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Should you charge your cell phone overnight? — Tips for making your cell phone last

September 5, 2019

Cell phones are expensive and—unless you want an excuse to buy the latest and greatest version—most of us want to do what we can to make them last. Happily, there are some easy ways to protect them from damage and keep the batteries from tuckering out prematurely. You’ll want to charge your cell phone properly (there’s a whole section on that below), and take a few simple steps like these:

• Invest in a case, to protect your phone from knocks and drops. You can find plenty of cases at very reasonable prices online. (Don’t buy one at the phone storefront, unless money is no object for you.)

Black and white image of a person from the shoulders down typing on a cellphone that is plugged into the wall

• Install a screen protector on your phone. It’s easy to do, inexpensive, and functional. 

• Keep it dry. Of course, this means taking care not to drop it in the lake or toilet, but don’t talk on it in the rain, either. Also don’t use anything on it that can introduce moisture. Instead of wet cleansers or wipes, for example, clean your screen with a dry screen or alcohol wipe. And don’t leave it sitting in the bathroom while you’re in the shower steaming up the room.

• Power off your phone if you’re storing it in a closed container for a long period of time. Otherwise you risk shortening the lifespan of the phone. Also, the batteries used in most phones give off heat —which is not good for your phone. 

• Keep it cool but not frigid. Again, heat is terrible for cell phones. Don’t leave yours in a hot car or on your beach towel, for example, and if it seems to get hot when you charge it, remove the case until it’s charged. Letting your phone get too cold isn’t good either. If condensation forms, it can damage your phone’s inner parts. (BTW, do not freeze your cell phone to preserve the battery. It will not save the battery; it’ll deteriorate it.)

• Pick your pocket. I don’t keep cell phones in pockets because I don’t like them close to my body for extended periods. If you do carry yours in your pocket, take care. Don’t sit on concrete or slide down a slide if your phone is in your back pocket, for example. 

• Give your phone its own space. Whether in your pocket, purse, or catch-all inside the front door, don’t share your phone space with keys or coins or other things that can scratch it or bang it up. 

• Adjust the screen. To maximize energy and save battery, turn down the brightness of the screen. Most phones have options to turn down overall screen brightness manually and/or automatically.

Now, about charging. 

• Ideally, don’t leave your phone charging overnight—but not because you’ll overload the battery (your smartphone is smart enough to prevent this). Why not, then? In a (not-very-technical) nutshell: while it’s plugged in, to keep the battery at 100%, your phone keeps getting mini-charges (every time it drops to 99%), which uses energy and dips into the lifespan of your phone. 

Closeup image of two cell phones, one white and one red, with chargers plugged in

Another reason to not charge your phone all night is that the constant “trickle charge” can generate some heat. And heat is bad news for cell phones. That’s why some experts suggest taking your phone out of its case overnight if you’re charging it. Others say just keep it out in the open—not under pillows or a stack of magazines, for example, where the increased heat can damage the battery.

So, if you plug your phone in when you go to sleep, unplug it when you wake up in the middle of the night—or hook it up to a smart plug that’s scheduled to turn off. 

• It’s also not a good idea to drain your battery significantly (by watching a video, for example) at the same time you’re charging it. It’s not dangerous, but it doesn’t help maximize the lifespan of the battery, either. 

• Don’t fully charge your phone. While older phones did fine with complete charges, newer phones work best when they’re not at full capacity. Most experts recommend keeping your battery charged someplace between 20 or 30 percent and 80 or 90 percent. My plan is to notice when the battery is about half full and then charge it to about 80 percent. (I have to admit, it’s going to take some determination to not top it off. It feels like I’m putting gas in my car and not quite filling it!)

• Skip the big charging sessions. Despite what you’ve learned about older phones, new phones like being charged in mini-sessions throughout the day. So plug in when it’s convenient, and don’t feel bad unplugging a few minutes later.

Cell phone technology seems to change daily. (Didn’t I just have a flip phone yesterday?) So please use the comments to help our community keep up-to-date on best uses when it comes to taking good care of our phones! 

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2 comments

  • Lindsey

    September 7, 2019 at 7:35 am

    This was an interesting read, especially about the changing. I don’t like carrying my phone near me because it burns my hand and makes me feel sick. I think I am sensitive to the signals it’s giving off. So I often leave it plugged into room or turned off. But I let leave it charging whether it needs if or not. Guess now I know to not do that. I really wish I could go back to a landline but though I have a line running to my house, I have found no one to service it. 🙁

    1. Karen Mary

      September 7, 2019 at 9:36 am

      There are always tradeoffs, aren’t there?! I carry mine in my purse (and now give it its own special pocket rather than throwing it in with my keys) and leave it in the office when I’m home. I wonder if you might want to have your cell phone checked, though, Lindsey, if it’s causing you to react so strongly. Thanks for writing, friend!

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