Does Charging Your Phone Overnight Really Kill the Battery?

Technology

Does Charging Your Phone Overnight Really Kill the Battery?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

You can tell a lot about a person by how much they’ve charged their phones when they leave home. If they’re living life on the edge, eating up to three samosas at the average movie premier, chances are they don’t remember to charge it until it dies in the metro. If they have OCD tendencies, chances are they are likely to keep it at a very specific number like 33 per cent or 66 per cent. Then there’s the rest of the normal folk, who wait until the battery’s nearly dead and charge it all through the night, so you don’t have to think about it through the day. And that technically does sound like the most logical way to do it.

Or so you’d think… As it turns out, the question how long should you charge a phone is about as complex to answer as why Republic TV would think that a Jamia protester would shoot at a fellow protester.

From charging it 10 per cent every 20 minutes to waiting until it drops to 20 per cent and charging it to a very specific 77 per cent, there’s hundreds of theories floating around. Some come with accompanying graphs, others are largely based on the author’s mood on the day, while a few more existential write-ups have decided that phones should be replaced every year so there’s no point in having this debate. Let’s hash out some of these theories.

For starters, most of them agree that anyone who leaves their phone to charge all night is actually a battery murderer and should be in battery jail. Answers to the question should I charge my phone overnight range from, “no, but it isn’t so harmful” to “it’ll contract the plague and die a slow and painful death over the next year”, but almost all agree that charging phones overnight is actually a really low-effort way to start a fire.

Most theories agree that anyone who leaves their phone to charge all night is actually a battery murderer and should be in battery jail.

Much like Arnab Goswami’s situation on an airplane, doing this puts the battery in a high-stress, high-tension state. As something called the Battery University (so you know it’s legit) explains, the phone continues to draw a “trickle charge” when it remains plugged in, to keep it at 100 per cent, and that unplugging it when it’s done is like “relaxing the muscles after a strenuous exercise.” Something like a phone spa.

Plus phones tend to overheat pretty easily, especially when there’s a cover on, and it’s hot outside. Apple even admits that temperatures above 35 degrees can “permanently destroy” the capacity of batteries… So maybe it’s best to just not live in India and own one of them. On the brighter side, phone batteries don’t like the cold either (drama queens, the lot of them) so remember not to leave them anywhere cold or hot the next time you’re charging it and you should be good. Also don’t accidentally forget it in the fridge when you’re getting a snack.

Now we come down to the issue of whether we should be using our phones when charging them. Again, no conclusive answer. Going by this website’s plainspeak: you should probably avoid it altogether, but then going by this website’s debunking skills, that’s a pretty common myth that should be ignored unless you’re using a knock off charger. So just do whatever you feel like, it’s probably not going to bite.

Still between remembering to avoid hot weather, cold weather, using phones when plugged in, avoiding fast chargers, and not waiting for it to run out before you plug it in, you might as well be adopting a child. Luckily, there is one way to ensure that our batteries live a long and healthy life, and it doesn’t involve keeping your phone in a vacuum.

Still between remembering to avoid hot weather, cold weather, and using phones when plugged in, you might as well be adopting a child.

According to most articles, (you can read the science behind it on trusty Battery University) charging your phone through the day is the best way to keep it running longer. The best case scenario is charging it every time it loses 10 per cent of its battery, but that’s obviously not the most convenient thing to do, so keeping it between 20 per cent and 80 per cent works too. There’s also no reason to worry about constantly unplugging and plugging it in, because phone batteries are apparently completely chill with that, even though they apparently go boom when you use them in the tropics.

So there you have it, the most conclusive answer you can hope for — charge your phone whenever you feel like, provided you avoid all the warnings above and you should be good. Unless you bought Patanjali’s latest ₹900 phone that is, in which case, maybe just avoid using it as much as you can anyway.

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