When it comes to charging a mobile phone, the message is clear: don’t overcharge your phone battery and never leave your phone on the charger overnight.
Many people don’t understand the rationale behind these warnings, so they assume that overcharging a phone battery may lead to something catastrophic like the battery exploding and injuring or killing the person using a phone.
Stories like “Boy dies after phone ‘explodes’ while charging and sets fire to his clothes” add to the anxiety about the dangers of overcharging.
But can overcharging your phone battery kill you? We did some research to answer this question. Apart from answering the main question and others related to it, we will also focus on other tips for charging a phone battery, like why it’s important to use a cable from a trusted supplier.
What Does Overcharging a Phone Battery Mean?
The idea that a battery can overcharge dates back to the days before cell phones were invented. At that time, when someone spoke about overcharging a battery, they were referring to a car battery being charged above its recommended voltage.
Things have changed over the years. Modern car batteries have an internal voltage regulator that ensures a battery is never overcharged.
When people talk about overcharging a phone battery, they probably think about it based on their understanding of the concept of overcharging a car battery. However, the experts note that a phone battery can never be overcharged, at least in the sense of ending up with more voltage than recommended.
Therefore, we can say that the concept of overcharging in that sense does not exist.
With that being said, the idea of overcharging in the sense that you have put your phone on a charger longer than you should does exist. For instance, if your phone battery requires two hours to get to 100%, leaving it on the charger for eight hours while you sleep could, to some extent, be perceived as overcharging.
Why Overcharging is Not Possible
Writing for the New York Times, Lance Whitney allays the fears of many who are anxious about overcharging their phone batteries. He writes, “You can’t overcharge your phone’s battery, so don’t worry about that.”
In explaining why you can’t overcharge your phone’s battery, Lance cites the manager of a battery maintenance systems firm who says, “Your phone stops drawing current from the charger once it reaches 100%.”
But does this mean you can safely keep your phone on a charger even after the battery is fully charged? The answer is that this is never a good idea.
Sean Keach is a digital technology and science editor at the Sun, a UK tabloid. He advises that phone owners should avoid keeping their devices plugged in and at 100% all the time if they don’t want to destroy their battery life.
Keach adds that keeping your phone in full charge keeps the battery under continuous stress. This stress is responsible for wearing out the battery’s components faster than they should.
If you have ever used your phone while charging, you probably have noticed that the device heats up around the area where the battery is located. Sometimes the heat becomes so high that the phone powers itself down. Imagine what happens to a phone battery that remains under this constant heat as you try to keep it 100% full.
If we agree that it’s impossible to overcharge your phone, we have our answer to the first part of our question. Keeping your phone on the charger after its battery is fully charged will not kill you.
How to Charge Your Phone Battery
With so much information about what you should do and not do when charging your phone battery, it’s easy to end up not being able to separate fact from myth. We spent time looking for credible information to verify the facts and provide a guide on how you should charge your phone battery.
Fully Charged is Not Always the Best
Almost every phone will notify you when your battery charge reaches 80% and when it drops below 20%. This indicates the recommended range to ensure the best battery health over its lifespan.
In his article published by the consumer electronics and digital services website, AndroidAuthority.com, Robert Triggs writes, “The bottom line is that smaller, regular top-ups are better for Li-ion batteries than long full charge cycles.”
Keeping your phone battery between 20% and 80% charge requires diligence and what Nick Guy of the New York Times’ Wirecutter calls “micromanaging your phone’s battery.”
Guy suggests that even though keeping your battery charge between 20% and 80% may increase its lifespan, “the results might not be worth the inconvenience in the long run.”
The verdict here is that if it’s not too inconvenient, you can ensure that your battery doesn’t charge to 100%. If micromanaging your battery is too cumbersome for you, you should just fully charge your battery.
Should You Use Fast Charge Sparingly?
Fast charge is convenient when you are in a hurry and need to get your phone battery charged as soon as possible. But should you use it all the time?
Clifford Colby of the gadget and technology content website, Cnet.com, spent some time speaking with experts to determine the effect of using a fast charge when charging your phone battery.
“Unless there’s some technical flaw with your battery or charger electronics … using a fast charger won’t do your phone’s battery any long-term damage,” concludes Colby.
He reasons that major phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung ship their most recent products with fast chargers. This means that they have determined their safety.
If there are any challenges with fast charging, Triggs suggests that the problem may have to do with the fact that higher current and voltage result in hotter devices. Therefore, he suggests, “Leaving your phone to fast charge up for 5 to 15 minutes won’t lead to major overheating problems, but I certainly don’t recommend using them for a full charge.”
Here, we could conclude that fast charging is not a problem for modern devices. However, to avoid the challenge of overheating, you may want to use fast charging only if you are really in a hurry.
Avoid Extreme Ambient Temperatures
Charging a battery generates a considerable amount of heat. This is why you can feel that the phone is hot when you touch the area where the battery is located.
Apple recommends that its devices are “designed to perform well in a wide range of ambient temperatures, with 16° to 22° C (62° to 72° F) as the ideal comfort zone.” Therefore, the company advises that you never expose the phone to a temperature above 35° C (95° F) as this can permanently damage battery capacity.
Should You Use a Phone While Charging?
One of the most common areas of confusion is whether you should use your phone while it’s on a charger.
According to Samsung, “There is no danger in using your phone while it’s charging.” However, the company notes that the battery charges much slower if you use the phone while charging. This ensures that the battery isn’t under too much strain that it generates excessive amounts of heat.
Huawei advises that you avoid using your phone while it’s on the charger to ensure that it doesn’t heat up. The phone maker notes that the heat created by the phone battery while charging could shorten the battery’s lifespan or even cause damage.
Should The Phone be On or Off When Charging?
You could say that switching off your phone while charging is the best policy because the battery is not under any strain and produces the least heat possible.
However, considering that we rely on our phones for everything, including alarms, it’s not practical for many people to switch off their phones when charging. If you can shut off your phone while charging, maybe you should, as this may allow you to take a break from technology.
Writing for IncAfrica.com, Minda Zetlin advises that turning off technology for a certain period during the day could make your brain work better, increase efficiency, and allow you to sleep better.
Why You Should Always Use the Correct Charging Cable
While overcharging your phone is not possible and thus will not kill you, using the wrong cable can. This is a view acknowledged by Eric Griffith, who writes for PC Magazine. He says that when you buy a low-quality cable, “The cord and connectors may not be up to the necessary specifications for the phone or tablet.”
Your low-quality, uncertified code could start melting under pressure and put the lives of the people in your household at risk. You’d rather spend a little more on a quality charger than save and end up with a deadly accident.
Know Why Batteries Explode and Catch Fire
Writing for the technology news website, TheVerge.com, Angela Chen and Lauren Goode note that an exploding phone battery is an indictment on the manufacturer. The authors say that the explosion shows that the manufacturers did not implement measures to ensure the battery would not explode.
Chen and Goode argue that manufacturers are pushing the limits intending to get batteries to charge faster and do more, even though “We’ve already achieved almost 90 percent of the maximum battery life theoretically possible from the lithium-ion battery.” This could lead to batteries overheating and exploding, resulting in injury or loss of life.