The battery in a smartphone – myths, misconceptions, how to charge and what to do

Hi!

For many years we’ve been waiting for a breakthrough in battery technology, battery life is one of the key parameters for a smartphone, and it comes to the fore for most users. Unfortunately, there was no breakthrough in this direction, but technologies have changed unimaginably, often people remain captive to stereotypes, fairy tales, overheard somewhere on forums and on the Internet. In this voluminous material, we will try to figure out together what is important and what is not when working with a smartphone battery and how to set up your device correctly.

To say that nothing about battery technology for smartphones and other electronics has changed in recent years is to admit that all this time I was in suspended animation and missed key events. A lot has changed, but not our perception of this issue. Let me remind you that almost all batteries in smartphones and other equipment are non-removable today, the user does not have any access to them. At the same time, the battery is not perceived by many as a consumable, although it is. The greater the conditional mileage of the battery, namely the number of charge-discharge cycles, the lower the capacity compared to the initial one. Such a battery tolerates temperature changes worse and can turn off in cold weather, although the phone shows 40% charge (this is a very common problem on old iPhones, it is much less common on Android smartphones). But at the very beginning it is necessary to define in some terms.

Why mAh is a harmful characteristic of a battery

The user evaluates the smartphone battery by only one parameter – the battery capacity. For example, if a smartphone has a 5000 mAh battery, then this is good, but a 3000 mAh battery, according to many, is weaker, and the device will work less. In reality, everything depends on a set of parameters – the chipset and its energy efficiency, resolution and screen diagonal, as well as its type. This is a scattering of factors that are somehow forgotten, and then only the nominal capacity indicated by the manufacturer is taken into account. But with the capacity measured in mAh, there is a big problem, it often does not reflect the real characteristics of the battery.

Do you remember the rated voltage of the battery in your smartphone? I’m sure not. Don’t worry, I don’t know this by heart either, and there is no desire to check or calculate this parameter. We need to know that the voltage may differ – 1.2 V or 3.6 V, 7.4 V or 14.8 V. In this case, a battery with a capacity of 3000 mAh can have a voltage of both 3.6 V and 14.8 V. The capacity of a battery with a voltage of 14.8 V will be almost 4 times higher than the first one. Therefore, it is correct to use another parameter, namely the watt-hours (Wh or Wh). For example, the battery in the Galaxy S20 Ultra has a capacity of 5000 mAh, but it still has 19.25 Wh (3.85 V). Is it a lot or a little? Let’s take a look at laptops, they have batteries with the same capacity, but they run at 11.1 V, which gives us 56 Wh. At the same time, such a battery in a laptop is not only larger in real capacity, it is also larger in size and weight. Depending on the used cells, the battery in a laptop can be 2.5-3 times larger (both size and weight!). Unfortunately, the mAh measurement has taken root on the market, which is not entirely correct and does not fully reflect the capabilities of the battery. But what we have is what we have, and often mid-range Chinese companies do not bother specifying additional parameters at all.

Another point related to battery capacity is how much the actual capacity can differ from the stated one. In the manufacture of batteries, two are never the same, their capacity fluctuates within small limits, and this is normal. People far from production believe that it would be honest to indicate for each device the battery capacity that it actually has. Then on each box it would be necessary to write something like this: 4923 mAh, 5028 mAh and so on. The spread can always be either down or up. Each manufacturer of batteries and, accordingly, devices labels the batteries according to the standards. And this is where we come to one trick that small companies go to, they can often mark the battery at the limit. The maximum margin of error for most countries is 10%. Imagine that you have a 5000 mAh battery, you can actually indicate not this capacity (which would be honest and correct), but, for example, 5500 mAh. And in terms of standards, you won’t break anything. This is good for marketing, bad for the consumer and the perception of the brand in the future.

Big manufacturers don’t play with numbers, they try to avoid it. The procedure itself is arranged in such a way that the devices are sent for testing to independent laboratories, where the capacity of the batteries in several devices is measured. For example, IEC 61960 is widely used. Samsung product descriptions often feature a footnote regarding battery capacity: “Typical test results were obtained from third party laboratories. Typical value is an average based on the variation in the capacity measurements of multiple battery samples using IEC 61960 methodology. The nominal (minimum) capacity is 4900 mAh. Actual battery life may vary depending on network environment, usage and other factors. ”

Samsung’s approach is to set a minimum of 4900mAh. This does not mean at all that the same S20 Ultra has a battery of such capacity. I was not lazy and asked the service center to measure the battery of my phone, its capacity was 5020 mAh. For some, this may have a capacity in the range of 4950 mAh. Yes, Samsung always declares a slightly lower parameter to spread the straws. But there is no 10% here, as in the products of some second-tier manufacturers.

Fast or Wireless Charging – Is There Harm or No Harm?

There is a persistent myth that fast charging or wireless charging kills your battery. This is a myth, but it is extremely tenacious, and there are witnesses who claim that the battery in their phone quickly deteriorates and loses its nominal capacity. They even cite screenshots of purchased programs to support this, tracking the number of charge / discharge cycles, battery capacity. The logical flaw lies in the fact that there is no control group from the same smartphone, with the same set of software and usage profile, but with slow charging. I am sure that the range of battery wear will fit into the statistical error.

The greatest harm to the battery is caused by heating, more precisely, overheating of the battery. It will continue to work in all conditions, after all, we use smartphones even in the Sahara, where temperatures often exceed 40 degrees Celsius in the shade. But the question is precisely that this is not very useful in the long run, the battery life will be reduced. And here you need to divide this question into two – there is heating of the battery during charging (any charging, only the degree differs), as well as heating from external conditions, which depends on the air temperature, direct sunlight. You should not be afraid of heating, this is part of the life of the battery. But if you have the opportunity to charge your smartphone without placing it on a battery, in direct sunlight, on a car dashboard, then this will be a great help for it.

Recently I watched a very interesting scene, the girl handed over her smartphone to the service center – it did not work as it should. I was already at the stage of anger, when the lovely young lady stamped her feet, screamed and demanded blood. Her expensive smartphone was broken, and the service refused to repair it! From the explanations of the unfortunate master, which he gave already for the tenth, and possibly the hundredth time, it was possible to restore the picture of the disaster. The girl was charging her smartphone while taking a bath (never do this, you can kill yourself!), The closest place to put the phone was the battery radiator. The “marriage” revealed by the girl consisted in the fact that usually the smartphone charged quickly, but refused to do this on the battery and was burning (although, according to her, the battery was not so warm). She refused to hear the arguments of the master, threatened with judgment and heavenly punishments. In her mindset, such an expensive phone should be able to charge anywhere. I especially liked the passage: “Yes, even if I wanted to charge it under water, it should work. But I’m not a fool, I studied well at school, I know that the current in the water is bad, it can hit hard. I do not do that! But what’s stopping him on the battery ??? ”.

Savvy people know that battery heating begins to occur when the charge reaches 80% of the rated capacity, this is the stage when battery wear increases. It turns out that there are people out there who track how the battery is being charged and take their smartphones off their charge when they hit 80%. Of course, if you like to do it, then you can do it, feel like doing it. But this is a completely useless exercise, since modern smartphones are able to regulate charging themselves, to avoid overheating.

Let’s take a look at the same S20 Ultra, 25W fast charging is included in the box, separately you can buy a 45W charger. And this is where the fun begins – you can charge the battery up to 100% in about 70-75 minutes. The difference turns out to be negligible.

In 30 minutes, a 45W charger charges the battery by 70%, but the included 25W charger charges up to 62%. As for me, this difference is not at all fundamental. Why is this happening? The limitation is the heating of the battery, for charging at 45 W it is stronger when it reaches 70-75% of the nominal capacity, so the charging speed decreases, and in the end, plus or minus the same time is obtained. Samsung has introduced these limits to maximize battery life. But that makes using 45W charging virtually pointless.

Chinese manufacturers have 40-50 W charging blocks, moreover, they show a battery charge of 4000-5000 mAh in half an hour, the charge level changes before our eyes. It looks fantastic! And, of course, it’s very convenient.

How much can a smartphone survive such charging and not have any consequences? Manufacturers claim that they have taken care of this. I decided to test this in practice, in December 2019 I started charging my smartphone daily using a 40W charger. After three months and one hundred complete cycles, the battery capacity was measured – it decreased by 14% of the nominal. This is a very high result and shows the level of wear. The only incomprehensible moment was that the charging time remained unchanged, it took exactly the same number of minutes as before. So when you get a charge this fast, there is still a catch.

In the smartphone settings, as a rule, you can turn off fast charging, it all depends on your ideas about beauty and how the battery will wear out. In my opinion, fast charging is something that completely changes the idea of ​​a smartphone and how we use it. And keeping in mind that the battery is a consumable, you shouldn’t turn off such charging.

The battery in a smartphone - myths, misconceptions, how to charge and what to do

With wireless charging, everything is exactly the same, but due to the physics of the process, heating is an inevitable component. The battery controller regulates charging and speed, so it is physically impossible to spoil a smartphone with such charging.

Important! Don’t skimp on accessories for your smartphone. Fast charging of the latest generations often requires a 5A cable, the usual ones are not suitable. And if the smartphone detects that you are using fast charging and a simple cable, then the charging speed will automatically decrease. Non-original, left-hand cables and chargers can burn the battery controller, resulting in fire or even explosion. In recent years, at least a few people have been injured from the use of non-original accessories, but there are also deaths from electric shock or phone explosion at the head. This is not a joke!

The flagships use not only larger batteries, but also special cooling systems (both the processor and the case as a whole). The better the heat dissipation system, the longer the battery will last. On inexpensive devices, this is what the manufacturer can save on, and therefore the battery life in them is lower, wear from heating is higher. In this case, the batteries themselves can be exactly the same.

How We Charge Our Smartphones – New Fast Charging Scenarios

User habits don’t change very quickly, but they do. Once upon a time, we used to charge phones by leaving them on charge overnight. There is nothing wrong with this for the battery (“common sense” says the opposite, and there is even such a myth), but this is no longer necessary with the advent of fast or wireless charging.

Conducted a small survey on Twitter about how you charge your smartphones.

The battery in a smartphone - myths, misconceptions, how to charge and what to do

Almost half of the respondents leave their smartphone on charge overnight, this is a habit that came to us from the past. For example, it is always extremely difficult for me to check how long the smartphone works on one charge, I have to pull myself back. At home and in the office, I have chargers (both conventional and wireless), so when moving around the city I put my device on recharging. Sometimes it takes ten to fifteen minutes, sometimes more or less. The car has wireless charging, there you can also get some power for your smartphone. For me, a smartphone is a working tool, and it is mercilessly exploited (suffice it to say that, on average, mobile traffic reaches 7-8 GB per day, and this is always outside the home or office). Can the smartphone handle a full day of work at my pace? Definitely yes. But why arrange yourself some kind of routine if you can recharge the device from time to time without damaging the battery? Now my charging scenario is not the same as it used to be in the past, I charge the device from time to time when I think about it. And I’m not afraid to do this when the charge level is 20% or 60%, for me it does not matter. And so many people do exactly the same. Reflecting on this topic, I came to the conclusion that in this scenario of use, the heating of the battery should, on average, be less, since the total continuous charging time is reduced. Not the most important factor for me, as I do not believe that the battery can and should last forever. This is a consumable item. But also, in my opinion, it should be said that the battery should last at least about two years with active use (daily charging is one of the conditions).

In my opinion, technologies have changed so that leaving your smartphone on charge is pointless, you need to charge it when you don’t need it, in between times. It often happens in the morning that my smartphone shows 10-15% of the charge, about ten years ago it forced me to take an external battery with me and recharge on the go. Today, 15-30 minutes is enough for me while washing, having breakfast or getting ready to get at least half the battery charge.

An equally important question regarding the battery is not only how you charge the battery, but also how your smartphone is configured, in which modes you use it. Often the short working time is directly related to the fact that people simply do not understand what they have included, why they need it, and the working time can differ significantly. I wanted to combine everything within the framework of one material, but in order not to interfere with these topics in one heap, I separated them.

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