About six years ago (no, wait, it was exactly six years ago), when Pirates Of The Caribbean 2 came out in theaters, my then best friend (now fiancee) and I went to see a fairly late showing. Only we’d waited until the movie had been out awhile, and the nearest theater that was showing it was about twenty minutes from our house and the showing was very late.
We got out of the showing around 9:30pm, and when we reached our car in the mostly empty parking lot and prepared to go home. We were thwarted by the fact that our early 1990s Honda hatchback wouldn’t start.
Well, we’d known for awhile that the car was going down hill, but we figured it just needs a jump. Maybe we’d left the lights on or something and the battery had run down. So we called triple A and waited for their jump guy. He was there in about fifteen minutes, jump started the car and told us to just sit there with the engine running for about twenty minutes before we tried to go anywhere, then he left. We sat there, and after twenty minutes had passed, we headed for home.
We barely got out of the parking lot before the car started sputtering. There was a bit of traffic, but we managed to get it off to the side of the road and around a corner – into none other than one of the exits to what was then the Anaheim Pond – the arena the Mighty Ducks play in, directly under the sign, no less. and there the car shut off.
Figuring maybe we hadn’t let it run long enough before trying to leave, we went to call triple A again, only to find that she must have left her phone back where we jumped up from waiting for the triple A guy the first time. My phone was low on battery life as it was, but we made the call.
The rest of the story is fairly annoying – it was three hours before triple A could find us – and her parents had come to wait with us at that point since we were two women sitting alone on an empty street corner at nearly midnight. However, my phone – now the only one we had – kept a charge the entire time and was our lifeline that night. And it all is thanks to the fact that I know how to care for a cell phone (or other electronics – this applies to anything with a rechargable battery) battery.
1. Let the battery die – at least at first.
When you first get a new electronic these days, the battery usually has some kind of a charge in it, but almost never a full charge. The instinct is to plug it in immediately and fill out the battery meter completely, yes? Well, surprisingly, that’s exactly what you should not do.
No one really knows why, but modern batteries hold charges better if you allow that initial charge to run almost all the way down before you charge the device for the first time. I’ve noticed a marked difference between devices that I’ve allowed to run down their initial charge and ones that I’ve plugged in immediately upon acquiring it. In the long run, your battery will actually last up to a full day longer
2. Don’t charge the battery unless it’s at less than twenty-five (25) percent.
This might sound obvious after the last tip, but for some reason, charging a device’s battery when it’s over fifty percent regularly seems to make it go down to fifty percent faster. I’ve now tested this theory with two separate eReaders, three phones, an iPod (classic), and an iPad. Of them all, the battery on the iPad seemed the least effected by how low the battery is when charging.
This is particularly effective with cell phones, for some odd reason. If the phone drops below twenty-five percent, it seems to even charge faster. I’ve had a phone go from thirteen percent to one hundred percent in five hours instead of the usual eight to twelve that it’s been taking to charge when I’d charged it at fifty percent or above.
3. Exceptions are alright, but they must remain ONLY exceptions!
You have a meeting the next morning and your phone is at fifty percent. If you don’t charge it, it might go dead in the middle of the meeting and you’ll end up not being able to call your ride after the meeting is over. If you do charge it, you worry you might be killing the battery. Here’s the important thing to remember. Situations like this are exceptions. As long as you don’t make them become the rule (and get into the habit of charging your phone no matter what it’s battery level every single day) you should still be fine.
I understand how easy it can be to find something being done a certain way (like plugging a phone in the moment you get home every evening and unplugging it in the morning) and get into the habit of just doing that because, well, that’s the way you do things. However, it doesn’t change that when it comes to the health of your device’s battery, doing things by rote is a slow death sentence. Try not to get stuck in habits.
4. Phones are not the only devices that this applies to!
While phones, by their simple prevalence in the world around us, are the first thing any of us think of when we talk about battery life and charging, phones are not the only devices that benefit from this sort of preventative maintenance. MP3 players, iPods, eReaders, even handheld video game systems can benefit from being careful about when you charge them and ensuring that the careful maintenance schedule can be maintained. Even laptop computers and tablets such as the iPad can benefit, even if the benefit might not be quite as obvious as it is with a phone.
I didn’t used to know these things. I kept my laptop plugged in all the time it was on, figuring that if it just ran off the AC power, the battery would always be charged when I needed it. When I ended up needing it, the battery died within an hour when it had boasted an eight to twelve hour battery life upon purchase. And I was the reason it died.
Fortunately, with laptops specifically, there is a way to avoid this issue. In most laptops, the battery can be removed, and then when it’s plugged in, the AC power goes straight to the power system rather than routing through the battery first – the action that causes the battery to lose life because it gets used to always being charged and it doesn’t matter how much power it puts out. So when using a laptop not on the battery, remove the battery to save it. The battery will also continue to hold it’s charge for a very long time when not in the computer, as a general rule. However, you do need to plug it in from time to time to check the charge, as there’s no other way to do that. and you wouldn’t want to be caught out and about with a dead battery any more than you’d want your battery to run down after an hour of use.
5. Screen brightness and wifi access drain batteries faster than anything else.
The final tip for preserving your device’s battery life may seem odd. Turn down the brightness of your screen as far as it can go and you still be able to read or see comfortably. Yes, you may have to turn it up in bright sunlight, but once you’re indoors, make a habit of turning it down again. Also, unless you’re actively using the internet (such as browsing the iTunes or Barnes & Noble or Amazon stores, or actually using a browser), make sure that your Wifi settings are turned off. Wifi, whether it’s being actively used or not, drains batteries. And in older devices, it’s even a worse culprit. Things that could last days without wifi can go from a full charge to dead in an hour or two with it on.
Finally, if you’re doing all you can to preserve your battery and you still find it’s draining unreasonably fast, contact the manufacturer or your phone carrier and see if you can get a replacement. Because, no matter how much we all complain about battery life, everyone knows that your phone’s supposed to stay on more than two hours at a full charge. Don’t be afraid of customer service – after all, they’re there to help.
[image credit: MarioAnima]