When battery life saves human life

Few would equate human life with battery life, but for many migrants escaping war or famine, a single percentage point of battery can mean getting the right information at the right time – or not surviving at all. Smartphones today have become an integral part of a forced migrant’s journey. From navigating mountains in Central […]

Few would equate human life with battery life, but for many migrants escaping war or famine, a single percentage point of battery can mean getting the right information at the right time – or not surviving at all.

Smartphones today have become an integral part of a forced migrant’s journey. From navigating mountains in Central Asia using Google Maps to staying connected with family back home via WhatsApp, smartphones have transformed the migrant experience – though not always for the better.

No electron spared

In Eastern Europe, many migrants pushed back from Hungary stay along the border on the Serbian side in abandoned buildings. Volunteers visit these sites to bring supplies, including repurposed car batteries that migrants use to charge their phones.

At one abandoned building less than a mile from the Hungarian border, migrants huddle around one car battery to charge their phones, and they all agree about the importance of battery life to them. Many asked for a power bank to enable them to charge their phone when outlets are not available. Between each other, they constantly compare notes on what apps use up the most battery power, and remind each other to close apps when not in use.

Nashid, a migrant from Pakistan taking shelter in this building, says one of his primary needs at this remote outpost is for a way to charge his phone. With no regular access to electricity, he depends on the visits of volunteers to be able to charge his battery, concocting all sorts of ways to keep it alive until their next visit. Some of his strategies include making sure his phone is turned off when he sleeps at night or if he naps during the day, as well as using the lowest brightness level possible. He swears that taking out a dead battery and shaking it repeatedly provides him with a few extra minutes of phone use.

For many migrants traversing Eastern Europe to get to Western Europe, the Hungarian-Serbian border presents the final frontier. Once in Hungary, migrants will have entered the Schengen Area, the 26 EU-member zone with no border controls, making their destination countries in Western Europe significantly easier to reach. Increased security though has made this border crossing significantly harder – with many migrants being beaten and pushed back into Serbia dozens of times before they eventually make it across.

Nashid has been trying to cross into Hungary from Serbia for the past eight months. He left his family, including a wife and two kids, back in Pakistan before setting out to Europe. He says he uses WhatsApp to keep in touch with them and to stay connected to his cousin in Paris – his ultimate destination. He admits, battery constraints aside, that his phone also provides him with a reprieve from long hours spent idly waiting every day. He tries to sneak a song or two, or watch a couple of Urdu-language videos on YouTube.

One journey, a million apps

Over the last few years, Serbia has taken on the role of a major transit point for migrants trying to make it to Western Europe. The Refugee Aid Miksalište Center in the Serbian capital Belgrade, a drop-in center open 24 hours a day, is staffed by NGOs that provide services to migrants in transit. As soon as you enter the Center, you again see migrants gathered around extension cords, charging their phones and using the Center’s free Wi-Fi to access their social media and Skype with friends and family back home.

Migrants in Serbia huddle around a power strip to charge their smartphones (Photo by Ziad Reslan)

The same scene seems to repeat wherever migrants congregate. The nearly 70 million forced migrants across the world today have had to travel thousands of miles to get to a place of refuge. More than half of these migrants come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. Syrians, the single largest forcibly displaced population, have to traverse on average more than 1,400 miles just to get to Serbia’s border with Hungary on their long trek from Aleppo to Western Europe.

From getting directions, to learning languages, to simply accessing entertainment, smartphones have become vital for migrants on these grueling journeys that can last for months – if at the very least to get some emotional support by talking to loved ones they leave behind.

At the height of the European refugee crisis in the summer of 2015, when nearly a million Syrian refugees crossed into Europe to escape a brutal civil war, Facebook and WhatsApp chat groups sprung up to let migrants know of real-time developments on the road, which smugglers to trust, and what rates to negotiate. Dropped GPS pins and Google Maps turn directions into practical routes migrants can take. In some cases, migrants on sinking boats in the Mediterranean have helped coast guards find them by sending GPS signals from their smartphones.

Migrants download German, French, English, and other language learning apps on their phones to aid them in acculturating to their eventual destination while they’re still on the move. They use Google Translate to understand road signs in Bulgarian, Serbian, and Hungarian. And with migrant journeys breaking up families, smartphones have become migrants’ only way to stay connected.

In recognition of the importance of connectivity to forcibly-displaced migrants, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – launched “Connectivity for Refugees” in mid-2016. The initiative advocates for migrants’ right to connectivity; enables access through negotiated data rates for refugees, subsidized device prices, and internet access centers; and provides training to ensure migrants are able to fully take advantage of their smartphones. Two years in, the UNHCR plans to increase the initiative’s staffing and roll out connectivity programs beyond the current pilot countries of Jordan, Greece, Chad, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Startups, for their part, have also been ramping up efforts to help migrants. Two Columbia architecture students, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta, cofounded LuminAid. A startup that makes the PackLite Max 2-in-1 Phone Charger, a solar-powered phone charger and light source that the cofounders have given away to displaced migrants. With the UNHCR estimating that up to a third of a forced migrant’s income is spent on connectivity, Phone Credit for Refugees has taken on providing migrants with free data access. Others, like GeeCycle, have instead focused on collecting used smartphones from around the world and distributing them to refugees fleeing conflict.

The challenge of misinformation

NGOs like Save the Children Serbia operate out of the Refugee Aid Miksalište, a drop in center with free WIFi and available plugs. (Photo by Ziad Reslan)

For all of their benefits though, smartphones have not always improved the journeys of forced migrants. The reliance on anonymous sources on social media to navigate routes has left migrants vulnerable to smugglers and traffickers looking to take advantage of their misfortune. Even information obtained from relatives can turn out to be erroneous – with heart-wrenching consequences.

Jelena Besedic, an Advocacy Manager for Save the Children Serbia, says that the spread of misinformation has been part of the reason for the rise of unaccompanied children traversing the Balkans from Afghanistan. Parents of kids as young as eight now stuck in Serbia were falsely told that, if their kids arrive safely in Western Europe, they’re entitled to bring their parents.

Misinformation of this sort about the ease of the asylum process can lead migrants to take on increasingly dangerous journeys, only to be disappointed with the reality once they reach their destination countries. This misinformation has led organizations, like the International Organization for Migration, to start information campaigns at source countries to better educate would be migrants about the dangers of setting out west. In addition, increasingly nationalist governments, like Hungary and Italy, have started campaigns targeting the smartphones of migrants with text messages and online ads to dissuade them from coming to their countries in the first place.

Familial pressure on migrants may have always been a reality, but access to smartphones has made that pressure incessant and instantaneous. Stuck at the border between Serbia and Hungary, Nashid says he would never have made the trek if he knew what he would have to face on his more than 4,000-mile journey from Pakistan to France. But while he was still in Pakistan, he had received messages non-stop from his cousin in Paris telling him how easy it was for him to get there and how plentiful jobs are in France. Once Nashid left Pakistan, messages from his wife and two kids constantly asking whether he’d arrived in Paris have made the idea of going back home impossible.

Nashid ends our conversation by asking me to confirm a rumor he’s heard on WhatsApp. Is it true, he asks, that there are now personal battery banks that one can charge like a phone that extend a smartphone’s battery life by up to 100 hours? A charger like that, he stresses, would make a world of a difference to him out here miles away from the nearest plug.

The 6 Best Laptop Power Banks to Recharge Your Computer Anywhere

powerbank-laptop

Power efficiency plays huge role in extending the battery life of portable devices. As battery technology stagnates, hardware manufacturers are working on doing more with the power they already have. That means new laptops use less power than older laptops did. Not only does this extend your existing battery life, it makes charging your machine with a portable battery pack a more viable option. So here are six battery packs that’ll charge your laptop on the go, and a few features to remember when shopping around. Make Sure Your Laptop Is Compatible! For best results, your laptop will need to…

Read the full article: The 6 Best Laptop Power Banks to Recharge Your Computer Anywhere

Power efficiency plays huge role in extending the battery life of portable devices. As battery technology stagnates, hardware manufacturers are working on doing more with the power they already have.

That means new laptops use less power than older laptops did. Not only does this extend your existing battery life, it makes charging your machine with a portable battery pack a more viable option.

So here are six battery packs that’ll charge your laptop on the go, and a few features to remember when shopping around.

Make Sure Your Laptop Is Compatible!

For best results, your laptop will need to use the USB Power Delivery (PD) standard. A few examples include the latest line of MacBook Pro models, the Dell XPS 13, and Google’s Pixelbook. We’ve thrown together a list of laptops you can charge using a USB power bank.

The exact power drain will differ with every machine. Aim for at least a 30W USB-PD rating, though there exist some pricier alternatives that can output 100W and beyond. To find out which is best for you, check your model’s power ratings as per the manufacturer specifications.

Even if your laptop ships with a 60W or 100W charger, a 30W USB-PD battery will still work. It just won’t charge your laptop as quickly. In some instances, the laptop you’re trying to charge won’t increase its charge percentage while plugged in (but will still extend your overall life).

1. Mophie Powerstation AC

mophie powerstation AC Laptop Battery Pack

mophie powerstation powerstation AC - External Battery - Made for Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones and other USB & AC devices - Black mophie powerstation powerstation AC - External Battery - Made for Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones and other USB & AC devices - Black Buy Now At Amazon $199.95

The powerstation AC is a beast that can charge just about every device in your bag. It’s armed with a bona fide AC port that provides 100W of power at 110V, a USB-C charging port that delivers 30W, and a standard USB-A port with 2.4A quick charge ability.

Best of all, you can use all these outputs at once to charge three separate devices. The battery holds a generous 22,000mAh which is enough to power a 90W laptop for an hour. If you’re using a USB-C laptop that only draws 30W, you’ll get 15 hours out of it. Most smartphones will exceed 100 hours.

The drawback is that it’s not cheap, and fairly heavy. Weighing in at 26.7oz, the powerstation AC will have to live in your bag rather than your pocket. It’s wrapped in a tactile fabric finish, and allows for passthrough charging that will give your devices priority before charging the internal cell.

2. Jackery PowerBar

Jackery PowerBar Laptop Power Bank

AC Outlet Portable Laptop Charger, Jackery PowerBar 77Wh/20800mAh 85W (100W Max.) Travel Laptop Power Bank & External Battery Pack for MacBook, HP, Thinkpad, Notebook and other Laptops AC Outlet Portable Laptop Charger, Jackery PowerBar 77Wh/20800mAh 85W (100W Max.) Travel Laptop Power Bank & External Battery Pack for MacBook, HP, Thinkpad, Notebook and other Laptops Buy Now At Amazon $129.99

If you’re looking for a cheaper high-output laptop power pack than the mophie above, check out the Jackery PowerBar. It provides an 85W output with a 20,800mAh built-in battery, for around half the price of the mophie.

The sacrifice you make is the brand, a slightly lower capacity, and the 85W cap (which is still enough to charge a 15-inch MacBook Pro with USB-PD at full speed). The Jackery includes a full-sized AC output, two USB-A ports, and a USB-C port. These include support for 5V at 2.4A (USB-A) and the 3A USB-C quick charge standard.

Be aware that this power pack includes a fan to keep the internals cool, so it’s not dead silent like your standard smartphone batteries. It weighs in at 24.3oz, and it’s also available in a higher-capacity 23,200mAh version if you’re willing to pay more.

3. TYLT Energi Pro Power Backpack

TYLT Energi Pro Power Backpack Laptop Power Bank

TYLT Energi Pro Power Backpack with Charging Station - Charge Up to 3 Devices at Once via USB or USB Type-C Ports, TSA Approved Laptop and Mobile Device Travel Bag with Built-in Power Bank TYLT Energi Pro Power Backpack with Charging Station - Charge Up to 3 Devices at Once via USB or USB Type-C Ports, TSA Approved Laptop and Mobile Device Travel Bag with Built-in Power Bank Buy Now At Amazon $149.99

If you in the market for a laptop power bank, you’re probably already aware that it’s going to weigh quite a bit. One remedy to this situation is to carry a comfortable bag built with cable management in mind. The TYLT Energi Pro is one such bag.

Capable of storing a 15″ laptop with 11 separate charging pockets, the TYLT has internal routing to keep everything tidy. It ships with a 20,100mAh quick charge battery that can output 45W in USB-PD mode, enough for most light laptops like Apple’s MacBook and Google’s Pixelbook.

The battery back includes two USB-A outputs, a USB-C output (with 3A quick charge) and a micro-USB input for charging. The bag is TSA-friendly for frequent fliers, and features an RFID blocking pouch plus “weather resistant” pockets to keep its contents dry.

4. RAVPower 26800 PD

RAVPower 26800 PD Laptop Power Bank

USB C Power Bank RAVPower 26800 PD Portable Charger 26800mAh (Fast Recharged in 4.5 Hours &USB-C Input, 30W Type-C Output) for Nintendo Switch, USB Type-C Laptops, 2016 MacBook Power Delivery Support USB C Power Bank RAVPower 26800 PD Portable Charger 26800mAh (Fast Recharged in 4.5 Hours &USB-C Input, 30W Type-C Output) for Nintendo Switch, USB Type-C Laptops, 2016 MacBook Power Delivery Support Buy Now At Amazon $81.99

While many of the chargers on this list emphasize high power output and extreme capacity, this RAVPower keeps it fairly simple. The 26,800mAh capacity is within the limit set by many airlines, and the star feature is the fast recharge of around five hours using the USB-C input.

RAVPower built this to stay well within the 30W specification. Thus, it’s best for less thirsty machines like the standard MacBook or Dell XPS 13 (but will still work with more demanding models). You get a single USB-C PD output, and two USB-A 5V/2.4A fast charge ports for smartphones.

This battery has received great reviews, notably for its capacity and fast charging over USB-C. It’s also the cheapest charger on this list.

5. MaxOak MacBook Charger

MaxOak MacBook Charger with USB-PD

MAXOAK Type-C Power Bank for Apple Laptop MacBook Pro/Air MacBook 2006-2018 36000mAh 5/9/12/15/20V PD USB-C External Battery Pack Portable Charger W/2USB for Mac Notebook Phone(Recharge by AC/USB-C) MAXOAK Type-C Power Bank for Apple Laptop MacBook Pro/Air MacBook 2006-2018 36000mAh 5/9/12/15/20V PD USB-C External Battery Pack Portable Charger W/2USB for Mac Notebook Phone(Recharge by AC/USB-C) Buy Now At Amazon $135.99

If you have a MacBook made between 2006 and 2018, MaxOak’s MacBook Charger is for you. It offers a staggering 36,000mAh capacity, which means it’s above the 27,000mAh limit set by many (but not all) airlines. It’s also quite heavy as a result, weighing in at 1.98 pounds.

It comes with every type of MacBook adapter, and it’s also compatible with USB-C PD to power other laptops up to 45W. It’ll charge an iPhone X nearly nine times, or double the life of your 15-inch MacBook Pro. It’s even been styled to perfectly complement your Apple gadgets.

In total there are four outputs, and you can use all of them at the same time. One 16.8V/4.6A output for MagSafe 1 and 2 devices, one USB-C PD up to 45W, and two other 5V/2.1A USB-A adapters for smartphones and tablets. MaxOak rates the charger for 1,000 cycles, and it’s fairly well-priced considering the capacity and flexibility on offer.

6. EcoFlow RIVER

EcoFlow RIVER Laptop Battery Pack

EF EcoFlow RIVER Portable Power Station - 500W Mega Capacity Portable Generator with 11 Assorted USB and Plug Outlets EF EcoFlow RIVER Portable Power Station - 500W Mega Capacity Portable Generator with 11 Assorted USB and Plug Outlets Buy Now At Amazon $598.99

This isn’t a portable battery for regular use; in fact, it won’t even fit comfortably in most bags. Instead, it’s the perfect oversized power solution for your car, mobile home, camping trip, or anywhere else that lacks a power outlet.

Featuring a total of 11 outputs, the RIVER provides two AC, two DC, a single 12V car, two USB-C with Power Delivery, and four USB-A outlets (two of which feature 5V/2.4A quick charge). It’ll hold its 412Wh charge for up to a year too.

It’ll fully recharge in six hours using the included AC input, or nine hours with the included car charger. You’ll get more than five full laptop charges out of it, and you can use all 11 outputs simultaneously. At 11lbs, it’s not light but comes with a built-in carry handle. Throw it in the car and work from your camping tent all weekend!

Keep Working Wherever You Are With Power Banks

Whether you’re using a brand new USB-C PD laptop or an old AC powered model, these chargers should keep you going regardless of where you are.

If you’re looking for something simple to charge your smartphone, make sure you check out our list of all-around USB chargers too.

Read the full article: The 6 Best Laptop Power Banks to Recharge Your Computer Anywhere

MacBook Battery Replacement: 4 Options, From the Safest to the Least

macbook-battery-replacement

Your MacBook’s battery is likely the first component you’ll need to replace. Apple makes reliable machines, but battery technology means most cells only last a few years before their capacity seriously diminishes. A battery replacement is a great way to breathe new life into an old MacBook. Here are your options when it comes to replacing it, and how you know it’s time to do so. Check Your MacBook Battery Status The easiest way to check the current status of your battery is to hold the Option key and click on your battery percentage icon in the menu bar at…

Read the full article: MacBook Battery Replacement: 4 Options, From the Safest to the Least

macbook-battery-replacement

Your MacBook’s battery is likely the first component you’ll need to replace. Apple makes reliable machines, but battery technology means most cells only last a few years before their capacity seriously diminishes.

A battery replacement is a great way to breathe new life into an old MacBook. Here are your options when it comes to replacing it, and how you know it’s time to do so.

Check Your MacBook Battery Status

The easiest way to check the current status of your battery is to hold the Option key and click on your battery percentage icon in the menu bar at the top of the screen.

MacBook Battery Condition

You’ll see one of these four notes on the battery’s condition:

  • Normal: Your battery doesn’t need replacement.
  • Replace Soon: The battery holds less charge than it did when new.
  • Replace Now: Your battery hold significantly less charge than it did when new.
  • Service Battery: The system has detected a fault with your battery.

That should give you some indication of how necessary a battery replacement is. But you can also view the exact number of charge and discharge cycles. To do this:

  1. Click on the Apple logo in the top-left corner of the screen.
  2. Select About This Mac, then System Report.
  3. Click Power and scroll down to Cycle Count.

The number of cycles should give you a good idea of how long your battery has left before requiring replacement. Different MacBooks have ratings for different cycle counts, so you’ll need to cross-reference your result with the ratings on Apple’s Support website.

macOS System Report

Finally, if you’ve noticed your battery life has become significantly worse of late, you may decide that it’s time for a service anyway. Use your own judgement to weigh up if the cost is worth it to you.

Option 1: Replace With Your Apple Warranty

If your MacBook is still under warranty, Apple will replace a faulty or degraded battery free of charge. In the US, Apple provides a limited one-year warranty. For those in the EU and Australia, consumer law extends this coverage to two years.

If you purchase AppleCare for your MacBook, this coverage extends to three years. Speaking from experience, Apple replaced my MacBook battery at no cost two weeks before my AppleCare coverage expired, so it’s worth a shot.

Find Your Mac Serial Number

You can check your warranty status on Apple’s Service and Support Coverage website using your machine’s serial number. Find your serial number by clicking the Apple icon at the top of the screen and selecting About This Mac.

If you don’t have warranty coverage for a battery replacement, let’s look at your other options.

Option 2: Replace at an Apple Service Center

Apple recommends you use first-party or third-party authorized service centers to replace your battery. This is generally the most expensive option, but it’s also the safest. The procedure is less likely to go wrong, and Apple provides a 90-day guarantee for any work performed.

Assuming the service isn’t covered by warranty or consumer law, the cost of the repairs will vary from $129 for a MacBook Air to $199 for a MacBook Pro with Retina Display. If your MacBook is especially old, you may be better off putting that money toward a replacement instead.

MacBook Battery Replacement Costs

Head to Apple’s Mac Service and Repair website and click Start a service request to begin. If there are no Apple stores nearby, the website will suggest authorized third parties who can perform the work instead. These technicians undergo the same training as Apple’s, and provide the same guarantees.

Benefits: Your MacBook is guaranteed against defects resulting from the work, your replacement will be a genuine first party product, and the work shouldn’t take more than a day or so.

Option 3: Replace at a Computer Repair Shop

If you want to save some money, you could always pay a third party to replace your battery for you. Many computer repair shops will source and replace your battery, though the exact cost will vary based on who you approach.

MacBook Repair
Image credit: David O’Brien/Flickr

Going this route forgoes Apple’s guarantees, and you may find that they use third-party parts in an attempt to save money. These parts aren’t necessarily inferior, but it’s a risk you take. Check out computer repair repair shops in your area for quotes, then compare them to what Apple offers.

Depending on the model, your local repair shop may refuse service if your battery is glued in place.

Benefits: You’ll probably save some money at the cost of not having an Apple-certified technician perform the repairs. Third parties may also use cheaper parts to reduce cost, meaning they’re more likely to break early.

Option 4: Replace It Yourself

The cheapest option by far, ordering your own battery and replacing it yourself means you’ll only pay the cost of the parts. You’ll need a set of tools to open up your Mac, an anti-static wrist band, and the replacement battery itself.

Much of the time, you can buy kits that provide everything you need. These come at roughly half the price Apple will charge you for the service. One such retailer is iFixit, which also provides guides to everything from simple fixes to complex teardowns.

iFixit MacBook Battery Kit

Buying the battery alone should cost even less than this, with cheap third-party options available for a fraction of the price. We’d recommend only buying from a company you trust, with a strong reputation for providing quality parts.

If you’re not sure what you’re doing, the risks of something going wrong are much higher. If you’re happy to take the risk and follow how-to guides to the letter, you’ll learn a lot about the inner workings of your computer. You might even enjoy the process!

Unfortunately, some MacBook models have glued-in batteries, making them incredibly difficult to repair yourself. iFixit now has a MacBook Pro with Retina Display battery kit, but warns that it’s for experienced users and comes with some serious work.

Benefits: By taking matters into your own hands, you’ll save a lot of money at the cost of your own time and the risk of something going wrong.

Don’t Forget to Recycle Responsibly

WEEE/Recycle

If you do go for this option, make sure you recycle the spent battery responsibly.

Lithium batteries need to be recycled properly to prevent harm to yourself, others, and the environment. Check with your local waste management authorities how best to recycle your old laptop battery—don’t just throw it in the trash or with your regular recycling.

Most local governments will have dropoff points or collection schemes that emphasize safety and sustainability. If you choose to let Apple service your laptop, it will take care of the battery and recycle it for you (but unfortunately doesn’t offer a drop-off service).

Not Sure How to Replace Your MacBook Battery?

If your laptop is old and you’re not sure whether or not it’s worth replacing the internal battery, you could always consider external power solutions. Battery packs that can power your MacBook are now a reality, and you can use them again to power your new MacBook when it’s time for a replacement.

Once you get a battery replacement or a new Mac machine, make sure you know how to improve your Mac battery life and keep it healthy for some time.

Read the full article: MacBook Battery Replacement: 4 Options, From the Safest to the Least

Californian, Hawaiian homeowners charging ahead on residential batteries

Utility-based installations stalled, however.

(credit: sonnen)

A new report from GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association (ESA) says that US homeowners added 36 megawatt-hours (MWh) worth of batteries to their residences in the first quarter of 2018. That's more than the previous three quarters combined.

The gains were driven by local and state policies that actually reduced the value of standalone solar installations, the report said. Where once a California or Hawaii homeowner might have received significant compensation from the local utility for producing rooftop electricity, now those programs are being limited, so homeowners are turning to batteries to capture excess energy made during the day. In California, utilities are adopting so-called Time of Use pricing, so investing in a battery can help homes continue to run when prices are highest. Consequently, "California and Hawaii together constitute 74 percent of residential deployments on the quarter," according to the ESA.

Outside of the residential sector, past policies have created the appearance of volatility in the energy storage industry. The market as a whole, including utility-grade storage and commercial storage (like batteries serving warehouses, for example), grew 26 percent quarter-over-quarter but declined 46 percent year-over-year in terms of megawatt-hour added in Q1 2018. This is largely due to the fact that California mandated that utilities build out significant amounts of energy storage in 2017, after the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak depleted the fuel that the state had stored.

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Why Smartphone Batteries Explode and How to Prevent It

smartphones-explode-prevent

Yes, that little smartphone you keep in your pocket has the potential to burst—and it’s not limited to exploding Samsung batteries. A lithium-ion battery is the same no matter what device it’s in, and they all carry identical risks. What are these risks? And how can you reduce them with your phone? That’s what we’re going to explore in this article. Smartphone Battery Explosions: The Facts We don’t have a bunch of doom-and-gloom fear-mongering stories for you. Yes, your phone can explode. But no, it’s isn’t likely to happen at all. Modern lithium-ion batteries—today’s preferred rechargeable batteries for everything from…

Read the full article: Why Smartphone Batteries Explode and How to Prevent It

smartphones-explode-prevent

Yes, that little smartphone you keep in your pocket has the potential to burst—and it’s not limited to exploding Samsung batteries. A lithium-ion battery is the same no matter what device it’s in, and they all carry identical risks.

What are these risks? And how can you reduce them with your phone? That’s what we’re going to explore in this article.

Smartphone Battery Explosions: The Facts

We don’t have a bunch of doom-and-gloom fear-mongering stories for you. Yes, your phone can explode. But no, it’s isn’t likely to happen at all.

Modern lithium-ion batteries—today’s preferred rechargeable batteries for everything from smartphones to Tesla vehicles—have the capacity to be highly explosive.

Have a look at this thermal video of a lithium-ion battery cell under “heat abuse” for two minutes:

The point of explosion is sudden and extremely hot.

But outside of a lab where people apply an extremely hot source to the battery, how do these batteries explode in the real world?

Here is the sequence of events that happen inside a lithium-ion battery before and during an explosion:

  • One area of the battery starts getting too hot due to a short-circuit in the charging circuit, or some other external cause.
  • The chemical reaction inside the hot area begins generating its own heat as well, which spreads to other areas in a process known as electrolyte overheat.
  • Eventually, this building heat causes the electrolyte to give off stream, which bursts the battery casing.
  • Very flammable, hot liquid (not unlike napalm) escapes and usually burns or melts the surrounding phone casing and whatever the phone is next to.

This reaction, known as “thermal runaway,” does sound pretty horrendous, but there’s one fact that should set your mind at ease: manufacturers are constantly implementing new safety features in lithium-ion batteries that reduce the likelihood of this happening, or at least reduce the damage caused when it does.

Smartphone Battery Safety Features

Some of these safety features include:

  • Non-flammable additives added to the electrolyte and battery coatings.
  • Built-in circuitry that protects against current surges.
  • Circuit interrupt devices that open the circuit if the cell pressure exceeds safe limits.
  • Fail-safe safety vents that release gases if the cell expands beyond a higher safety limit.
  • Thermal fuses that break the circuit when temperatures reach a safety limit.

So for a healthy battery installed inside the average phone, the worse-case scenario before the battery ever reaches this nightmare “thermal runaway” scenario is a message that the phone needs to shut down. Or the battery may simply stop working.

Still, there are situations that could still cause a battery to explode.

1. Dropping and Damaging the Battery

As mentioned above, everything will work fine so long as you are dealing with a healthy battery. One problem that can negatively affect a battery’s health is physical damage from drops.

Cracked iPhone

Most people will rush to a local repair center to get their screen repaired when this happens. If the phone still works, they don’t even give a second thought to what damage the battery might have sustained.

Unfortunately, a drop can alter the internal mechanical or chemical structure of the battery. These changes could cause any of the fail-safe circuitry to fail in extreme stress conditions.

How can you tell if a battery might be damaged? Open up the case and take a look at the battery. If any of the following conditions exist, consider replacing it immediately:

  • Swelling
  • Deformation
  • Frequent, unexplainable overheating

In many situations, you can avoid explosive battery failure by paying close attention to signs of existing battery damage. For a smartphone battery to be safe, all its built-in safety features need to function properly. So it’s important to never use a battery that has visible signs of damage.

2. Hot Temperatures and Environments

While there may be safeguards built into your battery to ensure that it sheds excessive heat, or shuts down when too hot, it’s important to keep the battery away from those temperature limits in the first place.

Many elements contribute to your phone naturally heating up. Those include:

  • Running intensive graphics that put a heavy load on the GPU
  • Using apps that put too much demand on the CPU
  • Widgets that run constantly while you’re multitasking with the phone
  • Regularly connectivity checks when your cellular or Wi-Fi connection is spotty
  • Long phone calls

Normally any of these uses are fine, but if you’re doing them in an environment that’s extra hot, you could run into trouble. For example, using a phone in direct sunlight at the pool, while listening to Spotify and browsing the web, makes an already straining smartphone struggle to cool itself.

Hot phone by pool

Even if this doesn’t cause the battery to explode, it can contribute to the aging process and make getting long battery life a challenge.

Charging your phone under these conditions can contribute to overheating even further. The phone naturally builds heat during charging.

There are many ways to keep your phone cool and avoid these problems:

  • Remove the phone from its case when you’re charging it.
  • Keep the phone out of direct sunlight whenever possible.
  • Don’t leave your phone in a hot car for extended periods.
  • Don’t charge the phone while it’s in a pocket or inside a bag, or any other place that can trap heat.

We’ve offered many ways to avoid overheating an Android phone, and tips to keep your iPhone cool. Following these is an important part of being a wise smartphone user.

3. Using the Wrong Charger

I purchased a first-generation Google Pixel when it launched. Not knowing that the Pixel requires a cable with a built-in 56k Ohm resistor conforming to Type C specifications, I grabbed a cheap cable in the checkout line at Walmart to charge it.

I incorrectly assumed all USB-C cables are manufactured the same. The reality is that manufacturers of cheap chargers produce cables that do not always meet specifications required by USB-C devices.

After some time using it, I started noticing my phone became especially hot during charging.

Charging smartphone

One day when I went to charge my phone in my car, the phone became extremely hot and the charger actually became stuck in the charger port. As I was trying to pull it out, a small puff of smoke came out of the charger port.

I’m lucky I didn’t experience a smartphone exploding in my face.

Thankfully, Verizon replaced the phone under the manufacturer’s warranty. But the lesson I learned was an important one: Buy brand-name chargers from reputable retailers!

You can buy non-OEM chargers, but you need to make sure they meet all specifications required by your phone. Cheap knockoff chargers like these use materials with sub-standard quality or an incorrect gauge of wire that lacks appropriate overcurrent protection.

If you don’t invest in a quality charger, you can run into charging problems at best. At worst, you’re risking not only the destruction of your expensive phone, but possible injury to yourself.

4. Getting Your Phone Wet

Lithium will ignite and burn when in contact with water or water vapor. Batteries come well-sealed, so that kind of contact shouldn’t happen normally.

Many modern phones are waterproof or water-resistant. However, combine a cheap smartphone with a punctured battery, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

5. Battery Punctures

Lithium reacts to both water and oxygen, so puncturing a lithium-ion battery will produce a reaction. This could be anything from a little bit of smoke and a terrible smell to a full-on explosion.

And the reaction is rapid.

Obviously, this means there’s always a danger if a smartphone gets punctured during an accident or any other violent situation.

Staying Safe With Smartphone Batteries

It’s important to keep in mind that the battery inside your smartphone has the capacity to become a dangerous hazard under extreme conditions.

So the idea is to avoid those extreme conditions. Store, charge, and treat your smartphone in a way so that should anything ever happen, you are protected from serious injury.

To learn more, check out some common misconceptions about smartphone batteries.

Image Credit: weerapat/Depositphotos

Read the full article: Why Smartphone Batteries Explode and How to Prevent It