With our ever-increasing reliance on high-powered smartphones and other portable digital devices, the lowly battery is getting more and more attention. From charging stations at supermarkets to new battery technologies on the horizon, batteries are cool.
Supermarkets such as Whole Foods, clothing stores such as Urban Outfitters, and even some restaurants and ski resorts are installing cellphone charging stations from companies such as ChargeItSpot (www.chargeitspot.com). Often, the service is free to customers, with the establishment paying ChargeItSpot to help them cement customer loyalty.
You can go from 5 percent battery power before lunch to 25 afterward, beyond the point where you’re worried about soon having your digital lifeline unusable.
Battery manufacturers are working on batteries that can be nearly fully charged in the time it takes you to have lunch. Chinese tech giant Huawei (www.huawei.com) has announced new quick-charging batteries that charge up to 10 times faster than normal batteries.
The batteries are still in the developmental stage. One technology may make it possible for batteries to be charged to 68 percent in two minutes.
The technology behind the rechargeable batteries in today’s portable devices is lithium-ion. Lithium in turn is one of the most interesting elements out there, the third one in the periodic table, after hydrogen and helium, and the lightest metal. Unlike most other elements, some of the lithium in the universe was formed during the Big Bang, at the beginning of time.
Used in batteries, lithium-ion is a more advanced technology than nickel-cadmium, which is a more advanced technology than alkaline batteries. Unlike lithium-ion and nickel-cadmium batteries, alkaline batteries can’t be recharged. Lithium-iodide batteries, which aren’t rechargeable, are used in devices such as heart pacemakers and can last for 15 years.
Batteries have been around only for about 200 years. The Italian Alessandro Volta, for whom the term “volt” was named, invented the first practical battery in 1800. It consisted of copper and zinc. What all batteries do is convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy.
Lots of misconceptions exist surrounding today’s batteries, which can prevent you from getting the most out of them.
It’s not true that you should always let a battery drain completely before recharging for maximum battery life. This was in fact the case with nickel-cadmium batteries. But lithium-ion batteries don’t need this.
What you should do is periodically drain the battery. Advice differs, from once a month to once a year. Just run the device until it shuts itself off. Then recharge it.
Batteries won’t discharge 100 percent even when the screen indicates a 0 percent charge. That’s the reason why when you hit the power button the device turns on long enough to tell you to recharge.
It’s not true that leaving your smartphone or tablet plugged in will overcharge it. These days, most devices are designed to stop charging once the battery is fully charged.
All rechargeable batteries have a finite life before they have to be replaced. Lithium-ion batteries can be recharged about 500 times before their maximum charge begins to decline. You’ll notice this when you begin having to recharge sooner and sooner.
There are steps you can take in minimizing battery usage, to prolong the battery power of your device on any given day.
Keep your software up to date. The latest operating systems have all kinds of tricks to conserve battery power.
Be mindful with apps such as Facebook and Instagram, which are battery hogs. iPhones, for instance, let you see which apps use the most juice.
Press Settings then Battery. You can optionally turn off background data use with apps that don’t need to be continually downloading data in the background. Press Settings, General and Background App Refresh.
Avoid extreme temperatures. The ideal temperature range is 62 degrees to 72 degrees F., though devices can generally be used safely in temperatures from 32 degrees to 95 degrees F. Heat above 95 degrees F can be outright harmful, so avoid car trunks in summer. I killed one laptop battery this way.
Turning down your screen brightness will prolong battery life, as will setting it to black and white if this is an option. Of course, brightness and color can be useful features. Another option is turning off wireless connections such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi if you’re not using them.
Use the right device. If you’re primarily reading books, get an e-reader.
With their black and white screens and specialized functionality, they have a battery life that’s measured in days, not hours.