battery Life

All you need to know about our phone’s battery life: 6 truth about overcharging, overheating, fast charging

Does your phone last all day on a single charge? How about a year from now? Battery anxiety is real, and if you’re contemplating a new phone like the iPhone SE, Samsung Galaxy A51 or OnePlus 8, its battery life is an increasingly important factor in deciding if that device is worth the money.

As we expect more from our phones — and want them to last longer — the importance of an all-day charge has become a critical feature, alongside screen size and camera quality.

The enduring emphasis on battery life is one reason why fast chargers are now so ubiquitous, at least for high-end devices. The fastest, most power-delivering of all belong to premium phones like the Galaxy S20 and iPhone 11. If the battery threatens to drain before the end of the day, quickly recharging it with your lightning-fast quick charger is the next best thing. With fast-charging especially, a 10-minute charge can make the difference between going into an austere power-saving mode and losing power completely before you get home. 

But now that fast charging is so readily available for phones, we have questions: Can a high-capacity charger damage your phone’s battery in the short term? Can it degrade your phone’s power-storing capability over time? And what causes unnecessary wear and tear on your phone’s battery anyway?

To get the answers, we spoke with several battery researchers and engineers about the effects of quick charging on your phone’s battery life. Here’s what we learned:

Your phone battery isn’t changing anytime soon

All mobile phones — and most personal electronics and electric vehicles — use lithium-ion (li-ion) rechargeable batteries. It’s a tough slog to create batteries that last longer, because battery technology hasn’t changed in decades.

Instead, much of the recent progress in battery life has come from power-saving features built into devices and from making the software that manages charging and discharging more efficiently, so you sip power rather than guzzle it. 

Unfortunately for mobile phones, the focus on extending battery life is generally on cars, satellites and your home’s power system, areas where industrial batteries need to function far beyond the two or three years we expect from our mobile devices.

Fast-charging won’t damage your battery

A conventional charger has an output of 5 to 10 watts. A faster charger can improve that by up to eight times. For example, the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max come with an 18-watt fast charger, the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus have 25-watt chargers in their boxes. Samsung will sell you an extra-speedy 45-watt charger for $50.

Unless there’s some technical flaw with your battery or charger electronics, however, using a fast charger won’t do your phone’s battery any long-term damage.

Here’s why. Fast-charging batteries work in two phases. The first phase applies a blast of voltage to the empty or nearly empty battery. This gives you that blazing charge of from 50 to 70% in the first 10, 15 or 30 minutes. That’s because during the first phase of charging, batteries can absorb a charge quickly without major negative effects on their long-term health. 

You can’t overcharge your phone battery

Overcharging used to cause anxiety among phone owners. The fear was that keeping a phone constantly plugged in could charge a battery beyond its capacity, making the battery unstable, which could degrade overall battery life or build up too much internal heat and cause the battery to burst or catch fire. 

According to the experts we spoke with, however, a battery’s management system is designed to shut off the electrical charge once a battery reaches 100%, before it can overcharge. 

“Unless something goes wrong with the battery circuitry, you can’t overcharge a modern phone,” said Venkat Srinivasan, a battery researcher at the Argonne National Laboratory and director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science. “They have protection built in to exactly stop that from happening.”

You shouldn’t let your battery drain to zero

At one time, you may have wanted to let your phone discharge all the way down once in a while to help the battery recalibrate its state of charge. But that’s not so much of a problem with modern phone batteries. 

In fact, discharging a battery all the way down can cause chemical reactions that over time can shorten a battery’s life. To avoid a complete discharge, a battery’s management system includes safety features that power down a phone when it reaches an energy level safely above empty. You only think you’ve hit zero when you see that last low-battery warning.

If you want to take a more active hand in your battery’s health, plug in your phone when its battery level gets down around 30%, well above the stressfully low battery levels.

High temperatures can damage your battery

Heat is a true enemy to your battery. High temperatures are known to reduce a battery’s lifespan over time. 

You’ll want to keep your phone out of strong sun, away from window sills and off the dashboard of your car to prevent overheating, which can make the battery less efficient over time. In extreme cases, an overheated battery could explode. 

Temperatures as high as 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30C) can decrease a battery’s effectiveness, said Isidor Buchmann, founder and CEO of battery-technology company Cadex Electronics and its companion Battery University education website. 

Mismatched chargers and cables won’t harm your battery

Unless you’re using counterfeit or damaged chargers and cables, mixing and matching cables and chargers is not going to harm your battery. However, you may not be charging up quickly as possible as when you use the ones that came with your device.

Some phones, such as those from Huawei and OnePlus, use a proprietary charging design — with part of the circuitry responsible for rapid charging built into the charger. To take full advantage of the device’s proprietary fast charging, you need to use its compatible charger.

How else can I conserve my phone’s battery power?

To squeeze more life out of your battery, you can use the usual energy-saving tricks to conserve your battery’s power, such as dimming your display’s brightness, turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you’re not using them, restricting background data usage through settings and keeping an eye on apps that use GPS.

But the truth is, no matter how careful we are, our phone batteries will last only so long. The trick is to get as many months as we can from our battery without being in a constant state of anxiety about its charge.

Clifford Colby May 25, 2020

source/references: cnet.com, newsnow.co.uk
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