Now that you know the basics about the little chunk of power that keeps your phone going, here are some bite-sized practical tips to keep it healthy without driving yourself insane.
1. Yes, you can leave your phone plugged in overnight.
It is not the end of the world if you don't unplug your phone the second that it is charged. That charger is smarter than you give it credit for. Leaving your phone on the charger all night (or all day) is far better for your battery than running it down and charging it up.
2. Charge a little bit whenever you can.
Lithium-ion batteries don't respond well to being charged all the way up and then run all the way down. They take much better to little bits of charge here and there.
3. Yes, you can leave your laptop plugged in all the time.
Don't worry about overcharging the batteries in your gadgets, and especially don't worry about overcharging your laptop. What we just said about phones applies here, too. And on and on top of that, many laptops (most, in fact) are smart enough to cut the battery out of the charging equation entirely once it's full. The battery just sits there patiently until you need it or until it needs another little shock to top it off.
4. But maybe pop out your laptop battery while it's on the charger, if you can.
The biggest danger to your laptop battery—and your phone battery and your tablet battery—isn't overcharging, but heat. And with that in mind, it might be wise to pop out your laptop battery while you're plugged into the wall, if you can. As Andrew from iFixit explains:
If you're using your laptop as a desktop and generating a lot of heat, it's definitely worth it to pop out a removable battery to keep it from overheating and deteriorating. I've seen a noticeable decrease in battery capacity in my laptop over the last year that I attribute to Photoshopping at my desk.
The catch is that if you use the computer without the battery, you run the risk of a shutdown in the case of a power outage or clumsiness with the power adapter. Weigh your priorities.
If you can't or don't want to remove your laptop battery, at least make sure you've got good airflow. Don't block cooling vents. Maybe even pick up a fan with a stand.
5. Keep your batteries cool.
Speaking of temperature, make sure you don't leave your phone in a hot car all day. Or place it on top of your gaming PC. Or use it in a sauna. Try to avoid wireless charging if you can, because the waste-heat those chargers generate will also bake your battery. Also, beware of quick chargers. While your phone and charger are generally smart enough to minimize damage from high-voltage chargers, a lot of power super fast can generate extra heat. And if you have to store a gadget or its battery for a while, do it in a cool dry place.
6. Store batteries with a little bit of charge.
If you're storing batteries, you give them about a half a charge first. They'll slowly lose their charge over time, and if it drops into the true-zero danger zone, your battery will automatically trip its safety circuit and kill itself for real before it can become unstable.
7. Maybe go replaceable if you can.
If you're borderline insane about your battery life, consider opting for gadgets that have removable batteries when you can. For one thing, there's no faster way to "charge" a gadget than by swapping in a fully charged battery. And if you can't avoid these bad battery practices, at least you can start fresh by buying a fresh battery.
As Andrew from iFixit points out:
For devices with an inaccessible battery, that puts a definite end-date on the device's useful life. For something that lasts around 500 charge cycles and is recharged every day, you're looking at less than 2 years before you start to see a noticeable decline in battery life.
8. Don't let your battery rule your life.
If you follow the most basic rules of thumb—don't go all the way from full to empty if you can avoid it and minimize the exposure to heat as best you can—you'll be fine. It's easy to obsess over battery care, to let charging superstitions metastasize into obsessive ritual. But just remember two things:
1. Your gadgets and their batteries are designed to keep you from ruining them. Lithium-ion batteries today are better, smarter, and more resilient than the nickel-metal hydrides of yesteryear.
2. Your batteries are going to die. No amount of obsessive care will save you from having to deal with a less capable battery a few years from now.
Invariably, we're all destined for the annoying endgame that comes when a battery degrades, and you're either tethered to a charger, buying a replacement battery, or buying a new gadget altogether. We've all been there before, and we'll be there again. So long as you follow the most basic of guidelines, you can maximize your distance from here to there.