Samsung Epic 4G Battery Life: Fixing Excessive Battery Consumption

Do you have a Samsung Epic 4G or other Android phone? Do you have to recharge your battery daily or more than once a day even when you’re hardly doing anything with it? That’s not normal. My Samsung Epic, when lightly used, only needs to be recharged every three to four days.

“Impossible!” you say. “These are powerful phones and they use up the battery faster.” That may be true if you’re talking on the phone, watching videos and playing Angry Birds on it all day long. However, many people are having to frequently recharge their phones even under light to no usage, which should not be happening.

“You must use task killers, Juice Defender, a special kernel or some extreme tools to get that kind of battery life.” Actually, I’ve tried some, but abandoned such measures. They’re not necessary. There are many well-known ways to conserve power such as turning off services you don’t need, checking for mail less often, dimming the screen, etc. These are certainly important and should be practiced. But, there’s more.

Despite these normal power conservation techniques, when the Samsung Epic starts to drain the battery, it does so at an alarming rate. Here’s a log of the battery level at approximately ten-minute intervals that I kept when mine recently started to suck the battery dry:

62% @ 11:37 pm
61% @ 11:45 pm
59% @ 11:58 pm
57% @ 12:10 pm
56% @ 12:17 pm
55% @ 12:27 pm
52% @ 12:37 pm
51% @ 12:47 pm
50% @ 12:57 pm
49% @ 1:07 am
48% @ 1:10 am
47% @ 1:20 am
45% @ 1:36 am
44% @ 1:50 am
43% @ 2:05 am

It’s draining the battery at a rate of about 10% per hour. This is with the phone’s screen, GPS, 3G/4G data, Wi-Fi, automatic updates, Bluetooth and sound turned off. No applications were running. In fact, during this period, I had more things turned off than I usually do.

It’s been documented at the Sprint Community forum and various blogs that the Samsung Epic can go into a mode where it will continuously search for the cellular network. I have encountered this and the usual fix is to turn on airplane mode for a few seconds and then turn it off again to reset the radio. Unfortunately, I found that this fix doesn’t always work. Even shutting down the phone completely and then turning airplane mode on and off doesn’t help.

In the two cases thus far, when the simple fix for this problem didn’t work, two things did. The first was turning on airplane mode overnight. The second was turning the phone completely off overnight. Here’s a short log of battery life after the overnight fix for the sudden battery consumption I logged above:

41% @ 8:33 am
41% @ 8:44 am
41% @ 8:49 am
41% @ 9:00 am
40% @ 9:01 am
40% @ 9:10 am
40% @ 9:20 am
40% @ 9:33 am
39% @ 9:41 am

As you can see, now the phone is only consuming 1-2% per hour, rather than 1% every 10 minutes. The screen was off, but 3D data was enabled and some services that I turned off during the excessive battery usage were running again since the phone had freshly booted. So, despite having more things turned on, the phone is back to normal and will last significantly longer than the 8-10 hours that many owners of the Samsung Epic are reporting online as “normal”.

Does this fix really require turning the phone off (or putting it into airplane mode) all night? At this time, I’m not sure how long it needs to stay in the off/airplane state. It definitely needs more than a few minutes, because I’ve tried that and it’s not enough. So, it’s somewhere between a few minutes and 6.5 hours.

Have you tried this fix? How long did you have to keep your phone off or in airplane mode to get it to behave? Post your experience in the comments.

Linksys Router Doesn’t Connect to Ambit uBee U10C018 Cable Modem

I recently ran into a situation where a Linksys WRT-54G wasn’t able to get an IP address when connected to an Ambit/uBee U10C018 cable modem. This issue may also apply to other routers when used with the U10C018 cable modem.

When a PC is connected directly to the modem, everything works fine and the Internet can be reached normally. When a router is placed inbetween, then there is no longer any access to the Internet. Viewing the status information in the router shows that it is unable to acquire an IP address, even though the router is set to use automatic configuration via DHCP, the same as the PC.

Apparently, the U10C018 cable modem is aware of the MAC address of various routers. In order to get the router to work with the modem, use the MAC cloning feature of the router. The location of this option will depend on your particular router brand and model. When you find it, turn it on. Then, set the desired MAC address.

On the Linksys router, the MAC address cloning page has a button to copy the MAC from the PC that’s currently connected to the administration interface. If your router has this feature, use it to set the router to the same MAC address as your computer. If your router does not have this feature, then you’ll have to get your MAC from the network driver or the network card.

Once you have a non-router MAC entered into the MAC cloning setting, save and restart the router.

Have you run into this issue? If so, post your router model and steps to configure MAC cloning for it in the comments.

Button to Turn on Epic 4G Keyboard Backlight

Many reviews of the Samsung Epic 4G (SPH-D700) Android phone fault it for the backlighting of the four shortcut buttons at the bottom of the phone. When the keyboard backlight times out (six seconds, by default), those touch-sensitive shortcut buttons are no longer visible at all. The area becomes completely black. As a result, you either have to memorize which location is Menu, Home, Back and Search, or increase the backlight’s timeout, which uses more battery power.

Well, there’s actually another solution. When the shortcut keys are not visible, simply press the camera shutter button, located at the bottom-right of the phone when held in portrait orientation. Et voila! The keyboard backlight turns on. Since the camera button is raised, it’s easy to find, even in the dark.

Have any other tips for the Epic 4G? Share them in the comments.

Thunderbird Can’t Create Mailbox Node When Archiving Email Messages

For quite some time, I’ve been getting an error whenever I tried to archive an email message on an IMAP server for the first time during a Thunderbird session (i.e., archiving the first email after starting Thunderbird). All subsequent archiving operations would be error-free until I restarted Thunderbird. (Note: I’m using Thunderbird 3)

After pressing Ctrl+A to archive an email message, Thunderbird’s Activity Manager would contain the following error:

“The current command did not succeed. The mail server for account Account Name: Can’t create mailbox node /path/to/mail/Archive/: File exists.”

Despite much searching, I wasn’t able to find anyone else who encountered this problem when archiving an email message. So, I worked around the problem by just remembering that the first message I archive had to be archived twice, because the first attempt would fail and the message wouldn’t leave the inbox.

Today, I discovered the solution. After setting up a new IMAP account, I didn’t receive any error archiving email messages from this new inbox. However, the Archive folder had a subfolder named 2010. Aha! So, Thunderbird must be trying to create a similar folder in my other account and failing. Well, I don’t need these annual subfolders, so turning off the behavior should take care of the problem.

Fortunately, it is possible to disable the annual folders created by Thunderbird’s archiving feature:

  1. Click on Options in the Tools menu
  2. Click on the Advanced tab icon
  3. Click the Config Editor button (if you receive a facetious warning about voiding your warranty, just accept it)
  4. In the Filter text box, enter granularity
  5. Double-click the preference mail.server.default.archive_granularity and enter the value 0

With the granularity set to zero, Thunderbird won’t create annual subfolders in the archive folder. This finally got rid of the error because the problematic server didn’t allow a mailbox folder to have subfolders.

10 of My Favorite Firefox Add-ons

In my Firefox 3.6.6 browser, I currently have 24 add-ons. Yeah, that’s kind of a lot, but it’s fewer than I had in older versions of Firefox. Nevertheless, if I had to pick my top-10 must-have add-ons, they would be as follows, in alphabetical order:

  1. Adblock Plus – Pages load faster and are easier to read without all the ads. Adblock Plus not only filters the ads out, but it also automatically updates its filters from one of several rulesets that you can select from when you install the add-on.
  2. Add N Edit Cookies+ or Firecookie – There are many add-ons for managing cookies, but very few that enable you to edit the content of any cookie. Add N Edit Cookies was one of, if not the, first one, though it is no longer maintained. The ‘+’ version has been updated to install on the latest versions of Firefox. Alternatively, if you use Firebug, below, then Firecookie is a plugin for Firebug that adds cookie editing capability to the debugger. Even if you’re not a developer, being able to edit cookie values is very handy for various things such as making a short-lived session cookie stick around for as long as you want.
  3. Firebug – This is the ultimate debugging environment for Firefox. Whether you’re working on HTML/CSS or JavaScript/AJAX, Firebug enables you to see and tweak things on the live page in the browser. There are too many capabilities to list here. If you don’t already know about Firebug, check it out.
  4. Greasemonkey – Know a little JavaScript? Then you can write Greasemonkey scripts to add, remove or modify the contents of a web page when Firefox loads it. To see what’s possible, take a look at some of the scripts at as well as the online book “Dive into Greasemonkey”.
  5. Live HTTP Headers – If you need to see the actual conversation between your browser and the web server, this is the add-on for you. It’ll record and show you the header information for every file request and response as it happens. You can even modify the header information for a request and resend it.
  6. NoScript – Letting JavaScript code from any web site execute in your browser isn’t particularly safe. Some scripts can be downright annoying. NoScript enables you to decide which web sites are OK to run scripts and which aren’t.
  7. Session Manager – Although Firefox has a built-in session manager to restore your tabs when the browser crashes, this add-on goes much further. With Session Manager, you can save multiple sessions with their own sets of tabs and windows with their corresponding back button histories. Tame your myriad tabs by creating a session for work, one for social networks, another for your hobby, etc. In addition, you can set them to be auto-save sessions so you don’t have to remember to save the current one when you switch to another.
  8. Tab Mix Plus – Each version of Firefox makes tab functionality better, but Tab Mix Plus gives you more control over them, including the ability to duplicate tabs, control tab focus and lock tabs. Although it has its own session manager, it is aware of the Session Manager add-on and won’t interfere.
  9. Vacuum Places Improved – Do you find that Firefox’s address bar and form auto-complete start to get really slow after a while? It’s because the sqlite database containing all that information needs compacting and this is the add-on to do it easily. It makes a big difference.
  10. Web Developer – Too many useful features in this add-on to list here. Some of the ones I use most include resizing the browser to specific dimensions (e.g. 1024×768), outlining specific types of HTML elements on the page and extracting the actual HTML source from the current page (including dynamically-added content that Firefox’s View Source leaves out).

Bonus add-on #11: Adblock Plus: Element Hiding Helper – Although Adblock Plus does a good job of removing ads, sometimes there are other page elements that you want to get rid of. The Element Hiding Helper works with Adblock Plus to enable you to point at a block of content on a web page with your mouse and make it go away for that specific page or anywhere on a site.

Since I use Firefox for development as well as surfing, many of these add-ons are developer-oriented. Your most-useful add-ons will depend on your usage and may be quite different than mine. That’s the beauty of Firefox’s add-on community–so many enhancements to fit your needs.

What are your favorite Firefox add-ons?