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8 smartphone battery myths busted

8 smartphone battery myths busted

8 smartphone battery myths busted
24 November 2015

In 2002, your mobile phone battery was roughly the size of a bar of soap.

It was a lump of lithium-ion that needed careful love and attention if it was going to give you its best. Rumours spread as to how to achieve this, as someone's "mate from IT" offered up hitherto unknown secrets from dingy internet chat forums. The tips became legend, techno folklore that is still followed by many today.

As such, we're here to kill the myths. Batteries have come a long way since the days of the 3310 - and many of your battery saving practices might be doing nothing at all.

Prepare to change your charging ways. It's powerful stuff.

(Images: Shutterstock)

Only charge your phone when it's almost dead

Once upon a time, batteries were stupid. They needed draining before they were topped up again, prolonging their life span if the cell's entire charge was drained.

Now, lithium-ion batteries work with 'charge cycles' - which Apple explains here. In short, your battery completes a charge cycle when it drains an amount equal to 100 per cent of your battery's total allocation.

Drain it 75 per cent one day, top it up 75 per cent over night, and when you've used 25 per cent of it the next, that's one full charge cycle.

Most batteries will see a diminishing total charge after two years of complete charge cycles - but it doesn't matter when you plug in to charge up.

Close background apps

Now, if you're headed into the final few percentage of your battery life and need to squeeze out a few more minutes of juice, there's something to be said for killing background apps.

However, over the course of a day's use, closing all background apps doesn't actually help your case.

An app running in the background of your phone isn't exactly the same as a programme running in the background of your computer. By closing an app and then rebooting it from scratch, you'll actually drain more battery life than if you left the app open in the background.

To crack down on apps that hog your battery life, turn off their background refresh rate instead.

Only use the official charger

Ah, this old chestnut.

True: chargers can vary in the length of time they take to top up your phone.

False: an 'unofficial' charger will reduce your over all battery life.

It's just not true. It might seem like your phone isn't getting its full amount of juice, but the charger won't be harming your battery life. Functions like trickle charge are controlled internally, rather than by anything in the charger. Be aware you might be in for a longer charge, but it won't be doing any damage to your phone (unless you're plugging in something that isn't a phone charger - you don't want to stick more current in than your phone wants).

Charging overnight ruins your battery life

Again, this used to be true of old batteries - once they hit 100 per cent capacity, bombarding them with additional charge could have an incremental effect over time.

Now, however, most battery cells use a technology called 'trickle charge' to prevent this from happening. Once your phone nears the final stretch of its charge (around 80 per cent), it reduces the electrical current headed to the battery, killing it off once it hits 100 per cent.

So yes, it's fine to keep your phone plugged in over night.

Don't use your phone while it charges

Why? Why would you think this?

Did that mate from IT tell you? Did it stem from some thought process that charging your phone was a hateful thing to do, and should be done as seldom as possible, so using it would just drain power you'd eventually have to put back in anyway?

End this folly. Use your phone while it charges if you want. It won't do any lasting damage.

Charge your phone out of the box

Another legend that stems from the idea that batteries had a "memory", and that pumping in maximum charge at the start of its life would give it a full and happy existence.

Unfortunately, it's total rubbish. Phones may ask to be plugged in when they're first booted, but this is more for calibration than ensuring you don't damage them.

Go ahead - tear that plastic off and start taking selfies, you bloody tech nut.

Calibrating your battery will help preserve battery life


What it will do is give you a better impression of just how much charge is in your battery - but it won't do squat for extending your battery life or improving the capacities of your battery.

By all means, it's useful to know just how much charge you've got left, but don't go into it with any false hopes of getting more out of your battery.

Location services will kill your battery, turn it to Aeroplane Mode

Similar to background apps, this is only a useful step to take if you're hoping to make your final dribble of charge last as long as possible.

Aeroplane Mode (or 'Airplane', to those of US persuasion) cuts off all signals running to and from your phone, including location services. In their tests, Mac World found that turning this on only added half an hour to the phone's battery life.

So yes, location services do use battery life - but they don't crunch through charge with any real threat.