Make your BlackBerry PlayBook battery last longer

When I first started using my BlackBerry PlayBook tablet about a month ago, I was impressed that I could get through nearly an entire day of moderate-to-heavy use--non-stop e-mail and messaging, frequent browsing and checking my social networks, along with the occasional streamed video or audio track.

But today, my PlayBook battery has significantly less life per charge, and that seems to be largely due to RIM's latest BlackBerry PlayBook OS update. (RIM has acknowledged that PlayBook OS v1.0.3.1868, the most recently released PlayBook OS, can cause users to experience a substantial drop in battery life than previous OS builds. Read more details here.)

Until RIM releases an updated PlayBook OS to address the weakened battery life in the latest tablet software, PlayBook owners experiencing battery issues will mostly just have to deal with less overall tablet life.

Thankfully, a number of measures exist that you can take to help boost your overall PlayBook battery life. Even if you're among the lucky few owning a PlayBook not exhibiting any negative affects from the latest PlayBook OS, the following battery tips and tricks can still help you get more life out of your tablet.

(Also check out my other recent PlayBook tips for all RIM tablet users, along with this list of PlayBook security best practices. And if it's PlayBook apps you seek, I've got you covered there, as well. Read "10 Must-Have Downloads for All PlayBook Users," and "8 More Great PlayBook Apps--All Free."

Disable PlayBook Wireless Radios When Not In Use

Though the initial version of RIM's PlayBook is Wi-Fi only, meaning it does not currently pack a cellular radio, the tablet does have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios. One of the simplest ways to conserve PlayBook battery is by turning off these radios when they're not in use.

Unfortunately, you'll need to leave Bluetooth enabled at all times if you wish to access your BlackBerry e-mail and PIM applications via your BlackBerry smartphone and the BlackBerry Bridge application. (Read more about BlackBerry Bridge here.)

However, you can save battery life by disabling Bluetooth when you don't need access to your BlackBerry e-mail, calendar, contacts etc. And RIM has promised native e-mail and PIM apps for the PlayBook some time this summer, so it shouldn't be too long before you can access these apps without the need for an active Bluetooth connection--assuming your BlackBerry administrator chooses not to continue using Bridge, which can provide an added layer of security, since no BES information is ever stored on a PlayBook that uses Bridge for access to BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) data.

To disable PlayBook Wi-Fi, simply click the Wi-Fi symbol in your PlayBook's home-screen system tray, located in the upper-right corner of your display, and then tap the Wi-Fi on/off button so it reads Off.

The process for disabling Bluetooth is similar; just tap the Bluetooth icon in your PlayBook's system tray, then tap the on/off button into the off position.

Keep PlayBook, BlackBerry Smartphone Close When Bridged

If you're like me, you keep your BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and RIM smartphone connected, via BlackBerry Bridge, at all times, for continuous access to BlackBerry mail, calendar, contacts, etc. But because Bridge employs Bluetooth to connect your tablet and smartphone, you may see notably less PlayBook and smartphone battery life when connected via Bridge--especially if your tablet and smartphone aren't particularly close to each other or they're separated by a wall or other obstacle when Bridged.

It's a good idea to keep your smartphone and tablet relatively close while they're Bridged, since it can take more battery life to transfer data back and forth between the two devices when they're any distance away from each other.

Your tablet and smartphone may also occasionally lose the Bluetooth connection if they're too far apart or the signal can't travel through a particularly thick wall, for example, which could lead to even more battery drain as the devices attempt to reconnect.

Charge PlayBook Often, Use "Rapid" Charging Accessories

The best way to ensure that your BlackBerry PlayBook tablet always has battery life is to charge it whenever possible. When you're sitting at your desk working, plug in your PlayBook. When you're on the couch surfing the Web, keep the tablet charging. It may sound like a bit of a no-brainer, but the more frequently you charge your tablet, the less likely it is to run out of power when you need it the most. (Note: RIM recently suggested "cycling" your PlayBook battery following the BlackBerry Tablet OS update to v1.0.2.1868, so you may want to fully discharge then recharge your battery a few times.)

To ensure that you can always charge your PlayBook when you have access to a power outlet, it's a good idea to pick up an extra charger or two; one for home, one for the office, etc. However, it's worth noting that you should not use a BlackBerry smartphone charger to power up your PlayBook. The two devices require a different charging current, and not only will it take much longer to power up your tablet if you're using a normal BlackBerry smartphone charger, your tablet isn't likely to receive a full charge.

RIM also offers a couple of "rapid charging" accessories: the BlackBerry PlayBook Rapid Charger; and the PlayBook Rapid Charging Pod. Though I haven't used either of them and therefore can't attest to their effectiveness, RIM says the rapid charging accessories can power up your tablet in half the time of the standard PlayBook charger. (Neither accessory is cheap, though, at $70.00 each.)

Properly Manage PlayBook Multitasking, Close Unused Apps

The BlackBerry PlayBook is a multitasking powerhouse. But real multitasking--leaving many apps open or active while switching back and forth between them--can drastically increase your PlayBook's power consumption.

First things first, it's a good idea to get into the habit of closing PlayBook apps whenever you're finished using them. This will help ensure that those apps aren't draining any valuable power, and your PlayBook will perform better overall with fewer open applications. To close a PlayBook app, simply exit out of it by swiping your finger upwards from the bottom of your display, then click the tiny "X" that appears beneath it. You can also swipe upwards again from the minimized app to the top of your display to "flick" it closed.

The BlackBerry PlayBook offers users a few different multitasking "modes," one of which will drain more PlayBook battery than the others when used carelessly. To access the various PlayBook Application Behavior settings, open up your PlayBook settings menu by tapping the gear-icon in the top-right corner of your PlayBook's home screen. Next, select the General option, and you'll see a section for Application Behavior.

The Default setting stops all open applications when one of them is in full-screen mode. The Paused option is the best for conserving battery life, because it "freezes" all applications until you use them in full-screen mode. And the Showcase setting, though valuable, because it can leave all your applications running and active even when another app is in full-screen mode, is the harshest on battery life.

PlayBook owners who are very conscious of battery life will probably want to use the Paused option most frequently to conserve power. But the PlayBook's Application Behavior settings are somewhat irrelevant if you simply close your apps when you're not using them.

Optimize PlayBook Display, Notification Settings to Boost Battery Life

The PlayBook's brilliant 1024 x 600 WSVGA display looks great, but it can also notably drain battery life if not managed correctly. Thankfully, RIM built a number of display-related settings into the PlayBook Tablet OS that can help you maximize your tablet battery life.

To access your PlayBook display settings, tap the gear-icon in the top right corner of your home screen, and then choose the Screen option.

The settings you want to modify here are related to how your display behaves while not charging, so you should tap the Battery options. Next, decrease the screen Brightness setting to the lowest value you feel comfortable with; the lower the screen brightness, the less drain on your battery. Then do the same for the Backlight Time-out and Standby Time-out settings; the shorter the time period you set, the more PlayBook power you'll retain.

Finally, it's a good idea to enable Automatic Backlight Dimming because this setting will also help conserve PlayBook battery.

You can also help to boost overall tablet battery by opening up your Sounds options within the PlayBook settings, and reducing the Master Volume, Keyboard Feedback and Notifications sound settings to the lowest value that works for you.

Reduce Use of PlayBook Video Chat, Streaming Services

Thanks to the BlackBerry PlayBook's Video Chat app, videoconferencing on RIM's tablet is as simple as launching an application and clicking a contact's name. But PlayBook video chat comes with a price; the application is a serious battery hog, and it should be used sparingly.

In fact, I suggest plugging your PlayBook into a power outlet whenever you employ the video chat app, since it drains the battery so rapidly. I also recommend reducing the use of other similar streaming services, such as Amazon's Cloud Drive and Player, and even YouTube streaming videos--or at least plug in your tablet while you use them.

It is also worth noting that even if you don't employ the PlayBook Video Chat app, you should open it and accept the terms of use, according to RIM, because leaving the terms "unaccepted" can drain battery life.

This story, "Make your BlackBerry PlayBook battery last longer" was originally published by CIO.

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