More often than not, our smartphone batteries die long before our devices do.
As more and more smart phones are moving away from having a removable and replaceable battery, I’ve found myself more concerned with how the usage of my phone and my charging habits will affect it in the long term. With my older laptop and cameras, it was never an issue. Battery no longer holding a charge? Buy a replacement and slap it in.
All I need to do is plug it in, right?
Unfortunately, I was never well versed in proper maintenance and care of battery life until I started noticing a decline in my overall life of my cellphone. From being able to hold a charge for an entire day to having to plug in the phone halfway through the day even with minimal usage, it got me wondering if my charging habits had anything to do with it.
As with most of my older devices, I was under the assumption that I should always drain the battery, keep the device plugged in to charge, and then rinse and repeat over and over again. Older batteries, such as Nickel Cadium (Ni-Cad) and Nickel Metal Hybride (Ni-MH) batteries required “training” on the battery, charging and discharging to keep them optimal and so, in respect, I thought the same applied universally for new devices currently using Lithion-Ion (Li-ion) batteries.
And so, I began some research on the internet to see what I could come up with for the care and proper maintenance of li-ion batteries. Soon though, my frustration was solidified in a Popular Mechanics article: “And yet, consumer electronics companies offers no true consensus …. the Internet only deepens the confusion. One article claims that li-ion packs should be drained on a weekly basis; another recommends to drain them once a month; others say they should never be drained.” Amid this quagmire of confusing information and statements, there was however some constants that kept popping up over and over again.
Depending on charging habits, the life cycle of a battery can vary.
Problems and Solutions
One of the most general worrying facts was finding out the damaging properties of completely draining your battery or letting your device run dry as I had previously done. As Wikipedia states: “Deep discharge may short-circuit the cell, in which case recharging would be unsafe. …. This may drain the battery below its shut down voltage; normal chargers are then ineffective.“ Combined with problematic issues arising when temperatures dip below and above certain thresholds (who hasn’t forgotten their phone in their car?) can shorten and damage battery life on your device.
An interesting tib-bit though, is finding out about li-ion safety circuits, internal hardware that is integrated into the battery that helps prevent overcharging, say if you were to leave your device plugged in for overnight. These circuits allows the devices the charge the battery up to 100% before turning themselves "off" and allowing the battery to drain down to a certain percentage before turning back on again. This explains sometimes why you might see the percentage of a battery drop from a full charge to somewhere near 90% of a charge upon unplugging your phone from the charger.
And so, through a bit of wading through conflicting reports about what is best for Li-ion batteries, this is what seems to be the general consensus:
Don’t drain your battery completely on your device and make sure to charge it often. The longer a battery remains drained without being charged, the harder it is to try and recharge it. There are methods to "revive" batteries that are considered dead, but it requires a little knowhow.
Do not worry about over-charging due to built in safe guards in your Li-on battery.
Don’t expose your phone and battery to extreme temperature changes.
While this article has to do with charging and discharging habits for your smart-phone and how it affects your battery, there are other tips and tricks to get more usage out of your battery through apps and usage.
As for now, these are some pretty straight forward guidelines to keep the batteries going on your devices through the entirety of your contract. Keep in mind though, some providers and carriers do offer battery replacements under warranty, so always make sure to check this out with them.
What's your personal charging habit for your smart-phone?