Smartphones are now a ubiquitous part of our lives, as are numerous myths about how to extend your smartphone’s battery life.
You can keep your phone battery healthy forever
Let’s start with the most persistent overarching myth: that you can somehow treat your phone’s battery to keep it in good shape forever.
A smartphone battery is ultimately a consumer product. Like tires on a car, a battery needs to be used and replaced when it reaches the end of its life cycle.
Just like tires or any other consumable that eventually succumbs to wear and tear, there are certainly things you can do to extend the life of your smartphone battery. You can also extend the life of your tires by driving them minimally, storing your car in a climate-controlled environment, and taking other extreme steps to protect them. But this makes using the car less convenient and for what? Putting off spending money on new tires?
We strongly encourage you to think about your smartphone battery the way people think about tires. Of course, changing the battery in your phone is less of a problem as many phones now have a sealed body design. But it’s not particularly expensive. And at the end of the day, we’d rather use our phone the way we want to use it than worry about maybe spending $50-$70 on a new battery in a few years.
With that in mind, here are some persistent smartphone battery myths you should stop worrying about, along with a few notes on the little nuggets of truth that inspired them.
You should kill apps to save battery
Your phone was designed to be used the way the vast majority of people use it: open apps when you need them, never actually close them, and just put unused apps aside when you switch to the next app—let the original app hang. in a sort of suspended state until needed again.
Your phone wasn’t designed with the idea that you, the end user, would be forced to close an app while using it like you would close apps on a desktop computer. This is true for iPhones and it is also true for Android phones.
Yes, there are rare cases where poorly coded apps use too much background data or otherwise negatively affect battery life. If you have an app that you really need to use, and it’s one of these apps, it might be wise to force quit it when you’re not actually using it.
But for most people who use most apps, it’s not only a waste of time, but constantly closing apps actually hurts their phone’s performance and battery life.
You should discharge the battery to 0% before charging.
In the grand scheme of things, consumers have been using lithium-ion batteries relatively recently. Because of this, many people either have their own experience with older (and finickier) batteries, or have been advised by people who have.
Some types of rechargeable batteries suffer from “memory” problems, where incomplete cycling of the battery can significantly reduce performance.
This is not the case with lithium-ion batteries. In fact, you should go out of your way to avoid completely draining your battery. In general, your phone’s battery is happiest when it’s being used and charged regularly.
However, perhaps once or twice a year, it’s useful to let the lithium-ion battery in your smartphone completely discharge before recharging to recalibrate the battery. This does nothing to extend battery life, but it does ensure that your phone’s software can accurately report battery charge.
You should not use it while charging
This myth is based on the idea that heat damages your phone and battery life. That’s not entirely untrue. Your battery works happiest at room temperature (and actually works slightly better in colder than room temperature conditions). Electronics generally don’t like heat.
But a little bit of heat brought in by charging, and then the extra heat brought in by using your phone to turn Instagram brown, isn’t a big deal. Should you be charging your phone while sitting in the direct summer sun playing the most demanding mobile game you have? No, probably not. But anything other than these kinds of stress tests is fine. Enjoy your phone.
In fact, we’re big advocates of buying really long charging cables so you can enjoy your phone more comfortably while it’s charging.
Third party chargers will damage your phone
Is it ideal to only use first-party OEM chargers made by the manufacturer directly for your smartphone? Sure. Is it a huge risk to do otherwise? In most cases, not at all.
There are a lot of really great third-party chargers from reputable companies like Anker, Belkin, Spigen, and so on.
What you want to avoid are poorly constructed and poorly inspected chargers found at gas stations, flea markets, and other places that sell cheap no-name products. Don’t trust your phone worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars to a $4 gas station charger.
Fast and wireless charging will damage your battery
We will put these two together because the basis of the myth is the same. There is a long-standing belief that using a fast charger or wireless charger damages your battery because it introduces excessive heat that degrades the battery circuitry.
Technically, it is true that a short period of intense charging during the peak of the fast charge cycle produces more heat than not using fast charge.
It’s also technically true that the inherent inefficiency of a wireless charger versus a wired charger also brings additional heat.
However, none of them have a significant enough impact to merit real consideration, and modern smartphone fast charging is very safe.
Charging overnight damages your battery
Here’s another myth that was far more true in the past and barely relevant today: leaving your phone plugged in overnight is bad for your battery.
In the past, smartphones were not that smart when it came to battery management. Your phone would charge up to 100%, stop charging, then slowly drain and then charge again – all night long. Modern phones have adaptive charging and strategically manage the charging window to minimize battery damage.
A fully charged and ready phone in the morning will far outweigh any minor wear and tear that overnight battery charging might cause.
Turning your phone off is bad for your battery
This myth, depending on who shares it, goes both ways. Some people will tell you that turning off your phone is good for your battery. Some people will tell you that leaving your phone on all the time is bad for your battery. The truth is, neither state matters much in the grand scheme of things.
Your phone is designed to be always on. No phone manufacturer designed their device to be turned off and put away in a drawer when not in use.
Sure, you can extend the life of a lithium-ion battery by charging it to about 50-60% and then storing it in a cool, dry place, but again, it’s your smartphone — not some old gadget you’re storing. However, your smartphone is not a device that you store in storage, it is something that you use every day.
You should disable Bluetooth and other features
Years ago, turning off battery saving features was a much more useful tip than it is now. To be sure, any features on your smartphone that require power, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, background data, etc., will affect battery life.
Turning off Wi-Fi when you’re on an airplane and not using the airplane Wi-Fi, for example, is an easy way to squeeze out some battery life if you don’t have a charger handy. And disabling background data updates for a specific app that aggressively requests data that you don’t need constant updates on is also a wise decision.
But turning off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, leaving your phone in airplane mode, or disabling all background data is overkill. In everyday use, using the phone is difficult. Who cares if you add a fraction of a percent to your battery life when you have to fiddle with settings or manually open apps to get updates every day?
The same goes for low power mode in general. If you’re stuck between places where you can charge your phone, definitely use it. But keeping your phone in low power mode will only make it frustrating to use.
In the end, we hope that the real benefit for everyone is that they should be able to use their phones however they want. Micromanaging how you charge your smartphone can at best increase battery life marginally and isn’t worth bothering with.