How to Maximize Smartphone Battery Health

Development in charging technologies and operating system optimizations are a testament to the fact that longer battery life is a core essential in any modern smartphone. In fact, not just that, these advancements also highlight one of the major limitations with the Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery-tech, which is that it is quite a challenge for battery scientists and engineers to make a battery that is efficient — lasts longer and charges faster. As a result, it is you — the end-user — who has to practice certain habits to maximize your smartphone’s battery life, and in turn, keep the battery health at optimal levels.

Maximize smartphone battery health
IMAGE: Tyler Lastovich (Unsplash)

When we talk about maximizing battery life, it does not necessarily imply increasing the battery life on a smartphone to make it last you through x number of days. Instead, it means discussing the different ways in which you can improve (not increase) the lifespan of your phone battery. For, at large, the way we use our smartphone and charge its battery on a regular basis plays a crucial role in the battery’s overall health. If done correctly, it contributes to battery longevity and helps in delaying battery deterioration. Needless to say, bad battery practices lead to early battery degradation, and in some cases, cause permanent damage.

So, to help you maximize smartphone battery life and prevent its health from deteriorating quickly, here’s our guide with some of the best battery practices you should follow. In addition, later down below, we also have answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) around battery health and charging to clear out fallacious myths.

Before we dive straight into the practices, it is rudimentary for you to understand the basics of a battery — lithium-ion or Li-ion for the purpose of this article. That way, you do not fall for obscure posts recommending the different ways to “maximize or increase battery life and health.”

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries

A typical lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery has an estimated life of about two to three years. In terms of the charge cycle, this period translates to roughly around 300-500 charge cycles. For the uninitiated, a charge cycle is a period of full discharge and full recharge. So, one charge cycle is the period when you discharge your phone completely and then put it to charge to recharge the battery back to its maximum capacity (100%).

Smartphone Li-ion batteries

Over time, as you continue using your phone and its battery continues to go through the same cycle, it starts losing its original capacity to hold power, i.e. it starts deteriorating. Battery deterioration is an irreversible process, which means once your smartphone’s battery health has depleted to a certain percentage, you cannot restore it back to its original state (100%). Instead, what you can actually do is change the way you utilize and charge it.

One important thing to note here is that the recharging process is not solely responsible for the deterioration of a battery: it is also the way Li-ion batteries function that adds to their aging process. You see, lithium-ion batteries have ions (floating around in the electrolyte) that move between the positive (cathode) and negative (anode) electrodes. And while this might seem like a fairly uncomplicated process that should go on uninterrupted, sadly, that is not the case. Since several other factors like temperature, internal reactions within the battery, the cycling process itself, among others, also play a role and contribute to the battery degradation process.

Li-ion battery working
IMAGE: Research Gate

However, because most of these factors are part of the chemical process that goes on inside a Li-ion battery, the only way we are left with to take care of our smartphone’s battery health and slow down its degradation is to address bad battery practices. So irrespective of whether you use an Android or an iPhone, here are some battery practices you should always follow to increase its longevity.

Best practices to maximize smartphone battery health

iPhone high termperature warning
IMAGE: Apple

1. Keep your phone away from extreme heat and cold

Most of you might already know that (Li-ion) battery health and heat do not concord well together. However, what might surprise some is the fact that extreme cold temperature is not any good for a battery’s health either. While heat fastens the chemical reactions inside the battery, leading to its degradation over time, increased exposure to cold temperatures slows down the reactions and demands more effort to charge. Thus, lowering the battery capacity.

In an ideal scenario, you need the smartphone to operate in a temperature range between +10°C to +55°C, with the charging temperature range between +5°C and +45°C — which are the ideal ranges of operation and charging for lithium-ion batteries.

2. Avoid complete discharge and recharge

Not very long ago, there used to be a time when rechargeable batteries required calibration — a process that involves passing the phone through a complete charge cycle by draining the battery down to 0% and then recharging it back to 100%. However, modern smartphones and their batteries no longer require calibration. In fact, doing so does more bad to the battery’s health than any good, since when you pass the battery through a complete discharge and charge cycle, what you are essentially doing is stressing it to perform its operations forcefully and quickly. Thus, adversely affecting its lifespan.

3. Keep your smartphone charged moderately

There has been a lot of debate around how much and how often should you charge your smartphone. While there are no clear-cut answers here, keeping your smartphone charged between 20% to 80% is considered healthy for the battery. If you take the previous point into account, this one builds upon that and offers a safe range to play in and manage your smartphone’s battery to prevent accelerated deterioration.

Smartphone with moderate battery charge
IMAGE: Mika Baumeister (Unsplash)

4. Go for short charging stints over complete charge

Back in the day, a lot of smartphone users followed the practice of letting their phone’s battery discharge completely before plugging it in for a full recharge (aka deep cycling). Even today, most users seem to follow the same practice. However, over time, this has proved to be a detrimental habit that contributes to the battery’s rapid deterioration. Basically, in addition to adding to the charge cycle count, what practicing this habit also does is put more stress on the battery at lower charge levels — both in terms of usage and charging. Needless to say, putting the battery through a full recharge also puts it under stress.

As a matter of fact, what you should instead do is try to maintain your smartphone’s battery charge in the range of 20% to 80% — in a way that you plug it in for a recharge at a specific charge level, say 40%, and take it off between 80% to 90%. That way, you do not end up stressing it.

On a related note, some experts suggest keeping the battery levels on a half-way mark, at 50%, most of the time to prolong the battery health in the long run.

5. Avoid idle charging

One of the contributors to rapid battery degradation is idle charging, which is basically a term used to refer to charging your smartphone overnight. Even though modern smartphones, and the chargers they come with, promises to cut down the supply when the 100% battery level is achieved, to prevent overcharging, a few other factors still contribute to battery degradation. Of these, the biggest is the plating of metallic lithium caused due to continuous trickle charging. Trickle charging, for the uninitiated, is the refueling of a battery with a charge equal to that of the discharged amount to keep the battery to remain at its fully-charged level.

Smartphone on idle charging
IMAGE: Mehdi Babousan (Unsplash)

Li-ion batteries involve the movement of ions from the positive terminal (cathode) to the negative terminal (anode) during charging and from the negative terminal to the positive terminal while discharging. While idle charging, when the battery level reaches 100%, and overtime when the charger applies trickle charges to compensate for the fall in charge level, there is a formation of metallic lithium at the anode (negative terminal) of the battery. This deposit of lithium at the anode is what is referred to as plating. Lithium plating is known to cause degradation of the battery over time, which is why it is considered undesirable for the proper functioning of Li-ion batteries in the long run. But if you still need to charge your phone overnight, we recommend using a smart plug to program it to automatically turn off charging at a specific time.

Those are some of the best battery practices you can follow to prevent your smartphone’s battery from quick deterioration, and in turn, get more out of both the battery and the device. However, you do need to keep in mind that every battery offers a finite charge cycle, so the efficiency with which you utilize these cycles plays its part in the battery’s health in the long run. A conservative approach is usually ideal for keeping the battery degradation under check, not to mention cutting down on heat and protecting the battery from being exposed to extreme (high and low) temperatures also contributes and helps you get more out of your phone battery.

Battery Health: Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you increase battery health once it has depleted?

No. There is no way you can reinstate the battery health back to 100%. Instead, what you can actually do is prevent the battery from quick degradation by practicing good habits. This is so because Li-ion batteries, or any other batteries, for that matter, continually perform chemical reactions within, which itself contributes towards its depletion and makes the idea of preventing battery deterioration impossible.

2. Is it bad to charge phones overnight?

Yes. And not because it will overcharge and cause excess heating. That has been taken care of by most modern smartphones and the charging-tech. But rather because of the trickle charging that takes place to maintain the 100% charge levels, giving rise to unnecessary lithium plating, which is undesirable and can adversely affect battery health.

3. Is it ok to use the phone while it is charging?

No. Using your smartphone while it is charging is not recommended since the charging process itself generates heat, and pushing your smartphone to work while that happens further increases the temperature and puts the battery under additional stress. As we already mentioned earlier in the article, heat is the worst enemy for batteries, which is why the two do not concord well together, and therefore, as much as possible, you should avoid subjecting your smartphone to extreme heat. An ideal scenario to charge your smartphone’s battery is where you put it on charge and do not use it.

4. Does having Wi-Fi and Bluetooth ON drain battery life?

Yes, having Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in the ON state does consume battery. Since, when these settings are enabled, your smartphone is constantly searching for Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth devices in its vicinity, and in the process, is using up the battery juice in the background.

5. Does closing apps save battery life?

No. In fact, doing so hinders the battery life. For, when you close all the apps from the background, what you are essentially doing is creating a scenario where restarting all those apps will potentially consume even more battery than what it would do while running in the background. You see, unlike earlier generation smartphones, modern ones do not continuously consume as much battery juice as they used to do back in the day, making the need to clear them from the background unnecessary. So, unless there is an app that you would not likely open again, you should avoid clearing it from running in the background.

6. Does having a dark theme help in reducing battery consumption?

Depends. If you are using a smartphone (Android or iPhone) that sports an LCD display, there is not much to expect out of this trick. However, if it features an OLED, you can actually benefit from a dark theme (and a dark wallpaper), as now, there are very few colors (or no colors at all) for the pixels to correspond to and light up, which keeps them in an inactive state that draws comparatively less power.

7. How to extend smartphone battery life?

In addition to the practices listed in the earlier portion of this article, there are a few things that you can do to save the battery life on your smartphone on a regular basis, and in turn, maximize the battery life. These include:

  • Enabling optimized battery charging (or its equivalent) on your smartphone to protect the battery by limiting it from charging to its full potential right away.
  • Limiting the number of notification alerts to your smartphone. And if possible, changing the email retrieval method to push instead of fetch.
  • Using power saver mode (or whatever it is called on Apple, Samsung, Google, or any other smartphone) to reduce stress on the battery at lower charge levels and extend the remaining charge to purchase more time.
  • Enabling auto-brightness to prevent having the display brightness set to high levels all the time and allow the smartphone to adjust the brightness according to the ambient lighting conditions instead.
  • Turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use.
  • Disabling location services when not required.
  • Using Wi-Fi over cellular connectivity as your preferred mode of connection, when available.
  • Limiting background activity, ie. background app refresh for apps you use infrequently and do not need alerts for.
  • Identifying battery hogging and unused apps and removing them from your smartphone.

Of course, these are just a few tips to help you save battery life on your smartphone. And there are numerous other ways that can hog battery on a daily basis. However, before you get all excited, you should know that these tips do not guarantee an increase in battery life right away, nor do they promise to show drastic battery level improvements. They are just to help you preserve unnecessary battery hogging and get a few minutes (or at max an hour) of screen-on-time. And in the process, save the accelerated deterioration of your smartphone’s battery.