How should you really charge up your smartphone?

27th July 2017
Anna Flockett

When you hear the word battery, what do you think? Those annoying pink Duracell rabbits, the ones you have stolen from the back of the remote control or the fact that your phone’s battery may as well cease to exist because nowadays it barely lasts all of five minutes? It is a common fear in most of us, that whilst we are out having a good time your phone’s battery is quickly fading in your pocket. However, we never seem worried about the battery’s eventual lifespan, which for the record is normally between three and five years.

There are in fact ways to keep your battery in pristine condition for a long and powerful life; even though batteries do not enjoy eternal life.

Many smartphone manufacturers insist that devices rate batteries at 300-500 cycles, which isn’t necessarily good news for us. Apple claims that its laptop batteries reach 80% of their original capacity after just 1,000 charges.

After this point batteries aren’t able to hold as much electricity and will power your device for increasingly shorter periods of time.

Whilst you taken on all this negative battery news fear not; let’s take a look at some tips to extend your battery’s lifespan, whether that is an iPhone, Android phone, Windows phone, tablet, or laptop.

Let’s start with something that is on everyone’s minds – the big question; when re-charging a battery should you let it run to zero before charging full to 100%?

One reason why people are unsure is something they’ve heard of called the battery ‘memory effect’.

What is battery memory effect?
Battery memory effect is about batteries remembering remaining charge if you don’t let them go all the way to zero too often. So a battery frequently charged from 20-80% might ‘forget’ about the 40% that’s left uncharged (0-20% and 80-100%).

Sounds like a bit of an old wives tale? Well it sort of is true, but only for older nickel-based (NiMH and NiCd) batteries, not the lithium-ion batteries in your phones now.

Fortunately for us, Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries don’t suffer the memory effect so you basically what is best for them is the total opposite; charge them often but not all the way throughout the day, and don’t let them drop to zero.

Don’t charge your phone battery from zero to 100%
The golden rule with Li-ion batteries is to keep them 50% or more most of the time, so when it drops below 50% if you can just top it up a little bit. ‘Little and often’ as they say a few times a day seems to be the optimum to aim for.

But ideally don’t charge it all the way to 100%. It won’t be fatal to your battery if you do fully recharge, I mean most of us are forced to do this every now and again in an emergency, but constantly doing a full recharge will shorten the battery’s lifespan.

So a good range to aim for when charging a Li-ion battery is from about 40-80% in one go. Try not to let the battery drop below 20%.

When should I do a full battery charge?
Experts recommend that you do a full zero to 100% battery recharge, or as they call it a ‘charge cycle’ maybe once a month only.

This is so the battery can recalibrate - a bit like restarting your computer, or, for humans, going on holiday and relaxing.

Another top tip; the same rule applies to laptops.

Should I charge my phone overnight?
Most modern smartphones are clever enough to stop charging when full, so there isn't a great risk in leaving your phone charging overnight.

However some experts have recommended you remove the phone from a case if charging for a long time, as a case could lead to over-heating. This is what Lithium-ion batteries do not like.

Should I use fast battery charging?
Many Android phones have a feature that allows for fast charging, often referred to as Qualcomm Quick Charge or, in Samsung's case, Adaptive Fast Charging.

These phones have special code usually located in a chip known as the Power Management IC (PMIC) that communicates with the charger you are using and requests that it send power at a higher voltage.

However, unfortunately for the Apple lovers out there, the iPhone 6 doesn’t feature fast charging, but its Qualcomm PMIC is smart enough to recognise when you use a higher-amp charger (like the one you get with the iPad), which is a good thing because fast charging will heat up that Li-ion battery and cause it increased wear and tear.

For this exact reason, phones shouldn’t be left in a hot car, on the beach or next to the oven. Overheating the battery will suffer long-term effects on its lifespan and on the other hand so will a super-cold one, so don’t leave your device in the freezer or out in the snow.

If you can, switch off fast charging on your Android phone.

Can I use any charger?
It is best to use your charger, so where possible use the charger that came with your phone, as it is sure to have the correct rating. Or make sure that a third-party charger is approved by your phone's manufacturer.

Cheap alternatives from Amazon or eBay may harm your phone, and there have been several reported cases of cheap chargers actually catching on fire.

Storing battery tips
Don’t leave a Li-ion battery li-ing around too long at 0%. Try to leave it at around 40-50%.

These batteries drain at about 5-10% a month when not in use. So if you let your battery discharge completely and leave it uncharged for a long period of time it may eventually become incapable of holding a charge at all – RIP it’s officially dead.

It’s unlikely you’ll leave your smartphone lying in a drawer for very long, but think about laptops, battery packs or spare batteries that are unused for long periods of time. So try to keep them all at least half charged.

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