Baidu’s Android apps go green for better battery life

Chris Davies - Jul 27, 2015, 7:25am CDT
Baidu’s Android apps go green for better battery life

We’ve all been there: the excitement of getting a new smartphone, the fun of loading it up with your favorite apps, and then the frustration when your handset starts getting weighed-down and your battery runs flat. DU Battery Saver and DU Speed Booster, products from China’s biggest search engine company Baidu, admittedly can’t satiate your upgrade lust for the latest Android flagship. Instead, they promise something perhaps even more useful: the ability to squeeze more performance out of your existing phone and postpone the need to buy a new one. But for the app developers, those benefits are secondary to an even more ambitious goal: helping the environment. If you’re upgrading your phone less frequently, you’re reducing your e-waste footprint and energy usage and putting less strain on the planet.

According to the product team at Baidu, keeping phones out of landfills and saving electricity have always been the philosophies behind DU Battery Saver and DU Speed Booster. “Nearly 2 billion people have smartphones, and lots more are joining their ranks every minute,” said Carol Lu, who manages both apps at the company. “If you look at the big picture, even a modest reduction in energy consumption per person can add up to a wonderfully positive environmental impact.”.

The challenge, then, is making sure that the apps really do save energy, speed up your phone and preserve battery life, no matter the usage scenario.

Given the wide variety of Android devices on the market and the immense library of apps available for download, nobody uses their phone quite the same way as everybody else. To add to the complexity, DU Battery Saver and DU Speed Booster each have over 150 million downloads spread across Southeast Asia, North America, Europe, Latin America and India – making for a challengingly diverse user base expecting to see results. Traditional battery life estimates like talktime and standby, or even newer metrics like audio and video playback, simply cannot take into account the varied ways people use their smartphones.

For example, I might not make calls but instead spend hours sending messages and taking photos. You, however, could be an avid mobile gamer and a social network addict. Problem is, the low-power modes some smartphone manufacturers are beginning to offer generally limit you to a small subset of apps, quite possibly not the software you actually want to use. Usage habits between people in different countries can also vary substantially, explained Baidu’s Ms Lu.

Baidu’s approach is thus more nuanced, and its two apps tackle both everyday usability and longer-term environmental impact from two different angles.

DU Battery Saver doesn’t go with the one-size-fits-all strategy. Instead, it looks at what’s actually loaded on the phone, which are being used, and what’s going on in the background – even when users might think they’ve shut down some apps altogether. By tracking how each app taps into the system resources like the processor, DU Battery Saver can figure out if there are related background components invisibly eating into a phone’s power – even if you’ve “swiped” an app closed.

Meanwhile, DU Battery Saver also tackles “hot ear syndrome” by tracking a phone’s internal temperature and correlating that to which apps might be stressing the CPU. By intelligently managing greedy apps you should get a phone that’s cooler to use – sure enough, we found that even after an extended period of use, phones using the notoriously hot Snapdragon 810 were still comfortably cool – but Baidu’s engineers also say that your battery will stay healthier, since Li-Ion batteries are damaged under higher temperatures.

As for DU Speed Booster, that tackles performance by taking a power hose to what’s hiding in your phone’s storage. Over time, unneeded files build up in the app cache, old image thumbnails linger – sometimes even after the original picture was deleted – and installers leave data behind or even the entire APK.

In addition to a full clean, which scans the phone’s memory – and, optionally, your SD card too – DU Speed Booster also has an Accelerator feature, which looks at what’s running in that moment and then figures out which RAM-intensive apps can be safely shut down.

Together, they promise to be a smarter way of managing the everyday build-up of background processes, messy apps, and Android-run-wild that can slow a phone down and chew through battery life. Importantly, Baidu doesn’t just force-close everything but the app you’re looking at: core features and services are left to run as they should, and it’ll suggest potential changes based on how you actually use your phone.

DU Speed Booster doesn’t just flag up the infrequently-used files, meanwhile; it compares what it discovers with a continuously-evolving profile list compiled by Baidu’s engineers, so that important data doesn’t get mixed in with what’s known to be useless. If they’re photos, music, or video, there’s a double-confirm process to make sure you don’t accidentally delete something you might have really wanted to keep.

The exact degree of performance improvement you’ll see will, of course, depend on what phone you have and how you use it: both apps are free to download and use. Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue with the potential of saving you time and frustration in the day, prolonging the lifespan of your smartphone, and hopefully keeping older devices and batteries out of the landfills. When you’re looking at 2 billion smartphone users, every bit of energy saving can help.


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