Busting Smartphone Battery Myths!

Today we live in a world where having a smartphone is practically a must-have. It's become a sort of extension of ourselves because it has become how we communicate, stay entertained, find jobs, stay informed, learn more things, and so much more. But the more we do with our phones, the more that phone has to do, which in turn makes the battery drain.

Over the years so many myths have been created about what we should and shouldn't do to preserve the battery life and battery lifespan of our smartphones. So how should we charge our phones? Is it OK to charge your phone overnight? Should we try to drop it down to 0 percent all the time? What about putting the phone in the freezer? We're going to answer all of these and more. So let's dive in.

First, a clarification.

One thing we have to clarify before we go further is the distinction between two terms. Battery Life and Battery Lifespan. What we typically associate with Battery Life is the time it takes a phone to go from 100% down to 0% or more realistically, when you need to go grab that charger again. Battery Lifespan is the term we use for how long your battery will last daily on average, after about 1, 2, or more years, leading up to the point where it can't hold a charge anymore. Typically in the industry it is considered that a battery is no longer in good condition when its lifespan has 80% or lower.

Ok! Now that we've got that out of the way, onto the Myths!

Myth: Charging your phone overnight reduces battery life.

The short answer is no. Charging your phone overnight will not affect the battery life of your phone on a daily basis. It does however affect the battery lifespan of the phone, in an extremely small way.

But one thing I should point out is that this myth is one that used to be true. Overcharging was a big deal back in the days when we used to use NiCd (Nickel-Cadmium) Batteries as they could definitely overcharge because of how charging them was a difficult process.

In general, smartphones are smart in that they have protection chips inside them that stop the device from charging when the device reaches 100%. If you were to watch your phone overnight, you'd see that the phone would reach 100%, drop to 99%, then charge back up to 100%, then stop again. It would continue to do this until you unplug it. This is known as trickle charging. This won't affect your daily battery life, but it can affect your battery lifespan in the long run because all of that extra 1% charges are essentially wasted charging since you're sleeping.

This does however depend on your habits with buying phones. If you're the type of person that upgrades every 2 years, then you don't have to worry about it. If you like to keep your phone for much longer than that (until it dies, as they say) then it may be best to not charge overnight because you need to preserve your battery lifespan for the long haul.

Myth: You should let your phone drop to 0% before charging up again.

This is false. As a matter of fact, doing so is actually bad for your battery. Lithium-Ion batteries (what we mostly see in our phones these days) don't do well when they have no charge. This is why manufacturers sometimes shut off the phone before it hits 0%. This is so it can protect itself and to help the lifespan of the battery. A good rule of thumb is that you should not let your phone's battery drop below 10%.

Myth: You need to "calibrate" your battery.

This is false as well. This used to be based on the principle of devices sometimes not having accurate readings for how much charge was in the battery, so people would do a "calibration" by running the phone battery to 0% then back up to 100% to allow the device and the battery to be on the same page.

This is no longer necessary. The devices we use have gotten much smarter. So what happens is that the smartphone has some sensors and chips in it that know how to measure what voltage the battery has and report this to the operating system. This allows the reading to be accurate every time. This also happens fresh from scratch every time you reboot the device.

Myth: Putting your phone in the freezer can extend the battery life of your phone.

This is false, and is actually dangerous for the phone in a number of ways.
Lithium-Ion batteries have 3 mortal enemies: Extreme Cold, Extreme Heat, and complete lack of charge. When a lithium-ion battery is placed into a freezer, the solution inside the battery slows down, and cannot do what it's intended to do in the way it is designed to do it. By default, batteries can't last forever because they are a chemical compound that decays over time. Subjecting it to too much heat (keeping it near a fire or having it sit in direct sunlight for prolonged periods), or too much cold (putting it in the freezer or holding it out in the cold snow for prolonged periods) messes with the chemical process of the device. In cold, it reduces the lifespan of the device severely, and can actually affect Battery Life as well on a daily basis. This is why phones tend to die sooner in the winter months, than in the spring and fall months. In the heat, it can become unstable because that is adding to the heat that it produces normally. Further, the rest of the components in the phone also don't like excessive heat. This is a simple principle of computers and electronics. They've never liked too much heat (but they are designed to withstand heat within certain parameters.)

Another big thing to consider with the whole "freezer" idea is that if your phone is hot, and you put it in the freezer, this rapid hot to cold process will create condensation, which means you're risking damaging your phone from liquid damage (which voids most warranties).

So yeah. Don't do it. If you want to cool off your phone. Just turn it off, put it away from direct sunlight, and place it on something like a plate so the heat can dissipate into the plate.

So what can I do?

The good news is that there's a lot we can do to extend our battery lives.

Check your apps

The first thing is to get rid of apps that you don't use. And by get rid of, I mean uninstall. Some apps don't stay off when we close them because they have tasks that are designed to be run even when we're not using them (such as getting notifications). Also, don't close apps that are running just because they're sitting there. This is bad for your phone. The close apps function is designed to let you close apps that are misbehaving (stuck, not loading, showing weird things, etc). Closing an app can make it consume more power than normal depending on the app, because some of them will open up again immediately after closing because it's how they are designed (things like WhatsApp, Messenger, and other communication apps do this) and opening something that is closed consumes more power than simply switching to something that was sleeping.

If you're a heavy Facebook user, you may want to consider deleting the Facebook and Messenger apps and downloading the Facebook Lite and Messenger Lite apps. These are apps that are designed to be much more lightweight (and believe me, Facebook is REALLY heavy) than the original apps and can save you a alot of battery life.

Apps that use your camera such as Snapchat, are huge battery life hogs. This is one big reason why I personally prefer Instagram Stories over Snapchat, because it doesn't turn on my camera until I want it to.

Also, if wifi is available, turn it on. Wifi consumes less battery than your cellular connection, and a bad cellular connection consumes more battery than a good one. This is why people who live in cities with subway systems tend to lose a lot of battery life in their commutes. The devices are continuously trying their best to get a signal and that consumes a lot of energy. Similarly, putting your phone in Airplane mode when on a flight saves you battery life because the phone isn't searching for a signal.

Power Saving Modes

The next thing is to take advantage of the "Power Saving" modes that your device provides you. Now, to be clear, I'm not suggesting you use it all the time. This isn't good for your overall phone experience as it severely limits the phone's functionality. However, if you know you're going to go on a long trip without access to chargers you may want to pop it on and limit your usage to make it last longer. Of note is the "Power Saving" modes on Samsung devices. They have 3 levels: Off, Medium Power Saving mode (or on older devices just Power Saving Mode), and Maximum Power Saving Mode (or on older devices Ultra Power Saving Mode). The middle tier just limits functionality and performance of your device to save battery. The Maximum tier is way more effective, but also way more limiting. It completely disables all non-essential applications on your device, giving you access only to a handful, disables wifi, bluetooth, limits the processor, and many more things. The benefit here is that it makes the phone last an extraordinary amount of time. This is a good way to keep your battery as high as possible overnight if you want to unplug from the charger at night. I've gone to sleep with the phone at 75% and maximum power saving mode on, and woke up 8 hours later with 73% charge. That's amazing.

Charging Equipment

It's often said that using any cable and any charger is just fine and makes no difference. This is false and is potentially dangerous. Smartphone manufacturers put a lot of effort into making chargers and cables that are safe. This means that the chargers and the cables, in addition to the phones themselves, have protection circuits in them which regulate the current and voltage to make sure that nothing ever damages the device, and if something happens, it would damage the charger only and prevent the device from being affected by it. Unfortunately, super cheap bodega chargers don't have all this and as a result poses a risk to your device. There are many reputable 3rd party companies that make and sell affordable accessories that are just as safe, such as Anker, Choetech, Belkin, and more. But in general, be careful with what you use to charge your devices.

I'll use an example that happened not too long ago (about 2015). When USB-C first started to gain popularity, a Google Engineer by the name of Benson Leung, decided that he was going to buy dozens of cheap USB-C cables and test them to make sure they were safe. Turns out, many of them didn't stick to the proper USB-C manufacturing standard and as a result gave some really weird behaviour during charging. Ultimately, he found one that actually destroyed his Chromebook Pixel. This goes to show that the equipment we use is very important.

One last thing I'll recommend is Wireless Charging. Particularly if you work a desk job. You won't believe the amount of attention to my battery life I've lost just because I have a wireless charging pad (a standing one) on my desk so that when I sit down at work, I just put it on the stand and it's charging, and when I get up I just grab it. It's so convenient and it keeps my phone charged all the time. This is especially great on Samsung devices that have Fast Wireless Charging (Galaxy S7 and beyond).

That's it!

I hope you've enjoyed that and if you have any further suggestions or questions please let me know in the comments and I'll be happy to answer them.

If you have any other myths you'd like me to debunk, let me know!

Enjoy your devices everyone!