How to look after the lifespan of your smartphone’s battery

If you follow my blog you’ll know I recently picked up an iPhone X

One of the main reasons I decided to get a new phone was because I had destroyed the battery in my iPhone 6. Although the £45 outlay to get the battery replaced via my workplace’s mobile workshop was a snitch compared to the outlay for a new phone I still decided to go down the new phone route, and reset my iPhone 6 so I could hand it down to my Mother who was still on an iPhone 5s and complaining about the small screen size. Two birds, one stone, kinda.

I’d also destroyed my 4S battery before that. It’s no known secret that the Li-ion battery will degrade over time, but to the point where my battery % was whizzing all over the place and even the phone shutting itself down when it apparently had 35% battery left seemed extreme. Clearly the phones OS was also having difficulties calibrating the battery.

So how can we preserve the lifespan of our smartphone batteries? We spend a lot of money on these phones, so the idea of having to replace the battery 2-3 years down the line these days is something we don’t want to be thinking about within the first week of owning the phone. Or maybe it is when you’ve spent £999. You don’t expect to be replacing the battery 2 years later, and we’re getting to the point now where our handsets should be lasting us just as long as we intend we keep our laptops and desktops.

Most smartphone manufacturers will claim their batteries will last 300-500 cycles. What’s a cycle? A cycle is a full charge. So if you do a full cycle every evening, you can why your phone battery suddenly starts degrading around the 2 year mark.

Apple will say their  batteries for example after 1000 charges, will only hold 80% of their original capacity!!

So it leave’s us with many questions on how we should look after the batteries of our devices.

When should I start charging my phone?

The general rule of thumb with Li-ion batteries is ideally to keep them at 50% capacity whenever possible. When it drops below 50% start giving it a charge. If there’s one thing you take from this post, it should be the phrase: ‘little and often’

Don’t charge it all the way up to 100%

Constantly doing a full charge to 100% will shorten the battery’s lifespan quicker.

The ideal % range to keep the battery charged at is between 40% and 80%

Try not to let it drop below 20% at all, and as mentioned above, avoid charging all the way up to 100% where possible. Obviously there’s going to be times when you may not have access to a power source, in these cases, obviously charge the phone all the way beforehand. However unless you know you’re going to be away from a power source for a good few hours, and you know you’ll be heavily using the phone avoid the full charge whenever possible. E.g. if you’re at work, use your computers USB socket to do small charges throughout the day, if you’re going to be in your car, charge it in your car. Charging via your computer is actually the preferred method for battery lifespan. PC USB ports will output between 0.5A and 0.9A depending on if they are USB2 or 3 ports. This is lower than the plug socket you get with the phone, so although the charge will take longer, it will also generate less heat to the phone in doing so.

So, never do a full charge?

If only life were so simple. It’s recommended you do it at least once a month, this helps keep the battery calibrated correctly by your phones operating system.

What if I need to charge overnight?

Modern smartphones will know when they are fully charged, and will stop charging when they have reached 100%, of course notifications or anything happening overnight that may wake your phone up means that as soon as it drops a few % it will start charging again. Again unless you know you’re going to be away from power source for a very long time, if you wake up in the night, unplug the lead.

What about fast charging & wireless mats?

Fast charging is being thrown around a lot lately, especially with wireless pads and extra costly adapters and leads to charge the phone quicker. Fast charging again is actually not something you want to be doing often. Fast charging will cause the battery to heat up, and heat is a Li-ion batteries worst enemy for causing the lifespan of your battery to degrade, and is the main reason why I’ve killed so many of my previous phones batteries. I used to use my phone every day for up to one hour and thirty minutes as a sat nav. So that was one hour thirty minutes of the phone being kept on charge because of the battery drain that a constantly open GPS navigation app caused to the phone, not only that, the GPS would also cause the phone to get hot, so it was no surprise I was quickly killing my phone batteries. I no longer use sat-nav apps on my primary phone where possible. If I know for sure I’m going to need one, I now take my Mums older iPhone 5s out with me, as we no longer care about the battery health of that device.

Wireless charging also produces extra heat because of all the lost energy. It’s also more expensive to run, I don’t really see the point of wireless mats in the house, they aren’t truly wireless as they have to be plugged in anyway, so why not just use the charge lead as standard, it’s going to be in the same place as the mat anyway? Is it really that much of an inconvenience to remove the cable and put it back in if you need to use the phone. Also with the iPhone X, I don’t really fancy it’s chances of actually staying on the mat either!

So heat is bad?

Afraid so, as said above it’s the worst thing for a Li-ion battery. So therefore avoid prolonged usage of GPS based apps that will heat the phone up, and having the phone charging at the same time getting to 100% and then losing a few % to bounce back up to 100% is basically the worst thing you could ever do with your phone. If GPS is important, use an older handset, or get a cheaper one that you can use with your favourite app, or get a dedicated sat-nav device. Not only is using apps that get the phone hot a problem, it’s also common sense to keep the phone out the way of the sun, especially in a car window, or when on the beach etc. I’m sure we’ve all suffered the message that the phone has got too hot and shut itself off message at some point. If you can avoid that message appearing, then do everything in your power to do so. Obviously the cold is also not good for our phones either!

Is it ok to charge the phone in a case?

We want to stop the phone getting hot wherever possible and a case is only going to increase that while charging as it will keep the heat close to the phone and get even hotter. Remove the case while charging.

If fast charging is bad too, what about other chargers?

Advice here is to stick to the adapters and cables that came with the phone, and if you need to buy replacements, try and ensure you buy genuine replacements. Cheap cables and adapters may seem appealing, but is it worth having to pay to get the battery replaced sooner because of a dodgy cable?

Any other charging tips?

The following will also help, but for the most part will not always be possible:

  • Turn off when charging – This will produce less heat and also prevent stuff happening on the phone after it’s fully charged that causes the charge to start again after is drops a couple %
  • As mentioned above, but in case you missed it, remove the case when charging
  • Don’t have a case at all – obviously if you’re clumsy or can’t afford things like AppleCare, ignore this, but a case helps keep heat around instead of letting the phones housing naturally dissipate the heat.
  • little and often, little and often. Remember that.

What about memory effect?

Memory effect is where for example if you kept charging a phone between 40% and 80% it would ‘forget’ about the other 60% over time. This is not the case with Li-ion batteries and was only a problem for older NiMH and NiCd batteries. So don’t worry about it.

Apps like Twitter are showing massive battery usage on my phone

Bin them, seriously. Not only are they massive waste of space on your phone, but they also kill the battery with all the background refresh activity that goes on, as well as live updating. Instead use the web browser version of the apps such as Twitter/Facebook/Instagram.

They work perfectly well for the most part and do just as good a job as the app for doing 99% of the things you use the apps for. Not only will it save your battery, it will save you a ton of space on your device nd you’ll no longer receive pointless notifications you don’t care about.

Can I turn off background app refresh?

Yes, but some apps still seem to get around this when you look at the battery usage report, especially Twitter, which is why I recommend you bin it totally and use the web version.

To turn off background app refresh on an iPhone go to Settings > General > Backround App Refresh, and toggle it to off.

Any other iPhone battery saving tips?

Sure, but not all of these may be possible to you and your mileage may vary

  • Turn off bluetooth
  • Turn off 4G Mobile Data
  • Turn off notifications for all apps except those where you really need to immediately react to that notification. This will stop your screen constantly turning on
  • Turn the brightness right down
  • Reduce the auto-lock time to as low as possible
  • Don’t use live wallpapers
  • Turn off vibrations
  • Turn off location services for all apps except when required
  • Turn off all the fancy menu animations
  • Enable low power mode.

My iPhone battery % is jumping all over the place, is there anything I can do?

If this is happening, it’s probably too late for you. However you can try the following

  1. Drain the battery totally. Use the phone until it switches off, you can speed this up by turning on the torch, watching video, and ramping up the volume.
  2. Leave the iPhone powered off, for at least 5 hours.
  3. Plug phone in, wait for it to power on, and then shut if off. Leave it to charge for at least 5 hours while powered off.
  4. Power back on the iPhone with the power lead still connected.
  5. When you get the unlock screen, press the sleep/wake button together with the power button, keep the buttons held down as the phone switches off, and do not release the buttons until you see the Apple logo.
  6. When the phone comes back to the unlock screen remove the power cable.

This should help recalibrate the battery, and you may notice the battery charge rapidly decreases, this is due to the battery being shot and the OS re-learning. Try and keep the battery charged between 40% and 80% as outlined above, although if it is shot then you’ll probably have to fully charge periodically. Repeat this process at least once a month until the OS gets a proper grasp of the real health of your battery. If problems continue. I recommend you get the battery replaced.

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