Samsung is doing that. Huawei, Google, OnePlus and even Apple are doing the same. Packing a fast charger inside your new phone box, at least for high-end devices, is an increasingly common activity. But are we paying a price for the ease of charging a fast charger on our phones?
To mobile users, battery life has become a primary concern. As we do more with our phones over more hours, one of the key features an average buyer searches for after screen size is the value of all-day battery life on a single charge. Even more critical is the battery life than an outstanding camera. The same question relates to longevity of the battery during your device’s lifespan.One reason why fast chargers are so popular is the increasing focus on battery life. If the battery is about to drain before the end of the day, the next best thing is to quickly refill the tank. A charge of 10 minutes could make the difference between going into an austere power-saving mode or completely losing power before you get home.
Now that fast charging is so readily available for phones, we have questions: What does a high-capacity charger do to the battery of a phone, and is there a risk that fast charging will reduce the power-storage capacity of your phone over time?
And while we’re wondering, we’d like to know what else we’re doing when we charge our phones that, over time, could cause unnecessary wear and tear on the battery of your phone.
To find out the answers to our questions, we explored the impact of fast charging on the battery life of your phone with several battery researchers and engineers. This is what we have found.
Your phone battery isn’t changing anytime soon
Both mobile phones— and most personal electronics and electric vehicles— use rechargeable batteries from lithium-ion (li-ion). Creating batteries that last longer is a tough slog because battery technology hasn’t improved in decades. Alternatively, much of the recent progress in battery life has come from power-saving features that are built into smartphones, and from making the software that handles charging and discharging more effectively, so you’re sipping power over it.
Sadly, for mobile phones, the emphasis on increasing battery life is usually on vehicles, satellites and the power system of your house, places where industrial batteries have to work well beyond the two to three years that we demand from our mobile devices.A battery size is another factor working against our mobile. The power source of a handset is minute compared to an electric car battery. The rechargeable battery of the Tesla 3, for example, has a battery capacity more than 4,000 times that of the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
The equation becomes a little confusing because in milliampere-hours the phone batteries are measured, while in watt-hours the electric vehicle batteries are measured. Yet parallels can be drawn. The Pixel 4, for example, has a battery of 2,800-mAh (or 10.6 Wh), and the iPhone 11 Pro Max is said to have a battery of 3,969-mAh (15.04 Wh). Furthermore, the Chevy Volt is using an 18,400-Wh battery and a 62,000-Wh battery is flaunted by a mainstream Tesla Model 3.
That’s critical because the bigger the device, the more power-saving tricks it has to prolong its life. When you charge a battery, for example, the voltage increases, placing it under stress, particularly during the last 20 percent charge. To order to avoid this pain, electric car manufacturers can charge up to 80% new batteries. Due to the increased battery capacity, the electric car can still go a reasonable distance while reducing the burden of higher voltages. It can double the battery life of the engine.
Larger phone batteries can provide you with an all-day running time from a fee, but normally only 100%. And while this helps the battery to last between charges for an acceptable time, it also puts the battery under more stress from the higher voltage required to top it off.Short of a major battery technology breakthrough, our phone batteries will be enhanced by making the devices themselves more energy-thrifty.
Fast-charging won’t damage your battery
The output of a traditional charger is 5 to 10 watts. This can be increased up to eight times by a quicker adapter. The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, for example, come with a quick 18-watt charger, the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus have 25-watt chargers in their boxes. Samsung is going to sell a 45-watt extra-speed charger for $50.If your battery or charger electronics have a technological fault, however, using a fast charger will not cause long-term damage to your phone’s battery.
This is why. There are two stages of fast-charging batteries. The first step applies a voltage blast to the battery that is empty or almost empty. In the first 10, 15 or 30 minutes, this gives you the blazing charge of 50 to 70%. That’s because batteries can easily absorb a charge during the first charging process without having major adverse effects on their long-term health.
For example, Samsung claims that its 45-watt charger can be loaded in half an hour from zero to 70 percent. Apple says the iPhone 11 Pro’s quick charger will reach a charge of 50 percent in 30 minutes.You know how long it seems to take to fill the last 20 or 30% of the battery as long as charging the first 70% or 80%? That last part is the second phase of charging, where phone manufacturers have to slow down and control the charging speed carefully, or else the charging process could actually damage the battery.
Arthur Shi, a tear-down engineer at iFixit’s DIY repair site, suggests imagining a sponge-like battery. If you pour water into a dry sponge for the first time, it easily absorbs the liquid. This is the fast charging process for a battery. If you keep pouring water at the same pace on the increasingly wet sponge, the liquid will pool up on the surface as it tries to soak in the saturated sponge. The unabsorbed charge can lead to shorts and other problems for a battery that could potentially damage the device.
If everything is well-managed inside, damage is minimal. The management system of a battery closely tracks the two charging phases and reduces the charging speed during the second phase to allow the battery time to absorb the charging and avoid problems, which is why it can take 10 minutes to get the last few percentage points. The case of the tragically exploding battery of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was the result of battery design flaws rather than the battery management strategies of the phone software.
You shouldn’t let your battery drain to zero
You might have preferred to let your phone down all the way once in a while at one time to help the battery recalibrate its charging status. But with modern phone batteries, that’s not so much a concern.
Deleting a battery all the way down will actually cause chemical reactions that can shorten the life of a battery over time. To stop a full discharge, the control mechanism of a battery provides protection mechanisms that power a phone down when it hits an energy level that is safely above empty. Only when you see the last low-battery alarm, you think you hit zero.
If you want to take a more active hand in the safety of your system, plug in your phone when the battery level decreases by around 30%, well above the stressfully low battery level.