In today's world our society is becoming more and more beholden to the electronic devices we that choose to have in our lives. I for one constantly worry about whether I will have enough battery to last the day if I don’t take my charger along with me wherever I go. Yet, with so many technology giants in existence today yielding vast amounts of wealth around the world (i.e. Samsung, Apple and Microsoft), I find it fascinating that they are still struggling to master the art of creating efficient batteries to meet our everyday mobile/tablet/laptop usage needs.
The majority of smartphones and other electronic devices with inbuilt rechargeable batteries today contain Li-ion variants (Lithium Ion), which - in a nutshell - simply aren't up to the mark. Although I find the battery of my smartphone to be the bane of my life, I love the functionality and connectivity it gives me to the rest of the world. In light of this, I wanted to explore some of the best techniques we can all employ to get the longest running times and best value for money out of charging our batteries both in the longer and short terms.
Tactic 1: Lifespan
All batteries over time degrade, regardless of whether you use it or have it sitting around doing nothing. It's for this reason that you see recommended battery cycles and calendar life recommendations for batteries offered by manufacturers. So, buying your battery or battery-powered devices should be treated the same as if you were doing your grocery shopping: always buy the freshest / newest when you can.
Older devices will have had batteries sitting around for longer and as a result the batter will have degraded somewhat; a significant factor helping electronics companies generate big sales off the back of device renewals. On a side note, always be wary of buying devices or batteries with an unknown origin, they may do more harm than good.
Tactic 2: Operating Temperatures
If you have ever read the back of a battery you will see recommended operating temperatures (charging: 0 – 45 degrees and discharging: -20 – 60 degrees Celsius). Doing so outside of these temperatures puts great strain on the battery and causes it to discharge abnormally fast. You may have noticed that if you ever left your smartphone in the sun and then try to use it, you get a warning triangle.
Cooler temperatures reduce the movement of atoms within the battery causing the chemical reactions to slow down within. If you are using the phone a lot in this condition you will experience a similar affect to that in traffic jams: too many cars trying to use the same road equalling congestion or phone lag.
Warmer temperatures cause the protective layer on the battery to break, which then needs to be reconstituted which results in the battery consuming more power.
Therefore, your batteries are happier in cooler/shadier areas as opposed to sitting in direct sunlight, so try to keep them cooler where possible to preserve your power for longer.
Tactic 3: Charging
I remember when I got my first mobile as a kid and I had to charge it for 48 hours constantly before using it. These were generally nickel cadmium batteries that also hated being charged partially, a full 100% charge and discharge was always recommended.
Li-ion batteries, which are far more common these days are much more forgiving as well. When charging and discharging your smartphone daily, it's much better to keep the level at around 50% to prolong battery life expectancy as opposed to maintaining it at around 90-100% charge capacity.
Li-ion batteries degrade most when they are not in use and fully charged, so if you plan to charge the battery and leave it for several days its much healthier to charge it to only around 20-30% (this is also why your battery has roughly 30% when you buy a new mobile for example).
The above tactics are tips you can use to preserve your battery for longer periods of time, such as over the course of a week or potentially when you go on holiday. But, to save your battery on a night out or if you are sight-seeing for the day then here are some things you can do to prolong the single charge you have.
Rule number one: Reduce power consumption wherever possible by lowering the draw on the battery. Good examples are:
- Close all unused apps
- Clear the RAM (Android devices)
- Turn Wi-Fi off
- Turn Data off
- Turn GPS off
- Decrease screen brightness
- Switch NFC off (if your phone has it)
- Switch Bluetooth off
- Turn any fancy features off (e.g. Air gesture, hands free mode, air view, multiscreen etc.)
Rule number two: Store your device in a warm (ish) place for example in your pocket when in colder climates or in your bag during warmer temperatures. The slightly warmer conditions will increase the temperature of the atoms within the battery and allow them to move more freely, using less power.
Cooling precautions start within the phone when it reaches between 30-50 degrees Celsius, which consumes more power. Safety precautions will cause the phone to shut down after 55-65 degrees.
All of the above is a rough guideline on how to use Lithium Ion batteries that are the most common in today’s battery-powered devices. If you require any assistance or more information on batteries, I used this website to assist me from the Battery University.