Why is my phone battery draining so fast?

On older or heavily used phones, your battery might drain faster than you’d like, or take longer to recharge. While this can be frustrating, it’s at least somewhat expected. But what if you’ve got a newer phone? What else might lead to shorter battery life or slow charging?

In this short article: why batteries wear out, what that means for charge times and phone performance, and how you can get more life on every charge.

How lithium-ion batteries work in smartphones

Cell phone are constantly getting better, faster, thinner. But while cell phone technology continues to improve, the battery your phone uses has been more or less the same for years (if not decades).

All those incremental new improvements mean that your phone battery can’t keep up, technology-wise, with the advancements in your phone itself. Cell phones use lithium-ion batteries, which all operate on the same principle: there’s a cathode, an anode, and something that keeps them from coming into direct contact while still allowing atoms to pass through.

Lithium-ion technology has become a bit more efficient over time, but there hasn’t been a big technological breakthrough in quite some time.

Common causes of battery degradation with cell phones

Most battery problems stem from a gradual battery degradation. Batteries come with a shelf life. Most manufacturers estimate that the modern battery should last between 500-800 cycles, with one cycle being a complete charge from 0% to 100%. Not that you should always let your battery run completely down before recharging; lithium-ion batteries do best when operated, and charged, between 20%-80% of their capacity.

At some point the constant charging and draining cycles will take a toll on your phone battery, and it will become less efficient. This means more resistance in the charge, which can lead to extreme cases where your phone shuts down because it needs more power than it has available.

How to check and monitor your phone’s battery health

Many newer models of phones give you the ability to actually check your phone’s battery health—seeing how much of its original battery power it still has today.

A new phone, for example, has 100% battery health, which provides the benchmark to measure against. Maybe over the years the battery health has decreased to 89%, meaning a “full” charge now only represents 89% of the capacity of its original full charge.

How to check your battery health on an iPhone

To check your battery health on an iPhone:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap Battery.
  3. Tap Battery Health and Charging.

How to check your battery health on an Android

To check your battery health on an Android:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap Battery and device care.
  3. Tap Diagnostics.
  4. Tap Battery status.

Managing power usage

Prolonging your battery life doesn’t have to be complicated. In general, the apps that you would suspect take the most battery life, actually do. Game apps and video players are at the top of the list, while maps and navigation apps often run in the background, quietly draining your battery.

Prolonging your battery life is a combination of reducing the stress and drain on your battery without sacrificing performance.

Tips and tricks for prolonging your phone’s battery life

Here is a list of tips and tricks to get the most out of your cell phone battery, listed from the easiest to most technical.

Discover energy-sucking apps with an app audit

You can read more about the importance of an app audit to help speed up your phone, but the basic idea is to keep track of which apps you have installed and what permissions each one has. Tracking permissions should also help you see which apps are prime energy-suckers—apps that turn on location tracking or that run in the background.

Confirm which apps are using the most battery in “Settings”

An app audit will tell you a lot about your apps and permissions. Take that information, and then visit the Battery menu, found under your phone’s Settings app. Depending on the exact model phone you have, you should find a list of apps that are currently using your battery. It will tell you how much data has been used, and the exact amount of power consumed.

Remove (or limit) resource-heavy apps

Armed with the information from your app audit and from reviewing battery settings, you should be able to start deleting apps that are unnecessary or that hoard too much power (or data). Start with easy apps first, like any bloatware that came installed by default. Pay close attention to resource-heavy apps like your web browser.

Upgrade to battery-friendly apps

You need certain apps like a Web browser, but there might be a more energy-efficient one out there. The Brave browser, for example, provides noticeable battery savings, consuming up to 40% less battery than competitors like Google Chrome. Installing Brave reduces the stress on your battery, using less energy and prolonging your battery life.

Turn off automatic updates

Automatic updates run in the background, adding to the burden on your battery. Turning off automatic updates adds a bit of work down the road—you will need to manually update your apps later—but it can save battery (and data!) in the meantime.

Limit the number of background processes

Your phone likely has a standard number of background processes allowed by default, but you can reduce that number, or even disable background processes altogether. This will force your phone to do fewer things at once.

Note: You may need to have something like Developer Mode on your phone to change some of these advanced settings, but doing so can result in big savings for your battery.

Switch to a battery-saving browser

Brave outperforms every other popular mobile browser in energy consumption, and saves over one hour of battery life compared to Google Chrome. It also saves mobile data, protects your browsing history and personal information, and lets you earn rewards just for browsing. Download Brave today, track your battery usage, and see how much you’ve saved!

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