Fact and fiction about your cellphone battery

Geoff Meeker
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I have to admit, I was surprised by this one. For years, I subscribed to the belief that cellphone batteries should be well drained before recharging. The thinking was, if you didn’t train the battery by taking it from full to empty almost every time, eventually it would forget its own capacity and thus slip into decline.

— Image by Thinkstock.com

You’ve heard it too, right?

Well, it’s wrong. It’s a myth. In fact, you can damage the battery if you run it from full to empty all the time.

I learned this at gizmodo.com, a credible technology site that I graze fairly frequently.

“Battery memory is a real thing,” the article states, “but it applies to nickel-based batteries. Your trusty (phone) doubtlessly has a lithium-ion battery, and it needs to be treated a little differently.”

To extend the life of your lithium-ion battery, you need to keep charged at 40 per cent or more as much as possible. Never, ever run the battery to zero per cent, as this can cause serious damage. And if you can help it, don’t charge the battery all the way to 100 per cent every time.

Apparently, the ideal is to charge it to 80 per cent, run it to 40 and then recharge. It is advisable to drain it almost completely once a month for “calibration,” but that’s it.

And that is the exact opposite of what I’ve been doing. How about you?

One other thing: lithium-ion batteries don’t like heat. This includes running heat, so keep the phone well ventilated if you’re using it constantly (that is, don’t keep it cupped in the warm palm of your hand). It also includes recharging heat, which is another good reason to stop the charge at 80 per cent. And it even includes ambient heat, like being left in a hot car — one of the worst things you can do to your phone’s battery.

To read this article for yourself, go to gizmodo.com and search for “How to take care of your smartphone battery the right way.” And if you Google “How to care for lithium-ion batteries” you will find a variety of sites that support the above — most notably batteryuniversity.com — and even a few that repeat old myths.

Antenna up

On Feb. 3, I told you about the Tivoli tabletop radio and the issues I encountered with AM radio reception, which was not good, both at home and my place of work.

Soon after that column appeared I received an email from Tivoli’s publicity people, who were “interested in looking into this further and rectifying your unhappiness with your purchase.”

There was some back forth — they had questions about where it was positioned, did I try moving the radio around, was I in a metal building, and so on — but the problem was not resolved. There was talk of bringing the radio in to have it looked at, or even returning the product for refund.

In the end, they came back with a solution that I had already figured out: I needed to buy an external AM antenna. I placed one on back order at West End Electronics, where I purchased the Tivoli.

The antenna arrived two weeks later. I planked down the $12, brought it home, plugged in and switched on.

It was better, to be sure, but not perfect. I tried repositioning the antenna (and radio) several times, but there was still a slight crackle in the background. I took it to work and tried it there, with the same result: an improved signal, but not quite perfect.

It would be easy to blame CBC’s broadcast signal for this, except I have other, much cheaper radios at home and at work and both pull in CBC with perfect clarity.

I’ve decided to keep the Tivoli because it works and sounds great on Bluetooth, both for iPod tunes and streaming radio. But I have to say, I’m disappointed in the quality of radio reception. If you are an avid CBC listener and live in St. John’s (I can’t say this is an issue everywhere), I suggest passing on the Tivoli.

Organizations: CBC, Google, Bluetooth

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Recent comments

  • Rod
    April 03, 2014 - 12:55

    I have two Lithium-ion batteries in my new 20v cordless mastercraft drill kit. They don't wind down slowly during use they basically just stop after a period of use. Their power and torque remain the same through out the job. These batteries can be recharged at any point and can put on the charger any time i take a break. Now my "Dumb Phone" a five year old Nokia flip phone has a Li-polymer battery. Not sure about that type but I recharge it at any time whether drained half charged or just a touch up when nearly full it doesn't seem to have any negative affect on it. My old cordless drill a 12v Mastercraft I bought in 2000 came with two nickel-cadmium batteries and a one hour charger. One of the batteries packed it in a few days ago hence the new drill set. Again I would charge and recharge this drill at any time though usually when it got too slow to work with as it got depleted. Other times I charged it from dead if I hadn't used it for a period of time. So my conclusion is these various batteries pretty much all work the same for me and I wouldn't worry about when you charge your phone. Probably the worst thing for them and your phone is impact damage dropping them on a hard surface.

  • Karl
    March 31, 2014 - 16:19

    So should we let them run dead or not???

  • Adam
    March 31, 2014 - 16:14

    don't charge with your case on, its heating while charging and the case will keep the heat in.

  • John Brown
    March 31, 2014 - 10:40

    Another thing these batteries don't like is cold. Try using an iPhone 4S outside when its below zero. The phone will shut down within a few seconds. Not good if you're in a car accident in winter and need to call for help.

  • John Brown
    March 31, 2014 - 10:37

    Another thing these batteries don't like it cold. Try using an iPhone 4S outside when its below zero. The phone will shut down within a few seconds. Not good if you're in a car accident in winter and need to call for help.

  • Cashin Delaney
    March 31, 2014 - 10:28

    If you don't understand chemical-electricity, and your smartphone doesn't, then were we ever meant to? Hi ho, back to the Lithium mine. Not to mention laptop batteries that have their own memory, that counters memory effect.....I am so confused.

  • My phone
    March 31, 2014 - 08:26

    I have a LG since 2008. Not used much, not even on much but I charge it about monthly. I don't let run to empty but I charge it to full. No problems.

  • Kent
    March 31, 2014 - 06:58

    I have had the same cell-phone for about 12 or 13 years now.. A Nokia, Fido model I believe... I keep it in my car for emergency use only. It's used for about 2 - 3 mintues a week. I turn it on only when I use it, otherwise, it sits in my glove box year-round. It has been very reliable.