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A Handy Guide to Lithium Battery Health

We all know by now that it's a bad habit to charge your phone overnight because you should unplug it as soon as it fully charges for battery health. But, frankly, who does that? No one. And what happens? Nothing. The phone doesn't explode, the battery doesn't inflate. Were we all lied to? Was that just a myth?  A conspiracy, even? It turns out there is truth to this no-overnight-charging rule, and there is also science to back it up.

Let's see how rechargeable batteries work

phone battery
A modern lithium battery like the one in your phone, tablet, and laptop, is composed of two main elements arranged in two separated layers. Electrons move from one layer to the other, giving your phone power in the process. When all the electrons have moved from one layer to the other, leaving the first one empty and the second one full, the battery is considered empty, and it won't give power. Plugging that battery pack into the socket in the wall helps all those electrons migrate back to the first layer. Thus a cycle is complete, and the battery is fully charged again. This video explains things beautifully:
But over time, the shifting electrons damage the structure of the two layers. This entropy is natural and expected, but can be delayed if you keep your phone battery levels between 20% and 80%
This is because taking your lithium battery to its extremes, meaning 100% or a full-stop 0%, is putting the battery at physical strain. Each of its layers is getting overcrowded in turns. In the past, we used another type of battery. These batteries indeed had to be charged to their full capacity each time, otherwise, their capacity would shrink. That is far from being the case with lithium batteries. 

Your new battery health manual

Here are some tips and rules of thumb to keep a battery healthy and functioning for longer.
  • Charging 10% at a time is OK- there's no need to charge in a single continuous session. According to Isidor Buchmann, founder of Cadex Electronics, who develops battery lifespan management systems, this is not only harmless but also advisable. The trick that will create longevity for the battery is keeping it less strained, around the 50% mark, at all times. The range between 20% and 80% covers that perfectly. 
  • Do a full cycle once a month to recalibrate. Run your battery down till the phone shuts off, charge it fully while still off, and then turn it on again. 
  • Topping up frequently extends the battery life of lithium batteries.
  • Fast chargers may harm the battery. Slow chargers are always the healthier option.
  • Instead of an overnight charge, try charging during the evening or right when you wake up during your morning routine. Charge at work or on the commute.
  • Don't use high-intensity apps while charging so that the phone doesn't overheat. These apps will usually be social media or high-resolution games. Texting and checking mail are fine.
  •  Use a portable charger or a smart cable that automatically disconnects power to the battery. Here's a nice thing to keep in mind- most modern phones stop charging on their own around the 80% mark when they predict a long charging session.
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi don't use much battery power. GPS and Mobile Data do, so you can shut them off as a power-saving method.
  • To summarize: recharge whenever convenient. It's that simple. No need to drag the battery to the ground or commit to a long continuous charging session.

The bottom linephone battery

Of course, living your life according to your phone's battery is impractical, and it also takes the mobile feature off the mobile phone, if you have to be immobile and close to the plug all the time. If you take anything from this article at all, let it be this: you can now feel guilt-free whenever you plug your phone before its battery empties, or when you unplug it before it fully charges. And if you didn't have the time to charge it to 100% before leaving the house- well, now that isn't so bad, is it?

Sources: 1, 2, 3.

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