A long time ago, mobile phone batteries got hot, were prone to operating poorly under different temperature conditions, and generally didn’t work that well. Over time, battery technology has improved significantly, with new battery types and standards being produced. However, the older tips and tricks you needed to use with batteries powering legacy devices has remained commonplace.
Often you’ll find bad advice, or incorrect information on a battery, what it can do, or what you can do with it. This has led to a few accidents here and there, even with modern batteries, because cheap batteries can and do explode, as reported by the BBC. Worse, if you’re in a plane, it can be serious enough to bring down the plane. So, what can you to do take care of your battery and make sure you aren’t a ticking time bomb with that cheap extra battery you thought was such a good deal?
1) Only use genuine manufacturer batteries. Sure, the arguments persist that manufacturers charge too much for their batteries, and honestly, many of them do. However, there is a reason for at least some of those extra price hikes. That reason is quality control. You’re not going to make a case against some second rate manufacturer in China who sells you a battery that explodes, however, if Samsung or HTC sells you an exploding battery, you’ll be front page. Because of this, their batteries are much safer than the alternatives. That’s why they cost more too.
2) Fully charge your battery before you use it. Well… this is up in the air according to some, but it definitely applies to the older ‘memory’ batteries, like Nickel Cadmium batteries (NiCad), which required a full charge before first being used. Also, they needed to be completely drained from time to time, and then fully charged again. They had ‘memory’, and would never fully charge if you didn’t take care of them properly. Your more modern phone will be using a Lithium Ion battery, which does not operate the same way. Instead, it needs to be charged when it gets down to about 25%, but otherwise should not be fully discharged (oops). The only time you should fully discharge it is if your phone is reporting an incorrect battery status. You should, however, fully charge your battery before your first, because, as one person put it, “It won’t hurt you to fully charge your battery before using it the first time, so why risk not charging it if there is any change that might hurt it?”
3) Overcharging a battery can cause it to explode. Well, this is technically true, as an overcharged battery will absolutely explode. However, Li-ion batteries have built in safeguards that prevent them from overcharging and exploding. Any decent smartphone (smart being the operative word here) will also have a safety feature, where it will stop charging once the phone detects it is fully charged. This means that, for example, your Samsung Galaxy Alpha will stop charging when it is full, but even if it doesn’t, the Samsung original battery will stop accepting a charge. So there are two failsafe guards built into every genuine flagship phone. Of course, cheap aftermarket chargers don’t always have that feature, and third party batteries might also not have the same failsafe built in. Got to save money somewhere, right? And that thing’s in your pocket, next to… yeah.
4) You should never charge your battery in a closed room, or a space without ventilation. What? This is absolutely untrue of modern Li-ion batteries. It is true of old car batteries, and the batteries used on construction equipment, but who sleeps next to those things when they are charging anyway? Your mobile phone, just like your modern laptop, has a fully closed battery. That means no gasses are being emitted, and you can’t put more water in the battery when it runs down. The only real concern when charging Li-ion batteries is excessive heat, or moisture. Don’t drop your waterproof phone in boiling water, or leave it in the sun, and you should be fine.
So, the next time you’re on an airplane, or in the tube, try not to think too much about how many potentially exploding batteries you’re riding around with. Especially on a plane, as according to the Daily, there were more than 140 mid-air battery accidents in the last 20 years, with the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH130 carrying a large cargo of them.
In fact, according to then Malaysian Airlines CEO, Ahmad Jauhari, “We carried some lithium-ion small batteries, they are not big batteries and they are basically approved under the ICAO (The International Civil Aviation Organisation) under dangerous goods.” Notice how he says they are ‘basically approved’? Third party and aftermarket batteries are also ‘basically approved’, so spend a little time researching before buying. Make sure you’re getting something that is actually good, and not just something in a nice package that looks good.
Also, the next time you’re flying and that person across from you won’t turn off their phone, you might want to make an issue out of it. Exploding batteries are pretty unpleasant. Just watch the BBC video we linked at the beginning of the article.