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Sandy aftermath: How to prolong battery life and stay connected without power

People in New York's Tribeca neighborhood, without power

People in New York's Tribeca neighborhood, without power because of superstorm Sandy, wait for a chance to charge their mobile phones on an available generator setup on a sidewalk. (Oct. 30, 2012) Credit: AP

If your cell phone battery is hanging on by a thread – and if you’ve made it this far, you’re already pretty fortunate – there are a few steps you can still take to get every last drop out of that baby. Granted, it’s a little bit late at this point (Warp Pipe would have passed along this information sooner -- if only its bloggers had the power to do so), but better late than never.

Without further ado, here are 11 steps you can take to make the most out of your battery life and reconnect with your friends, family, email and news while your power is out. If you have any additional tips, please help us update this list and keep Long Islanders charged up, by writing to us in the comments section below.

1. If you don’t have power, that means you don’t have WiFi. So why let your smartphone drain battery looking for a service that’s unavailable? Turn off the WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS settings on your smartphones and laptops. (You can accomplish this, and steps two through six, under the “settings” area of your phone.)

2. If you typically get automatic updates from Facebook, Twitter and other applications sent to your phone (usually called push notifications), it means your phone is intermittently contacting these sites in search of updates. That uses power. Assuming Facebook isn’t vital to your phone use, and considering the fact that most data networks are crawling on Long Island, you’re probably better off with push notifications turned off.

3. Turn off the cellular data network (i.e., the 3G/4G functions), if you aren’t getting internet/email on your phone anyway.

4. Reduce the brightness of the screen on your devices. The brighter the screen, the more power it uses for display.

5. If you’re expecting phone calls or messages, make sure to turn off the vibrate function. Ringtone notifications use less battery (and the lower the volume of those notifications, the better).

6. But if you aren’t expecting incoming communications, set your phone to “airplane mode” when you aren’t using it. That turns off all cell, data, GPS, Bluetooth and Wifi capabilities and essentially takes care of each of the first three steps listed above in one fell swoop. Just be sure to switch out of airplane mode before you try to make a call or send a message.

7. Not everyone realizes that when you pull up an application on their smartphone, and then hit the home button to use another function, that first application continues to run in the background so the phone can pull it up faster. Of course, this uses battery. When you’re done using an application, make sure to shut it down completely. If you’re using an iPhone, you can do this by double-clicking the home button and, when the list of applications running appears along the bottom of your screen, hold your finger down on one of these applications until they all start jiggling with little minus symbols on the top left corner of the app icon. Tap that minus button to turn off applications you aren’t using.

8. Don’t forget, if you still have some juice left in your laptop battery, you can charge most smart phones by plugging one into the USB drive on your computer. Presumably, without Internet, your phone is more critical than your computer for staying in touch and up to date.

9. Do you have a car charger for your phone? If so, rev up your engine and plug in.

10. Think outside the box. There might be some power available in unconventional public places. Bank lobbies, cafes and even some public parks and outdoor landscaped areas have outlets.

11. If you do want to use actual Internet – be it on your phone or your laptop – there are many free hot spots on the Island.

-- If driving isn’t too much of a safety issue, hop into your car and head to the local Starbucks (, Panera ( or another cafe. Many have free WiFi. And don’t forget to bring your charger, too, in case there are outlets available.

-- Many cable companies, including Optimum/Cablevision (, Comcast/XFinity (, Time Warner ( and AT&T (, have introduced a bevy of free WiFi spots to customers throughout Long Island over the past year. If you’re loaded with battery, download the apps these providers have that list all the nearby hot spots. If battery power is at a premium, walk around outside or circle the neighborhood in your car – you’d be surprised by how much WiFi is out there.

    Again, if we left anything out, or if you have more suggestions, please drop us a line in the comments below.


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