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Smartphones are becoming more and more common in recent years. With all the applications and functionality loaded into the phone, it is hard to get the phone to last for a decent amount of time (1 day or so). Normally, the capacities that the batteries can hold drops over time. This can be due to aging, wear and tear or user-negligence. It is frustrating when you charge your batteries and they are dead within an hour or 2.
Note: If you are looking for rechargeable AA/AAA batteries (E.g. Energizer Recharge), please visit https://www.miniphysics.com/7-tips-to-take-better-care-of-your.html.
– Your smartphones/tablets/laptops uses lithium ion batteries.
– Your lithium ion batteries discharges by itself when left alone. (just like any other batteries)
Here are some tips to take better care of your batteries (SPECIFICALLY: Lithium ion batteries – Li ion)
1. Do NOT do deep-cycle discharges
Deep cycle discharges are only for calibration purposes. (More about this later) For the technically disabled, deep-cycle discharges means running the battery down to the red (5% to 20%) and charging it back up. Your lithium ion battery is not designed for such purposes. The battery lifespan will be shortened dramatically if you keep this practice up.
Studies have shown that the higher the charge level is at before you charge again, the longer the lifespan of your battery will be. (Meaning: The less you use before you charge again, the longer your battery will serve you)
What should you do: Do NOT do deep-cycle discharges. You will kill your battery faster than you think.
2. Do NOT overcharge/use unauthorised chargers
Lithium ion batteries are extremely sensitive to overcharging. They WILL explode if you try to stuff more charge than it can handle.
All lithium ion chargers have a built-in overcharge protection circuit. They will automatically cut off the current when the capacity limit of the battery is reached. However, some “cheap” chargers do not have that protection circuit and will just stuff electrons into the poor battery. Result: A blown battery and $100 down the drain.
What should you do: Only use a proper, reputable charger.
Note: This is mainly applicable to the lithium ion batteries found in those hobby helicopters/cars.
For normal consumer smartphones, the charging chip is in the smartphone itself. All it needs is the DC from the adaptor.
3. Charge your electronics while they are powered off.
When you keep your electronics on while charging, you might not get a satisfactory charge. This is because your charger is confused by the additional load contributed by your electronics. This is called parasitic load. This will cause undue stresses to the battery and will impact your battery lifespan.
What should you do: Power off your electronics before/while charging.
Note: Personally, I do not practice this because I need my electronics to be on. (And because I’m quite lazy) But if you’re looking to prolong your battery lifespan, do it.
4. Do not expose your batteries to high heat/freezing temperatures
Heat is the worst enemy of batteries. Pretty straightforward.
At low temperatures, you should not attempt to charge your batteries. This is because the maximum voltage that the batteries can take is reduced at cold temperatures.
What should you do: Do not expose your batteries to direct sunlight. The Sun will heat up your batteries and you can kiss your battery goodbye.
Note: If the battery gets very hot, stop charging immediately, remove the device from proximity to flammable materials and bring it to a non-combustible surface.
Do not charge at freezing temperatures (below 5 degrees Celsius). Warm it up before you charge if you live in some cold countries.
Note for laptop users: If you are using your laptop for a long time, it is advisable to remove the battery. The heat generated by the normal operation of a laptop is often enough to cause severe lasting damage to the lithium ion batteries.
It is recommended to employ sufficient cooling measures to prevent early failure of your laptop batteries.
5. Try not to charge the battery to the max
When the battery is charged to the maximum, it will stress the battery. When the battery is stressed, it will kill itself faster. It is just like us, the more stressed we are, the higher the probability of a heart attack. (A different analogy: Imagine stuffing yourself with food all day long, and I think that you will be extremely uncomfortable for the day.)
Another reason why it is not recommended to charge the battery to the max is that at such a high charge level, the battery will generate more heat than normal. This excess heat is not welcomed as lithium ion batteries are extremely sensitive to heat.
The batteries manufacturers know this and the charging algorithms for your lithium ion batteries automatically cuts power off at 100%. Then, it will let the battery discharge until ~95% before charging it back up again. This cycle will repeat until you unplug it from the charger.
What should you do: TRY not to charge the battery to the max. But if you need the full charge, its fine also. It is not as damaging to the battery as doing deep discharges.
Note: This is the reason why electric car manufacturers limit the charge in the electric cars’ batteries to 80%. In certain laptops, there is a functionality that will limit the charge in the batteries to 80%. For instance, in Samsung laptops, there is a battery life extender functionality that cuts off power to the battery when it reaches 80%.
6. It is OK to do a partial charge
Partial charge: A charge that is not to the max.(100%)
You can charge your lithium ion batteries to 70%(example) and disconnect the charger with NO ill effects. This is rather unlike other battery types which demand that you charge them to the maximum. Lithium ion batteries are rather forgiving in this aspect. HOWEVER, do a full discharge/charge cycles every once in a while.
7. Storage: Store the battery with the charge level at around 40% to 60%
If you have to store li-ion batteries, keep them at 40% to 60% charge level. All lithium ion have a protection circuit that will deactivate if the charge level drops below a certain amount. When that happens, no matter what you do, your battery just will NOT charge. If the low charge level is maintained for a long time, electrical short may result when you attempt to recharge it.
Now, you might say why not just charge it to the max (100%) then leave it there? The problem is when you charge it to 100%, you are stressing the battery. The battery charge level will drop faster than normal.
This is the reason manufacturers ship your smartphones/tablets/laptops partially charged. The charge level allows for lower aging related stress on the battery and gives some room for the battery to self-discharge during storage.
What should you do: Store lithium ion batteries partially charged at a cool place. You must check their charge level regularly and top up their charge accordingly. Do NOT let their charge drop too low.
Note: It is possible to “jump-start” a dead lithium ion battery. There are certain lithium ion battery chargers with a “boost” function that can do that. However, do that at your own risk.
Note on calibration of Li-ion batteries:
The purpose of calibration is to calibrate the battery meter on your electronics. The longer you use your batteries, the more inaccurate the battery meter will be. For instance, the battery meter shows that the battery is left with 70% charge while the real charge level is around 40%. However, this does not harm the battery or the charging of the battery in any way. Most chargers do not rely on the battery meter/electronic circuits as a reference, instead, they rely on the “instruction” from the chemistry in the battery.
Even though the battery is out of calibration, the battery will still function normally and charge normally. The downside will only be the inaccurate charge level reported by the battery meter.
Steps to calibrate your battery:
1. Charge the battery to 100%
2. Discharge the battery until ~10% it turns off
3. Do a second charge with the phone turned off back to 100% (Its OK with the phone turned on1)
– Your battery is calibrated
It is recommended to do a calibration once every 3 months or after 40 partial cycles. Avoid doing deep discharges just for calibration too often, you will shorten the lifespan of your battery.
Please take note that by running the battery down to the red zone(~10%) through normal use and charging it back up again can be considered as a calibration cycle by itself. If you’re a heavy user (100% to red to 100%), your charging and discharging cycles are performing the same duties as a normal calibration cycle. Short version: You do not have to do the calibration if you regularly squeeze every single drop of juice out of your batteries. Look below for update
Note: 1 I’ve been reading that doing the second charge with the phone turned off will give a better calibration. (Since there is no parasitic load) But its OK to do it with the phone turned on as well.
Update: I have reasons to believe that the earlier information is slightly wrong. A proper calibration should be discharging the battery until the phone turns off by itself.
Hence, if you are a heavy user (regularly discharges your phone till it turns off and charging it back up again to 100%), your charging and discharging cycles are performing the same duties as a normal calibration cycle. Short version: You do not have to do the calibration if you regularly squeeze every single drop of juice out of your batteries.
Alternatively, you could just buy a portable charger for your smartphone to compensate for the deteriorating battery life. Here are a few good portable chargers:
Note: The XXXXmAh for the portable chargers indicates the capacity of the batteries in the chargers. As a reference, the capacity of a normal smartphone battery is around 1500 mAh.