Smartphones are a ubiquitous part of our lives now, and so are the numerous myths about how to eke out more life from your smartphone battery.
You Can Keep Your Phone Battery Healthy Forever
Let’s open with the most persistent overarching myth: that you can somehow baby your phone’s battery to keep it in good health forever.
A smartphone battery is, ultimately, a consumable good. Like tires on a car, the battery exists to be used and, when it has reached the end of its life cycle, replaced.
Like tires or any other consumables that will eventually succumb to wear and tear, you can certainly do things to extend the life of your smartphone battery. You can also make tires last longer by driving on them minimally, storing your car in a climate-controlled environment, and taking other extreme steps to protect them. But in doing so, you make using your car less convenient, and for what? To delay spending money on new tires?
We’d strongly encourage you to think about your smartphone battery the way people think about tires. Sure it’s a minor hassle to get the battery on your phone replaced, given that many phones have sealed-body designs now. But it’s not particularly expensive to do so. And in the end, we’d rather just use our phone the way we want to use it than worry that maybe a few years from now, we’ll have to spend $50-70 on a new battery.
With that in mind, here are a bunch of persistent smartphone battery myths you should stop worrying about, along with some notes about the little nuggets of truth that inspired them.
You Should Kill Apps to Save Battery Life
Your phone was designed to be used the way the vast majority of people use it: opening apps when needed, never actually closing them, and just letting unused apps sit off to the side when moving onto the next app—leaving the original apps to hang out in a sort of suspended state until needed again.
Your phone was not designed with the idea that you, the end user, would force quit an app when you were done using it as if you were closing apps down on a desktop computer. That’s true for iPhones, and it’s true for Android-based phones.
Yes, there are rare instances of poorly coded applications using too much background data or otherwise negatively impacting your battery life. If you have an app you really need to use, and it’s one of those apps, force quitting it when you aren’t actually using it might be wise.
But for the majority of people using the majority of apps, it’s not just a waste of time it actually hurts the performance and battery life of their phone to constantly close out apps.
You Should Discharge the Battery to 0% Before Charging
In the grand scheme of things, consumer use of lithium-ion batteries is fairly recent. Because of that, many people either have first-hand experience with older (and more finicky) batteries, or they were given advice by people who did.
Some types of rechargeable batteries suffer from “memory” issues wherein not fully cycling the battery can significantly degrade performance.
That’s not the case with lithium-ion batteries. In fact, you should go out of your way to avoid fully draining the battery. In general, your phone battery is happiest when it is being regularly used and charged.
Maybe once or twice a year, however, it is useful to let a lithium-ion battery in a smartphone drain all the way down before recharging to recalibrate the battery. That doesn’t do anything to extend the life of the battery, but it does ensure that your phone software can accurately report the charge of the battery.
You Shouldn’t Use It While It’s Charging
This myth is based on the idea that heat is damaging to your phone and to the battery life. That’s not entirely untrue. Your battery is happiest operating at around room temperature (and actually works a little better in cooler-than-room temperature conditions). Electronics, in general, don’t like heat.
But the little bit of heat introduced by charging and then the extra heat introduced by you using the phone to brown Instagram is not a big deal. Should you charge your phone while sitting in the direct summer sun, playing the most demanding mobile game you have? No, probably not. But anything short of those kinds of stress-test conditions is fine. Just enjoy your phone.
In fact, we’re big advocates of buying really long charging cables so you can enjoy your phone more comfortably while it’s charging.
Third-Party Chargers Will Damage Your Phone
Is it ideal to only use first-party OEM chargers created by the manufacturer specifically for your smartphone? Sure. Is it a huge risk to do otherwise? In most cases, not at all.
There are plenty of really great third-party chargers out there from reputable companies like Anker, Belkin, Spigen, and so on.
What you want to avoid are the poorly constructed and poorly quality checked chargers you find at gas stations, flea markets, and other places where bargain-basement no-name products are sold. Don’t trust your phone, worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars, to a $4 gas station charger.
Fast and Wireless Charging Damage Your Battery
We’ll lump these two together because the basis of the myth is the same. There is a long-standing belief that using a fast charger or a wireless charger damages your battery because it introduces excess heat that degrades the battery circuits.
Technically, it’s true that the brief period of intense charging during the peak of a fast charging cycle introduces more heat than not using fast charging would introduce.
It’s also technically true that the inherent inefficiency of a wireless charger over a wired charger will also introduce extra heat.
Neither of these has an impact significant enough to merit any real consideration, however, and modern smartphone fast charging is very safe.
Overnight Charging Damages Your Battery
Here’s another myth that was significantly more true in the past and barely relevant today: leaving your phone plugged in to charge overnight is bad for the battery.
In the past, smartphones weren’t, well, as smart about battery management. Your phone would charge up to 100%, stop charging, and then after slowly discharging, it would charge back up again—all night. Modern phones have adaptive charging, and they strategically manage the charging window to minimize battery damage.
Having a fully charged and ready-to-go phone in the morning far outweighs any minor wear and tear overnight charging might put on the battery.
Turning Your Phone Off Is Bad for the Battery
This myth, depending on who shares it, goes both ways. Some people will tell you turning the phone off is good for the battery. Some people will tell you leaving the phone on all the time is bad for the battery. The truth is, neither state really matters much in the grand scheme of things.
Your phone is designed to be on all the time. Not a single phone manufacturer has designed their device with the intention that you power it down and put it in a drawer when you’re not using it.
Sure, you can extend the life of a lithium-ion battery by charging it to roughly 50-60% and then storing it in a cool, dry place but, again, this is your smartphone—not some old gadget you’re storing. But your smartphone isn’t a device you’re putting in storage, it’s something you use every single day.
You Should Disable Bluetooth and Other Features
Years ago, disabling features to save battery life was a far more useful tip than it is now. To be certain, any features on your smartphone that require energy such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, background data, and so on, will impact your battery life.
Turning off Wi-Fi when you’re on a plane and not using the plane’s in-flight Wi-Fi, for example, is a straightforward way to squeeze out a little battery life if you don’t have a charger handy. And disabling background data updates for a particular app that is aggressively polling for data you don’t need constant updates about is also a wise decision.
But turning off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, leaving your phone in airplane mode, or disabling all background data is overkill. For day-to-day use, it just makes your phone a pain to use. Who cares if you add a fraction of a percent to the life of your battery if every day you have to fiddle with settings or manually open apps to get updates?
The same thing goes for low-power mode in general. If you’re stuck between locations where you can charge your phone, by all means, use it. But keeping your phone in low-power mode just makes it more frustrating to use.
In the end, we hope the real takeaway here for everyone is that they should just use their phones however they want. Micro-managing how you charge your smartphone can, at best, only add a tiny amount to the battery’s lifespan and is hardly worth worrying about.