Should you turn off cellular data to save battery?

It is simply amazing how much stuff is inside your phone. In addition to the buttons, screen, ports, and speakers (and the chips that make them work) there are at least five (and sometimes up to 12) radio transmitters and receivers. That’s, like, as much as in a television tower farm. Of course they’re not as powerful which is good because, well, they’d be lethal.

Still, those radios do take up power and if you’re looking to squeeze every bit of battery life out of your device, you might be tempted to turn one or two of them off. If you don’t use Bluetooth, absolutely turn it off, but it won’t do a lot for you since Bluetooth uses very little power. On the other hand, what about cellular data? This is a radio that has to be powerful enough to send high-speed data to a receiver a mile away. Surely turning that off will save you some power.

And yes, it does.

I’ve been testing this theory for about five years using a variety of phones. I wouldn’t say my data is totally conclusive, because it wasn’t done in a lab under identical circumstances. In my tests, I lost an average of about 5% per hour of battery by actually using cellular data compared to Wi-Fi, in other words Wi-Fi is more efficient. But then if you’re consuming a lot of data, you’re also processing a lot of data so your phone is going to drain, fast. I think we all know that. It’s also worth pointing out that older phones used more battery more quickly than newer phones. I tend to think that’s because of battery degradation, not because of anything else.

And yet I say, don’t turn off cellular data unless you have to.

Personally I don’t recommend turning off cellular data. The drain isn’t that big when it’s not used and you’ll get a lot of nag screens telling you to turn it back on, even if you’re on Wi-Fi. When you do go out in the world, you might forget to turn it back on, which means your maps won’t work right, you’ll lose e-mails, and in general you’ll just be very unhappy. You’ll even lose access to voicemail. While that’s become less important over the years, it’s still true. Even though you’ll have tons of battery left, you won’t be able to tell anyone about it unless you voice or text (and in some cases you’ll lose advanced texting features, too.)

Are there better options?

So what’s the best way to conserve battery if turning off parts of your phone is a bad idea? It’s a cellular signal booster. A cell booster amplifies the signal coming from cell towers meaning that your phone doesn’t have to work so hard to amplify it. Most people don’t realize that your phone uses more battery if it’s in a low-signal area.

Putting in a cell phone signal booster means more signal gets to your phone. That means real increases in battery life without losing the ability to use cellular data. Cellular boosters are easy to install and in some cases all you have to do is put one in the window. Boosters come in many sizes and price ranges to fit different budgets and cover different size areas. Over 90% of homes suffer from poor signal in some part or other, so why not do something about it? Shop for cellular signal boosters now at Solid Signal. If you need help choosing one, call us! We’re here for you during East Coast business hours at 888-233-7563.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.