How To Take Care Of Your Smartphone Battery The Right Way

Your smartphone is a minor miracle, a pocket-sized computer that can fulfil almost every whim. But none of its superpowers matter a bit if it runs out of juice. With removable batteries becoming more and more rare, you've got to take good care of the one you got. Fortunately, it's not to hard keep the lithium-ion powering your everything machine happy if you follow a few simple rules.

Obviously, the first rule for extending your battery life is not using up all your battery life playing candy crush and walking around with Wi-Fi and GPS enabled when you're not using either and really, really need your phone to last that extra hour. But aside from that, there are some basic rules for care and charging, and they're the simplest baseline for a healthy battery.

Top It Off

You may vaguely recall hearing something about rechargeable batteries and the "memory effect". You know, that if you don't "teach" your rechargeable batteries their full potential by taking them from totally full to totally empty, they'll "forget" part of their capacity. Well forget all that. Right now. It's wrong.

Battery memory is a real thing, but it applies to nickel-based batteries; your trusty sidekick (literal Sidekick or otherwise) doubtlessly has a lithium-ion battery, and it needs to be treated a little differently. Specifically, it should be topped off whenever you get the chance.

To get the most out of a lithium-ion battery, you should try to keep it north of 50 per cent as much as possible. Going from all the way full to all the way empty won't help at all; in fact, it'll do a little damage and it's even worse if do a full drain on a regular basis. It won't make your battery explode or anything, but it will shorten its lifespan.

But! You don't want to have it charging all the time either; lithium-ion batteries can get overheated. Luckily for you, your charger is smart enough to help with this, and will cut your phone off for a spell once it's full. And to complicate matters a little further your battery doesn't particularly like being all the way full either. In fact, your battery will behave the best if you take it off the charge before it hits 100 per cent, and leaving it plugged when it's already full is going to cause a little degradation.

So if you're really particular about optimising your battery's life, you should try to go from around 40 per cent to around 80 per cent in one go, and then back down whenever possible. A bunch of tiny charges isn't as bad as going from 100 down to zero all the time, but it's not optimal either.

Keep It Cool

It's easy to worry about bad charging habits thanks to the training we've had from old rechargeable batteries, but lithium-ion batteries have a worse enemy: heat. Your smartphone's battery will degrade much much faster when it's hot, regardless of whether it's being used or just sitting around doing nothing.

At an average temperature of 0°C, a lithium-ion battery will lose six per cent of its maximum capacity per year. At 25°C, that number jumps to 20 per cent, and at 40°C it's a whopping 35. Sure, it's not exactly practical (or sane) to keep your phone in the fridge, but it's worth going out of your way to prevent long stays in hot cars and the like.

Avoid Wireless Charging

Wireless charging is can be incredibly convenient if your phone can do it, but it's not without its disadvantages. The inductive, wireless chargers out there today have this nasty habit of generating a fair bit of waste heat. And while wasted energy is just a bummer in general, that heat will also toast your battery in the process. That's no bueno. It's a little less convenient, but standard plug-in charging is going to keep your battery in better shape, especially if you're some place warm to begin with.

Never Go To Zero

Obviously, using your battery is going to make it degrade. But it's going to slowly die even if you just leave that iPad in the closet for a bit. There's a trick to minimising that inevitable ageing though: leave it a little bit of juice.

If you're going to be shelving any lithium-ion battery for a long time, try to leave it with at least 40 per cent battery power to tide it over. Lithium-ion batteries don't haemorrhage power at 30 per cent a month like nickel-metal-hydride batteries do; they'll lose maybe five to 10 per cent of their charge each month.

And when lithium-ion batteries get too low — like, literally zero per cent — they get seriously unstable and dangerous to charge. To prevent explosion-type disasters if you do try to charge one, lithium-ion batteries have built-in self-destruct circuits that will disable (read: destroy) the battery for good, if it reaches rock bottom. And sure, that'll save you from a face full of battery-acid, but it'll also leave you short one battery.

Don't Sweat It Too Much

It's easy to get protective of your battery, but it's also easy to get lazy. And that's fine, because as long as you're not a complete idiot, you'll be OK. Typically, a lithium-ion battery lasts for three to five years, and chances are you're going to want to swap out your gadgets sometime in that window anyway. The slight damage of a technically bad idea like leaving your phone plugged in all night every night, or using wireless charging, might be worth the convenience.

Still, it's pretty easy to keep your battery reasonably healthy just by avoiding particularly egregious torture like letting your phone discharge from full to zero every single day, or leaving it in a hot car all the time. And the next time you make it back home with power to spare, you'll thank yourself for it.


Comments

    oh how long have I been telling people this

      Don't be silly!

      If you don't cycle your battery to 0% after every use the battery fairys will come down and take your battery life, no matter what chemistry type of battery. Just ask anyone.... :)

      I have arguments all the time trying to tell people that they need to charge as often as possible but it is ingrained in most people to flatten batteries before recharging because that is what their gran pappy did back in the 50's. I have resorted to just sending them a link to a reputable source and ask them the next day what they think. Or just argue for a good hour or so...

        Hi,
        I was wondering, so is it a good thing to cycle your battery to 0% from time to time?

        Thank you very much!!

      i used to work in a battery world store for 7 years - the amount of people we had to educate about lithium battery care was insane. and even people i know now i try to tell - some still dont want to listen - so frustrating, what would i know, i only worked with batteries for years.

    Note to self: Charge iPad when it reaches 20% battery and not 5%

      So THAT'S why iOS devices have that first low battery warning at 20% :)

        As do many other brands.....

        Last edited 03/01/15 3:29 am

    Does the phone have to be in contact with the charger? Would have thought a simple heat fin dissipater would solve that problem, maybe even a sheet of cork?

      For "wireless" charging? You need direct contact with the charger for maximum efficiency, plus Li-po and Li-ion batteries both conduct heat as a by product of charging. Wireless charging had always been and always be a gimmick. Though to me it is in the same category as "free energy"

        It's a little off-topic I know, but I'm not understanding the appeal of wireless charging at least in its current form. I've read lots of commenters touting the feature as the next big thing and saying stuff like "No wireless charging? No sale!". But seriously, what's the point of it?

        At the moment, you need to place the phone on top of a special charging mat. A charging mat that in itself needs to be plugged into something to provide it the power it needs to charge the phone. And to get optimal charging you need to leave the phone on the mat. On top of that it charges slower.

        So what exactly is the benefit of wireless charging? I can just plug in my USB cable and charge my phone pretty much anywhere as it is, and it's not a big hassle to carry a USB cable around with me. I can pick up the phone and use it while it's charging too with no adverse effect.

          I have a lumia 920 with wireless charging, I plug it in at night at home but at work I find the wireless brilliant. I get up frequently from my desk for various reasons and can't just leave my phone on my desk. With my old phone I would try to remember to plug it in in the morning so that it was charged by lunch time so that on my 2 hour commute it would last the distance but at least once a fort night I would forget at some point to plug it back in and would end up running out of juice on my way home :(
          Also in my testing so far the wireless seems to charge at the same speed as usb on my phone.. Either way it doesn't matter as it is so easy to leave it on the pad so it gets charge all day instead of just when I remember.

          I'm just a fan of not f*cking around with a usb cable -- and cables and ports degrade. At least mine do. Horribly.

            But you're still messing around with cables. The charging mat needs to be plugged into something. You're exchanging a cable for a cable connected to a mat.

            Last edited 01/07/13 1:09 pm

              yes but plugged in permanently, you plug it in once, put your charging mat on your desk and you're good to go, you don't need to keep plugging it in every time.

                Unless of course you need to charge it in multiple locations. Say, on your desk at work, or on your desk at home, or at your parent's place, or in your car, or whatever. You'll need a charging mat for every location you'll need to charge from if you aren't taking it with you...unless you do what Stretch a few comments earlier does and just leave the charging mat at one location and use a cable for everywhere else, but that sort of defeats the whole point if you ask me.

                You can just as easily get a $2 USB cable and leave that permanently plugged into your PC for readily available charging.

          We've reached a point in technology, where reaching for a USB cable is too much of a hassle.

        OK, first of all, LiIon and LiPo (exactly the same chemical make up, btw) NEVER get hot from charging. Not . Ever. If your battery gets hot from charging, then it needs replacing. Your LiPo WILL get warm to hot from the heat your PHONE generates from use - that's right, the CHIPS creat the heat, and being so close to the battery, heats the battery.

        That said., LiPo batteries PREFER to be warmer. So forget all that other nonsense.

        The heat generated from Wireless charging is from the ELECTROMAGNETIC COILS doing the WORK of CHARGING - this heat is RIGHT NEXT to the batteries (In MOST cases, and is really never necessary, froma design POV, you listening Motorola?) and obviously warms the battery. YOUR PHONE will STOP charging when the PHONE reaches a specific temp, when the phone cools 3 degrees BELOW that point, the PHONE will send s signal to the charger to continue charging.

        Litthium Cells (ONE CELL) is 1300mah and will charge as full as 4.2 volts, CHARGERS STOP charging at 3.7volts, this the battery NEVER charges to 100% in reality, but when a phone sees "3.7volts" on its rail, it will SAY 100% charged.

        IOW, built in safety all around. And on the low side? Guess what: 2.3 volts = 0% power left. Batteries have CHIPS in them that PREVENT it from going lower than 2.0 volts, BUT, if a battery fails, and DOES get that low, it will NEVER charger again. Throw ir out, replace.

    I'd love to know you're sources for these "facts" my original iPhone is still going strong after 6 years by completing full cycles! Battery lifespans are in cycles... the shorter the cycle the shorter the lifespan. Simple.

      Best you go and do some learning.

      Here is how the keep the battery fairies away:

      1. http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_prolong_lithium_based_batteries
      2. http://www.phonearena.com/news/5-myths-about-improving-your-smartphone-battery-life_id33618
      3. http://www.tested.com/tech/657-know-your-charge-rechargeable-battery-myths-debunked/
      4. http://batterycare.net/en/guide.html
      5. http://kipre.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/4-myth-and-facts-about-lithium-ion-polymer-batteries/
      6. http://www.gamersnexus.net/guides/899-battery-myths-li-ion-battery-management
      7. http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/everyday-tech/lithium-ion-battery2.htm

      Simple :)

        My facts: http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_prolong_lithium_based_batteries

      the iPhone and most other high profile smartphones will actually take note of when your doing a half cycle charge and when your doing a full charge cycle, and most modern androids can also measure your approximate battery capacity through a hidden service menu.

      the code is *#*#7378423#*#*

      I can't remember the iPhones code, but any Authorized apple repairer or service agent will know it

      Last edited 30/06/13 6:17 pm

      No, that is completely incorrect, even for car batteries. They may be rated for 500 cycles but if you never let them get below 80% charge, then it will take forever to get to 500 cycles because 80%->100% doesn't count.

    helo ppl, can i also confirm that initial charging should not be required for modern li-ion battery smartphones nowadays?

    Instead of charging 6-12 hours like old nickel battery days, all we have to do is charge to full 100% as stated on meter and plug out for our new phones?

    And lastly, is calibrating, meaning full discharge and full recharge, once a month healthy to refresh the battery meter although its harmful to the li-ion battery's life?

      I believe calibrating (my laptop has the option in its bios) is more so that it knows what voltage/power it's at when it's on 0 %, so that it can more accurately tell you how much battery life you have when charged. I think they recommend every six months for that?

      Way not necessary. Calibration is only necessary if you notice your battery is just not behaving correctly or you put in an extended battery (even thenm you dont have to run it DOWN to anything to calibrate, just leave it on the charger longer for the first charge

    For some reason, my 7.7 can only trickle charge now. The battery indicator behaves like it's connected to a USB even when using an original charger to a wall socket. The only way to get it to show a proper 'lightning' icon (and truly charge) is when it's connected to the car charger. Has plugging it to a car charger damaged the way the tablet receives the charge or anything?

      Get a new charger

    The article claims that Li-ion batteries are the most common in our phones these days, and discusses their attributes. Does the same reasoning apply to Li-Po batteries, which is in reality, what you will probably have in your phone these days?

      I doubted you and checked, low and behold my last 2 phones are both Li-Po

        Li-ion and Li-po still require regular(read:daily) charge cycles. Apple themselves recommend a 0-100% charge and just like in Android do have hidden utilities to measure battery health and any reduced total capacity. The only difference is they are inaccessible to the end - user.

        http://apple.com/batteries/ is a good basic overview of how lithium based batteries (Li-ion and Li-po fall under this category) operate however the recommendations for minimising the degradation of total capacity are different to other manufacturers

      Li-ion and LiPo (not hyphenated) are chemically IDENTICAL. Treat them EXACTLY the same.

    I have been getting fantastic battery life out of all my devices and I've been a full to empty, empty to full guy for years.

    My four and half year old MacBook Pro still gets almost a couple of hours of battery life even now. While everyone complained about battery issues with their iPhones I was getting 2 days out of it. Ditto for my Lumia now, never less than a day. Always let the battery die if I can.

    I've just handed on my HTC Desire, purchased near its original release date. It spent most of its life connected to a charger on my desk. Charge is nearly as good today as the day I bought it.

    Is this April Fools 3 months late?

    The advice no matter how factual is just ludicrous. Suggesting you charge before dropping below 50% essentially halves the battery life of the actual using time of the product.

    Devices have batteries for a reason. So we can use them with the freedom of mobility without being tethered to a power point. Hence you use the device for as long the battery allows that freedom to last.

    Either run the battery flat with use, then charge OR if the remaining charge won't be sufficient for future use (eg the next day) plug it in.

      Ni-MH batteries suffer the kind of degradation you speak of. However some before the iPhone 3G landed in Australia phones switched over to lithium based batteries, started using 2 different charging cycles(trickle and rapid charges), and phone software started to lie to you about your charge levels in a similar fashion to car fuel gauges: they always leave about 2-5% charge remaining.

      Another example of manufacturers themselves telling you to regularly recharge your phone

      http://www.sonymobile.com/global-en/support/phones/xperia-z/support-documents/
      Pages 12-15 of the Sony Xperia Z manual also recommend daily charging regardless of battery percentage because it doesn't affect battery life. Also that's where it states that the phone discharges once full while plugged in to keep the charge/recharge cycle going. I highly doubt manufacturers would recommend something if it was going to cause the device to stop functioning to full capacity. Just imagine the amount of troubles and bad PR they would get

      It's not saying "never under any circumstances let your battery discharge to 10% or even to zero".
      It's saying for best life, if possible, keep the charge above 50%..
      ie put it on charge when you're at your desk rather than let it discharge all day.

    Fuck! After the responses I don't know what to think! Best for Mac Pro,iPad 3, and iPhone 4S please anyone? Never flatten?

    I also have 20000mAh portable charger ( doesn't seem to charge when in use,holds power at best) any thoughts guys?is it bad / useful? I go on road trips and iPad car charger is iffy at best.cheers for any responses

      In regards to the ipad, if your using a second generation or newer, a 2A output charger is recommended to be able to charge the device properly. This is why the ultra high capacity batteries in tablets aren't so good at charging when connected to a computer via USB

    " at 40°C it’s a whopping 35[%]" Awesome, i lose, simply because of where i live.

    HELP!!!!
    My phone is just about five months old and the battery life has been okay. But for some reason I plugged it in today and it has just refused to charge. It went barely up to 55% in over 10hrs then started to DIScharge. Even when I switched it off it was discharging. I'm confused and outright frantic that I might have done something wrong.

    There is an app called ace charge, it disconnects power on full charge or any charge percentage that you wish!

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