Every time I turn around, there’s some new chaos associated with batteries.
Adding to the confusion, Apple did away with its “time remaining” battery life feature on Mac OS due to complaints that it was unreliable.
There’s a lot of advice out there about cell phone and laptop batteries, and how to make them last longer. So how are we supposed to know what’s true and what isn’t? And is it really possible to avoid replacing them?
If you think you know about batteries, throw everything you know out the window. I’m about to blow your mind.
The future is here, and it’s a world where it’s OK to leave your phone plugged in overnight.
Read on to learn why pretty much everything you think you know about laptop and cell phone batteries is wrong. You might just save some money in the process.
What Type of Battery Does My Device Use?
Remember back in the day when your dad would yell at you for leaving his ThinkPad plugged in? I do.
Back in those days, batteries were made from nickel cadmium or nickel-metal hydride. If you frequently recharged these batteries while they were still partially charged, they would eventually forget their full capacity. They would lose their capacity to fully recharge, a phenomenon known as the “memory effect.”
When this happened to your battery, you knew it was doomed. That’s when your charge would drop to 20% in just minutes, even after you’d fully charged it. After constantly scrambling to find the closest outlet to recharge it, you’d eventually get fed up and purchase a new battery.
Thankfully, though, this doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) happen anymore.
That’s because most of today’s devices use lithium-ion batteries. Everything from MacBooks to Androids have these superpowered batteries.
Apple’s website says lithium-ion batteries “charge faster, last longer and have a higher power density for more battery life in a lighter package.”
What sets lithium-ion batteries apart from the old ones is that they charge in cycles.
Rather than waiting for your battery to use 100% of its life, you can charge it to 100% tonight and use 75% of its battery tomorrow. Then, you could recharge it to 100% and use 25%. Doing so, you’ll discharge 100% of the battery’s life, thus, beginning a new cycle — and you won’t have to let your battery go dead.
To sum it up, these aren’t your Energizer Bunny AA batteries. They respond and adapt to charging habits by working in cycles so they don’t “forget” their maximum charging capacity.
According to Battery University, lithium-ion batteries have lifespans of anywhere between 300 and 500 charge cycles. A single cycle could take several days to complete.
Common Myths About Batteries
Now that you know the differences between older batteries and lithium-ion batteries, you’re ready to know why everything else you think you know about batteries is probably false.
Here are some common myths about batteries that Lifehacker debunks.
Quitting Apps Improves Battery Life
Sorry, but no. When apps are open, they’re active on your device’s RAM (memory). Quitting them means your device will have to reload its memory the next time you open them. The reloading process sucks up more power from your battery than it would use if you simply left them open.
If you’re worried an app is sucking the life out of your battery, go to your device’s app settings to control which apps you want to refresh when you’re not using them and which you want to remain idle until you open them.
You Should Let Your Device Reach 0% Before Recharging it
No. Don’t do this — at least, not often (we’ll get to that later). Remember the charge cycle we talked about earlier? Think about it — if your phone doesn’t reach a full charge cycle every time you plug it in (depending upon your usage before doing so), why would you let your phone die before plugging it in?
You shouldn’t regularly drain your device’s lithium-ion battery to 0% because that amounts to a full cycle charge. By preventing the battery from discharging to 0% on a regular basis, you extend its life expectancy by making its charging cycles longer.
Leaving Your Laptop Plugged in Will Make it Dependent on Its Charger
I used to be a huge believer in this one. But alas, it’s 2017. Batteries these days are smarter than ever, as are the chargers that come with them. Upon reaching 80%, they enter a slow “trickle charge.”
So, contrary to what your dad told you when you were little, leaving your cell phone or laptop battery plugged in these days isn’t fatal. Your device adapts to how long it has been plugged in. The future is now!
Can You Actually Make a Lithium-Ion Battery Last Longer?
Now that we understand it isn’t 1999 anymore, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty: How can you make a lithium-ion battery last longer, saving you money in the long run?
Well, a battery is a battery; because of a thing called science, you can’t make something live forever. You can, however, make sure you don’t decrease its lifespan by taking proper care of it.
Here are a few ways to make a lithium-ion battery last as long as possible.
Charge It When You Can
According to Popular Mechanics, lithium-ion batteries run better when they’re continuously charged every now and then instead of being fully charged and run down to 0%.
Keep It Cool
If you’ve ever taken your iPhone to the beach in the summer, you might have experienced what happens when it overheats: It shuts off. Temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit can permanently damage lithium-ion batteries, meaning they won’t hold a full charge for as long as they should.
According to Apple, ideal temperatures are 62 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Store It at 50%
If you don’t plan to use your device for an extended period of time, store it in a cool place at 50% charge. If you store it while it’s dead, the device can go into a “deep discharge state,” meaning it will be incapable of holding a charge. If you store it at 100%, it can lose capacity, so it’s best to store it in the middle.
What To Do If Your Battery Starts Acting Up
If you’ve been diligent in your battery practices, yet your battery starts acting weird, you may have one last resort.
It actually is a good idea to let your cell phone or laptop battery completely discharge on occasion. So, if you charge your phone overnight and check it at lunchtime to find it’s below 30%, it may be time to calibrate it by letting the battery reach 0%.
By doing so every one to three months, you adjust the system’s life cycle so it can remember just how much charge has diminished over time.
Think of it like a reset button on your battery. After doing this, it should more accurately report how much juice is left instead of jumping from 100% to lower numbers before you’ve made a single phone call or checked your email.
Your Turn: What tricks do you have for extending the life of your cell phone or laptop battery?
Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder senior at The University of Tampa. She leaves her phone plugged in overnight.