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How to charge your phone

How to charge your phone

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Editor's Note: This article originally published on July 31st, but was updated on February 23rd to include a YouTube video.

The quest for power is eternal. Phones, our tethers to both the virtual and IRL world, almost never have enough juice to last an entire day. Our lives are turning into endless hunts for places to charge. Even charging at home can be difficult, particularly if you share your space with other people and use multiple devices daily. These issues can be solved through planning, though.

Unfortunately, no universal charging strategy exists. Everyone has to devise routines that work best for their lifestyles, habits, and daily gadget use. Still, I've talked to a couple experts and a bunch of Verge staffers about charging, and I can offer you some comforting words on how to make the most of your charge and how to update your work places and homes to create ideal charging environments. 

Let's start with the basics.

Where am I charging?

Take stock of your life. You're obviously going to want to charge at home, but you also need to charge-proof your world. I keep a Lightning cable at work, for example, that I plug into my work station's USB charging port. I also keep an adapter and cable plugged in at home. This is the easiest way to stay constantly juiced: have cables everywhere you go. You might also consider a charger in the car. Or in every room of the house. Or in your winter home. Or on your boat. Seriously, put charging cables in every place you frequent. Try to keep an external battery in your bag, too, and charge that immediately after you use it.

What should I buy to keep my stuff charged?

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

A thorough charging routine requires a lot of stuff. You'll need cables, USB adapters, external batteries, and, perhaps, new wall outlets. Most Verge staffers live by Anker products on Amazon for cheap cords. (I tend to order AmazonBasics.) Generally speaking, a decent rule of thumb seems to be at least one power cable and adapter for every person living in your house. You also need a car charger / cable and a cable for your workplace. Yes, you could keep your phone alive with just one cord, but that's a huge pain. No one wants to carry their cable around all the time.

Of course, some cars now come with an optional wireless charging pad built-in. If you're buying a new car, this might be something to consider. Wireless charging pads in general might be worth investing in, so long as you're a dedicated Android person. (At least until Apple makes wireless charging a thing, if it ever does.)

Some Verge employees (and my dad) have made actual changes to their homes by installing USB plug outlets. This makes it easy to charge without an adapter. I can't necessarily recommend this route, but if it feels right for you, it might be worth considering. It could change your life. Maybe.

How long should you charge?

I don't know where this myth started, but it's a common idea that you shouldn't leave your phone plugged in after it's reached full charge. It'll further depreciate the battery, that thinking goes. I talked to Daniel Steingart, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, about whether this is true. No, he says. In fact, "the easy thing to do is to keep [your phone] plugged in all the time, as much as you can." Modern smartphones do a pretty good job of battery management, he says. (Android O, for example, is supposed to ship with better battery management in regards to background apps.) Once a phone battery reaches 100 percent, extra energy isn't flowing into it. The battery remains constant.

That said, maybe going all the way to 100 percent isn't the best thing to do. Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science (ACCESS), tells me that he keeps his phone battery in a narrow range, like between 30 and 80 percent. He says at the 100 percent mark, certain reactions occur within the battery that ultimately degrade the electrolytes and further depreciate your battery. I admire Srinivasan for not going above 80 percent with his phone, but for most of us, that probably won't work. 

Keeping your device below 100 percent and within a narrow range is ideal, but fully charging it is more practical for most people. It also won't completely destroy your battery. Most of us should probably channel Steingart's way of thinking and just keep our phones plugged in forever. Those destructive reactions have already occurred, so we might as well let the battery stay in that state.

My battery is so low. Help now!

Most phones have low power, eco, or battery-saving modes. On an iPhone, you can access low power mode through your battery settings. It'll limit background app refreshes and automatic downloads. It'll also limit visual effects and turn your auto-lock to 30 seconds. Samsung includes a similar power-saving mode on its phones, as does Google with its Pixel phones. Take advantage of these settings when you're running low or need to conserve battery.

Airplane mode will charge your phone slightly faster, too, if you're in desperate need and are willing to part ways with your device. I always switch to airplane mode if I'm charging my phone at a bar. This gives me a slightly faster charge but also prevents any texts or calls from coming in, which is ideal when my phone is out of my hands.

You should also occasionally monitor which apps are sucking up most of your battery life and determine whether you want to keep letting them run in the background. Do you need that random game you downloaded to constantly update?

Listen, all batteries are going to die eventually. Over time, they get worse at holding a charge. It's just reality. I'm sorry to have to be the one to break it to you. You also don't really get a choice over your battery provider. Smartphones ship with batteries inside, and these days, most aren't removable. You get what you're given. Phones are meant to be used and appreciated. The worst-case scenario is that you will have to eventually buy a new battery and get it installed. That's not so bad, right?

Update 7/31, 12:31 PM ET: Updated to clarify Venkat and Dan's thoughts.