Five reasons why mobile phone lithium batteries fail

Mobile Phone with Lithium Battery

Mobile phone giants Samsung have recalled all its 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones less than a fortnight after Lithium batteries were said to be the reason for the new flagship phones catching fire.

The recall comes just one week ahead of an expected presentation of a new iPhone model from its main rival Apple.

Who uses disposable lithium batteries?
Lithium Ion batteries are used in all modern devices such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, cameras and other electronic devices that have no memory effect. Laptops often get a bit confused when partly charging them and sometimes show you the wrong estimates for how long your device’s battery will last. For example, your device might show a 70% charge, however, this is not always the case as the charge sometimes doesn’t last that long.Most electronic manufacturers recommend you run the battery down to zero and perform a full discharge on your phone, tablet or laptop at least once a month to help maintain the device’s battery time estimate.

Cases where mobile phone lithium batteries have caught fire

The BBC posted an article on their website that over the past few days, several users have reported their mobile phones catching fire or exploding while charging, and Samsung said it had confirmed 35 such cases.

A YouTube user uploaded a video under the name Ariel Gonzalez on 29 August of a Galaxy Note 7 with burnt rubber casing and damaged screen.”
“He said Samsung’s new flagship mobile phone “caught fire” after he unplugged the official Samsung charger, less than a fortnight after purchasing it.”

Earlier this year, the Telegraph printed a story about a cancer patient who died of smoke inhalation after his iPhone burst into flames as he slept.
“Marek Kruger, 53, who was bed-bound, relied on the phone which he kept by his bedside and often under his pillow.

At Mr Kruger’s inquest Iryna, his widow told the court that her former husband used to put the phone and wallet just under the pillow because he wanted to have his mobile phone next to him because he felt unsafe when he was left alone and his careers had not been around and she was at work.

Here are five reasons why mobile phone lithium batteries fail:

1: Heat
One of the main reasons why lithium batteries fail is due to them overheating when on charge. Lots of people are guilty of leaving their laptop or mobile phone constantly plugged into the mains when in use and forgetting to switch them off. I’ve also been guilty of this. Leaving your battery on charge, heats up the battery and when it gets too hot the battery life decreases or in extreme cases, the battery can catch fire.
You can increase the lithium battery’s life by limiting its exposure to heat and leaving your devices in places that are at room temperature or by removing the battery. Never leave your laptop, phone or digital device in hot places on sunny days such as on the car seat or dashboard or near a window.

2: The cold
Temperature is a battery killer! It’s not just heat that can zap out your lithium battery or make it explode. Have you ever had a mobile phone and taken it outside in freezing temperatures, the battery is showing 30% and suddenly your phone dies? The reason for this is because smartphones aren’t built for freezing temperatures and tech giants Apple suggests 32° Fahrenheit as the lowest operating ambient temperature. Other phones are rated for much lower temperatures, and some can go as low as -4° Fahrenheit while in operation.

Many people, especially from the US and Canada have reported that when their lithium-ion batteries are exposed to cold temperatures, their phone’s performance suffers. When cold, a phone battery can drain faster than normal, or the phone says it has lots of power remaining and then suddenly go dead.
Just like you wouldn’t go outside without a coat in freezing temperatures, Make sure that you keep your phone wrapped up. Buy a case or cover for your mobile or electronic device and keep it in your coat pocket or in a bag.

This might sound obvious, however, you should never put a spare battery in the fridge or freezer or expose any digital device that has a lithium battery to cold temperatures if you’re in a country with cold temperatures.

3: Storing partial 50% charged Lithium Batteries
When you are storing equipment that uses lithium batteries, it’s a good idea to make sure that they are stored with a partial 50% charge. Partial discharges and charges actually tend to prolong battery life – 50 % discharges can happen between 1,200 and 1,500 times (so 600-750 full cycles) before capacity drops to 70 per cent of its original span, compared to 300 to 500 for 0-100% .Running your phone down 50% and charging it up again and running it back down to 50% again is better than a full discharge because it reduces the strain on the battery.

4: Lithium batteries wear down much quicker when they aren’t fully charged
Lithium batteries wear down when they are kept at zero charge for a long time. If you run the battery right down to zero you should recharge it as soon as possible. Don’t go running to the charger when your mobile phone’s power dies. If you let the battery run down completely and leave your device on the table for a few days, the battery may die completely and may become incapable of holding a charge.

5: Never drop a device that uses a lithium battery in water
Yes, we are all guilty of dropping our phone in the bath, washing up bowl or in the sea or the swimming pool or even on a wet floor. There are few of us who haven’t dropped a lithium battery device onto anything wet.

If the battery gets wet, you should dry it as soon as possible, you should never leave a wet battery for days. If batteries are dropped in salt water, salt conducts electricity more than fresh water does which will cause the battery to discharge and corrode the battery housing.

Have you ever experienced a lithium battery on a Samsung Note 7 catching fire or exploding? Or any mobile phone or device operated with a lithium battery? Maybe you know someone who has? Email or join in the discussions on my social media channels.


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