Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Increase the life of the battery for your smart devices

by Reid Goldsborough

With the ever-increasing reliance on high-powered smartphones and other portable digital devices, the lowly battery is getting more and more attention - from charging stations at supermarkets to new battery technologies on the horizon.  
Supermarkets such as Whole Foods, clothing stores such as Urban Outfitters, and even some restaurants and ski resorts are installing cellphone charging stations from companies such as ChargeItSpot ( Often, the service is free to customers, with the establishment paying ChargeItSpot to help them cement customer loyalty.  
Battery manufacturers are working on batteries that can be almost fully charged in the time it takes you have eat lunch. Chinese tech giant Huawei ( has announced new quick-charging batteries that charge up to 10 times faster than normal batteries. The batteries still are in the developmental stage, but one technology might make it possible to charge batteries to 68 percent in two minutes.  
The technology behind the rechargeable batteries in today's portable devices is lithium-ion. Used in batteries, lithium-ion is a more advanced technology than nickel-cadmium, which is a more advanced technology than alkaline batteries. Unlike lithium-ion and nickel-cadmium batteries, alkaline batteries can't be recharged.  
To minimize battery usage and prolong the battery power of your device, follow these tips:  
  • Keep your software up-to-date. The latest operating systems have all kinds of tricks to conserve battery power.  
  • Be mindful with apps such as Facebook and Instagram, which are battery hogs. iPhones, for instance, let you see which apps use the most juice. Press Settings then General, then Usage, and then Battery Usage. You optionally can turn off background data use with apps that don't need to be continually downloading data in the background. Press Settings, General, and Background App Refresh.  
  • Avoid extreme temperatures. The ideal temperature range is 62 degrees to 72 degrees F, though devices generally can be used safely in temperatures from 32 degrees to 95 degrees. Heat above 95 degrees can be outright harmful, so avoid car trunks in summer. You can kill batteries this way.  
  • Turn down your screen brightness, and set it to black and white, if this is an option. Both will prolong battery life. Of course, brightness and color can be useful features. Another option is turning off wireless connections such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi if you're not using them.  
  • Use the right device. If you primarily read books, get an e-reader. With their black-and-white screens and specialized functionality, e-readers have a battery life that's measured in days, not hours.  
Several misconceptions about today's batteries also can prevent you from getting the most out of them, including:  
  • You should always let a battery drain completely before recharging for maximum battery life. This was the case with nickel-cadmium batteries, but lithium-ion batteries don't need this. What you should do, however, is drain the battery periodically. Advice differs, from once a month to once a year. Just run the device until it shuts itself off. Then recharge it. Batteries won't discharge 100 percent even when the screen indicates a 0-percent charge. That's the reason why when you hit the power button, the device turns on long enough to tell you to recharge.  
  • Leaving your smartphone or tablet plugged in will overcharge it. Not true. These days most devices are designed to stop charging once the battery is fully charged. All rechargeable batteries have a finite life before they have to be replaced. Lithium-ion batteries can be recharged about 500 times before their maximum charge begins to decline. You'll notice this when you begin having to recharge sooner and sooner.
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