Kinder to your battery and data

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London Bus Pal now has a dark mode which will help you to save some crucial battery life. This was just a quick experiment, rather than something users have been asking for. London Bus Pal has never been accused for draining battery – and this is for very good reason as I carefully think about every line of code I write to be as good for your phone’s battery as it could be.

This lead me to do some more experiments in terms of battery usage of London Bus Pal and other similar apps – some of the results shocked me to be honest.

The setup

The test I ran was fairly rudimentary. I took the top 8 apps which all return live bus times in London from the Google Play store. I made sure that I installed them and opened them all previously, wherever possible, I followed the same pattern:

  • If asked, don’t allow location to be tracked
  • If asked, select non-personalised ads – all apps were the free versions (had ads enabled)
  • Make sure I tap through the app to get rid of any “one-off” requests or app hints
  • All tests done in “light” / default mode

Location off means location off

I then had a small script which I manually executed, which involved searching for a stop, viewing a bus, viewing a stop, viewing another bus and so on. I executed the same steps on all the apps.

The first thing which grabbed my attention was the one app which was insisting that I enable my location before it would work. I persisted and kept saying no and eventually it gave in, and I managed to run through to the end of the experiment on that app. It turns out that it didn’t really require location to be enabled – it was just a lazy developer who didn’t want to work around this.

The next thing was the fact that despite location service being disabled and not really required (all the apps produced results in the end), three of the eight apps were still using the accelerometer. The is absolutely pointless and just wastes battery power.

The results

For the first round of tests, London Bus Pal was so low down the ranking of battery use by apps, that I almost thought my test was broken. But it was there, way down on the list. Even in light mode, it was by far, the kindest to my phone’s battery for the same test.

What about location on?

Next up was running the application with location services on. I decided I would do the simplest of tests and that is only allow the app to find my location and then close the app.

I ran through the test again and this time things were a bit less annoying (except for one app which insists on showing full screen ads all the time). This test was a bit more tricky to run because the first app run would possibly have the worst hit if it uses the GPS as efficiently as possible.

London Bus Pal kept coming back as the app, out of the eight, which uses the least amount of battery. In fact, three apps (London Bus Pal and two others) were clearly optimised for battery use whereas none of the others seemed to be, based on the numbers.

Of course, you’ll be asking, show us the numbers, and I have a list of numbers for you below – but it is worth pointing out, that the numbers are relative to each other in the same test, you cannot really compare them too much from one test to the next. It will give you an idea of the ranking and scale of usage of each application during both tests.

The most surprising thing for me was the worst offending app was engaging all of the sensors the whole time the app was open and even had some wakelocks going on (translated – this app is designed to suck the juice out of your battery).

Data usage

While I was doing my first test with location off and doing a set number of steps, I also tracked the data usage of each app. Again, the results truly surprised me – the app which was the worst on battery usage, was also the worst on the data usage (note, these are probably also related). What’s useful to note here, is that ad traffic was included in all of the data usage stats.

AppBattery drain (location off)Battery drain (location on)Data usage
App 1
7479428.8KB
App 2811002.3MB
App 381
44
818.8KB
App 47453617.3KB
App 510058776.5KB
App 6212187KB
App 7163787KB
London Bus Pal142193KB

Conclusion

The purpose of my experiment was to see whether I could officially claim that my app was battery and data optimised. It is something I care about deeply and carefully consider whenever I do anything. Based on the results, I think this is a resounding yes – I can definitely claim that my app has been built to optimise battery use.

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[…] my previous post where I did some rudimentary experiments on other bus apps, I decided to leave my phone running for […]