Q. My smartphone isn’t that new, but it isn’t that old either, and the battery has suddenly started to burn through a full charge much faster than it did a week ago. Can age catch up with it that suddenly or might there be something else going on with the phone that’s causing it to drain the battery more rapidly?
A. Many factors can affect a smartphone battery, including environmental conditions, age and apps. Start by making sure your phone is up to date with all the available software for its apps and operating system, and restart the device.
Heat affects battery performance, and you may see onscreen warnings about the phone needing to cool down if things get too toasty. This issue can occur on a hot summer day — especially in an area experiencing triple-digit temperatures, like the western and southwestern part of the United States already this summer. Using and charging the phone in temperatures higher than 95 degrees can damage a battery’s ability to hold a charge, so try to keep your phone in a cool place as much as possible and consider shedding its case, which can trap heat, if you use one.
If external heat is not a factor, there are others to consider. The lithium-ion batteries used by smartphones and other portable gadgets mostly measure their life span in charging cycles. If you are a heavy user and recharge your phone frequently, within a year or so you may start to notice a decrease in the length of time the battery can go without having to plug in and power up.
Battery University, a site dedicated to educating the public on pretty much every aspect of the portable power cells, notes that “manufacturers take a conservative approach and specify the life of Li-ion in most consumer products as being between 300 and 500 discharge/charge cycles.” (A charge cycle is typically defined as a complete charge and discharge of a battery’s power, although it does not have to be all at once.)
If your phone’s battery has not had considerable charge cycles yet, check your device’s settings. If you have recently installed new apps that asked for permission to send notifications or operate in the background, those programs may be taking a bite out of your battery life. Both Android and iOS have a Battery area in the settings that shows the power consumed by specific apps. Consider using those energy-hogging programs less or limiting their ability to refresh themselves with new data as frequently.
Color displays can sap a lot of power, so adjust the brightness to a dimmer level, or turn on the auto-brightness feature so the screen adjusts to your surroundings on its own; setting the screen to turn off automatically after a shorter period of time also helps save energy. Switching off live wallpapers, putting the phone in Airplane Mode or disabling its Location Services feature can add more minutes to your battery’s charge, too.
Battery-monitoring apps from your app store can help illustrate how your phone is using its power. Your phone’s manufacturer should have additional guidelines for maximizing battery life, as Apple supplies for its iPhones, Google does for its Pixel phones and Samsung has for its Galaxy line.
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