Batteries! All smartphones and laptops have them so they can power up and do activities. Over the years, smartphone batteries grew and grew in sizes as a smartphone evolves. Today, the most common battery capacity is 4000mAh to 6000mAh, sometimes it can be larger.
You may notice that your phone lasts longer and performs swifter when you first bought it, compared when you are using it now, assuming you have been using the phone for more than a year or two. Don’t panic, assuming you charge it normally, you are doing nothing wrong. It’s just a natural thing batteries go through throughout their shelf lives.
Before we get into preserving your battery, we need to talk about what a battery is first
A battery, according to Merriam-Webster, is a single cell that furnishes electrical current. Battery is a storage for electricity. Electricity is the flow of electrons through a conductor. You may notice that your phone’s battery has a plus and minus sign. The minus sign is called the anode. A chemical reaction builds up within the anode which builds positive ions and electrons. The plus sign, or the cathode does not build either ions or electrons. To balance this, electrons will move to the cathode so that the same or equivalent amount will be used between the cathode and the anode. In the middle of the cathode and anode is the electrolyte, an insulator that prevents ions or electrons from moving until a conductor connects them.
So how do these electrons move? When a conductor is placed, such as a copper wire, electrons finally have a newer route to pass through the cathodes (+) and anodes (-) easily. As the electrons move through the conductor, the positive ions do the same and move to the other direction into the electrolyte and then through the cathodes. In other words, ions will move from the electrolyte through the cathodes and electricity will start flowing, thus electrical devices may now receive power when connected through a conductor, called electrical power.
Battery Drainage, depreciation
Eventually, the battery will die out and run out of power. If a battery is rechargeable, then it may get some of its power back, but no longer to its “best” condition. Since the cycle of a battery is a chemical reaction, which means while the electrons and ions are moving, the chemicals inside the cathode and anode are being converted which reduces their ability to generate power, and reduces their voltage, which also causes a higher internal resistance. As the battery fights off this resistance, less and less energy is being used per charge.
The charging process is reversed in comparison to a battery being used. When a lithium battery charges, ions move through the electrolyte into the anode, which forces out the cathodes.
Charging wears out the cathodes, thus depreciating the battery’s lifespan and also causes a shorter capacity.
As the battery goes through its charge cycles, its shelf-life decreases. This is a normal thing that happens throughout a battery’s life.
Should I drain the battery completely before recharging?
This is not necessary, and doing so would just cause strains on your battery, potentially damaging it and reduces their shelf life. The most optimal charging percentage is 50%, as there is a balance between the movable lithium ions inside the battery, extending its number of charge cycles before it starts depreciating.
Same thing goes as well when charging to full, the battery is not completely charged, despite what the phone display suggests, and when the battery is reduced to 0%, there is still actually some battery left. If that battery is completely empty, then the charge cycles will not work and the battery will be completely useless.
It is recommended to charge when your phone is between 20%-30% charged, and unplug it between 50-80%. That is to say, leaving it at full charge is bad. Your phone or laptop will never overcharge as it is smart enough to determine when the battery hits 100%, it will automatically stop charging. You may notice that when a phone is shipped to you, its battery percentage is between 50-60%, this is when you know the battery is in tip-top condition. If it appears higher than that, it should be a matter of concern as that might mean the battery is old, or has degraded.
How does “fast charging” affect a phone’s battery?
A lot of newer android and iOS phones charge rather quickly through a tech known as “fast charging”. Fast charging has many names in the industry, for example: SuperVOOC for Oppo, Dash Charge for OnePlus and so on. This type of charging uses a higher wattage than the usual 10W, usually 15W and above. This charges ions much quicker, but also, to prevent the battery from wearing out quickly, the process slows down when a phone’s capacity hits 80%.
There are two phases, according to C|Net. The first phase applies a high amount of voltage into the phone’s battery which means you can see your phone charge (if ever it supports fast charging) from a drained, or nearly drained battery to 50 or 70% in just a couple minutes, usually 15-30 minutes. If you’re worried about the battery dying out quickly due to the high amount of voltage, worry not, as batteries can handle that much charging without having serious negative consequences.
The second phase is the previously mentioned “slow-down”, that is when a phone hits 80%, the battery charging process will suddenly slow down to prevent damage to the battery, or the internal components.
Li-ion vs Li-Po batteries
If you’re reading a spec sheet, chances are, the manufacturer will tell you which type of battery powers up the phone. Currently, there are two, and both are lithium-based. These are Lithium-ion and Lithium-Polymer batteries
Li-ion batteries are cheaper to produce and use a liquid-based electrolyte, and have been around since 1912, although it only got popular around 1991, when Sony started using them. They became popular because they have higher energy densities and lack the “memory” effect (where ions become harder and harder to charge overtime) which nickel-based batteries seem to have.
The liquid electrolyte is usually made of a chemical like ethylene carbonate or diethyl carbonate and the chemical composition of these material normally limits the battery into a rectangular shape. Lithium-ion batteries depreciates over charge cycles and can discharge even when you’re not using it (yes, even when it is completely off). So no, there is no way you can make the power “stay” as much as you want to.
Li-Po batteries, on the other hand, while similar to a Li-ion battery, are much expensive to produce and uses a solid-based electrolyte. This results in a more robust design and have lesser chances of leaking out, in contrast to a lithium-ion battery. One major drawback, other than its expensive manufacturing process, is that this battery store less energy and have a shorter shelf-life than a Lithium-ion battery with similar capacity.
Li-Po batteries are a new technology, having it only introduced as late as 1970s and is only gaining the attention of the mobile phone industry recently. One phone with Li-Po battery is the Samsung Galaxy S20.
Li-Po batteries are more ideal with phones that support fast charging because they are safer to use and have a lower self-discharge level.
How do I keep my battery run longer?
This is the part you may have been waiting for. You can’t a prevent a battery from dying and wearing out, but there are far few things to have its juice last longer. So, how do you keep a phone’s battery last longer?
First is to keep an optimal charging percentage. This means 20-80% charged. These percentage levels have the least strain on your battery, and help it last longer on a normal charge cycle.
Don’t freeze your phone, nor heat them up to death. It is not a good idea to put the phone in a fridge as this will just cause the battery to be damaged in the long run. A temperature of 16-22°C should be ideal for less strains. Do not expose your phone to temperatures higher than 35°C as this will just damage the battery.
If you have a case on your phone, especially ones that are dense and thick, like armoured cases, remove them from your phone before charging. Using a thick case while charging mean that heat will be trapped, causing the temperature to rise up, which damages the battery.
An age-old question appears. “Can I use my phone while charging”? The answer is YES. Newer smartphones charge slower while you are using it to allow enough power for continuous usage. Even if you are not using your phone, you are still “using your phone”. That might sound confusing, but remember that a phone or a computer has multiple background processes running such as syncing of data, which consumes power.
Turn off location, Wi-Fi or other processes that you are not using. These consume power as well, even if you are away not using the phone. Do not also amp the brightness to max (especially in an AMOLED screen) unless it’s needed. This will consume a lot of power and may damage the display in the long run (such as in AMOLED screens where it can cause a “burn-in” which can be temporary or permanent). Using your device’s built-in power saver can also help save some juice, as this will automatically turn off processes or reduce performance for you, in exchange for a longer battery life.
“Airplane mode” is already like a built-in power saver. With airplane mode turned on, connectivity features are turned off, this means your Wi-Fi and sometimes, cellular services. Of course, only use it when you don’t want people calling you, or want to increase the phone’s endurance when it is inside your bag or pockets.
Dark mode also helps saving battery, especially in OLED screens. OLED screens use individual pixels to light up the phone, as well as turn it off. Using a deep black image or background allow for less power consumption.
- How Does a Lithium-ion Battery Work?, Energy.gov
- Battery definition, Merriam-Webster
- 13 tips to expand the lifespan of your battery, Lauren C. Stephen Medium.com
- 10 Proven and Tested Tips to Extend Battery life on Android, Makeuseof.com
- Maximizing Battery Life and Lifespan (iOS), Apple.com
- Charging issue: How batteries work — and why some explode?, The Guardian
- The Beginner’s Guide to your Phone Battery, The Beginner-Medium.com (may be a paywall)
- Why your Gadget’s Batteries degrade over time, Popular Mechanics
- Charging Your Phone Overnight: Battery Myths Debunked, PCMag
- Does fast charging affect battery life? 6 phone battery questions, answered, C|Net
- Here’s the truth behind the biggest (and dumbest) battery myths, Wired.co.uk
- Lithium-ion vs Lithium-Polymer: What’s the Difference?, AndroidAuthority
- Does Airplane Mode save battery? What the feature actually does for your phone’s life, Mic.com
- 10 common misconceptions about mobile device batteries, Tech Republic
- Can you use your Samsung phone while charging?, Samsung.com