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Today's smartphones are great for watching streaming videos or listening to playlists set up by your friends. But the one problem is that some of these apps can drain your battery more than others. And there's nothing worse than when you don't have enough battery to make calls and receive messages.

The source of this issue lies in the complex interactions between the device and the mobile network — interactions that are hard for developers to see. Each time an app makes a request from the network it uses up power of the device and utilizes network bandwidth. For example, transferring images, browsing a website and streaming video all cause the app to interact with the network. These actions are needed for an app to function; the problem is that some apps are not designed to efficiently use the network.

AT&T Labs researchers found a solution to this problem, and created a tool to help app developers better design how their apps tap the network through what's called the Application Resource Optimizer, or ARO.

For instance, when the developers at Pandora ran ARO on their app, they discovered 46 percent of its power consumption was used to transmit just 0.2 percent of its total data load. While the app was delivering music efficiently, it was also starting up the device's radio to send audience measurement data every 60 seconds. The solution: bundling those small bursts of data into a single transmission. The result: they cut the app's energy use by 40 percent.

And that amount of energy savings can really add up! Before the adjustment, if 200,000 users listened to Pandora for one hour each day per year, the amount of battery drained would require the carbon offset of 245 trees.

Using ARO, app developers can create energy efficient apps by exposing the unnecessary network connections made and eliminating them. And this tool isn't just for AT&T's network, it can optimize the performance of apps running on any carrier's network—making the mobile experience better for you.

ARO is available free at developer.att.com.

Want to learn more about the innovators who brought the ARO tool to life? Click on over to our Profiles in Innovation features about Oliver Spatscheck and Shubho Sen.