Smartphone users – casual and enthusiasts alike – are forever in search of longer battery life. While fast charging tops us every day, the absence of a replaceable battery means that the lithium-ion cells attached to our phones are aging and deteriorating.
If you held on to a phone for a year or more, you would have noticed that the battery did not run as long as it was new. Two years down the line and many phones struggle to make it through the day on a single charge. Holding on to a phone in the last three years can also spell trouble for system stability.
Unfortunately, battery capacity inevitably declines with age. However, there are things you can do to prolong the life of your battery and handset. If you have ever wondered what is the best way to charge your battery, here are some scientifically proven tips to maximize battery life.
Partial charging method is the way to go!
A particularly persistent battery myth is that you sometimes have to completely discharge and recharge to erase “battery memory”. This would not be more inaccurate for lithium-ion batteries. It is a myth left over from lead-acid cells, and to charge your modern smartphone in this way is actually quite undesirable.
Partial charging is fine for lithium ion batteries and may actually have some positive benefits for cell longevity. To understand how charging the battery is important. When close to empty, the Li-ion battery draws a constant current and operates at a low voltage. This voltage is gradually increased as the cell begins to charge, charging until about 70 percent of the current is turned on until the capacity is filled.
Partial charging for lithium-ion batteries is fine and even has some positive benefits.
Importantly, operating at low voltages is good for battery lifespan, before you increase the number of available charge cycles to see a major decrease in capacity. Broadly, according to Battery University, every 0.1V decrease in cell voltage doubles cycle life. Therefore, charging your phone in the 30 to 80 percent range keeps the voltage low and the battery lifespan.
In addition, “depth-of-discharge” has the same effect on total discharge cycles before the battery capacity drops. This refers to the amount of battery that is used between charges. Smaller discharges, in the region of 60 percent rather than 100 percent between refueling, can double the life of your battery, and double life again using only 20 percent.
Smaller but regular top-ups are much better for Li-ion batteries than long full charge cycles.
Using just 20 percent of your battery between charges is not going to be practical for most people, but when you top-up when you have used about half of it, your battery life will show a significant improvement over the long term, especially if You avoid charging till full. The bottom line is that smaller regular top-ups are better for Li-ion batteries than long full charge cycles.
Avoid useless or Idle charging
Charging in a cradle at night or in the daytime is a very common habit, but it is not recommended for many reasons (the old “overcharging” myth is not one of them). First, continuous motion charging of a full battery can lead to the plating of metal lithium, which reduces stability in the long term and can cause system-wide malfunctions and reboots. Secondly, it leaves the battery at high stress voltage at 100 percent, as we have just mentioned above. Third, it produces excess heat due to wasted power dissipation.
When the phone is at 100%, there is a recipe for voltage and temperature stress.
Ideally, a device should stop charging when it reaches 100 percent battery capacity, only to turn on the charging circuit every time the battery is up again – or to reduce the charging current to a very small amount.
A final point worth mentioning is parasitic load. This occurs when the battery is being drained significantly at the same time as being charged, such as watching a video or gaming while charging.
Parasitic loads are bad for batteries because they distort the charging cycle and can induce mini-cycles, where part of the battery continually cycles and deteriorates at a faster rate than the rest of the cell. Worse still, parasitic loads occurring when a device is fully charged also induce higher voltage stress and heat on the battery.
Gaming or watching videos while charging is bad because they distort charging cycles.
The best way to avoid parasitic loads it to turn your device off while charging. But it’s probably more realistic to keep the workload very light while the device is plugged in, leaving it to idle most of the time. Remember to unplug it once the battery is topped up enough.
Heat is the enemy of long battery life
Along with all of the above, temperature is an equally key contributor to battery longevity. Just like high voltages, high temperatures stress the battery and make it lose capacity far more quickly than when kept at lower temperatures.
A battery dwelling in a full state-of-charge exposed to a high temperature is the worst of all worlds and the number one thing to avoid when charging your phone. So no leaving your phone under your pillow to charge at night or plugged in on the dashboard of your car on a hot day.
Fast charging technologies are a contentious issue here, as the higher current and voltages can definitely lead to a hotter device while charging. Fast charging was never really envisioned for full-cycle charging though, instead, it’s a fast way to top up your phone quickly to get it back in your hands. Leaving your phone to quickly charge up for 15 to 20 minutes won’t lead to major overheating problems, but I certainly don’t recommend using them for overnight charging.
Combining this all together
Lithium-ion battery technology is well understood these days, but bad habits and myths still permeate public consciousness. While most of these habits won’t severely negatively impact your phone’s battery life in the medium term, the decline in removable phone batteries means we should take extra precautions to maximize our phone’s battery life and cell longevity.
What’s the best way to charge your smartphone?
- Avoid full cycle (zero-100 percent) and overnight charging. Instead, top-up your phone more regularly with partial charges.
- Ending a charge at 80 percent is better for the battery than topping all the way up to 100 percent.
- Use fast charging technologies sparingly and never overnight.
- Heat is the battery killer. Don’t cover your phone when charging and keep it out of hot places.
- Turn your phone off when charging, or at least don’t play games or watch videos to avoid mini-cycles.
Lower battery voltages help prolong capacity over time. Green: lower voltage charging for first ~65%. Yellow: Start of constant voltage. Red: Long period of high voltage charging for last 15%.The ideal temperature to maximise battery cycle life is between 20 and 50°C
That’s all folks
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