Prolonging My Laptop's Battery with FruitJuice

For more than 10 years my primary dev machines have been laptops. The mobility provided by a laptop has changed the way, and where, I work. However, an unfortunate downside of me using a laptop as my primary machine is the number of batteries I go through. On average a laptop battery will last me about a year before I need to order a replacement. It’s common for battery life to degrade some after a year, but for me it’s common to see “Service Battery” around the 1-year mark.

Why do I burn through so many laptop batteries? It’s the way I use my laptop.

I often times treat my laptop as a desktop leaving it plugged into power for days, and sometimes even weeks at a time. But laptops are not designed for this kind of usage. The battery, like a muscle in your body, needs to be exercised. For a lithium-ion battery - found in most if not all laptops today - this means conditioning the battery.

To condition a battery, you need to regularly run your laptop on battery power using only a portion of the battery’s power, and then charge the battery as often as possible before the battery fully discharges. After about 30 charge cycles you want to do a full discharge of the battery followed by a full recharge.

Whew! That’s a lot of work to exercise a laptop battery. Well okay, it’s not a lot of work, but it does require some discipline. And history has proven I don’t have the discipline to properly condition my laptop’s battery.

So now I’m faced with a dilemma. I have a shinny, new MacBook Pro that doesn’t have a swappable battery. The battery can be replaced, but it must be replaced by Apple. I can’t simply buy a replacement battery online and pop it in when I need it. So I’m trying to change my ways to prolong the battery life for my new MacBook Pro, and I’m using FruitJuice to help me along the way.

FruitJuice is a combination Mac app and web service that helps extend the life of your laptop’s battery by guiding you through the battery conditioning steps. It works by not only reminding you to condition your battery, it steps you through the conditioning process with convention and helpful email and SMS notifications. And when you are between conditioning periods, you can use FruitJuice to see how well you are exercising your battery by alternating between running on battery power and charging the battery.

It’s this last feature that I like the most. I find myself checking my plugged in percentage a few times a day to make sure I stay in the green zone. The green zone is the ideal combination of running on battery power and plugged into a power source. Hopefully a future version of FruitJuice will notify me when I’ve been out of the green zone for too long, reminding me to unplug and run off the battery. But until such feature exists, I’ll keep an eye on my plugged in percentage.

Using FruitJuice comes with another benefit. It keeps a complete history of battery usage and conditioning. This information can be useful when it’s time to ask Apple for a replacement battery, should you need to prove you have been operating your laptop based on Apple’s own recommended usage and maintenance.

FruitJuice comes with a free 30-day trial, and cost $9.99 per year for one computer. Each additional computer costs $4.99 per year. This is cheap when you compare it to the cost of a new battery, which costs me $129 the last time I bought one for my older MacBook Pro.

So is FruitJuice saving me money? It’s too early to tell since my MacBook Pro is only a couple of weeks old. But I’m hopeful that a year from now I will not see the dreaded “Service Battery” condition that I’ve seen over and over the past few years.

Disclaimer: I was not asked or paid to do this review. I was an early beta tester for FruitJuice, and I continue to be a FruitJuice user.