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HTC Incredible / Android 2.1 battery life problem

:: Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 @ 1:21:53 am

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I’ve been using an HTC Incredible (running Android 2.1) for about a week now. Every phone / carrier combination has its trade-offs, but so far, I’m finding the HTC Incredible on Verizon to be the best combination of messaging productivity, application support, and mobile coverage (while I’m in the States, that is; when I leave the country, nothing touches a GSM Blackberry).

Starting yesterday, my HTC Incredible’s battery started draining at an unacceptable rate. Even leaving the phone alone in sleep mode resulted in battery drain, which effectively made the phone unusable if it wasn’t connected to a power source.

The HTC Incredible on Verizon comes with HTC’s Sense UI and a bunch of applications that you cannot uninstall, including Facebook for HTC, Backup Assistant, Weather, City ID, Peep (a Twitter client), and more. On the HTC Incredible, I can sync Google, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter accounts, and link multiple accounts to a single contact. In theory, this is fantastic: it allows me to look up a friend and see all her contact information, her latest Facebook status update and her photos uploaded to Flickr. Reviewers seem to love this feature.

But in practice, all of this integration and syncing is broken. Facebook, Flickr and Twitter sync settings allow users to set the interval between synchronization, but reports in Android forums show that allowing these services to sync can prevent the phone from ever going to sleep, which means full battery drain in a matter of hours — even when the phone is not in use. Everyone seems to agree that Flickr integration will prevent phones from sleeping. Some say that HTC Facebook integration also causes problems.

Here’s a good way to see if your phone is going to sleep:

  1. Turn off your phone
  2. Turn it back on
  3. Wait 10 minutes or so
  4. Go to Settings->About phone->Battery and compare the Up time and Awake time

If they are the same, your phone is not going to sleep.

I’m not sure if Flickr or Facebook integration were also causing problems on my phone, but I discovered that my battery drain issues were a result of problem with Google’s Sync Contacts feature. All of the other Account sync settings allow a sync interval to be set, but Google account synchronization has no such settings. Instead, Google’s sync schedule is governed by the master Auto-sync setting in Accounts & sync. I noticed that my Sync Contacts had an active sync icon by it, and an error message was flashing repeatedly (every few seconds) at the bottom of the display. It appeared that my phone was trying to sync Google contacts every few seconds, endlessly! It’s no wonder that my battery was draining so quickly.

I turned Auto-sync off and snapped a photo of the error message (I need a screen snapshot app — miss this feature of the iPhone!):


“Sync is currently experiencing problems. It will be back shortly.”

I’m not sure how the Android team defines “shortly,” but it had already been 24 hours, so I took matters into my own hands. I went to Settings->Applications->Manage applications, tapped Contacts Storage, and then Clear Data. Immediately after clearing my local contacts, my phone began to re-sync Google contacts, and everything has been fine after that. I have turned Auto-sync back on, and have not noticed excessive battery drain.

What this episode has done to me is make me extremely wary when enabling account sync features in Android / Sense UI. I’ve also started monitoring apps because the Background data setting in Accounts & sync governs background data access for every single app on the device. Most apps that consume background data seem to have settings that allow users to define sync / fetch intervals, but we are completely at the mercy of developers here: one bug, and your phone may never sleep again. This is one of the main disadvantages of not having centralized app approval.

I’ve already uninstalled one app because it refused to stop loading itself. The BBC News app seems like it might be really useful, but it constantly loads itself even when told not to (it doesn’t allow you to disable checking altogether, so I set it to an interval of 365 days). If an application doesn’t honor my request to stay off, I will remove it from my device.

Here are all the steps I took to get my HTC Incredible battery drain issues under control:

  1. Removed Flickr account in Accounts & sync
  2. Removed Twitter accounts in Accounts & sync
  3. Removed Facebook for HTC Sense account in Accounts & sync (instead, installed the normal non-HTC Facebook app from Android Market)
  4. Disabled Backup Assistant – If you’re setting up your Incredible for the first time and don’t need this, DO NOT ENABLE IT. Once you enable it, you can never completely disable it… but you can effectively make it do nothing.
  5. Cleared Contacts Storage, allowing Google to re-sync Contacts

I should have known better than to try to use all of the features presented to me. I always try to push my devices to the edge, but no device can actually ever do everything its manufacturer’s marketing department says it can do.

Update: After taking these steps, I used my phone for an entire day (light internet and mail access and about 80 minutes of voice calling). My battery is still at 40%.


Update: Being unable to fully remove Facebook for HTC and Backup Assistant was bothering me, so I decided to do a factory reset of my phone (Menu->Settings->Privacy->Factory data reset) and re-sync. A factory reset is the only way to really disable those two apps once they are configured and running.

During the initial HTC Incredible setup wizard, I gave it my Google credentials but declined Backup Assistant support. I also didn’t enter any other accounts (no Facebook, Twitter or Flickr). I also replaced my battery with a Seidio 1750mAh battery, which has also helped a lot.

It’s really easy to do a factory reset if your mail, contacts and calendar are all on Google. My phone re-synced my 1161 contacts fairly quickly. I went to the Android Market and selected Menu->Downloads. All of my purchased and recently downloaded apps were listed there, so I just re-downloaded them, one at a time. I was back up and running in less than an hour.

My battery life is actually quite good, now. Today (so far), my phone reports up time of 9:17 and awake time of 1:04, and my battery is still at 70%.

| San Francisco, CA | link | trackback | Jun 8, 2010 01:21:53
  • Prubinas

    Interesting that I had the same problem on an HTC Droid Eris that started at about the same time as your issue. I wonder if Google changed something at the server level that caused this to occur.

  • nsvm

    I had the same problem. If occurred after I installed the 2.1 firmware update. After a complete charge, it stops working properly and never sleeps. Until, that is, I turn it off and then back on again. It works again, i.e., sleeps properly, until the next recharge. Droid Eris.

  • Helen Hansma

    My new Eris seemed to develop an incredible battery drain on June 15, and the main new thing I remember doing that day was installing the Wells Fargo App. Does anyone have [bad] experience with that app?

    Deleting my Contacts sounds scary – some of them are still on Outlook, on a computer in a different city [San Fran] at the moment. Do you suppose that's essential – to delete Contacts?

    Thanks,
    Helen Hansma

  • Helen Hansma

    My association of the bank app and the battery drain is almost certainly a coincidence. HH

  • http://echeng.com/ Eric Cheng

    I just edited this post to include an update — I did a factory reset and replaced my battery with a 1750 mAh Seidio battery.

  • ezollars

    Just to add-same issue arose on my HTC EVO after touching HTC's Facebook integration. The clearing contacts fix worked fine (at least for now).

  • http://www.facebook.com/wacht Michael Shaggy Wacht

    It is unfortunate that there is no straight forward method of removing the HTC Sense widgets and programs from the phone. Currently Rooting is not an option for me.

    Several people have mentioned the same problems on forums I was checking out due to my own battery drain issue. I have found similar success in factory reseting and not enabling Facebook. I may do it again to remove backup assistant after reading your experience.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://echeng.com/ Eric Cheng

    With the changes listed here + replacing the battery with a Seidio 1750mAh, my Incredible is now lasting more than a day (of heavy use).

  • http://twitter.com/jefftweetshere Jeff Jones

    I have a Rooted Droid Inc and it was constantly syncing. Checked out my background sync info and google and Facebook for HTC Sense Appeared to be the problem. I followed your tip for my google account and cleared the data in contacts storage. For the Facebook issue since I am rooted I used Titanium Backup’s Chuck Norris Mode and removed Facebook for HTC & Flicker since I don’ use it. My sync problems are not solved. I looked everywhere for a solution and your post is the only thing that got me on the right track. Thanks!

    PS Root users have access to apps that take a screen shot :)

  • Stephen

    I had the same power problems as above on my HTC Aquire. Bought new HTC batteries——same thing. Bought new external charger for stock HTC’s—–same thing. DEAD ON DEAD! Lastly by luck I ordered a brand I never heard of named “Sporting Persistence” and BINGO!!!——–all and every power problem inexplicably vanished. I now can charge my phone from the cable cord (couldn’t earlier) and now enjoy long hours of operation time between charges

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