10 common misconceptions about mobile device batteries

Have you run into a few old-school users with antiquated ideas about how to treat smartphone batteries? Here are several myths worth debunking.

Image: Image: iStockphoto/Visiofutura

Ah, the mobile battery ─ a thing of myth, of legend... of frustration. So much sway does battery life hold over us that we buy specific phones that guarantee us a couple of days' usage. And all of this when other devices can eke out a week's worth of usage (think Amazon Kindle).

Users go to some strange measures to keep their batteries going and going and going. Yet much of what we hear about mobile batteries is simply not true. Let's examine some of these misconceptions about the batteries that power the devices we depend upon day in and day out.

1: Batteries have "memory"

Nope. Not at all. People used to think that you had to "train" your battery to make sure it would take the most charge. To do that, people would drain it regularly and charge it — and they'd never plug it in when it was over 50%. The thought was that over time, the battery would develop a memory and allow for just a percentage of the charge. This is not true. If your battery is at 80%, top that baby off. Frequent charges will do no damage to your battery.

2: Off-brand chargers will damage your battery

Although some off-brand chargers aren't optimal (and some even take longer to charge the battery), they will not harm it, as long as the charger is working properly. This means it's perfectly okay to run to Target and buy that cheap charger to replace the factory charger that came with your phone. The one exception to this is the charger that shipped with your Droid Turbo. Make sure, when looking for a replacement, you find one made specifically for that device; otherwise, you won't enjoy the 15-minute charge time that delivers eight hours of usage.

3: Charging your phone overnight will damage your battery

False. Most smartphones are now "smart" enough to know when a battery is at capacity and will stop charging. However, there is one thing you can do to extend the life of your battery. Instead of charging your phone all night, every night, try keeping it charged between 40% and 80% most of the time. This will ensure the longest possible life from that battery. If you can leave it unplugged overnight (every so often), do so.

4: Don't use your phone while it charges

People seem to think that using a phone while it charges will have a negative impact on the quality of charge the battery gets. But unless you're using a low-quality knock-off charger, this is not remotely true. Your battery will charge as expected whether or not you use the device. Think about it this way. With smartphones, chances are the only way there is no syncing of data (in one way or another) is if the phone is off. So even when you aren't literally using your phone, your phone is using your phone and data is being synced. So go ahead and use that phone while it charges.

5: Turning off your phone can damage your battery

Nah. There isn't even the slightest truth to this. Of course, if you leave your phone off for an extended period of time, the battery will drain (that's the nature of batteries). But it is perfectly fine to shut that device off every once in a while. You can even shut the device off and (if applicable) remove the battery if you like. No harm will come to the battery. In fact, for some devices, a simple reboot can help to restore battery functionality. So even though that Android device runs perfectly fine day in and day out, give it a break now and then.

6: You should always charge your phone to full before first using it

Many people think that the first thing they should do with a new smartphone is plug it in and charge it to 100%. This is simply a myth. Remember, smartphone batteries work best between 40% to 80%, and since most phones ship at half capacity, you should be good to go out of the box. As a side note: If you fire up your new smartphone for the first time and the battery is below 40%, you might want to consider taking it back because that battery could be very old.

7: Putting your battery in the freezer will extend its life

I remember that back in the 80s, we placed batteries in the freezer for a short period to try to get a bit more life out of them. It didn't work then and it won't work now. In fact, Li-Ion batteries are negatively affected by both heat and cold. Room temperature is always the best temperature for your smartphone battery. Remember, those devices already get hot, so there's no need to expose them to extra heat — and cold is an enemy of Li-Ion batteries.

Also, make sure you store your device somewhere with airflow. My wife used to place her phone in a sealed plastic baggie when she road her mountain bike. Yes, it's good to prevent moisture from getting into the device. But sealing all that heat in will affect both the phone and the battery. A word of caution: Heat is much more damaging to batteries than cold is.

8: Using the internet will run down the battery faster than anything else

Not true.* The single most draining thing you can do on your smartphone is gaming. The graphics engines are massive energy drainers. If you game a lot on your devices, dim the screen as much as you can while playing (if you want to extend your battery life). But if you can play that game while charging, go ahead and keep that screen at full brightness.

* This also depends upon what you are using the internet for. If you're viewing videos through YouTube, online gaming, or doing other graphics-intensive activities, it will drain your battery faster.

9: Turning off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS will prolong your battery

In and of itself, this is false. The only time these services actually drain your battery is if they are in use. So having Bluetooth turned on, when you're not using a Bluetooth device, isn't going to drain your battery any more than having Wi-Fi on when you're not accessing the network. Yes, they may pull an insignificant amount of energy from your battery, but they will not drain it over the course of a day. If you're really concerned about getting as much life as possible from your battery, dim your screen.

10: Task managers help prolong your battery life

As much as I hate to say it, third-party task managers do nothing for battery life that the built-in system can't handle. Yes, those task managers can whitelist/blacklist tasks. But in the end, they really don't help your battery any more than the built-in system. You might want to employ a task manager to better control your apps, but don't assume that third-party manager will extend the life of your battery any better than the default tool.

A better approach

Smartphone batteries and smartphone usage of those energy cells get better every year. But those old-school (and some "new school") misconceptions simply need to die off. With just the slightest consideration, your battery will last you a long time.

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Your take

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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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