By Tracey Dowdy
There are plenty of hacks for conserving battery power, but not all hacks are created equal. In fact, as technology has advanced from the early days of mobile phones, many of the tips and tricks we’re using to improve battery life are simply not effective any more, if they ever were.
We all know turning down your screen brightness, disabling location services from unnecessarily running in the background and switching to airplane mode to keep your phone from searching for signals will all extend battery life. However, you may have been doing things like letting the battery completely run down before recharging or killing apps to extend that battery life. Does that really help?
Check out these common myths about batteries to find out.
Myth #1 – You need to fully charge the battery before using a device for the first time.
Nope. The idea of charging to 100% before first use goes back to when fully charging the battery helped the battery to calibrate. These days, smartphones, tablets and laptops today are equipped with lithium ion batteries that calibrate themselves.
Myth #2 You can overcharge a battery by leaving it plugged in too long.
Nope again. Lithium ion batteries also recognize when they are fully charged. When your battery reaches 100%, charging automatically stops and the power is cut off. Older batteries weren’t as “smart,” so leaving them plugged in too long could lead to overheating which was bad for long-term battery life. Side note: Overheating is still a possibility if you use a phone case that doesn’t allow the heat to dissipate.
Myth #3 – You should allow the battery to drain completely before recharging.
The truth is allowing your battery to drain completely every day will reduce its effectiveness over time. Batteries have a limited number of charge cycles in their lifetime and allowing the battery to drain to zero counts as a full charge cycle. Older nickel cadmium and nickel-metal hydride batteries would “forget” their capacity, so in order to fully charge, they first had to fully drain. Lithium ion batteries don’t have the same memory issue, but experts do recommend draining to 0% and then fully charging every one to three months to help with calibration.
Myth #4 – You can only use the “official charger” that came with the device.
Yes and no. Obviously the charger supplied by the manufacturer is ideal, but as anyone who has ever owned an iPhone will tell you, those chargers sometimes have the life cycle of county fair goldfish. If you do need a replacement or even a back up charger, it’s not necessary to buy the identical charger as a replacement. Modern USB chargers are standardized and often the only difference you’ll find is in the time it takes for the device to recharge. On the other hand, and it’s a big hand, be very careful of cheap knock-off chargers. You can trust off-brand manufacturers like Belkin or KMS, but if you’ve never heard of the brand and it’s at a price that seems too good to be true, it generally is.
Myth #5 – Closing apps on your phone extends battery life.
Since our phones function as tiny computers it’s natural for you to think that the operating systems would work the same way as our laptops and tablets. And you’d be wrong. When you leave an app, your phone pauses it in its current state, storing it in the phone’s RAM. And though they show up in your task manager, apps aren’t actually draining the battery. So, when you kill an app, you’re actually taking it out of the phone’s memory and forcing it to find and reload when you open and launch the app again.
Keep in mind that with improvements in cell phone contracts, many people don’t hang on to phones more than two years. As a result, the lifecycle of the battery isn’t as critical as it is for devices like tablets and laptops that we tend to own for longer periods of time.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.