Is it a bad idea to leave your smartphone plugged in overnight? Should I drain my battery completely before charging it again? Is it bad to plug it into a charger every now and then? is it bad if I plug and play?
At a time when the smartphone is basically an extension of self, these are surely one of the most relevant questions we could ask. We’ve all done it: Just before bed, you plug your smartphone into its charger so that it can get a full charge while you sleep through the night. The idea is to wake for the day with 100 percent charge on your smartphone’s battery. But then you heard that charging your phone overnight damages the battery and eats away at its capacity over time, so you turn to Google for answers.
So before we get into the nitty gritty details of this overnight charging myth, we’ll give you the short answer first. No, you shouldn’t drain your battery completely if you can avoid it, and yes, you can leave your phone plugged in overnight. This wasn’t always the case, though, so be sure to read on to find out the truth behind this old advice. We’ve also attached some charging do’s and don’ts at the end to help you make your smartphone battery last longer.
Myth: leaving your phone on the charger all night is bad for your battery
“Overcharging” is the word that gets thrown around a lot with this one. The concept is that if you leave your phone on the charger for a while after it hits 100 percent, that it will reduce the capacity of the battery. Well, this just isn’t the case (except in the case of you having a bad case, but we’ll explain in a minute).
This myth has some pretty legitimate origins, so it’s no surprise that it’s stuck around. In the days of yore, lithium ion batteries would overheat if you left them charging for too long. This did in fact cause damage to the battery and reduce performance. Hell, it even led some to explode.
However, modern devices are way smarter with managing power. Leaving your device plugged in all the time is just fine. The only reason this should be a concern, as hinted above, is if you have a poorly designed case that doesn’t allow for heat dissipation. Other than that feel free to charge away. In fact, leaving your battery plugged in provides your battery with a trickle charge once it’s at capacity, and that’s actually healthier for your battery than a complete discharge is. Which leads us to Myth Number Two:
Myth: You should completely discharge your battery before charging
Yeah, anyone hocking this old wives tale is thinking about a different kind of battery entirely. Nickel cadmium or nickel-metal hydride batteries are what these folks are talking about, and modern smartphones use lithium-ion batteries.
Once again, the myth has some reasonable origins. It’s absolutely true that older nickel-centric batteries would ‘forget’ what their full capacity was if you didn’t fully drain them before charging again. But lithium-ion is a different ballgame. They have a much smarter way of counting their charges. If you use 60 percent of your battery’s life, then recharge it, it won’t count that as a complete charge cycle. Over the course of the next day’s use, once it hits 40 percent discharge, it will count that as one charge cycle.
It’s true that lithium-ion batteries diminish in capacity with every charge cycle, but this effect isn’t very large. Most smartphone batteries retain about 80 percent of their original charge capacity even after a few years. Since most users swap out batteries or phones on about that same timeframe, there’s not really any reason to worry about it.
Myth: Always use the official brand charger for your phone
Oh boy, this one. This one has its roots in what is essentially marketing. Whenever you get your shiny new phone from a given manufacturer, odds are pretty good that the manual will tell you to always buy chargers from the company that made your device.
Of course they want you to buy their accessories, duh! But it’s not for the health of your phone, it’s for profit. Any reputable 3rd party charger should be just fine. There are some exceptions, especially in the case of USB-C cables, and some unofficial chargers might not allow for as fast of charging, but in most cases a quality 3rd party charger should be just fine with your device. Really the only ones that you have to watch out for are the super cheap $5 chargers you’d find at a local convenience store. Most of those are just fine, even, but every once in awhile you can come across some bad eggs that might give your phone a hard time.
Myth: Never use your phone while it’s charging
This one gets thrown around a lot by concerned moms and semi-tech-savvy grandpas. This is a fear-uncertainty-and-doubt kind of myth that stays alive not because of any sort of actual evidence, but because the urban-legend-tier consequences that are said to follow such supposedly unwise use of your smartphone.
Some people say that using your phone while it’s charging can make your device explode, catch fire, or electrocute you. While not quite on par with the Korean concept of fan death, it’s still a pretty far fetched yarn. There’s no real danger in playing around on your device while it’s charging. Have at it.
Myth: Save battery power by killing apps or using an app killer
Aaaaagghh! Stop it! Stop doing it; stop spreading this lie. App killers and their proponents are the homeopathy and anti-vaxxers of the Android world: they don’t actually help and they can possibly make things worse.
There was a stretch of a few months back in, like, 2009 when app killers actually made Android run smoother. Then Android got a lot smarter about how it managed its resources, and all app killers do is suck up the resources they are claiming to protect. They became unnecessary before they even got popular.
Even if you’re just haphazardly murdering apps that seem to be running in the background by force stopping them or swiping them out of the Recent Apps menu, you’re often draining more battery than you’re saving. For one thing, a lot of apps spring right back to life after you kill them, meaning you just spent more resources than if you just left it alone. For another, the biggest battery sucker across the board is your display. If you’re spending screen time, not to mention seconds of your finite human life, needlessly assassinating apps, then you’re playing a game of whack-a-mole that is only wasting your time and your smartphone’s battery.
Myth: Disabling services like Bluetooth and Location Services drastically improves battery life
This is another one of those rumors that is still sticking around because it actually used to be good advice. Wi-fi and Bluetooth used to latch onto your smartphone’s battery life like a vampire bat, but today they’re nowhere near so bloodthirsty. And location services are even leaner.
It’s true that disabling all these or going into airplane mode will save some battery life. However, we’re talking a very tiny sliver – like half an hour over the span of an entire day, so the gains are arguably not worth the trouble. Leave the services that you use on the regular running all you want. Your device is designed to handle it.
These are the most common myths I have been expert-advised on and they’re the ones I see passed around in forums all the time – even by otherwise very tech-savvy people. However, this list is by no means comprehensive. What’s some bad bit of advice that you’re constantly seeing crop up regarding smartphones or battery life? Let us know your favorite myths in the comments!