Technology

Understand your device batteries

Share Bookmark Print Rating

 

By Mustafa Ziraba

Posted  Wednesday, July 23   2014 at  01:00
SHARE THIS STORY

An MP3 player or any portable device including your phone is quite useless without power, so naturally batteries are a very important.
There’s a lot of confusion around both with regards to charging the batteries, preserving their maximum capacity and maximising the usage per charge.
Many of the rules on how to charge batteries are still around from the old days where electronics used completely different types of batteries and these have nothing to do with the reality today.
Any modern device with a rechargeable battery will more often than not have a lithium-based battery in it.
Most people have heard that you need to charge the battery for more than eight hours when you get it, leave it alone while charging, fully discharging and fully charging as often as possible, etc.

The difference
The game completely changes when it comes to lithium-based batteries. We’re talking about completely different battery technology, one which has a whole other set of rules.
For instance, lithium batteries don’t care when you charge them or for how long. All night, fine. Five minutes at a time, fine. Ten times a day, go ahead. There is no initialisation needed, which means the first time you charge the battery is no different from the 100th time you charge the battery. You don’t have to charge it for an insane amount of hours, as the battery will shut down charging when it is fully charged anyway. In most cases nothing bad will happen.
But there is a chance it will, if you fully discharge the battery especially if it is stored for extended periods of time without charging, the battery may fail to recharge afterwards.
Battery life, on a charge varies greatly among different devices. The actual battery time you get out of a device depends not only on the capacity of the battery, but also how effectively the device uses power.
Some very small Mp3 players have rated battery lives in the neighbourhood of 60 hours, which is much more than larger players yet they have smaller batteries. The rating listed by the manufacturer is the optimistic version rather than what you most likely will get. Battery life depends on so many things that there is no way to say how much you will actually get for example some people just can’t stop tinkering with their devices, an activity that sucks up your power.

The reality
Unsurprisingly, a battery loses its capacity to hold charge with time and laptop batteries often serve as a worst-case scenario as they often lose their capacity a lot faster than anything else.
This is due to several factors, like being discharged too often or being kept at temperatures too high. But if your battery is at this level, it is time to get a newer device or simply replace the battery.
With lithium batteries, the best thing you can do for your battery is to completely ignore how and when you charge the battery and just make sure you know your discharge rates aligned to device use and have enough power when you need it.
Lithium batteries are made to serve the user, not the other way around, and the “tips and tricks” that are picked from the old days of other types of batteries actually hurt lithium batteries.
Use the device as you want to, and make sure you have enough battery power in some form or another to do so but don’t let the fear of running out of power stop you from using the device to the fullest.