Conserve Windows Phone battery life by managing background apps

We heard and experienced for ourselves some rather crummy battery life with the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone. It's a mixed bag of results with some report fantastic battery performance while others are struggling to make it through half a day.

While Nokia is looking into things, they've reminded us that managing the apps that are running in the background could help with battery life.  And this power saving technique isn't exclusive to the Lumia Windows Phones.  If you want to conserve power on your HTC 8X or Samsung Focus 2, shut down some of the apps you don't need that are still running in the background.

To see what's running in the background, go to your Windows Phone's settings and swipe over to the applications page. There you will find "background tasks" setting at the top of the list.

Once inside the settings, you'll see a list of all the apps running in the background. To shut it down, just tap on the app and tap the "block" button. To confirm that you've shut down the app, press and hold the back button to view any open apps.

Windows Phone 8 Background Tasks

Nokia has received reports that if Nokia Drive is left running in the background can contribute to high power consumption. They also note that Angry Birds: Star Wars may also be consuming higher than normal power. There's nothing definitive about either, just suspicions that are being researched.

Along with shutting down apps operating in the background, consider disabling the NFC feature (touch + share feature in your settings menu). We aren't sure if there's a connection but over the past two days with NFC disabled, our battery life has improved dramatically.

It's nice to see Nokia taking an interest in the Lumia 920's performance and if we here anything definitive on the 920's battery concerns, we'll pass it on.

Source: Nokia Support

George Ponder

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.

  • Yep, was nice to see the phone stay on 99% for hours after I turned off most background apps
  • What does Nokia Drive do in the background? Is it if I switch to a different app it will continue navigating?
  • Yes, AND still give voice prints! This is great, but many of us have become used to just shuffling it to the background rather than closing it.
  • Oh cool. I'll have to try this.
  • Had my red Lumia 920 for a week. Battery life was about the same as my Lumia 900 (6am - 2:30 pm 30-40 % remaining daily) moderate use of phone such as YouTube, article's, people hub. Read the tip about the NFC, shut mine off, but still had same effect. However, after I decided to turn back on NFC, because turning off had no change, Thursday night come Friday same shift, same usage, I ended my work day with 70% battery :)
  • Turned off NFC previously, and it improved drastically, but that wasn't hard to accomplish considering how bad it was. It still isn't good though. I have now made sure drive isn't running. Lets see what that does...
  • The screen its self seems to be my biggest drain and maybe WiFi if its shutting off like wp7 does. If I'm using the phone for extended periods of time its goes quick. But a normal day of texting, emails and calls and I have no problem.
  • Nokia Drive + always automatically is on if not disabled, despite my having not once used the app. I've now disabled it, let's see how the battery does.
  • I had battery issue too when I first got my red 920. It was draining almost 7-8% per hour when not in use, and after 5 hours of light use, it wad turned off. So I disabled some back ground tasks, turned off the Nokia drive, but it was the same. And after turning off the NFC, the battery life increased like magic. I have 6 background tasks running (wpcentral, Engadget, USA today, groupon, weather channel, and baconit) WiFi and blutooth on, and after 12 hours of light use, few phone calls, whatsapp, wpcentral and Engadget apps, and some web browsing, its at 70% now. Now only if I can resolve the vibration rattle........
  • I had a Titan and loved the vibrate function on it. I dislike the vibrate on the Lumia 900 and the 920 is better but still "weak" by comparison of the Titan. It may just be something you need to adapt to.
  • Floating lense. Nothing you can do.
  • It's not the floating lens. It's the fit and finish at the top part of the phone around the headphone jack and sim tray. Push down on the top part of the phone in this area. Mine pops and creaks.
  • I would suggest considering taking yours back as mine doesn't creak or pop upon squeezing. That said when it vibrates it makes an awful noise lol.
  • Great tips... I'll definitely keep on top of this when I get my new phone.
  • Does anyone else have issues zooming in on Baltimore Maryland in Nokia drive?
  • Nope...what is it doing to you?
  • If I zoom in to a certain level, I cannot see roads, just a blank area. Zoom out, and I see the roads. When it's blanking Baltimore, I can pan around and clearly see a "tile" of map space that's not showing correctly, then all adjacent areas look five. No other cities do this for me. DC has a slight lag if I have landmarks on, but otherwise I can zoom all the way in without issue.
  • I think turning location services off will help.
  • what exactly does allowing an app to run in the background do? Is this for notifications and live tiles? I'm guessing that turning off weather will make it not update regularly? And for appointile (currently running in the bg) not sure what it would need to do that for? maybe syncing?
  • Some WP8 apps can run in the background, like Nokia Drive+. It can literally keep your GPS position and mortify of turns while you are in a different app.
  • "mortify of turns" eh Daniel?  is it really bad?  ;)
  • I can't stress how important it is to let your Lumia 920 batterys fully discharge before charging it. I went from 5 hour battery life to 2 days of battery life
  • That's a very good point if my theory (see a few posts down from this one) is true about it being a battery status reporting bug. I did the same thing yesterday... I let it drain completely down to the point I couldn't even power it on, and then let it charge overnight. Today, I'm 10 hours off the charger with every radio enabled for normal settings, with several apps running and emails (plus FB and Twitter) syncing, and I'm only down to 74%. That's the way it should be.
  • There's zero evidence that modern batteries need to be "cycled". I never do it, never have issues either.
  • I have evidence this doesn't necessarily work. I tried that, it made ABSOLUTELY no difference in my phone battery life.
  • Yeah from what I understand, Li-Ion batteries are not meant to be deep cycled, it actually is detrimental to the battery.  However I did feel like my phone batteries were a bit short the first couple days (maybe heavy use because of it being a new phone?).  After letting it drain a bit before charging, I'm at 54% after 21 hours which has kind of surprised me (mostly just txting and checking email though)
  • It's not about deep cycling the battery.  It's about the software thinking it's at zero when it has half the battery or more left.  This worked for me better than anything - I didn't cycle it on purpose, I simply used my phone on day one, trying different things, turning off stuff in vain, until it died.  I was frustrated that night, let it charge, and then *whamo* next day is fine.  I go all day with regular usage (for me) and come home with plenty of battery to spare.  That's really all I'm looking for.
  • I was having issues with my battery until someone suggested cycling it in this way. I want from needing a charge to make it home from a workday to all being able to make it to bed with the same amout of power (30%) that I used to have mid day.
    There may be other forces at work, but, in my case the battery improved greatly after letting it run dry then charging to 100%
  • I'm very interested in this theory as before I did a power cycle I was told 11 hrs on a full charge. Now on a full charge it says 1 day 7 hrs and even under heavy use last me all day.
  • Same here, I've tried it also, and to no phone would shut down by 5pm, after taking it off charge at 5am. Disabled NFC, it stretched it about an TITAN never had this issue. I could go from 5am to 10pm on a single charge, with moderate to heavy use (I use my phone more than my computer/surface).
  • Man, that does suck. I'd return the phone and exchange it for a new one. If it was like how mine was before, it's completely unaccaptable as a daily phone. There's clearly multiple issues with it, but when it works its nothing short of amazing.
  • I've tried it and it has made a difference. I'm wondering if rather than helping the battery, its educating the software. Like someone said further up, maybe the battery status part of the software isn't calibrated properly, and running it down to zero/charging to 100% re-calibrates the software. Its definitely made a difference for me. I know this shouldn't affect the battery, but as a software developer myself, i can understand that bugs like this can sneak into the software, even after months of testing.
  • My 822 has been on for 13 hours with almost constant use the whole time so I'm feeling pretty good to be at 35%. Could it just be the 920 screen? The internal specs are basically the same.
  • nfc when i disabled it did indeed improve my bbattery life
  • I still argue that Drive+ is absolutely NOT a cause here-- at least, if you remember to "STOP NAVIGATION". If you leave it navigating, all bets are off for obvious reasons.
    I've literally used Drive+ every day this week and have sometimes left it on and sometimes closed/blocked it with absolutely no issues EXCEPT yesterday... the only day I didn't use Drive+. In fact, I had it blocked all day and had my phone on Airplane mode (except for LTE data). I had SEVERE drain yesterday, and today after a soft reset and a 7 hour drive home, my phone is back to "normal" with ALL components back to their usual state... 74% after 10 hours off the charger (Drive+ still in the background, NFC on, and Wi-Fi on as well. I'm back to 4G status instead of LTE.)
    My point is this... I have experienced the battery drain, but only outside of the situations being reported. It's my hunch that one of two things is true... it's either a battery status reporting bug (and yes, it DOES shut down your phone, even if it's just reporting improperly), or it's an incredibly buggy radio firmware that leaves a component (or more) active when it shouldn't... which would also explain the heat issues people are reporting. Thankfully, this would prove that it's something easily fixed by firmware, but the bad news we have to wait for Nokia and Microsoft to issue updates.
  • I actually think that it is a status bug as well. Yesterday day my 920 had shut off it self because it reached 0%. Then I tried to turn it back on and it didn't work at first(it just showed an empty battery symbol) when I tried to turn it on for a second time it suddenly booted and I was able to keep playing Cut The Rope and surfing the web for nearly an hour.
  • Maybe it is the screen. That's an interesting perspective.
  • Let my phone goes silent in the movie theater. Battery went from 95% to 67% in 2 hours. And there was lte signal in there. I did all the tricks mentioned but nothing seems to help. I will exchange the phone.
  • I went from great for 4 days, to terrible for 1 day (hot phone and down to 20% after zero use in 3 hours) back to great without really changing anything... I am convinced it was the Gmail continuous syncing issue reported on Wednesday.... Or possibly WP7 apps not working right with WP8.
  • I am not sure if people are aware of this. Straight from horse's mouth, to clear your open app stack or back ground tasks, keep hitting back button until clear. Test by holding back button for few secs. HTH
  • I still believe it is the weather channel app. Its a default install on nokias, so it is on every 920 phone. I remembered this background app issue from early on with my 900. First day at work with new phone it was dead before making it home from work, only about 9 hrs with full charge after several charge cycles over the weekend. Day 2 at about 80% same time frame. All radios on. This was the only change and I would say same usage both days. It was post new phone more use than normal time. I ended up finding an alternate weather app on my 900 and will likely do the same with 920.
  • I have an exceptional good battery life now. All I did was to turn off cellular data connection by default and turn it on only when I need to. I noticed by doing this that there's really no need to be online all the time (although I thought I need to) Anyway 1 day and 14 hours on my last charge now and still having 44% of juice. Watched some videos on it, checked and read some sites multiple times, made some calls and read a book. I would call that simply amazing....
  • No surprise there, 4g lte will sap your battery faster than anything. I can stay on WiFi for hours and be okay but go to 4g and my battery loses power like a sieve.
  • I think that these kinds of issues would be greatly decreased if there was a way to close an app from the multi task menu. Why didn't they just put it in there the same way it is on Windows 8 just drag down to close
  • great suggestion, that was my first instict when trying to close an app. 
  • When i found the feature that lets me see all the apps still open.  Holding down the back button...  the first thing I tried was swiping down on each app to close it.  Seems to me that this is a NO Brainer !  I'd love to walk upto the Windows Phone 8 building in Redmond and say HEY... watch what i WANT to do to close apps on my Windows Phone 8.... MAKE it Happen.... !!
  • I thought that one of the big benefits of Windows Phone, and part of the reason for great battery life, was not needing to manage background applications at all.
  • Well I do have a great battery life (see couple of posts above) and I do not close background apps.
  • The inconsistencies should tell us there is a problem. That no one user, phone, or set up can accurately give us ALL a consistent great battery life, clearly demonstrates that there is something to be addressed and fixed. What, I have NO clue. History tells me someone will figure it out and it will be remedied.
  • Pretty much... well said.
  • Also because usage varies. No two users use their phone the same way, run the same apps, use the same connections etc.
  • Meant as a reply to cdb..76 .
  • They should set up Nokia drive to stop running once you've reached your destination, or have manually stop navigation.  They could also give us that option in settings for those of us who do not wish for this apporach to be std.
    While we're at it, let's not forget the overheating issue as that might be a bigger fish. I want to do my part to promote Win8, but it is hard too defend it whenever someone ask me why it gets so hat aftet wating a 5 minute video clip.  I never had that issue with my Iphone 4, so there is nothing anyone can say about this being normal.  My daughter's Lumia 900 does't get hot either.
  • Oh my.  They should probably take my dog out when he needs to go as well :)
  • Turning off NFC, drive, uninstalling whatsapp, only weather running in background didnt help me.  
    If it wasn't for me watching twilight tonight, my battery would of died at 7 pm :o
  • A smartphone of this caliber shouldn't have to do what Android users and Windows Mobile users have to do, it should just do it for them. I think this would also be less of a problem if we had a way to actually close apps as well instead of backing out of an app by pushing the back button a bazillion times.
  • I wish there was a built in battery consumption app in WP so you could easily see where your power is going.
    This was one of the most useful things in Android.
  • +!
  • I guess problem is that battery drains more in standby as compared to androids etc and when i delete all tiles i get battery around for 4 days max and 2.5 days normal usage (wp7.5) i guess try deleting all tiles and check if this helps...problem i guess i that even if screen is off live tiles tend to consume more battery in standby.
  • I am n00b... :-( Can anybody explain what NFC is? How do I turn it off?
  • go to settings -> Tap+Send -> Turn off
  • I found out that disabling the auto back up (Apps+Setting list, Text) to the cloud gives my phone excellent battery life. If you feel that you need to back up your files so bad, switch it on while you charge your phone.
    Another tip: I would say there is options for auto uploading photos to SkyDrive-> choose the Best Quality (Wi-Fi only) also helps. Imagine that you take photos during the day on the go, and those photos are instanlly uploaded to SkyDrive using Data Plan (which means your phone must use battery to look for AT&T's towers, it drains the battery badly. By choosing (WiFi only) it will save that task until you connect to WiFi, yet save you extra data plan usage.
  • Imho, thats not good news at all. You should'nt need to worry about the apps running in the background. That was an argument for Windows Phone.
    Now you need to watch the background apps, need to hop in the settings to switch all the connectivity on and off. That's not what most people think of "easy".
  • agree and if we have to switch off background app then whats is the use of live tiles!!
  • Exactly how I feel. That Ativ S with the huge battery is looking nice. Come on T-Mo....
  • So basically Nokia's answer like with 800/900 is turn off anything that makes the phone usable, like background tasks that make life tiles work, etc.
  • Well myself i've found that the words with friends has some serious bugs in it and has drained my battery, made my phone go really hot and crashed it forcing me to reset it.  It got stuck on sending a move, the phone went really hot and after a reset of my phone had drained 20% of the battery withing the space of 20 mins, after deleting the app, yesterday I got 17 hours with no background tasks blocked and instant emails, before I put it on charge with 15% remaining with fairly heavy use, so I guess there are some faulty apps or a fault in the os locking the cpu at 100% which causes the heat and massive battery drain.
  • Turning off NFC made a huge difference in battery life for me and the phone didn't get as warm using GPS. The only thing I really let run in the background is weather, the rest of these tasks I don't really need running in the background.
  • My battery last over a day. I have an exchange email (50-100 emails a day) two personal emails, About 1 hour of music streaming through Xbox music, heavy texter, few phone calls and maybe 5 apps that are constantly running like Weather, CNN. I try to run down my battery then charge it using the Wireless plate only which takes a long time (4hrs) vs 2 1/2 on regular charger.
  • Does being in an LTE area drain the battery a little more when its on standby?
  • I'm in DC right now with an LTE connection. Two observations, the phone is hot enough to fry an egg, and I can see the battery indicator dropping as I type this ( that's an exaggeration but its dropping fast). I would say LTE has an effect.
  • No sir. That doesn't sound normal at all. The LTE in our processors at this point is pretty efficient and haven't heated up the phone in the several LTE phones I've had (Lumia 900, One X, GS3).. Yours sounds way off and you should get it exchanged .
  • My 920 was great when I 1st got it now though...
    Last night I went to bed with it fully charged, bluetooth off, NFC off, GPS off, data off, and battery saver on.  The battery was near dead this morning?
    I just tried the tips in the article and I'll see what happens...
  • The phone needs some sensors like: Temperature Sensor - Turning On/Off Super Sensitive Touch.
    Barometric, Humidity, GripSensor - Sensors on the edges of the Phone...
    They need to enable a "Phone Mode" there only the Kernel is UP and only 1 Task Allowed with it's notifications On.
    WP need to make the phone last on "stand by" at least 5 days.
  • Well, everything uses battery juice on your phone. And its good that Nokia is taking interest. But aside from OEM or Carrier apps running in the background (they have special privileges) nothing to see here. I run 9 or 10 background tasks on my L900 two of them sideload apps, and consistently burn through 3-4% of my battery while idle. This is over months of observation. With all the background tasks disabled, maybe about 3% per hour drain. So for me, worst case is 1% drain per hour. Not a bad tradoff for all those 9-10 apps do for me. Microsoft had BRTs buttoned up, limiting the time they can stay open and the amount of data they can transfer. I would look at OEM apps, like Nokia Drive, the GMail bug, and maybe even NFC as culprits, before considering background tasks as being the problem.  
  • Battery level down to 26% after just 3-hours of use; Krashlander; reading Flixster reviews. Phone currently warm to the touch with nothing running but the WPCentral app.
  • Started day with CNN, WP central, and weather channel only running, light use, and down 56% in 3 hours :-(
  • Shut off wpcentral lol j/k
  • Turned all off, still drains too fast. This one may have to go back!
  • I've tried all the gimmicks and suggestions, and nothing works. Battery life is embarrassing. I am sad that I will have to take this back. With Nokia and MS not releasing ANY information about this wide spread and obvious issue, I can't hold onto something that's broke without any indication or acknowledgement that they are aware, have identified the problem, and have a solution. Friday is 14 days, and its has to go back.
  • i've done all these tweaks to improve battery life and still i'm getting bad battery life. lost almost 50% in 2 hours with the phone just sitting there.
  • I mentioned in the last article but have you looked into your Wifi. In the advanced options turn off the Automatically detect new Wifi networks. This will not effect it reconnecting to a network you have already added.
  • most of the apps will run for 2 weeks and will shut off automatically only if you have not reopened it.
  • I wish 920 was a removal battery instead of having it Internal
  • I just had my first expriance with my phone heating up. Not sure what caused it since I normally have not signal at work anyways and last week no issues. Only thing I used recently was the Drive+ and that was two days ago. I always had signal the last two days so not sure if it has something to do with Drive and Connectivity. Disabled Drive+ background and rebooted so far no heating issues.
  • I initially had the battery issue. When I received my 920, I used it a little to set up my Live account, etc. Then charged it to 100%. I barely made it through the next day under moderate usage; had a critical battery notice at 4:00pm. Decided to run the battery until the phone died, then did another charge to 100%, turned off NFC. At 4:00pm the next day, I had 80% battery life left. Ran Nokia Drive+, Nokia Music, and played videos continuously that night to quickly run the battery to the ground, then charged it overnight to 100%. The next day, 4:00pm, still 100% battery life left, but with lighter usage (lots of talk, but not much data). The next day (today), I didn't charge it overnight, I still have 78% battery life left. Not bad.
  • Im getting great battery life after a few days of use/charging. Definately seems to improve after a couple charges as I have not changed anything and am using it a lot.
  • Any correlation between the faster draining and a knocking/thud noise coming from the handset?? i nearly bought a 920 today but due to a credit check issue.. i have to go back tomorrow. However, during a brief demo in store i did notice a curious knock from within the phone when i turned it over- ive heard that may be a poorly contructed battery housing... Surely the handsets should be silent when moving them around no?!!! can other's chime in here and confirm or deny this?! is your Lumia wobbly on the inside... ?!! I literally could be buying this tomorrow but DON'T want a dud!!!! HELP!
  • No idea what knocking or thud noise you are talking about.  Mine is really solid.  I did have one that had this weird clicking spot where if you would push down on the edge around the screen near the sim card the frame would click. But I swapped my phone out and this one is extremely solid, as were the demo units.
  • Never heard of or encountered such a thing!
  • Hit 1 day 17 hours on a single charge.  I have 3 exchange mail clients set up, most social services linked up to my phone, and I was texting quite a bit, and I was talking on the phone for about 3 hours that day.  Took a couple pictures as well.
    One setting I do have disabled is the High Sensitivity.  Figured I wouldnt need it unless I plan on wearing gloves.  No idea on the impact that might have.  But so far I'm pretty happy with the battery life.  I admit I did not really use many apps, and I do have it as a habit to click the Back button a bunch when I'm not using my phone for a while to close out of everything.
  • I had my cell charging since last night, an I just unplug my shows that I have only 9hrs left, WTH!!! It shoulb b a day an 15hr+.
    Why is my battery dead.already when I just got the cell Thursday night!!!
  • From Nokia support discussion: "Additionally please be aware that the percentage indicator in Battery Saver settings is indicative only and will become more accurate over time. This value will fluctuate is energy usage increases or decreases greatly due to app use or system requirements. As time passes this fluctuation will level out."
    What I have read, initially some have had poor battery life, but after 2 weeks of usage the battery gains 'full power' and is brilliant. Reboot, checking connections(bluetooth,nfc,wlan), checking backround apps + synchronizations might help.
  • Sorry for the double
  • Had the 920 battery issue yesterday for the first time. NFC and bluetooth both off, 4 LTE bars, WiFi on but not connected to a network. Without using the phone at all, the battery was dropping at about 10%/hour and was warm. I put the phone in airplane mode for a few minutes to let it cool down, then turned plane mode off. Phone remained cool and battery life went to a more normal 2%/hour drop.
    My theory now is that there might be a radio that gets in some mode that keeps it running, and 'resetting' it (in my case, with airplane mode), fixes the issue. Would be interested if others are seeing the same battery drop and try this to see if they have similar results.
  • That doesn't change the fact of % dropping quickly, showing the actual drain. Who cares about estimated time left!?
  • @ Jonhnnybii
    Ur right.!!!!
    I notice this morning that it was still showing me 9hrs left, so I was going to go to the att store to get my cell replace. But now I look an it shows me 2days and 3hrs., then I check 2hrs later and it shows 3 days and 7hrs.
    I'm happy to see it was just the phone that was trying to adjust.
  • Had 1 full day using the phone and it lasted all day. Noticed playing some games like plants vs zombies it goes down pretty quick. But lasted from 5am till 9:30pm. I did turn NFC off and blocked the Nokia drive as listed here. So far no issues. Hopefully it stays that way
  • Turned off NFC and Nokia Drive today and bang - massive saving in battery life. 13 hours off charge and it has dropped 60% today without battery saver versus 70% yesterday with it, with similar usage of the phone. Makes a surprising difference. Trying to run it down so that I can do a software reset charge tonight...
  • And the shocking news is that following the advice on here, letting the thing shut down and then charging from 0% to 100%, my battery indicator is now showing 87% remaining after 9 hours off charge, and was suggesting that if left on standby it might even last longer than 2 days. That's with half an hour of heavy duty surfing and downloading on the train using 4G and hourly updates to email and notifications. I'm very impressed!
  • I dunno whats wrong or what's with my Lumia 920, but with average use, such as music, Facebook, whatsapp, music, taking photos,and music again, my fully-charge battery can stay 2 days! Yes, 2 days. With data on during the day time and wi-fi on during the whole night.