Saturday, 1 September 2012

Battery Health and Me (And, You too)

Most of us use Smartphones these days. Almost all of us have either an iPhone, an Android or a Blackberry. And all of you will completely understand when I say that battery life is a major issue. I had a very rough 10 days because of an old battery and, boy, was it a major pain in the backside.

Towards the end of my ordeal (yesterday), my phone would stay on for no longer than 40 minutes even if I switched off 3G, kept flight mode on, didn't listen to music, didn't even check my cell by turning on the LED back-light. Cutting through the redundancy, I made my phone worthless and it still didn't last 2400 seconds. And so my phone was on charge all day at work and at home. Basically, I owned a Dabba. :P

Obviously, I got myself a new battery, and couldn't help smiling to myself as the initial charge of 21% lasted close to 4 hours with my regular usage of mobile internet and texting (#WIN). So, anyway I thought I'd do some research on Li-Ion batteries and their working to help me (and now, you) understand how to take better care of your batteries.

For starters, the basic process of battery usage is simple electrolysis. Lithium Ions moving from one electrode to another, positive to negative, and discharging is the reverse process. At the end of my research, I learnt the following things:

  1. The notion that the battery's first charging should last 12-16 hours for good health and longevity is a myth. This was required only in the old Nickel-Cadmium(Ni-Cd) batteries, most of which have been phased out now. The 12 hour charge could actually damage your battery right from the start. A normal charge should be anywhere between 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Ideally, the battery (and thus, the device) should be kept at room temperature, ie. 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. So, if you're at a warm indoor place, keep it near the fan of air cooling vent, and if you're in a cold place, keep it in your pocket.
  3. You should never completely discharge the battery. Recharge it when it reaches 10-15%. However, you should do a complete discharge and recharge of the battery once every 20-30 charge cycles. That comes up to roughly a month in my case.
  4. You shouldn't fully charge it either. I don't quite get how we can manage that, but no harm trying.
  5. Never use a non-approved charger for your device. There could be a difference in voltage from charger to charger and that could damage your battery. In lay man terms, use only the charger that comes with your device otherwise there's some electronic mumbo-jumbo that'll screw up your battery.
  6. Never keep the battery or the device close to a metallic surface for too long. Again, free electrons and metals and some chemical geek stuff.
Apart from these, I read that batteries have two important attributes. A Digital Memory, that kinda helps the device read its percentage life for display purposes; and Potency, a quantitative measure of the number of free electrons it can regain after a full recharge. Both, indirectly indicate battery life and charge percentage. The difference being that Potency cannot be measured by the device, while Digital Memory can... not with pinpoint accuracy, however. So don't rely on the battery meter display on your gadgets too much.

I've been through a good few websites to read and assimilate this information. I hope it helps you guys as well as I hope it helps me. Most of them make sense when you read it in detail. Except the execution of the 4th one. I'll try to figure that out by myself. 

Ultimately, its all in the Science of it. Hope your battery lasts long enough to help you tweet, Whatsapp and listen to music all the way home from work or college.

Cheers. :)

-Pratik Gupta.

PS: Comments and corrections are welcome. :)

1 comment:

  1. Almost seems like a neophyte tech journal :P Way to go!! ;)