Battery Best Practices for Lithium Powered Devices

Nintendo Switch's lithium ion battery
Nintendo Switch's lithium ion battery

Nintendo Switch’s lithium-ion battery. Courtesy: iFixIt

Batteries are a consumable. With time and use they become less effective. And eventually need to be replaced. With battery best practices you can extend their lifespan. But you’re better off doing just the basics and resigning yourself to needing to replace batteries on occasion.

What Wears Down Lithium Batteries?

  • Charge Cycles
  • Extreme Temperatures

A charge cycle is when the battery discharges 100%, then recharges 100%. A battery doesn’t need to go from 100% to 0% for a charge cycle to count. If you always recharge your battery from 80% to 100% then after five such charges you’ll have used one charge cycle. Most manufacturers state the battery will lose 20% capacity after 300-500 charge cycles. This is a conservative estimate, so some users won’t see capacity degradation as quickly.

Extreme temperatures also affect battery life, especially heat. This is why your devices have recommended operating temperature ranges. No lithium battery likes below freezing. And 86°F (30°C) is considered elevated for lithium batteries. Keep in mind that charging the battery also generates heat.

Easy Best Practices

  • More frequent, shallower charges are better than less frequent, deeper charges.
    • Shallower discharges and charges are less stressful on the battery.
    • Avoid a full discharge (0%) where you can. There is no reason to do such unless you are correcting a battery capacity listing issue.
  • Charge at an ambient temperature you find comfortable.
    • Never charge below 32°F (0°C) or above 113°F (45°C).
  • Leaving a device connected to power is fine.
    • Lithium batteries stop charging when full.
    • A topping charge is only applies once the battery drops to a certain level. It is not constant.
    • If the device won’t be used for months consider storing it (see below).
  • Update your device’s software. Especially if it includes power management or efficiency changes.
  • If not using your device for 6 months or longer store it with the battery in mind.
    • Charge it to ~50%.
    • Turn it off completely.
    • Put it in a cool, but not cold space that is moisture-free.
    • Recharge it to ~50% every six months.

Don’t Stress

There is more you can do to extended battery life, but they are more extreme practices. For example, never let the battery drop below 80% or charge fully to 100%. Or change the charging voltage of the battery. While these will extend battery life further it is not worth the stress. You’ll spend as much, or more time maintaining the practice than you’ll gain in battery life.

Batteries need to be replaced over time. You can find affordable battery replacement programs from device manufacturers and independent repair shops. Apple charges $29 to replace an iPhone battery. Most Android phone batteries cost $10, plus labor. Laptops have similar options, though at a higher cost. In the future Nintendo will offer a paid battery replacement service for the Switch. All of which are a fraction of the price of a new device.

tl;dr

    • Batteries wear out over time, you can only prolong battery life.
    • Best to charge more often than not.
    • It is okay to leave it on the charger.
    • Keep it away from heat. Don’t use your phone outside in below freezing weather.
    • Your time is better spend earning and saving up for a replacement battery every few years than micro-managing your devices.

You can learn more about caring for lithium-ion batteries at Battery University.