August 10, 2012 at 6:24 p.m. PST
Apple provides information for prolonging battery life, but there are other tips you should know. Lithium ion batteries, the type used in the iPhone and iPad, need some periodic maintenance in order to last. With proper know-how, you can even prolong battery life during long-term storage. If you do not actively protect battery life, you will find your iOS device running out of juice and in constant need of charging. With proper care, your iPad or iPhone’s battery can last a few years without the need for replacement.
First, do not leave your iPad or iPhone in an excessively warm environment. Take your iOS device with you, instead of leaving it in your car on a hot day. Even if it is not that hot outside, your car is like a greenhouse. Sunlight comes in through the windows and creates heat, which is trapped inside. Don’t risk damaging your battery. When in doubt, take it out. Some iPhone and iPad cases can trap heat in the device. If you notice that your iOS device gets warm while charging, make sure to take it out of its case. Again, too much heat will damage your battery.
You should drain your battery once a month, according to Apple. This holds true for any device with a lithium ion battery. If you do not use your iPhone or iPad batteries often, you must remember to do a full charge cycle every month. You need to keep power cycling through the battery in order to maintain the lifespan. Your iPhone is designed to hold 80% of its charge for 400 charging cycles. The iPad can complete 1000 charge cycles. I’ve had my iPhone for almost 20 months now, and the battery is as good as the day I bought it. I use it every day and charge it about once in 5 days. For more information on how to calibrate your iPhone’s battery, read this article.
I do a full charge cycle at least once a month, if not more often. I generally try to use the battery until it gets down to 5%, and then I will force it to die. This can be easily accomplished by turning the brightness all the way up and playing a video, preferably through a streaming service like YouTube, Netflix or Hulu. The wifi or 3g/4g connection will use more power than a stored video. This should drain your battery in 10-15 minutes. Remember to turn the brightness back down to the desired level. I find setting it half way with auto-brightness on works in most situations. If you are outside in the sun, you may need to increase it, even with auto-brightness on.
Beyond Apple’s suggestions, I did some research on lithium-ion batteries and found some additional tips to improve battery life.
- For long-term storage, do not fully drain the battery, but keep it at 40% capacity. Over time, the charge will deplete, but it keeps the battery active. Apple recommends always using the device, which affirms this suggestion — keep the ions moving. Unfortunately, Apple does not provide this tip for long-term storage!
- Don’t use a charging mat, as they elevate the heat of the battery. I have never seen the appeal of these devices. You have to plug in the charging mat. Something needs electricity from the grid to charge a device. It seems like a novelty to me. When one can beam power across the room to a device, then I will be interested! Tesla’s dream will be realized!
- Don’t use a faster charger. You should use the charger that came with your iPhone or iPad. Don’t use the iPad charger for your iPhone. I actually found a few people claiming they did this, and it shortened battery life.
- Charge your device when it is cool. Don’t charge it after a two-hour long video chat. If possible, turn the device off while charging. Heat is the enemy of your battery. Charging the device when it cool will prolong battery life.
Beyond these tips, in my own experience, I would suggest avoiding the charger as much as possible. I have noticed when devices are constantly being charged, they tend to lose battery life faster. Neither Apple nor Battery University make this claim. In fact, they say a charge cycle is from 0 – 100%, and if you only do half charges, they count as half cycles. My theory is that when devices are constantly charged, whether they need it or not, they are exposed to more heat. The last 20% of a charge (the “trickle” phase) takes longer than the first 80%. I recommend draining your battery all the way. Sure, there are situations when you are at 10% and you are going out on the town. By all means, charge it. The closer you can get to full charge cycles, the better. I can find no research to prove this (beyond the effects of heat), but I have always found it to be true.
Apple also has a list of suggestions for configuring iOS to optimize battery life. Follow these as you see fit. There’s a balance between convenience and optimizing battery life. With a little care, you can avoid replacing the battery on your iOS device. These things are not meant to last forever. If you take proper care, your battery can last until your device is obsolete.