Tip: Condition your new cell phone’s battery to make it last longer (but be sure to condition it properly)

We all like getting new phones, right? In all the excitement of a new cell phone, many consumers forget about the battery. After all, the battery is just the thing you throw into the cell phone to make it work – why must we worry about it instead of playing with our new bazillion inch touchscreen? The thing about the battery, though, is if you condition it properly when it is new, it will last longer and last stronger; and since no one likes to have to recharge their cell phone midday, giving the battery its due rights at the beginning is in the best interest of all of us.

New batteries need conditioning. (No, not the conditioner you use in the shower.) By “conditioning” I mean properly initializing them so they hold as full of a charge as possible. How to condition the battery depends on what type of battery it is:

  • Nickel-Cadmium – NiCad batteries are often found in older, “dumb” phones. NiCad batteries have a “memory” that consumers need to “train” to make the battery properly hold the full capacity of charge as defined by its hardware. “Training” a NiCad battery is simple, but can be a bit annoying:
    • Fully charge the NiCad battery using the outlet charger that comes with your cell phone. Because the voltage on car chargers (and USB charging via a computer) is lower than an outlet charger, it is recommend to use an outlet charger while you condition the battery. It is also recommended to leave the first, initial charge going for 10-15 hours because cell phones often misread new batteries and tell you they are fully charged when they are not.
    • After the NiCad battery has been fully charged, use the cell phone normally; but it is preferable to use the phone in such a way that the battery is discharged evenly (i.e. don’t surf the Internet for an hour then just text for the rest of the day). Furthermore, discharging slowly is preferred over quickly. Fully discharge the battery until it hits zero (if possible), or discharge it as much as your cell phone allows.
    • Repeat this with 4-6 charge/discharge cycles (note you do not have to charge the battery 10-15 hours when performing the charge/discharge cycle).

After the NiCad battery has been “trained”, try to perform a full discharge of the battery every few weeks (2-3) to recondition the battery. (This helps the battery remember it can be fully charged – this is called the “memory effect”). However, keep in mind frequent discharges of a NiCad battery will hurt the battery life, so try to charge your battery whenever it is at 10-20%, unless you are conditioning/reconditioning it. Also, avoid heat – heat kills batteries. (That does not mean don’t use your cell phone outside; rather that means keep it away from non-typical sources of heat, such as your laptop’s air vent.)

  • Lithium-Ion – Li-ion batteries are the newer type of battery that are found it most newer cell phones (most definitely most, if not all, smartphones use Li-ion and many “dumbphones” use them too now). Li-ion can be thought of as “smarter” than NiCad batteries; Li-ion batteries don’t suffer from the “memory effect” and thus don’t need to be conditioned like NiCad batteries.

Rather, to condition a new Li-ion battery, fully charge it; it should be allowed to charge for 7-8 hours on the first, initial charge. In other words, when you get your new cell phone – and it has a Li-ion battery – allow it to charge for 7-8 hours even if the cell phone claims to be fully charged. (It is preferable to use outlet charger vs car charger or USB charging via computer because of the voltage difference.) After that, there is no reconditioning necessary for Li-ion batteries since they don’t suffer from the “memory effect”. However, be sure to avoid fully draining/discharging the Li-ion battery as much as possible; every time a Li-ion battery is fully discharged, it loses battery power and life. (That doesn’t mean your battery will die if it is ever fully discharged; it means it is best to avoid fully discharging when possible.) Try to recharge Li-ion batteries when they are at 15-25%. Similarly, avoid heat as much as possible and when (if) storing Li-ion batteries, store them not at full charge.

Update: The only time you should ever intentionally fully discharge a Li-ion battery is if your phone is not properly reading the battery. In other words, if you go from 100% -> 90% in ten minutes but go from 90% -> 80% in one hour with the same amount of usage, that means your phone is not reading the battery output evenly. If this is the case, then fully discharging your battery once and then recharging it can fix the issue of your phone not reading the battery properly. Take note, however, this full discharge/recharge won’t increase your battery life — it will only ensure your phone reads the battery properly.

People often confuse Li-ion and NiCad batteries and try to condition Li-ion batteries by charging/discharging them 4-6 times. Trying to condition a Li-ion battery like it is a NiCad battery (i.e. charging/discharging the Li-ion battery 4-6 times) hurts the Li-ion battery more than helps it. So, be sure to condition your new cell phone’s battery, but be sure to condition it properly. Otherwise, you may be doing more harm than good. If you are not sure what type of battery you have, read the labels on the battery – they will always say whether the battery is Lithium-ion or Nickel-cadmium. Good luck and may we all have long lasting batteries =D.

Feel free to share any tips you have on extending battery life and power in the comments below.

Share this post

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

49 comments

  1. Reid

    [@David] Yeah, I’m afraid that seems to be a feature of Samsung products. Not sure why, but my Galaxy II has to be charged twice a day if I am not using it much and three times if I am. I have just learned to live with it and carry around a portable back-up charger (Solio has some great ones and they can be charged by solar power or by AC).

  2. David

    My Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate has been on standby for five hours and is 66% discharged. Its in my pocket and has not been used once. By bedtime it will be at about 30%. No apps are on, not being used. This seems to be a lot of power loss. Thanks for any comments.

  3. Jen Malabanan

    i just got my new alcatel sapphire 2 last july 3. the instruction said the minimum charging time of the battery is 4hrs. on my 1st charging time it really last for 4hrs. but aftet 1 week it only charges for 2 & a half to 3hrs. and i charge twice a day. is it normal to charge 2 times a day for a touch screen phones? thanks!

  4. Kurt G

    You’re not very familiar with electronics, are you? The voltages are completely different. Your outlet in your house is normally 120VAC, with a capacity to carry 15 amps. Alternating current, where the voltage goes up and down in a sine wave. Good for motors, electric heating loads, and most lighting other than LED. If you put that straight to your phone, you get to buy a new one! Your phone runs at roughly 3.7~VDC. Direct current, no sine wave, just a straight line on your oscilloscope. Good for electronics. If electronics actually ran 120VAC inside their circuitry, the properly rated conductors needed would make our modern electronics the size of a Buick, not to mention that AC is just not overly useful in an electronic circuit. that’s why we use rectifiers. Rectifiers convert your standard AC voltage into a DC voltage, using diodes and good stuff like that. Also, when you use diodes, SCRs (silicon controlled rectifiers), MOSFETS, JFETS, capacitors, etc. with different ratings, you can practically take any voltage you want, AC or DC, and rectify it into practically any DC voltage you want. And our car chargers, laptops, house chargers, etc. all have these delightful pieces of electronics to make our lives easier, just plug and play. It’s not extremely simple, but it’s as simple as that.

  5. Narkul

    I was under the impression that smart lithium batteries shut down before reaching critical levels that may damage the battery.
    Gorilla gadgets say to completely charge and discharge their batteries several times when new. I think I’ll follow the manufacturers recommendation over this article.

  6. qw3rty

    I got a Hyperiron extended battery for a galaxy nexus. Its lithium ion. The information that came with the battery says to charge it for 12 hours then fully discharge it. Then repeat this 4-5 times. Is the battery manufacturer wrong or is this article wrong?

  7. Aubrey Wright

    I ordered a new battery for my Samsung GS3 (2300 mAh vs stock batty @ 2100) & decided to condition my li ion battery as suggested above. I thought what the heck, no way it could be any worse than having to charge my phone 2+ times a day (depending on usage). I followed the above instructions to a “T” and I couldn’t be more dissapointed w/ the results! I have only used my phone to pay one utility bill (extremely light use), & the battery has only just now been in for 1 hour & 5 minutes. I went from 100% to (you may want to sit down for this) 22%!!! That means I am losing 1.4% for each minute my phone/ battery has been discharging. All but 10-15 minutes (to pay the above referenced bill) my phone was in idle, or powered on but not being used. I guess there’s a possibility I may have received a bum battery, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  8. Cameron Raham

    I’d like to add that the suggestion for the wall outlet charger that came with the phone is not true in the least. While a car’s voltage is only ~12VDC/13.5VDC running or a computer’s usb bus is 5VDC as opposed to a household 120VAC, the wall outlet charger transforms and rectifies the voltage to the phones voltage (5VDC for most phones nowadays) A car charger will use a regulator to achieve that same voltage level. As long as your car charger, usb port in computer, or wall outlet adapter has as the same voltage AND current rating greater than or equal to the phones charging needs, then you can use what you like and WILL get the same results.

    P.S. I am an electrical engineer

  9. Reihaneh

    hi, thank you for the very useful tips. I bought a new cell phone with a Li.Ion battery a couple of days ago. Unfortunately when I first charged it, I didn’t know I had to charge it for 7-8 hours, so when the sign showed that it was fully charged, I unplugged it. It was charged just for 2 hours. I charged it the same way after it was fully discharged for the second time. Now should I charge it for 7-8 hours considering it’s its third time to be charged? Thank you.

  10. Rajdeep Singh

    Always unplug the Charger when the phone indicates that the battery is FULLY CHARGED. Most of us use battery widget / apps from the market as none of us rely on the stock battery icon on our phone. Please remember that when the battery widget / app ( installed from the market ) indicates that the battery is 100%, it is nowhere near the 100% mark ( the reading is absurd ) Always rely on the notification ( in the status bar ) or pop up on your phone suggesting that the battery is fully charged, please unplug charger.

  11. Jim Miller

    I forgot to check the box to be notified of follow up comment. I just got a new lithium ion battery based phone and I didn’t know I was supposed to let it charge for an extended period of time, so once it hit one hundred percent I took it off. Anyway I can fix this?

  12. Jim Miller

    I just got a new lithium ion battery based phone and I didn’t know I was supposed to let it charge for an extended period of time, so once it hit one hundred percent I took it off. Anyway I can fix this?

  13. Brendan Ting

    Just wondering, okay, I have a Blackberry Bold 9700, and i just bought a new battery. im not really into phones thats why im asking just in case. Im charging my phone now but I kept unplugging it because i have to use the USB to sync some things from my old phone to this one. Will this disrupt the battery life in future? Just curious.

  14. mukhi

    okay! but i follow one simple principle…charge only if you really need it. specially, hooking up the laptop/cell phone with charger when you are not working on it is a BAD thing and possibly the major factor that can influence the total life of your battery.

  15. robert

    @ash: they said that with me to when i got my other phone i got a htc chacha and its first charge was a flat then charge for awhile hoping to be 8 hrs but ended up 2 3 hrs and im charging it again and realt want to use it but its been on maybie 2 3 hrs

  16. WhatIKnow

    Lithium ion batteries only come in one flavor, but lots of different brands and packages. A single Lithium-ion battery (cell) is generally accepted to be a 3.7 volt rated battery. Individually they may look like an over-sized AA battery (as used in laptop battery packs, the Tesla Electric Roadster, and most cordless tools) or look how many consumers are used to seeing, the rectangular/thin cell phone shape. Every single Li-ion cell has a ideal-nominal voltage of 3.7 volts. Devices that need more than 3.7 volts using Li-ions are limited to multiples of 3.7: 7.4v, 11.8v… Alkaline (non rechargeable have a nominal voltage of 1.5v per cell. Ni-Cd and Ni-MH rechargeable batteries have a nominal voltage of 1.2v per cell. Li-Ion works well as a replacement for the long standing and industry accepted standard of devices power requirements being some multiple of 1.2v since the Ni-Cd and it’s purpose designed replacement, the Ni-MH, was industry standard. So all devices were designed to work at these voltages: 3.6v (3 cells), 7.2 (6 cells), 12v (10 cells) , 18v (15 cells) as they were all multiples of 1.2v, moreover the common derivative is about 3.7volts, That then was chosen as the needed voltage of the new Lithium Ion cell. All lithium ion batteries are capable of being charged to 4.2 volts as is the specifications of their design. These batteries can be charged safely and repeatedly to their designed peak voltage of 4.2 volts. But their intended purpose is to work with devices at multiples of 3.7v so you will never find a battery with a rated voltage of 4.2v since the internal charging circuitry will only allow charging to the device’s acceptable limit of 3.7v. Every device considers the battery “dead” and protects the battery from over-discharging when the voltage per cell falls to 3.0v. So when your phone will not turn on or says it has 0% left, it is then at 3.0v. Damage to the battery occurs when the battery voltage per cell falls to 2.7v. this occurs when a a consumer fails to charge their “dead”/ 0% /3v Li-ion for some time after reaching 3.0v. Even though the battery may have 3.0v and the device is not using the battery, there is a internal self discharge that occurs. If the battery is left uncharged for some time, then the voltage will fall the 0.3 volts to 2.7v. at 2.7v the battery simply fails, and fails catastrophically, losing all of it charge down to 0v. The damaged battery can be recharged and may seem to be alright at first, but as many have experienced before, these damaged batteries may indicate “fully charged” but will die after minutes, after pulling the charger off, or may die when a call is placed, The only way to revive a damaged cell is to replace it with a new one. Disposal of a Li-Ion can be dangerous since a byproduct of a compromised li-ion is the release of oxygen which is very flammable, which in a Li-ion fire only serves to fuel the fire, much like a boiler explosion being like a chain reaction. If I have a Li-ion I need to make sure is 100% discharged and 100% dead, I will check to see that there is no voltage coming from the battery terminals, and then mix up a brine solution (heavily saturated salt water mixture) and safely toss the battery into the salt water. This shorts the battery out permanently.

  17. Eddie bravo

    MY QUESTIONS ARE TWO:
    Firstly, what if there’s a power-cut,what then do we do after chargin it halfway.
    2ndly,switchin on a phn 4 chargin a brandnew battery and putin it off and chargin on a 1st day,which of them strengthens a very brandnew battery?

  18. Cory

    I just got a new lithium ion battery based phone and I didn’t know I was supposed to let it charge for an extended period of time, so once it hit one hundred percent I took it off. Anyway I can fix this?

  19. Prithvi

    Li-Po batteries for smartphones are increasingly being used. Can we have a ‘To do’ list for conditioning Li-Po batteries used in smartphones right from the time the piece is unboxed for first time usage to subsequent stages within the life span of the battery itself i.e., charge/discharge tips from start to end? This’ll be really useful. You may consider a 1540 mAh LiPo battery as an example and enumerate the tips.

  20. Melanie

    Hi Ashraf! Some tips that would be great additions here are: turning off wireless Internet connections, ditching animated screensavers, playing games less (sadly) and utilizing power savers such as backlight features. For Android phones – I’ve been using Advanced Task Killer app for months now and it has become my favorite.

  21. ash

    Hi. I just bought a Samsung Galaxy S this afternoon.The seller from the shop said not to initially charge it – to use it until nearly flat. He said that if I charged it straight away, it would only ever charge to it’s new ‘boxed’ capacity. I did this. It is now on charge. The manual however says to charge it straightaway! What was the correct thing to do? (I was suprised when he said this!). Have I damaged my (new!) battery? Thanks :)

  22. citizenearth

    I think it is hard to use your handphone in such a way as to discharge its battery evenly. Who knows what will happen next even if we have planned beforehand. We sure don’t know if we can perform a certain activity at a certain time as intended. The plan could go astray, not 100% as we wished.
    BTW, what about the other popular battery type, the Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)? Is charging-discharging NiMH the same as that of NiCd?
    @Harlan: Just stick to original brand batteries or alternatively, use those reputable brand batteries. The quality is sure different.
     

  23. Harlan

    @TeeK: Just as you said, I’ve had bad experiences buying replacement batteries without the original brand name. I got some batteries for a Panasonic camera from a reputable high-volume source (e-batts), with higher capacity ratings than the original batteries, and found that they lasted half as long as the originals, and when idle held a charge about a quarter as long. In another case, a large camcorder battery I got from another internet retailer fit so loosely I had to tape it in place and even then it often didn’t make proper contact. And finally, I got some name-brand identical replacement cellphone batteries from Verizon that also clearly had less capacity than the originals. So I don’t know where to buy batteries now!

  24. Josh

    @Patrick: In my country cellphone charges are exorbitant. Consumers were misled into thinking that additional, new service providers would lead to more competitive pricing and better service, but this never happened. As soon as they received their licences to trade, the new kids on the block simply jumped onto the same gravy train with the old service providers!
    The manuals that you receive with new appliances are usually written by fools – for idiots. Like the troubleshooting guides that tell you to check if the unit is plugged into a wall socket and if that does not work the only other advice is to take it to an authorised dealer. It looks like manufacturers happily assume that consumer skills stopped developing a hundred years ago.
    Thank heavens for the internet and websites like this one, where you can be enlightened by other consumers.

  25. TeeK

    Some newer equipment is starting to use LiPo (Lithium Polymer) batteries, where the conditioning is a little different again. I’m not entirely sure what it is for them, as they are still quite new.

    However, for all batteries, some things are still true. The reason for the different charging conditions and conditioning is due to the chemistry of the batteries. Think of a battery as being two chemicals that give out electricity as the chemicals react together. Rechargeable batters have the chemicals very carefully chosen so that if you force electricty back through the battery, you force the reacted chemicals to split apart again, giving you the original two chemicals back, so they can react again to give out electricity to power the equipment again.

    That is the general idea, but unfotunately it is not that simple – When you try to do that, little gas bubbles will tend to try and form inside the battery and will need to be reabsorbed again. Sometimes the electrodes of the battery are not simply “plates” anymore, but can be made in several ingenious ways, including a semi-liquid “jelly”. Each type of battery is different and even different manufacturers may have slightly different ways of implimenting that particlular mixture of chemical in their batteries. So it is mainly the construction of the electrodes and the precise chemicals involved that makes the charging and conditioning different for each type of battery.

    For NiCds for example, they are all Nickel and Cadmium, but Sanyo’s “Cadnica” were vastly superiior to normal NiCds, due to many improvements they made over the basic construction. I personally stopped re-celling NiCd battery packs with anything other than Cadnica cells when I was doing that.

    Antoher thing that is true for pretty much all batteries is that they appreciate being charged and discharged +SLOWLY+ Most chargers will charge in an hour or so and modern cells can take that, however that rate is chosen for convenience of the user. If you charge and dischage them more slowly, they will last for many more charge/discharge cycles. That is why I like to charge my phone up from the computer’s USB socket. Takes a few hours, so if you plug it in when you turn the computer on, you can use it as normal and unplug it and take it out with you as usual even part way through the charge. By the end of the day, it’s usually fully charged.

    You will actually find it quite difficult to discharge a battery too much now. Almost all equipment will shut down as the battery gets too low. this is to protect the battery, but the problem is that some companies do ot do a very good job of detecting the state of dischage of the cells, so it is still possible to over-discharge a battery pack, just not very easy.

    When you buy a replacement battery pack for something, you often get the cheapest you can, thinking they are all the same. They are not sadly. You may pick one that has a very high capacity, but how do you know it really does have that capacity? Some cheap imports do not seem to have the capacity they claim, or even if they do, you may find the cells will simply not last very long. Even buying the manufacturer’s proper replacement batteries for equipment may not get you very good quality, Sadly some use the cheapest cells they can find, but still charge you a premium. I personally will often buy original replacements, but if the original batteries did not last very long, then I will look for a replacement where they tell you the brand of cells in their battery packs. This is often a good sign that they are putting premium quality cells in their packs.

  26. Patrick

    @Ashraf: “But its oh so cool to have the ‘net on your phone.”

    Sure, and also very expensive – in Belgium, which has a reputation for high pricing (and complex tarrif structures) of any cell phone activity… Providers here have “promissed”, for some time already, to lower their prices to European Union average levels or about but (as usual) keep stalling (against government recommendations). In general one might say that Belgium is probably about the only country where privatization of large parts of public services, paradoxically, has not lead to substantially lower consumer prices. This is especially the case in the ICT/commununications (and energy) sector(s). 

    I hear that e.g. France is a lot cheaper, but I have done no detailed research on other countries’ provider’s tarrifs. Besides, I don’t travel abroad very often anymore :( 

    This info is perhaps somewhat off topic here – although OldElmerFudd #9 shortly touched upon the subject -, but (in case anyone wants to spend his/her vacation or would consider moving here more or less permanently) ”cool often means pretty expensive” as well…

    I have both a new cellphone and an old one (for backup) and the vendor (Nokia)  gives basic instructions on firsttime use of batteries. But not in such detail as is given above. So, thanks for this short “tutorial”, Ashraf, mostly because of its detail! 

    Greetz,
    Patrick.

  27. Gioneo

    What I usually do for a new battery (Li-ion), I don’t charge it out of the box. I let it drain normally (regular usage) then I fully charge it for about 10hrs (with the device off). I noticed my batteries last longer between charges this way.

  28. RobCr

    Thanks Ashraf,
    I had developed a similar Nicad strategy, and used that for a few years.
    I did not know to go 10 – 15 hours for the first charge.
    However during use, I always wait till I am down to only one bar, before charging.
    If it was not for your ‘heads up’ I would have been doing that till the day I died.
    I now know not to do that with Lion, THANKS.

    So that got me curious to see what was in my Nokia E63.
    Took the cover off, and it said nothing.
    Read the manual, and it said nothing.
    Googled, and found out it is a LiPo (Lithium Polymer)
    Still have not found out whether I should desist from running it low before charging.

  29. OldElmerFudd

    @Ashraf: Uh, yeah…well, I’m not very cool. 8-))
    On another note, I found out (after about 5 years!) that ATT was charging a little each month for internet connectivity for our phones. Never mind that I didn’t have a service contract with an ISP for mobile computing, so I wasn’t ever actually online with a phone. I even got charged if I accidentally hit the WWW button. @#&%*##!

  30. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @OldElmerFudd: But its oh so cool to have the ‘net on your phone. =P

    @Ralph: Actually I heard because of the large size of laptop batteries, the conditioning for laptop Li-Ion is different. Of course I have only heard of this, and not done research, so I don’t know. I purposely only wrote about cell phone batteries because I know how to condition them for sure.

    @Jyo: Any chemical engineers out there?

  31. OldElmerFudd

    Thanks for the tip about not fully discharging a Li-ion battery. I usually charge mine when it gets really low, but there have been a couple of times…
     
    I only use my phone for calling and answering calls – no surfing, texting, etc., etc. Depending on the situation, I can always get to my laptop or netbook for mobile computing. Ymmv.