Living with Juice Defender Ultimate

I’ll start by saying that if your operating system, mobile platform or gadget needs something like Juice Defender—even the fact that it exists and people buy or use it—is to an extent not a good sign. To me, it means that your device is too bleeding edge to be a serious work tool, making it more of a hobbyist or enthusiast device. This is the reality of most Android mobile phones, or at least my experience with the ones I’ve had so far.

If you can’t rely on your mobile phone to get you through a normal work day with a single charge (provided that you are not using it heavily all day), then you don’t have that phone because it helps you get through your day: you have that phone because you like it and then you jump through hoops to help it.

The Juice Defender widget on the ICS desktop shows the power multiplier, which is how many times the standard battery life Juice Defender estimates giving you with the current configuration. You can configure icons for the notifications bar, which visually inform you of different aspects of JDs operation, as well as the status of your hardware.

Juice Defender attempts to bridge the gap between the enthusiast’s device that your Android phone is, and the unobtrusive, out-of-the-way tool you sometimes wish it were. It does this by turning off some data connectivity features–or most of them—when you don’t need them, to save power, and hopefully turning them back on smartly enough so you don’t notice a performance tradeoff.

The Turnkey Approach

Using Juice Defender is really easy if you are not going to be pushing the boundaries of power squeezing ability.

In the default mode it works as advertised: spend the equivalent of a large espresso drink, and you get almost 50% more battery life out of your device.

The QuickBox, activated through the JD widget, enables you to disable connectivity, open JD or enable/disable it.

Just as advertised, Juice Defender stayed out of my way, and everything seem to work normally. I kept getting email notifications, text messages, etc. No noticeable interruption. My biggest question was was “Why doesn’t Google just build something like this in?”

Power Lust

After a few days, and as usual, I wanted more, so it was time to dive into the deeper functions of Juice Defender. This is where you really get the benefits of buying the Ultimate version.

You can run JDP in one of several modes:

  • Balanced
  • Aggressive
  • Extreme
  • Customize
  • Advanced

Balanced is the simplest setting, described above.

Aggressive kicks it up a notch, where JDP adds an emergency measure: if your battery level goes below a certain level (which you can configure, for example 15%), it will shut down all wireless data connectivity, to preserve your ability to make and receive “that important last phone call”. This is interesting considering how little people speak on the phone these days, but it is, after all, a phone.

The aggressive profile shuts down your internet when your battery hits a predetermined threshold of charge. If you prefer to not be so available during the weekend, a separate weekend schedule can be set up for less frequent internet connectivity.

Extreme, aptly named, simply shuts down all data connectivity, effectively turning your smartphone into just a cellphone that you can re-smart on demand by manually turning data back on for only as long as you need it. I find this to be a simple yet remarkably intelligent feature, because most people don’t really need to stay on top of their email every 5 minutes.

People who use Facebook Messenger in lieu of texting, this is not for you.

Customize allows beginner’s tweaking. It opens up a whole range of options, where you can manually control how often and for how long your data services will be enabled. The theory is that you can make tweaks that work better for your lifestyle than JDP’s default features, hopefully squeezing even better results.

Advanced is, well, advanced. Selecting this mode of operation opens up multiple tabs of new options that allow you to control a dizzying array of parameters (phone response to accidentally pressed buttons, phone behavior at night, location-based connectivity, and more). I will not go into detail about what you can do with this because frankly, it would take hours to understand (unless you are a seasoned Android tweaker) and pages to describe. Suffice it to say this mode gives you lots and lots of control.

In the Schedule tab in Advanced you can set up the frequency and duration of internet connectivity. It is possible to specify a "Peak" part of the day where immediate connectivity is favored over battery savings, to allow for more immediate email notifications.

Good results will require a healthy dose of experimentation and learning.

Your Money’s Worth

Two features make it really worth it to buy JDP, both of them available only in the Customize mode or above: location-based connectivity and screen brightness control.

By selecting Advanced mode, you have access to additional tabs. The Controls tabs allows you to determine how the mobile data and Wi-Fi interfaces will behave. It is possible to configure Juice Defender to respond to ambient light variations by automatically regulating screen brightness.

Location based connectivity learns your most frequently used wi-fi hotspots and defaults to them when you are at those locations, turning off more expensive 3G and 4G connectivity. This in itself is an awesome feature, if for no other reason because it allows you to have your phone automatically favor Wi-fi at trusted locations.

The power saving benefit of this is that your phone does not waste precious battery trying to connect to Wi-Fi where it doesn’t need to.

Screen brightness control is very aggressive, and highly configurable (albeit with some compatibility warnings for certain phones and versions of Android) and allows you to specify with great detail how your phone’s screen responds to ambient light.

You get a two-fold benefit from this: your phone saves oodles of power, and also you are not blinded by your AMOLED screen when you look at your phone in bed in the middle of the night. If you find the sweet spot, you get screen brightness that is just right in every situation. That alone is worth the $4.99.

Conclusion

Buy it. It works. And if you are willing to work for it, it works really well.

My biggest gripe with JDP is that sometimes, in Advanced mode, in all the shuffle of figuring out where I am and whether it should turn on the 3G or the WiFi—and having to struggle with spotty data services—sometimes it seems to get disoriented, and I find myself without ANY data connectivity for 30 seconds or a minute. Sometimes i have to shut down JDP and manually turn on Wi-Fi to fix this. This is an example of the dark, user unfriendly side of Android.

I hope that JDP one day becomes obsolete because Android power management is that good. But for now, I’ll take this app over an espresso drink any day.

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  • http://www.wizardprang.com Wizard Prang

    I played with JD for a while, then I uninstalled it. As a heavy user of my Droid X2, I found not having to wait for services available when you needed them – even for a few seconds – made it not worth it for me.

    Frankly, if someone is that obsessed with saving power, I would questions whether they needed a smartphone at all. Perhaps for them a cheap old flip phone with a battery that lasts for days would be a better bet.

    The solution for me was obvious – I purchased a spare battery on eBay for less the cost of JDP Ultimate, and I am more than happy with it. Now, when the battery runs down, I just swap out the battery and go on my merry way. Two fully-charged batteries is enough to get me through through the heaviest day.

    It’s also an excellent opportunity to tease iPhone owners :)

    • http://prorsuscapital.com Farouk Rojas

      Thank you for commenting. I agree it is not the best experience to have to wait for the services to become available. I am yet to figure out if there’s a way for things to become available quicker. On the other hand it is nice to not have to carry a 2nd battery around. I am seriously considering a 2nd battery or an extended battery. The recently released high-capacity Droid Razr shows that it IS possible to make a slim phone with excellent battery life and high-end features.

  • Robert Youngman

    Hi Farouk…….thanks for the review.

    JDP Ultimate works very well for me.
    I am retired, work at home p/t and am usually in front of my computer.
    I don’t get a lot of calls or e-mail – which I can check on my computer anyway at my leisure.
    I used an LG-8300 cell phone for 5-6 years and it worked fine, but I finally got a smart phone
    (my friends call it a “real phone”) and it’s a nice thing to have. Living in the NYC metropolitan area, you never know when you’ll get stuck in traffic, and it’s nice not having to carry my GPS around all the time. Also nice for checking those late sports scores while I’m out at night.
    I don’t want to worry about my battery running down every day, and there’s no way I’m going to juggle a secong battery. I don’t need “instant” anything that badly…..
    I’ve always thought that “don’t be penny wise and pound foolish” was a good idea, so the $4.99
    price for JD Ultimate was a no brainer. You can’t even get a 2-scoop ice cream cone where i live for that price…..