A mobile phone is about as useful as its battery life: it wouldn’t really be a mobile phone without a charged battery after all. But while most of us protect our phones with sturdy cases, we don’t seem to invest as much effort in protecting our phone battery’s lifespan.
Today the vast majority of mobile phones (and tablets and laptops) use lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion offers many advantages (its higher energy density means smaller batteries, which in turn mean lighter, sleeker phones, for example) but these batteries still inevitably degrade with use.
Anyone who has used a mobile phone for many years will probably notice that its battery life seems to get shorter over time, perhaps lasting only half a day even after a full charge. That’s because every time your phones lithium-ion battery charges and discharges energy it loses how much charge it can hold.
How can we keep our phone battery working in top form for as long as possible? Here are 10 things you can do:
1. Keep your battery from going to 0% or 100%
Some of you might think that the best way to keep your battery healthy is to charge it and discharge it fully i.e. to try to charge it to 100% and drain it completely. You might have heard that calibrating your battery makes it work better.
This is a holdover from older battery types: lithium-ion batteries don’t work this way. There is no battery memory to calibrate. On the contrary, you’re stressing your lithium-ion battery more and shortening its lifespan by doing so: discharging your battery fully at 100% compared to 60% can halve the lifespan of your battery .
Because lithium-ion batteries come under the most stress when they’re fully charged or fully drained the best approach is partial charging. Ideally you should charge your battery up to about 80% and avoid having it drop lower than 30%. If this isn’t practical, try to aim for a maximum of 90% and to start charging your phone before it hits 20%.
2. Avoid charging your battery beyond 100%
While leaving your phone to charge overnight is a common habit, it can actually shorten its battery lifespan. When kept at 100% charge your battery not only experiences higher stress from the higher voltage, heat also builds up over time.
While mobile phone batteries wont overheat to the point that it’s dangerous to the user, exposing a battery to high heat is one of the fastest ways to shorten its lifespan.
If you can’t avoid leaving your phone to charge overnight, make sure its in cool or well-ventilated place so the heat can more easily dissipate. For example, not under your pillow.
3. Charge slowly if you can
No one will argue that fast charging technologies are a great time-saver. If you’re intent on maximising your battery’s lifespan, you should probably save them for emergencies as they can stress out and damage your battery, especially if you have an older phone.
On the other hand, charging your battery more slowly is good for it. As such, charging your phone through your computer or laptop can actually be a good thing.
4. Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth if you’re not using them
It’s also important to keep in mind things that will help your battery last longer on a single charge. After all the fewer charge cycles your phone battery goes through, the slower it degrades and the longer its lifespan.
One common drain on battery life is leaving your phone’s WiFi or Bluetooth on while they’re not in use as they do drain your battery scanning for networks or devices to connect to.
Realistically speaking, if you’re just moving from one place with WiFi to another, like going from your home to the office, it’s probably not a big deal if you don’t disable your phones WiFi. But if you’re spending a whole day out and not planning to use your WiFi at all, you should probably turn it off to save some battery life.
On a related note, if you have an Android smartphones you can turn off automatic WiFi, a feature where your phone would still scan for networks even if you’ve turned WiFi off.
5. Manage your location services
A lot of apps these days track your phone’s location to support their services, constantly scanning with a combination of GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth and cell tower locations for maximum accuracy. To ensure that you’re not wasting battery life, it’s best to only let these apps access your location services only when you’re using the app.
If you have an iPhone you can go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and set your preferences there. On Android phones, you can go to Settings > Security & Location > Location > Advanced to disable WiFi scanning and Bluetooth scanning completely or Settings > Apps & Notifications > Advanced > App Permissions to block apps from using location services in the background.
6. Let your assistant go
While features like Google Assistant and Siri can be really useful to have, they add to the battery drain of your phone, especially if they’re constantly listening out for your voice commands.
If you don’t need or hardly use these features, it’s best to disable them, or at least disable their “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” voice command function.
7. Don’t close your apps, manage them instead
By now you may be thinking you should start closing everything running on your phone as much as possible save battery life. Wait no, not so fast!
Closing apps i.e. force-quitting apps that are running in the background on your phone doesn’t actually improve your battery life at all. In fact, it can actually make things worse.
Both iOS and Android systems have algorithms that automatically manage how much power or memory background apps are using. By forcing apps to close, you risk messing up this smart system. Furthermore, opening an app that is closed uses more power than returning to an app that’s already running in the background.
Instead you should be looking that how much refreshing your apps are doing in the background. Do you need Facebook or Instagram to keep updating itself even when you’re not looking at it? On iOS, go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh to review what apps do you really need refreshed constantly.
On Android, you can actually limit how much battery each individual app uses while running in the background. A better alternative to shutting them down, you can do this by going to Settings > Apps & Notifications and under that apps page, go to Advanced > Battery > Background restriction.
8. Keep that brightness down
We get it, your phone screen is gorgeous. But screen brightness is a major drain on your phone battery. If you need to conserve battery power, turning it to its lowest-but-still-readable setting is the way to go.
9. Make use of smart battery modes
Today’s Android and iOS devices come with their own smart battery saver or low power mode. These are especially helpful as they automatically cut back on functions that drain battery life, such as CPU usage, notifications, mail fetching and screen brightness.
While these power saving modes automatically kick when your phone’s battery is low, you can easily enable them manually whenever you want. Your phone will continue to function but at a lower level of performance.
While you might not want to have this mode on all the time, if you’re not going to be using your phone much for some hours or want to cut down on distractions, this can help reduce stress on your phone’s battery.
10. Embrace the dark mode (if you have an OLED screen)
If you got a more recent phone like the Samsung Galaxy S9 or the iPhone XS, you could cut down on your battery drain by switching to Dark Mode.
A recent test by PhoneBuff found that your iPhones battery life could be extended by 30% by embracing this dark aesthetic. Google did its own study and showed how the Google Pixel drew 63% less energy in Night Mode. AppleInsider found almost 60% in battery savings in Dark Mode.
Do note that this only applies to newer phones with OLED screens. That’s because unlike LCD and LED displays, every pixel in an OLED screen is individually illuminated. Black pixels on an OLED screen draw no power at all, and less power for darker colours. By contrast, LED and LCD screens use the same amount of power whether they show a full black or white image.