Battery Conditioning

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Battery Conditioning: a reader asks…

I’ve recently acquired a new smartphone. I’ve read about the problems with battery life and longevity. What should I do to make sure my battery gives as good service as it can?

Battery technology has advanced quite a bit over the years. In the old days of Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cad) batteries, you had to pre-condition them by fully charging before first use, and then periodically drain them down fully to re-condition them and ensure you get a full charge. Since the advent of Lithium-Ion (Li-On) batteries, the new chemistry of the batteries is such that it’s actually going to shorten the battery life by conditioning them, or by draining them completely. And a partial charge only counts as a partial charge for a Li-On battery (when measuring complete charge/discharge cycles in the life of a battery).

Almost certainly your new smartphone has a Li-On battery in it, so here’s a short list of what you should do to make sure it gives you its best service over its lifetime:

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  1. dead-battery-iconDon’t deeply discharge the battery if you can help it. Plugging in once your battery is over 50% (or higher) is better for the battery. Take every opportunity to plug in and recharge the battery.
  2. Don’t leave the battery plugged in all the time. As soon as it’s at or near 100%, unplug it. Modern smartphones and chargers have circuitry to protect against overcharging, but if you leave the smartphone plugged in all the time, it will continuously cycle between charging and discharging, shortening the battery’s longevity.
  3. Keep your battery cool. Overheating is poison for Li-On batteries. Don’t leave it in the sun, and don’t leave it turned on in your jeans pocket – your body heat will help it get even hotter. But not too cool, temperatures at or below freezing can also shorten your available charge.

That’s about all you need to worry about. Recognize that rechargeable batteries have a service life measured in charge cycles, and as you use up cycles, your battery will hold less and less of a full charge. In general, after a couple of years of daily use, it’s getting near time to replace the battery (or possibly the smarthone itself). Batteries are consumables and will wear out, that’s the nature of their physics. The fact that most modern smartphones don’t have an easily replaceable battery (by you), simply reflects the nature of the smartphone business. Most manufacturers release a new smartphone model at least once a year, and smartphones themselves are often treated as consumables. Not that you have to, but the advance of technology and capabilities of smartphones is swift, and last year’s bleeding-edge smartphone is this year’s old dog.

 

And these same three tips work on your laptop or tablet battery as well.

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