Tech Tip Thursday: How to Extend Your Battery Life

Battery Discharge

In our last two articles we’ve told you a bit about how lithium ion batteries work and why they sometimes expand. Today we’re going to round out our series on batteries with a few tips on the best ways to make sure your batteries last as long as possible. Batteries are one of the most important components in cell phones, tablets, and laptops – they’re what make your mobile devices mobile. By keeping the battery in your device healthy, you can extend the useful lifespan of the entire device. Here’s how.

Avoid Extreme Temperatures

The first thing to do is avoid extreme temperatures, especially extreme heat. Heat increases the wear on a battery’s internal components and can shorten its lifespan. So in general, try to avoid leaving your phone, tablet, or laptop in a hot car or laying out in the sun on a hot summer day.

Less Stuff Running in the Background

Another thing you can do to keep your battery healthier longer is to reduce the amount of things your device is running in the background. If you’ve got an iPhone or iPad, you can turn off the Background App Refresh feature for some of your apps (you can also turn off cellular data access for certain apps that don’t really need it, which will reduce the strain on your battery and reduce your cellular data usage all at once). On an Android phone, you can limit your apps’ ability to run in the background from the app settings screen. On a laptop, you can use task manager to check for any apps that are running that shouldn’t be. Right click the Start button, click Task Manager, and check out the apps that are running (be careful closing any background processes unless you know what you’re doing, since you could mess up some apps or Windows features that you want to leave running). You can also edit your Windows startup folder so that fewer apps will start running when your computer starts. In addition to reducing your battery usage, this can also help speed up your computer.

Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with your battery. Well, reducing the amount of stuff running in the background on your device increases the amount of time you can go between charges, which means you won’t need to charge your battery as often. That’s important because your battery has a limited number of charge cycles in its lifetime. The less often you charge it, the longer it will take you to reach the end of your battery’s lifespan.

iPhones and iPad: Don’t Close Out Your Apps

This one goes against common wisdom a little bit. When Apple first brought its version of multitasking to the iPhone, it was pretty widely believed that closing out apps you weren’t going to be using (i.e., double-tapping the home button, then swiping up to close the apps you want to close). The thinking was that your iPhone uses more battery power keeping those apps open and running than it would if you closed them. In reality, that isn’t the case. When you switch from one iPhone or iPad app to another, the first app doesn’t actually keep running in the background. It’s status is saved and it enters into a frozen state where (depending on its settings for background app refresh and location services) it doesn’t actually do anything. In other words, the apps on your iPhone’s multitasking screen aren’t actually using extra battery resources.

In fact, closing out those apps actually increases your battery usage in the long run. You see, by closing out your background apps, you force the iPhone to start them from up fresh the next time you want to use them. Starting an app fresh requires a little bit more of your iPhone’s system resources – processor, RAM, etc. – than resuming it from the background does. That means it also uses a bit more of your phone’s battery power. So if you’re concerned about your iPhone’s apps using up power (or data) in the background, then your best bet is to check our their Background App Refresh and Location Services permissions in your Settings app.

Don’t Charge Overnight

This is another one that’s going to be a little hard for some people to hear. Lots of us love to leave our phones plugged in on our nightstand at night. It’s super convenient, because if your phone is your alarm clock, then you don’t have to worry about it dying in the night and failing to wake you up. Plus, you know that your phone will be ready to go with a full battery first thing in the morning. The problem is that leaving your device plugged in when it’s fully charged can be bad for your battery. When your battery reaches 100%, the device enters a trickle charge mode: it stops directly charging the battery but continues to monitor it, and when the battery drops to 99%, it switches the charging back on and tops it off. This extended trickle charge process can cause a slight increase in the wear on your battery, and thus shorten its lifespan.

If you want your phone to be fully charged in the morning (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t), the best thing to do is to charge your phone before bed, and unplug it when you go to sleep. It probably won’t be quite at 100% when you wake up, but it’ll be close, and if you want you can plug it back in to top it off while you’re getting ready for the day. With laptops it’s a little different, but not much: if your laptop has a battery that can be removed, then you should take it out when it’s done charging. If the battery is integrated (as an increasing number of them are), then you should try to leave your laptop unplugged when you aren’t using it.

Now, there’s a caveat to all of this: namely, that while most experts agree that leaving your device plugged in while it’s charged is bad for the battery, there’s less agreement on exactly how bad it is. In other words, leaving your iPhone plugged in all night will probably shorten its battery life, but it’s hard to know by how much. One thing is pretty clear: if you’re in the habit of getting a new phone every 18 months to 2 years, then charging overnight won’t make much of a difference to you. But if you’re the kind of person who likes to keep a phone for longer, or if you plan to keep your laptop for a period of several years, then you’ll definitely want to pay attention to these factors.

When To Replace Your Battery

The unfortunate reality is that even if you take the best possible care of your battery, it will eventually wear out. The signs can be subtle at first, but eventually become impossible to ignore: you start off thinking, “didn’t my battery used to last longer than this?” Eventually you know: your battery is draining noticeably faster than it used to. When your phone was new it seemed like you could go your whole workday and still have plenty of charge left on your phone at the end of the day, but now you have to plug it in in your car on the way home. When you first bought that laptop, you could spend hours working on it without a power cord, but now you’re looking for a power outlet in no time at all. When that happens, it means that you’ve finally reached the end of your battery’s lifespan. That’s where we come in. At Phone Medics + PC, battery replacement is one of the many services we offer. When you bring your phone, tablet, or laptop to our repair facility at 91 E. Merritt Island Causeway in Merritt Island, our team of experienced professionals can replace your worn out battery and breathe new life into your device.