Avoid These Battery Charging and Battery Saving Myths With Your Smartphone

Improved mobile Phone technology means that many old tips are no longer relevant

To Charge or Not to Charge: Avoid These Myths about Saving Battery Life
Image: Pixabay
December 7, 2018

As a smartphone battery gets older, its ability to hold a charge decreases. When this happens, we're looking for the best ways to extend battery life and hold a charge longer. But there are a bunch of myths going around about smartphone batteries that do little more than waste your time.

  1. Close apps that you're not using to preserve your battery's charge.
  2. The theory goes that apps running in the background are consuming a lot of your smartphone's energy. But this isn't entirely true. When an app isn't being used actively, most or all its processes are suspended. The app may be stored in memory, but the memory uses the same amount of power regardless of whether anything is stored in it. And if you do close the app, you'll have to reload it entirely each time you open it.

    If your smartphone uses background app refresh, there might be a small amount of benefit to closing your apps. Background app refresh allows the app to periodically update its data, even when the app isn't being used. Closing these apps that use background app refresh might give you a few more minutes of juice, but it's probably not worth the trouble.

    There are times when closing an app can save a good amount of power, and that's navigation apps. Navigation apps are constantly using location services (see below) in order to keep your position accurate. Close navigation apps when not in use, especially on older devices with circuitry that isn't as efficient.

  3. Disabling Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular data, and location services will save a lot of power.
  4. There is some truth to this one on older devices, but the technology in newer devices typically use less power than devices released only a year earlier. In fact, some newer chips can use one quarter to even half the amount of power compared to earlier versions. So will disabling these devices save a significant amount of power? Probably not. Will disabling them save some power? Yes. But the amount depends upon the device, device software, and the technology on the chip. Don't expect to add hours of life to your device by disabling these things. You might only get ten minutes.

    If you are at a significant distance from the wireless access point or if you have weak cellular signal, your power savings will be a little more since smartphones increase the power to the particular adapter in order to compensate for the greater distance.

    As for location services, many apps use your location only intermittently, using only a small amount of power. Apps that use your location constantly, such as navigation apps, will use significantly more power. But there's really no way around this as it needs to do so in order to locate you. So rather than disabling location services entirely and possibly causing some apps and services to not function correctly, choose your settings wisely. If an app only needs your location while using the app, don't allow it to access your location all the time.

  5. Avoid aftermarket chargers or your battery will be damaged.
  6. You have probably been warned to use only the charger that came with your phone rather than one manufactured by a another company. The result is supposedly overcharging your phone's battery, which can physically damage it. In reality, the phone's circuitry and software control the rate of charge, not the charger. The charger is simply responsible for converting the current from the outlet to the type of current needed and supplying only the amount that the phone is drawing.

    You should always steer clear of 'cheap' aftermarket chargers. Many budget chargers are poorly made using low-quality components. These chargers, as well as counterfeit chargers, can harm you and your phone by exposing you to dangerous currents. This is becoming especially problematic as 'fast' chargers are becoming the norm. If a charger is significantly under-priced, proceed very cautiously. Choose only a reputable vendor if you are going to buy a new charger. But remember that sometimes a reputable vendor can send you a counterfeit or poorly-made charger. If buying from a company like Amazon.com, which sells its own products and products through third party 'stores,' make sure to buy products shipped AND solder by Amazon or from a seller on the site that has good reviews.

  7. Do not charge your battery overnight or for long periods of time.
  8. In the distant past, smartphone batteries could be ruined by leaving them plugged in for long periods of time. This was certainly true of older nickel-based batteries and some lithium ion batteries used before smartphones more accurately controlled the rate of charge. Newer batteries are made of better materials and software in the device will stop the charge once the battery has been recharged.

    While it might not be completely ideal to have your smartphone always plugged in, devices of today are pretty smart and can compensate for the way you use and charge them, even disabling charging if they get too hot. So, you're safe to leave the phone plugged in all night. The only exception is if there is a serious defect with the battery, such as the recent Samsung battery recall, or for counterfeit batteries (see below).

  9. Aftermarket batteries are a safe alternative to expensive batteries from the manufacturer.
  10. Batteries in smartphones can be fairly inexpensive, or they could run $100 or more depending upon the type and capacity. Because of the cost, many people look to save money by installing a battery from a third-party manufacturer. While this could be perfectly safe, aftermarket batteries may not undergo the same rigorous testing procedures as the batteries used by the manufacturer of your device. These batteries, as well as counterfeit batteries, may not perform well and may damage your device or cause fire. They are often unable to properly dissipate the heat created during the charging and discharging process.

  11. You should let your phone's battery die completely before charging it.
  12. The batteries of today are meant to be charged whenever you want, which can be if you have 50% battery life or 80%. But there's no need to let it die before recharging as there isn't much of a memory effect as there was with older types of batteries. There is still a memory effect, but it's small. It's also possible to damage the battery by allowing it to die or get critically low too often.

    Most cell phone manufacturers recommend recharging the battery when it's about half depleted. Some recommend allowing the battery to die completely and performing a complete recharge once per month in order to prevent any memory effects.