New Scientist is reporting on a study by Purdue PhD computer science student Abhinav Pathak on energy usage in free mobile games. If you browse around Pathak's site, he's spent his time building all sorts of in-depth debugging tools to really nail down where your battery is spent on different functions inside of a mobile application.

The findings aren't surprising:

For example, in Angry Birds only 20 per cent is used to display and run the game, while 45 per cent is spent finding and uploading the user's location with GPS then downloading location-appropriate ads over a 3G connection. The 3G connection stays open for around 10 seconds, even if data transmission is complete, and this "tail energy" consumes another 28 per cent of the app's energy. …Read More

Angry Birds isn't alone in this phenomenon, as basically any free game that's serving you ads is doing all sorts of battery-burning stuff in the background to constantly fetch the newest and (hopefully) most relevant advertisements for you. Again, this might be one of those "Well, duh" sort of stories for a lot of people out there, but it's just another fantastic example in that even though the price of a free game might technically be zero dollars, even without IAP, you're "paying" for that game in other ways-- Often at the expense of battery life.

[via New Scientist]

  • famousringo

    Just another reason to pay for things.

    It's good to stay on the right side of the client/agent/product relationship

    • Eli Hodapp

      Well, and there's that age old adage that if you're not buying a product being sold, YOU are the product being sold. That's always been reason enough for me to spring for the ad-free version of stuff.

    • Bummey

      Not so much. There are plenty of paid apps that do this same stuff. It's just another reason to use jailbreak tools like Firewall IP to block apps from accessing your GPS and data connections.

      If I'm not actively playing a multiplayer section of a game (pretty much just Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride) I have the app completely cut off from the outside world. Same with most non-game apps. Unless what I'm doing specifically requires an outbound connection, it's being run in a lead lined, concrete vault.

      • Adams Immersive

        Actually, you still have a reason to buy the non-ad versions: if you don’t, you’re not supporting the makers of games you enjoy. Great games don’t come free.

        Also, you can block GPS use without jailbreaking; in fact, that’s the default unless you give explicit permission. (I don’t give it without a legitimate reason.)

  • Matt Blank

    Fixing an unrelated location services issue this morning, I found the option to disable location relevant iAds in Settings - Location Services - System Services (at the bottom of the screen) which might cut down on some of this.

    • Brandon B

      Wow, I didn't know that was there either.

  • Matt Curtis

    As an iPod Touch user, I keep my Wifi off (gotta preserve that battery!) so I was aware of the Ads, but I block them that way.

    • Soul_of_Wit

      A distinct advantage of a Touch for gaming and a separate device for communication. This is especially true when there is no paid/ad-free option.

    • Kevin Gunn

       You know, app/game developers that offer their games for free deserve to get something for their trouble.  Blocking iAds certainly hurts the developer. 

      • Matt Curtis

         I agree with you 100%. Which is why I leave Wifi on during short gaming sessions, and usually off on the longer ones.

  • JCat_NY

    Especially apps with IAP -- they diminish the 'green' faster than a real game.

  • Kierre Verde

    Energy can not be destroyed, it can only change. That rule applies to everything.

    • AcneVulgaris

      They're not wasting energy, they're keeping your hands warm

  • Wolfisc

    One of the few reasons I still jailbreak: Firewall iP. If a game doesn't require internet to function (multiplayer, etc.), block all connections. No unnecessary usage of bandwidth and no wasted battery life.

    • Matt Curtis

       Sounds useful. As a jailbreaker...looking it up now.

  • Mike

    I always prefer paid paid apps. This is a good confirmation of my instincts.

  • Lamar Taylor

    I always find that you get what you pay for. Free games are a sample and come with red tape known as ads. I'm not shocked to find that paying for a game uses less battery power.