Ben Squires

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How to make your smartphone battery last longer

How to make your smartphone battery last longer

There's nothing like reaching for your phone to make a life-or-death call, only to find it is dead.

A flat battery can transform a smartphone from a wonder widget into something as useful as a brick.

The annoying thing is that a flat smartphone battery is avoidable. Here are some tips to help you avoid ending up with no power.

Optimise Power Use

One of the most effective ways of extending your phone's battery life involves tweaking power consumption.

If your phone is connected to a Bluetooth gadget, to wi-fi or has its screen on full brightness then its battery will drain fast. Tweaking these settings or (if your phone has it) activating the power saving mode can extend battery life.

The latest version of Android (Marshmallow) has an energy-saving feature built-in called Doze that hibernates energy guzzling apps while your phone is in standby, lowering its energy consumption.

If you don't have Marshmallow, then try an app called Greenify, which helps  reduce energy consumption.

Apple also has a Low Power Mode that is accessible through Settings.

Battery Care

As well as tweaking energy consumption, looking after your phones battery is a good idea. This isn't difficult provided you follow some simple rules.

Develop good charging habits: Try to keep your phone at around 50 per cent charge as often as possible. Going from a full charge to zero will shorten the lifespan of your phone's battery. Aim for several small charges throughout the day. This will put less strain on the battery and prolong its life.

Avoid overcharging: Lithium-ion batteries don't like being overcharged. They can overheat, which shortens their life expectancy. Most phone chargers stop charging once they detect the battery is charged.

Stay cool: Lithium-ion batteries don't like heat. As with humans, batteries also degrade when hot. Prolonged exposure to heat will reduce their ability to hold a charge.

Avoid going flat: If you plan on storing your phone away, make sure it is charged at 40 per cent. Lithium-ion batteries lose around 5 to 10 per cent of their charge per month. Flat lithium-ion batteries can be iffy to recharge. Most power management chips will disable the battery if it becomes unstable.

Fast Charging

If your phone was purchased within the last 18 months, it may support fast charging. You'll need a fast charger (most are sold separately). They're a good investment as they can charge your phone in anything up to half the time of a normal charger.

So how does fast charging work? Most batteries contain a management system to prevent the battery from getting too much power while charging. This limits the speed at which your battery can charge. Fast chargers work with the battery management system and supply more power to charge the battery faster. 

Plugging a fast charger into a phone that doesn't support fast charging will see the battery management system regulating the juice reaching the battery. In other words, it won't charge any faster (but it will still charge).

There are a bunch of different fast charging technologies out there, but Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 is the most common and is used by Samsung, Huawei, HTC, and Motorola.

While fast chargers can charge compatible phones, there are still issues. Fast chargers generate heat. This won't see your phone bursting into flames, but it could shorten the lifespan of its battery.

Fast chargers are also not always fast. Phone manufacturers like to wow punters by talking up the fact that their fast chargers will charge batteries to over 50 per cent in 30 minutes. What they omit is that it takes two to three times that to finish the other half of the charging cycle.

These shortcomings aside, fast charging can get you out of a bind by quickly dropping a sizeable charge onto your phone's battery before you leave the house.

External Batteries

As nifty as fast charging may be, there's another solution – the external battery. These can free you from the tyranny of the wall socket and allow you to charge your phone while on the move. 

The main thing to look out for with a portable battery pack is its mAh capacity.  If your phone has a 2000mAh battery, a 2000mAh battery pack will recharge your phone once. Then you'll need to charge the pack. You can get external battery packs with higher capacities, but there is a trade-off in portability.

External battery packs may be useful, but there are some gotchas. Most external battery packs output 1 amp at 5 volts. This means that smartphones will take longer to charge with an external battery compared to its charger. 

Most external battery packs use lithium-ion batteries. These can be volatile and in rare circumstances have been known to catch fire. The best way of avoiding this is to buy external battery packs from reputable brands. Aim for external batteries that use batteries from trusted brands like Sony or Panasonic. 

Wireless Charging

External battery packs may be a great way of keeping our phone charged on the move. But for sheer convenience, nothing beats wireless charging.

Having a wireless charger where you plunk down your phone (say your desk or beside your bed) allows it to charge when it would otherwise be going flat.

Wireless chargers are not completely wireless. They consist of a small charging pad that plugs into a power brick. The wireless bit comes from the fact that your phone only needs to sit on the pad to charge. You don't have to fumble about connecting charging cables.

Wireless charging might be convenient, but there are issues. For a start, it isn't efficient. Especially when compared to a conventional wired charger. You also need a phone with built-in support for wireless charging.

Also, complicating things are the two incompatible and competing standards for wireless charging. Some phone makers such as Samsung have support for both in their latest handsets, but knowing which (if any) your phone supports is a must before buying a charging pad.

If your phone doesn't support wireless charging, all is not lost. There are phone sleeves that'll allow some brands of phones to work with wireless chargers as well as providing a small measure of drop proofing.

Written by Pat Pilcher. First appeared on Stuff.co.nz

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