When you’re trying to get the most life out of your device, it’s easy to overthink batteries. Don’t. Plug in your devices when possible, carry a battery pack with you, and get on with your life.
A recent Reddit post by user slinky317 struck a nerve with Android users. Here’s the gist:
I’ve found though that my life is much better if I just assume that my battery life is going to be awful. In the car and 90% battery? Plug it in. At the office? Start charging. Out for a long day or evening? Better bring a battery pack.
It’s such a simple piece of advice you might assume it’s wrong, so I talked to my colleagues and did some research. My conclusion: this is good advice, and we should all follow it. Charge your phone or laptop whenever it’s possible—you’re not hurting anything, and you’re giving yourself the best odds of getting through the day with power.
If you think charging your battery throughout the day sounds like a bad idea, I get it: so did I. And the reason I thought this had to do with charge cycles. I’d heard numerous times that plugging in and unplugging your device is one charge cycle, and that a battery can only be cycled so many times before its capacity is diminished.
I was missing a key point: a full cycle isn’t every time you plug in and unplug the device—it’s every time you use one battery’s worth of power. To quote Apple’s documentation:
For example, you could use half of your notebook’s charge in one day, and then recharge it fully. If you did the same thing the next day, it would count as one charge cycle, not two. In this way, it might take several days to complete a cycle.
This means that plugging in my phone when it’s at 95 percent doesn’t count as a charge cycle; it counts as five percent of one cycle. So the next time I’m in the car with a mostly charged battery I might as well plug it in, because I’m only using up five percent of a cycle that I’m going to use up anyway. There’s no benefit in waiting, so you might as well top it off.
But what about battery memory, you might be asking. I understand why, but it’s not a relevant question—we’ve debunked battery myths in the past, and this is one of them.
Users of modern phones and laptops don’t need to worry about “memory,” because the lithium ion batteries we use now doesn’t have the same problem that NiMH and NiCd batteries did. In a nutshell, those older battery types did suffer a memory effect where their maximum capacity would slowly decline if they were charged regularly after only being partially discharged. For example, if you routinely let your battery drain 50% and then recharged it, over time your battery might remember this 50% charge as its maximum charge level.
But with lithium ion batteries, this is no longer a thing. You don’t need to fully deplete your battery on a regular basis: shallow depletions and charges are fine.
Actually, fully depleting a modern lithium ion battery on a regular basis is pretty bad for it, and you should especially avoid allowing such batteries to stay depleted for long periods of time.
I was biking to a party when my phone’s battery died. I didn’t have the address handy anywhere but on my phone and was a half hour from home. I ended up knocking on strangers’ doors, asking if I could plug in long enough to see the address. Six people turned me down before someone finally hooked me up.
Don’t be like me. Carry a fully charged battery pack with you everywhere you go, just in case. Here’s our guide for buying one.
I understand why people create elaborate battery rituals. Battery life is important, and it sucks to see a strong battery become crappy over time.
But spending too much time thinking about your battery’s longterm health doesn’t give you much benefit, and often means you’re not taking advantage of your battery right now. It’s better to not overthink things and generally just keep things charged.