Are Free Smartphone Apps Draining Your Battery?

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Can Angry Birds run down your battery? Image by Андрей Мега

Free smartphone apps, from Angry Birds to Facebook, are common on today’s phones – and what’s wrong with that? They’re free, after all, and a convenient way to while away time waiting for an appointment.

Work-related free apps like the Android browser even let you do research, check equipment and software compatibility, and take care of other Internet-based business on the run. Sounds great – except for one thing. Although these popular free apps do not have an up-front cost, they quickly drain your phone’s battery, which could leave you with a dead phone.

Free Apps and Battery Use

According to research conducted by Purdue University, popular free smartphone apps such as these cause significant amounts of power drain – not just because of the app’s complexity, but because of the ads that run while you’re playing the app. Angry Birds, for example, uses 75 percent of its power to run ads, and only 25 percent to actually power the app itself, according to this research.

Researchers will present their findings at the EuroSys 2012 conference on April 10-13 in Bern, Switzerland. Decoded Science had the opportunity to ask co-author Y. Charlie Hu, Ph.D., Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering, a few questions about this research. According to Dr Hu, the main power drain in free apps comes from the advertising, and paid apps without ads are typically less problematic. Also, although the researchers expected to find that free apps presented a power drain, they were surprised to find that the advertisements actually used more power than the apps themselves, according to Dr. Hu.

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