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Are “Free” Apps Draining Your Battery Life?

Monday, April 20th, 2015 by | Filed Under: Android, Smartphones

A news study says that many so-called “free” apps that display ads are sucking the life right out of your smartphone’s battery and also taking up chunks of your data plan.

Many users choose free versions of apps instead of paying anywhere from .99 to $12.99 for ad-free paid versions. Turns out that can cost you in the long run. Free apps that are ad-supported use 16% more energy than apps without ads. They compared 21 favorite apps from Google Play store and found that the free apps with ads cut battery life on the phone by more than 2 hours.


The also take up nearly 25% more memory in your phone and can use a whopping 80% more network data. Many of these ads contain content that must be downloaded. 

If you’re on a plan with data limits, that can really gobble up your time.


Researchers at USC, Rochester Institute of Technology and Queen’s University say these apps make your phone run slower overall as well.  The researchers say the battery draining effects probably aren’t intentional. Some developers just don’t take battery life and data usage into consideration when adding ads to their apps. Researchers hope this study will make developers more aware of the problem.


People have come to expect free apps and can be reluctant to pay for them. It’s impossible for a developer to maintain the servers and support for an app without money coming in and ads generate income. In fact, many find them preferable to the other way developers can generate money from free apps, which is to sell your information to advertisers.

 If you really enjoy an ad-laden app, consider spending a little money to upgrade to a an ad-free paid version. Or look for a similar app with less ad content.

~ Cynthia

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9 Responses to “Are “Free” Apps Draining Your Battery Life?”

  1. Nick Cady says:

    How about doing a series of stories on the free apps that —
    use the most battery power,
    interrupt you the most often,
    interrupt you for the longest periods,
    hog the most resources,
    send your personal data out to other advertisers,
    modify your computer’s settings.

  2. sandy richardson says:

    My Galaxy S4 came with the usual att bloatware. It took me a while but I took the plunge and had my phone rooted to see if I could now get a decent working phone. There are still issues with the battery and I didn’t realize that it might be because I always got free apps, never paid for any. Are you saying that by paying for the apps there will be less ads? Never knew that was part of the problem behind my slow phone, but now will try downloading paid apps instead and see what happens. Thanks for your help and wonderful tips!

    • cynthia says:

      Sandy it would depend on the app. Some free apps are very heavy with ads and others are not. But it is something to keep an eye on.

  3. sandy richardson says:

    I also like Nick Cady’s response to doing a little course on what free apps do not steal important data and battery power so we can be more educated when purchasing apps in the future? By the way, when I go to purchase apps does it matter if my phone is rooted or not? Is there a special “play store” for rooted phones?

    • cynthia says:

      When you root a phone, you can use 3rd party app stores. I’d be very careful with them, because you are more likely to find malicious app in there.

  4. David Ballou says:

    Depending on where I am, my iphone 5 can drain battery either a lot or a little, regardless of whether I am using my phone. I usually try to turn off many features, but battery drain can be significant.

  5. Steve Linne says:

    Is there anyway to tell how apps are using your battery? I have to recharge my iPhone 5 every day. Sometimes twice in one day.

  6. Donald Quinlan says:

    My iPhone allows me to turn off access to cellular data. I have a number of apps that I switch on before using, e.g., Parkometer, which I use every so often. I usually get two days on a charge, but I don’t talk much, text less, and don’t surf from my phone.

  7. GW says:

    I only charge my iPhone 6s every day and a half.

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