight search) and switch to the Energy tab: Apps and processes that are currently running will be listed, with the most power-hungry ones at the top. The console will show you an app’s current “energy impact” (lower is better) as well as the amount of power each app is responsible for over the last 12-hour period.

Battery management is actually handled somewhere else. Open up the Apple menu, then choose System Settings > Battery, and you can see battery drain over the last 24 hours and the last 10 days (as on iOS and iPadOS). Up at the top of the same screen, you can set when Low Power Mode kicks in: When being charged, when on battery power, at any time, or not at all. Click Options for more settings (such as when to put the hard drives to sleep, saving more battery life).

For troublesome apps that are using up battery life, there’s not much you can do besides putting up with them or uninstalling them (with a quick drag from the Applications window to the Trash can on the dock or deleting them from the Applications folder). You should, however, make sure you’re always running the latest versions of your software programs to make sure they’re as optimized and as bug-free as possible.

Power & battery settings page on Windows with main menu on left, and list of battery usage per app in center, including app name, how long it’s been in use, and its overall usage percentage.

Power & battery settings page on Windows with main menu on left, and list of battery usage per app in center, including app name, how long it’s been in use, and its overall usage percentage.

Checking up on battery hogs on Windows.

When it comes to battery life on Windows, open Settings, then choose System > Power & battery. Open the Battery usage section, and you can check out stats for the last seven days or the last 24 hours using the drop-down menu just to the right. In either case, you’ll see a chart showing battery drain over time, and under that, you’ll see the applications that are most responsible for it.

You can sort the list by overall usage, background usage, and in-use usage. For apps where background usage is high, simply cutting down on the amount of time you have them open won’t have much impact on how draining they are. Over on the left, there’s a search box you can use to look up specific programs.

There aren’t individual app-by-app settings for managing battery usage, but Windows does have some general ones available on the same screen. 

Click Battery saver to set when this mode kicks in automatically or to turn it on manually. It’ll reduce what programs are allowed to do in the background when they’re not actually being used.

You’ll also find a Power mode setting further up that lets you balance power demands with performance (slowing down the speed at which your laptop runs will typically require less power). 

If a program is hurting battery life significantly and you can live without it (or find an alternative), you can remove it from your system by choosing Apps > Installed apps in Settings, and then clicking the three dots next to an app and Uninstall.

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