Poor battery life is one of the main complaints of users of phones, tablets, laptops, and other electronic devices. But how you look after your battery is very important to enjoy it for as long as possible.
A top smartphone needs to be recharged every night. A laptop or tablet won’t last more than 6-8 hours without power from the socket. And as time goes by, all these gadgets need to be recharged more and more often, as the battery life decreases and the battery loses its power to store electricity.
These recharging cycles and long-term use are typical of Li-Ion batteries, virtually the most widely used type of battery for the gadgets we use every day. It’s by no means the most efficient technology, but it’s the best compromise between battery size, weight, and performance.
In order to make sure that the battery you use lasts as long as possible and that you can use it in almost the same conditions two to three years later, you need to follow some essential rules that are often unknown or simply neglected.
These are even more important than the tricks you can use to increase the battery life (the time between charges).
Before explaining what you need to do to increase battery life, it is good to understand the working principle of a Li-Ion and Li-Po battery.
How batteries for phones, laptops, and tablets work
The most widely used type of battery for phones, laptops, and tablets is Li-Ion, which is short for Lithium-Ion. Based on lithium, the lightest and least dense metal in the world, this type of battery has a very simple working principle: lithium ions move from the negative electrode to the positive electrode during use of the gadget and back to the negative electrode during charging with electricity.
In the case of laptops, Li-Ion batteries take the form of a cylinder, while under the case of phones we find thin rectangular batteries.
A variation of Li-Ion batteries is Li-Po, short for Lithium-Polymer, the main difference being that the lithium is placed in a polymer composition. Li-Po batteries have better battery life and are thinner, but they have one major drawback: if they discharge completely, they run a greater risk of not being able to be charged to full capacity than Li-Ion batteries. Although they’re not widely available, Apple only uses Li-Po batteries for iPhones and iPads.
In the case of laptops, we find batteries on a number of cells, which in effect means that the battery in question is made up of several small batteries. The higher the number of cells, the greater the range, charging time, weight, and price.
The capacity of a Li-Ion or Li-Po battery is measured in mAh (milliampere-hours) and expresses the amount of time the battery will remain charged. Theoretically, a higher value for the capacity of a battery symbolizes longer battery life for the gadget.
How to extend battery life
Theoretically, the principle of use of Li-Ion and Li-Po batteries should ensure continuous operation. However, charge-discharge cycles, ambient temperature, and storage conditions significantly affect battery life. Here’s what you need to do to extend battery life:
One of the key issues is how you charge your battery, and the most important tip is to avoid completely discharging your gadget. The reason? If you leave the battery to discharge completely, there’s a risk that it won’t be able to charge to full capacity, and this is especially true of Li-Po batteries. So it’s preferable to charge the battery when it’s more than 20-30% full.
It also does not matter if the battery is charging at full capacity or if you unplug it before it reaches 100%, as this does not affect its performance in any way.
A battery charge-discharge process is called a cycle. Manufacturers generally state that a battery has a life of 300-500 cycles, but the more often you charge the battery, the higher the actual number of cycles, as shown in the table below:
Degree of discharge Number of cycles
|Depth of Discharge||Cycles|
Lately, some manufacturers estimate battery life in years, but this measure is not as relevant as the number of cycles.
Storage and temperature
The number of cycles is not the only thing that dictates battery life. Equally important are the ways in which the battery is stored and the temperature at which it operates.
So if you’re not going to use the battery for a long period of time (for example, if you don’t use a phone at all or if you only use your laptop at home and power it directly from the socket), you should charge it to about 40% of its capacity, remove it from the gadget and store it at a temperature of no more than 25 degrees Celsius. You can even store it in the fridge at 2-4 degrees, but not in the freezer where temperatures are negative.
Beware: if you power your laptop directly from the socket and keep the battery in it, it will always remain at 100% capacity and will withstand very high temperatures.
What does the future hold?
Despite appearances, Li-Ion battery technology is constantly evolving and the performance of these batteries is increasing by about 6% per year. However, this progress is too slow and does not keep pace with the rapid growth in the performance of hardware components available in mobile phones, laptops, and tablets.
But things are slowly starting to improve. Towards the end of last year, a research team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California developed a polymer anode that can store 8 times more energy, improving battery life and autonomy.
Meanwhile, researchers at Northwestern University have managed to increase the storage capacity of a Li-ion battery by 10 times after discovering a way to increase the number and mobility of ions.
Bill Gates has also invested in the company Liquid Metal Battery, which is developing a battery based on liquid metals.
So, even if we will have to make do with the limited performance of Li-Ion and Li-Po batteries for a long time to come, the future sounds promising even in this area.
However, we have to accept that progress in this field is rather slow. Information about new battery technologies appears frequently, but it will probably be a few more years before we enjoy better battery life for our gadgets.
The way a battery is used and stored has a major influence on its lifespan. However, the rules for improving battery life are simple and easy to follow in order to get more out of the batteries in the gadgets we use in our daily lives.
You should also follow a few rules for the way you use your phone, tablet, or laptop in order to increase the life of your gadget with a single charge.