Smartphone battery life has always been a bit of a hot topic – as new devices are released with ever improving specifications and thinner bodies, squeezing as much life out of the battery when it is being drained by ultra bright, high resolution displays, resource hungry applications and powerful processors is more important than ever.
Eric Limer at Gizmodo has put together a detailed post on the best way to care for the battery in your new smartphone, dispelling some commonly held beliefs along the way. The information may not be new to the most tech savvy among us but is a good read for those looking for some tips. Read on for an overview of the most important points he raises.
Do I need to ‘teach’ my battery?
Making batteries ‘learn’ their true capacity through conditioning is something that has been held as gospel for a very long time. Eric rightly points out that this a myth, at least in the case of lithium-ion batteries present in most new smartphones. Older nickel based batteries did benefit from this approach but for new devices you can forget about it.
Trying to stay above 50% as much as possible is the best way to approach Li-ion batteries, with top-ups where you can during the day to avoid getting into the lower regions of their capacity.
Regularly running from 100% down to 0 is actually harmful, although recommended maybe just once a month to keep the calibration of the cell.
Keeping at 100% all the time can also do some damage, try removing your charger before you get right to a full tank. Most chargers will avoid damaging the battery too much by cutting off for a while when they are at full capacity but keeping it plugged in at full charge for extended periods of time is definitely not recommended.
Can’t stand the heat
Lithium batteries don’t like getting hot. In fact it’s about the worst thing for their longevity. Whilst it might be hard to keep the temperature down during intensive processes (my Nexus 4 tends to burn up during heavy gaming), avoiding long spells of this is crucial if you want to ensure extended life from the battery.
Also as useful as the technology is, wireless charging is out the door if you are concerned about conserving battery capacity. Current inductive methods create a lot of excess heat, which anyone who has used a wireless pad with a compatible device will know.
All batteries degrade over time
It’s impossible to stop the battery losing some of it’s original power over time. The number is about 6% per year at 0 degrees Celsius and increases with temperature. Now unless you live in the Arctic circle (or anywhere in the UK in Summer…), it’s unlikely you’ll be at freezing point all year round. Degradation comes in at 20% and 35% per annum for 25 and 40 degrees respectively so those intense gaming sessions will take a serious toll if that’s your bag. Leaving your phone in particularly hot places (greenhouses, cars parked in the sun) is best avoided also.
Zero is a bad number
Leaving a lithium battery on completely zero charge for any length of time is quite a bad idea. Now I don’t mean the kind of zero where your phone shuts off and won’t power up – if this happens there is probably actually a little bit of charge left, but the phone / battery combination has fail-safes not to power up on this amount. This is because completely empty lithium batteries are actually quite unstable and could break (read explode) if charged.
You’ll very likely never 100 % discharge a lithium battery unless you leave it alone for a very long time – if you pull an old device out of the cupboard after 12 months it might not turn on even after being plugged in for a while. This is because the battery may have reached this point and the manufacturer has included another fail-safe to render the battery useless rather than risk it blowing up when plugged in. However once your phone has powered down, it’s definitely not recommended to leave it in that state for too long.
The best thing to do if putting a phone in storage for any length of time (say you’re going on holiday and don’t want to take you main device) is to leave it turned off with a decent amount of juice left in it. This will avoid the dreaded zero charge dead battery and stop you damaging the maximum capacity.