Continue reading the main story
If you’re unsure whether there’s a “right” way to charge your phone — or whether charging it too long, too often or too fast can damage the battery — you’re not alone. I’m a senior staff writer at Wirecutter, and I’ve been writing about phones and tech since 2011. Before that, I was an iPhone sales specialist at an Apple Store. Even with that experience under my belt, it has never been totally clear to me whether being careful about how often I recharge my phone actually extends the life of the battery enough to make a difference, or if it’s just another hassle in a world with far too many of them.
Some people just plug their phones into a charger (or toss them onto a wireless charging pad) whenever power is available. Others fastidiously keep their batteries between 40 percent and 80 percent, never allowing a full charge, guided by the belief that a battery will last longer as a result. Personally, I keep my iPhone on a Qi wireless charger on my desk all day while I’m at work, and I juice it up overnight, as well.
After speaking with battery researchers and the reuse experts at iFixit, reviewing studies on phone replacement trends and analyzing some user data from Wirecutter staffers, we’ve found that although micromanaging your phone’s battery is likely to extend its life to a small degree, the results might not be worth the inconvenience in the long run.
What the science says
Charging your battery causes its performance to degrade over time, no matter how you do it. Smartphones are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which work by moving charge carriers (in this case, lithium ions) from one electrode to another. The ions move in one direction when charging and in the other when discharging.
Moving those ions puts stress on the electrodes and leads to reduced battery life, according to Hans de Vries, senior scientist at Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) and the co-author of the research paper “Increasing the Cycle Life of Lithium Ion Cells by Partial State of Charge Cycling,” which appeared in the journal Microelectronics Reliability.
“The lithium ion needs some space in the electrodes and the electrode has to make this space, and because of the stress,” Mr. de Vries said, “the electrodes will gradually degrade and that is also then a loss of capacity in the battery.”
That is especially true when you’re topping off a battery for the last few percentage points. Kevin Purdy of iFixit, a site that teaches how to repair common electronics and other household items, suggested the analogy of a sponge.
“It’s pretty easy to fill a sponge from dry to mostly saturated,” said Mr. Purdy, who is also a former senior staff writer for Wirecutter. “But trying to force a nearly saturated sponge to absorb the very last drops of liquid requires pressure and likely leaves more liquid pooled on the surface. That ‘pooling’ is the S.E.I. (solid electrolytic interface) buildup on a battery. S.E.I. buildup reduces the overall capacity of a battery.”
Charging your battery to full capacity less frequently, and not letting it run totally dry, can extend its life — somewhat. Putting less stress on the electrodes results in less degradation, and ultimately higher capacity for a longer period of time.
“It is possible to prolong the battery life by not completely charging and not completely discharging,” Mr. de Vries said. “So we’ll say stay between 20 percent and 80 percent or so.” The battery lifetime is “inversely proportional to the amount of lithium ions that you put in the electrodes.”
This is one reason Apple offers optimized battery charging on its iPhones, keeping the charge below 80 percent until you need the battery topped off. Android doesn’t have a similar system-level algorithm, but individual manufacturers like OnePlus and Asus have introduced their own optimization features.
Heat is another factor that negatively affects battery life. “Heat is the worst enemy of batteries,” according to Battery University, a repository of battery science information maintained by the battery-testing company Cadex. “Lithium-ion performs well at elevated temperatures but prolonged exposure to heat reduces longevity.”
According to Mr. Purdy, heat is especially a problem when you’re wirelessly charging.
“Depending on a number of factors — alignment, sophistication of charging base, phone cases, interference — your charger can end up delivering as low as half of the current it draws into your phone,” he said. “Where current meets resistance, there is heat.”
However, the people behind the wireless charging standard are dismissive of these concerns.
“We are not aware of any negative impact of prolonged wireless charging,” said Menno Treffers, founder and chairman of the Wireless Power Consortium, the body that maintains the Qi wireless charging standard. Qi “makes it possible for the phone to switch the charger in standby mode when the phone’s battery is full.”
Mr. Treffers even suggested that frequent top-ups, which are common with wireless charging, may actually extend battery life.
“According to research we have seen, battery lifetime actually increases by 4x when the depth of discharge — or amount that the battery is drained — is limited to 50 percent, rather than 100 percent,” he said. “In other words, by continually topping up the phone battery during the day, as you might do with wireless charging, and not letting your phone battery dip below 50 percent, you will actually increase the life span of your battery.”
What the manufacturers say
The major phone manufacturers declined to provide any recommendations for specific charging techniques when we asked, but they do offer vague tips on their websites.
Apple says you should “charge your Apple lithium-ion battery whenever you want” and adds that there is “no need to let it discharge 100 percent before recharging.” On a different page on Apple’s website, the company notes that you should avoid extreme temperatures (especially over 95 degrees Fahrenheit) and remove cases that might cause your iPhone to overheat while it’s charging. But Apple doesn’t outline when you should or shouldn’t charge or suggest any optimal charging thresholds.
Google’s recommendation is similarly straightforward: “Charge as much or as little as needed. You don’t need to teach your phone how much capacity the battery has by going from full to zero, or zero to full, charge.”
Samsung advises charging regularly and keeping the battery above 50 percent. The company also says that leaving your phone connected while it’s fully charged may shorten the battery life.
Even if constant charging affects battery life, will you ever notice?
Charging your phone all of the time and letting it run dry are habits that may erode its battery life. But are they liable to have enough of an effect to make a practical difference before you upgrade to a new model?
Two-year wireless service contracts may be a thing of the past, but modern installment plans usually still require two years to pay off a phone, meaning people who don’t buy their phones outright are likely to keep them at least that long. A notable exception is Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, which promises “a new iPhone every year.” But even with the advent of such programs, recent data suggests that phone replacement cycles are lengthening rather than getting shorter. A 2019 study found that Americans now keep their smartphones for an average of nearly three years. Those who prefer Apple may keep their iPhones even longer — up to four years, according to one analyst’s report.
If you don’t upgrade regularly and don’t follow ideal charging practices, it stands to reason that you may find your phone’s battery life lacking over time. However, other factors — including how much you use your phone in general — most likely have a much larger impact on battery longevity than charging behavior. That’s because lithium-ion batteries are rated for a specific number of charge cycles, or times they can be filled up. (These cycles are cumulative, so two charges from 50 percent to 100 percent count as one cycle.) So the more you use your phone, the more you have to recharge the battery, and the more it degrades.
In an informal poll of 32 Wirecutter staffers who use iPhones, the lowest battery capacity reported after two years of ownership was 85 percent. Of the survey respondents, just one person reported meticulously keeping a phone’s battery level within a certain range. The vast majority (29 respondents, or 91 percent) indicated that they simply charged their phones when the battery level was low, or overnight, while two people reported they charged their phones more or less constantly when a charger was available.
Although our poll results show a general decline in iPhone battery health over time, as you might expect, they also suggest that there’s little direct correlation between battery age, charging habits and battery health. For example, one iPhone 7 owner reported that after 42 months, the phone still had 87 percent battery health, despite the decision not to micromanage its charge levels. Another iPhone 7 user reported just 64 percent battery health despite the phone being six months younger than the other respondent’s phone and being on the same charging routine.
A loss of 15 percent of your battery capacity over two years is noticeable, but it leaves enough juice — especially with the larger batteries in newer iPhone models — that most people can still get through the day without plugging in. For heavier phone users who wear down their batteries more quickly, or those who have older phones with smaller batteries and more marginal battery life to start, the good news is that batteries can be replaced fairly cheaply. Apple charges $50 or $70, including labor, depending on your iPhone model. Best Buy will replace a Samsung Galaxy battery for $50. Google’s walk-in repair partner for Pixel devices, uBreakiFix, charges about $80 to $110 to replace batteries. Or you can do it yourself, by following the guides on iFixit.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of convenience
In the long run, you need to choose what’s right for you: babying your battery to extend its life, or charging it at your convenience so that your phone is more likely to be juiced up when you need it.
“It would be better for a phone battery to be allowed to gradually lose its charge, then recharge when needed, perhaps to 80 percent, before stopping again,” Mr. Purdy said. “Of course, some people don’t want to risk having their phone keep only a partial charge before they head out. Or have a part-time job watching their battery percentage.”
Mr. de Vries echoed that perspective.
“If you charge the battery only halfway, OK, it will last longer, but it will be empty sooner than if the battery has been fully charged,” he said. “So it is a trade-off between the total life of the battery and the amount of times that you have to recharge it.” Mr. de Vries added that even though he is intimately familiar with optimal battery hygiene, he doesn’t always practice it.
“I’m lazy,” he said. “Back in the old days, I’d look every quarter or half-hour to see if my cellphone, my laptop, was charged already. And then I would stop, for instance, at 90 percent, 95 percent. But sometimes you forget.”
A version of this article appears at Wirecutter. Interested in learning more about the best things to buy and how to use them? Visit the site, where you can read the latest reviews and find daily deals.
A version of this article appears in print on , Section
of the New York edition
with the headline:
Is Keeping Your Phone on a Charger All Day Really That Bad?. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
Continue reading the main story
“We are not aware of any negative impact of prolonged wireless charging,” said Menno Treffers, founder and chairman of the Wireless Power Consortium, the body that maintains the Qi wireless charging standard. Qi “makes it possible for the phone to switch the charger in standby mode when the phone's battery is full.”What happens if you charge your phone all day? ›
Modern smartphones have optimized batteries that will stop drawing power once they reach 100 percent. However, when you leave it on the charger, the phone will inevitably lose a little bit of power as it sits there because that's just what batteries do.Should you charge your phone all day? ›
Android phone manufacturers, including Samsung, say the same. “Do not leave your phone connected to the charger for long periods of time or overnight." Huawei says, "Keeping your battery level as close to the middle (30% to 70%) as possible can effectively prolong the battery life."Is it OK to leave phone plugged in all the time? ›
While you'll likely never overcharge your smartphone's battery, leaving it plugged in overnight does have a few drawbacks you should be aware of. The electronics industry's consensus is that lithium-ion batteries survive the longest when kept between 20 and 80% charge.How many times is it normal to charge phone in a day? ›
There's no absolute rules to follow. Most suggest the 20 – 80 rule, which you can definitely follow. You can even do 45 – 75 or others. As long as you understand what's harmful to your battery, you can tailor your charging habit according to your needs and daily routine.Is frequent charging bad for battery? ›
Frequent charging isn't bad for the type of batteries used in current smartphones but the rule of thumb is that you want to keep the battery charged between 40% and 80% if possible. Letting the battery completely run down and charging to 100% puts more stress on the battery which causes it to degrade faster.Is charging iPhone to 100 bad? ›
Apple recommends, as do many others, that you try to keep an iPhone battery between 30 and 80 percent charged. Topping up to 100 percent isn't optimal, although it won't necessarily damage your battery, but letting it regularly run down to 0 percent can prematurely lead to a battery's demise.How do I keep my battery 100% healthy? ›
- Automatic battery health management. ...
- Avoid extreme ambient temperatures. ...
- Remove certain cases during charging. ...
- Store it half-charged when you store it long term.
Nowadays, smartphones come with lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries with partial charge that can get fully charged within about 2 h. However, manufacturers still insist on charging them for 8 hours before the first use.Is it good or bad to leave your phone charging overnight? ›
There may not be a noticeable change straight away but if you do this every single night, you may see your battery degrade over time. Therefore, charging your phone overnight isn't necessarily bad but you should not do it consistently if you want to get the best out of your battery.
Simply, Keep your cell phone at least 3 feet away from your bed to limit radio frequency exposure. Turn your cell phone off before you go to bed (if you don't rely on your phone's alarm clock)Is it OK to unplug your phone at 100? ›
Thankfully the easy way is fine
You'll probably have a new phone before that happens. Charge your phone when it needs to be charged and if you end up charging until it reads 100% you don't have anything to worry about, whether wireless or wired. Make sure you use approved cables and chargers it will be fine.
The survey revealed that even in this era of larger smartphone batteries, users are charging their handsets multiple times per day and 43% are frustrated with how long it takes their phone's battery to charge. 69% have to charge their device at least twice a day.What is the lifespan of a phone battery? ›
On average, a cell phone battery should last between two and three years. After that, it will likely begin to have a negative impact on your cell phone's performance. Here are a few common symptoms of a dying cell phone battery: Needing to charge your phone multiple times in one day.What happens if we keep phone charging all night? ›
Charging overnight is not a danger to your battery in and of itself. However, temperature is a real concern. One of the most damaging things your battery can experience is extreme heat or extreme cold. Apple has publicly stated that temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius can cause permanent damage to battery life.How long should I leave my phone on charge? ›
The golden rule is to keep your battery topped up somewhere between 30% and 90% most of the time. Top it up when it drops below 50%, but unplug it before it hits 100%. For this reason, you might want to reconsider leaving it plugged in overnight.What percent should you charge your phone? ›
For optimized battery life, your phone should never go below 20 percent or never above 80 percent. It may put your mind at ease when your smartphone's battery reads 100 percent charge, but it's actually not ideal for the battery. “A lithium-ion battery doesn't like to be fully charged,” Buchmann says.Does limiting charging to 85 percent help? ›
Does limiting battery to 85 work? So, the advantage of limiting the maximum charging capacity to 85% is reduced charging wear. But it may increase the discharging wear if you often drain the battery below 20% because of the reduced charging capacity.