How often do you recharge your smartphone?
It’s different for everyone; personally speaking, my phone is charged (on average) every other day, but of course this changes when I’m working “on the road” (conducting interviews or just hanging out in cafes working on my tablet or just with pen and paper).
A few years ago I worked as an IT technician, something that required me to have my phone switched on 24/7. This also meant almost perpetual charging, whether at home, in the office or in the car. That’s a lot of recharging; a lot of energy.
In a society where energy costs are rising, brownouts and blackouts are more common and the urge to stay connected is ever-greater, knowing how to manage your mobile phone’s battery as effectively as possible is increasingly important.
This isn’t only to keep costs down – it’s also about staying in communication with emails and social networking services as well as text messaging and phone calls.
Why Battery Life Decreases Under Different Conditions
Smartphones almost exclusively employ Lithium-Ion (aka Li-ion) batteries as these offer an affordable, high capacity solution for the various functions, services and connections that smartphone users expect from operating systems.
Battery charge decreases on a day-to-day basis through constant use – but what factors affect the life of a Li-ion battery?
The age of the battery is most important, as this can affect that maximum charge. A 2010 study demonstrated that from a starting capacity of 88-94%, battery life after 250 charges reduced to 73-84%.
Internal resistance and self-discharge is largely redundant in modern batteries, and while age is something that cannot be easily managed (batteries can sit on shelves in their smartphones for months before purchase) all of this means that managing your battery life is something that you will need to monitor closely.
Looking After Your Battery
A few years ago I was convinced that full battery discharge from time to time was the best way to maintain long life for the power cell – I’ve since learned, however, that this is not the case. Instead, avoiding full discharge and charging regularly is apparently the best way to keep the battery working longer.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fully discharge your battery every couple of months. Doing so enables the device hardware to recalibrate capacity, thereby ensuring that the correct charge is displayed on your smartphone.
Interestingly, temperature will affect your battery life; even occasional use in hot conditions will drain the battery faster…
Native Tips and Tricks for Maintaining Battery Life
There are various ways provided by mobile phone operating system developers that you can employ to lengthen the time between charges.
Sadly this means a trade-off with functionality.
The most obvious thing to do is make sure your screen is set to switch off after a certain amount of time unused – perhaps after 30 seconds or a minute. You can also disable the phone’s vibrate mode and any vibrate/haptic feedback designed to help you determine when software buttons have been pressed.
After this, it’s time to turn your attention to connectivity. Bluetooth will drain your battery, so if this isn’t in use, disable it. Similarly, Wi-Fi will severely deplete battery life, especially if you have a few rogue apps or games maintaining a connection with a remote server.
Mobile Internet such as EDGE, 3G, 4G and beyond will also lead to faster depletion of battery life. If you’re not using these connections for anything (i.e. your phone is sitting idle) then disable them.
Finally, take a look at the apps you have installed, and determine whether or not they require localization services. These are typically provided by GPS, one of the biggest drains on your phone’s battery. If you’re not using GPS, switch it off!
Battery Management Apps
Pretty much all mobile platforms have battery management apps available for them. These are available either as third party apps that can be installed from the corresponding app store or provided as a native option.
Sadly, these apps don’t really do anything magical. Typically they will restrict data transfer on mobile Internet services, or at best all but disable non telephony connectivity in order to maintain battery life for as long as possible. After all, smartphones are basically for making phone calls, so as long as this fundamental function is available with a low battery, there isn’t an overwhelming need to recharge.
Can I Recharge My Phone in the Freezer?
As crazy as the idea of placing an expensive piece of hardware in a coolbox might sound, it is actually possible to get more battery life from a smartphone by placing it somewhere cold for a while.
While a freezer is unsuitable – it is likely to cause the casing of the battery to crack – the principle of keeping a Lithium-Ion battery cool will increase the amount of power that it delivers to your phone. Li-ion rechargeable batteries generate heat when in use, something that is mitigated by internal resistance (this is also why charger voltages are so low; a high voltage would result in a faster charge but also a higher temperature – above 30 degrees Celsius/86 degrees Fahrenheit – reducing the life of the battery). This causes the battery to discharge more quickly while simultaneously providing energy for the normal functioning of the device.
Using the phone in a cooler environment or storing the battery itself in a cool place when not in use can extend the charge and the life of the cell.
Keeping your smartphone battery charge going for as long as possible isn’t just environmentally sound, it is financially sound too. While recharging from a modern car battery might not cost as much as recharging your smartphone from the mains electricity every day, understanding what services and functions impact battery power the most and taking steps to minimise these is the best way of increasing the life of the current charge.
As for your battery itself, regular top-up charges, with occasional recalibration discharges will increase battery life, as will storage in a cool place away from heat.