Going out without your phone is the modern equivalent of leaving the house without pants on, which is why people don’t really do it. Maybe you use your phone to keep tabs on work notifications, or your maps app is your right-hand man for all of your navigating needs. Whether you’re traveling or walking at night, your phone also might serve a beacon of protection. Of course, you’re probably also using your phone to catch up on your favorite podcast while doing errands, or document your day for a casual photo dump. But as the memory of leaving your phone at home to be “present” at a social event grows more and more dim, the age-old dilemma of man versus technology grows louder: How do you keep your phone from dying?
Unfortunately, this is a question often asked too late. Typically, your phone battery isn’t ready to match the “always on” energy that you need for your day — or night — out of the house. Maybe you’ve leaned into this moment of screen darkness, accepting your destiny and stepping into your off-the-grid era. But, more often than not, an unexpected dead phone usually leads to seeking out a charger in a panic.
“Usually, I wish myself good luck and hope that car will have a charging port that I can use,” says Isiah Magsino, a freelance party reporter for Vogue, who often needs a charged phone on him for late nights.
If the frantic charger quest sounds all-too-familiar to you, it’s time to breathe new life into your phone’s battery life. Read on for some tried and true preventative and last-minute tips to keep your phone from dying — as recommended by experts.
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Isiah Magsino is a freelance party reporter for Vogue. His work requires him to be prepared for long nights out. Magsino’s writing has also been featured in GQ, W, Nylon, WSJ, Architectural Digest, and more.
Shomar Gee is better known on YouTube and TikTok as Sho and Tech. He specializes in tech advice oriented towards the “average consumer’s budget,” and posts a variety of content including product reviews, tutorials, and troubleshooting tips.
Why Does My Phone Die So Quickly?
Most smartphones use lithium-ion batteries, which deteriorate over time thanks to the chemical process involved in charging and discharging, says Park. “The lifespan of these batteries is affected both by how they are used and the environment they are in,” he adds. “Extreme temperatures and erratic charging can speed up the deterioration of lithium-ion batteries.”
As with any tech-related issue, it’s always best to assess the potential causes before looking for solutions. On an iPhone, you can do a checkup on your battery pretty easily by heading to the Battery section of your Settings, and clicking on Battery Health. While your phone might be charging to 100%, there’s a chance that your phone’s battery might not actually have 100% capacity, which means it’s time to book a Genius Bar appointment. The Battery section of your iPhone settings will also show ways your battery might be getting exhausted. For instance, it’s much easier to lose battery quickly if you don’t have Low Power Mode turned on (and you can toggle this feature on at the top of this page). Underneath, the Battery section will also list your battery usage by app. Click on the “Last 10 Days” option to see how much of your battery your apps are using on average, both while actively using them and in the background. Take it as a reminder to close out of TikTok while you’re not on the For You page.
Android phones have a very similar feature to iPhone’s Battery Health section, called Battery Usage. Located in the Battery section of your Android settings, Battery Usage will list your usage by app for the past 24 hours.
For any smartphone, there’s also a few common reasons your battery life might be running out more quickly than usual. For one, you may be in need of a software update. Running multiple apps in the background can also quickly drain your battery. Gee also points out that having location services turned on for apps will drain battery. Going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > and toggling off unnecessary tracking can greatly preserve your battery life.
Both Gee and Lee also note that having 5G turned on can be a major power suck. “Depending on your area, you may not actually experience the benefit of 5G speeds, so forcing your phone to only work off of 4G can sometimes extend your battery life by hours,” says Lee. “The same can be said for leaving your WiFi on when you leave the house, as your phone will constantly scan for and bring up networks around you,” says Gee.
The 5 Best Products To Make Your Phone Charge Faster
You’ve done all of your check-ups on your phone’s battery life, quit unnecessary apps, and turned off 5G and location services. If you’ve got a fully charged phone, your newly-optimized battery life will likely hold you through the day. However, even the healthiest phone batteries won’t last long if you don’t have the time to charge.
A good charger can be a game-changer for your cell’s battery life, so it’s important not to skimp. “I always tell friends and family to avoid buying cheap gas station chargers and cables,” says Gee. Not only do these chargers quickly deteriorate and often operate unreliably, but they can even cause damage to your phone. Today, you can buy high-speed chargers that juice up your phone in less than a half-hour. Magsino suggests being cautious about how long you’re leaving your phone charging. “Charging your phone too much accelerates the battery's decay,” he explains. Once your phone hits 100%, pull the plug for its own good.
Before purchasing a charger, Gee recommends familiarizing yourself with your phone’s specifications. “For example, the iPhone 12/13 line are able to make use of fast charging, however they max out at 20W,” says Gee. “Despite this, people will see and purchase [more expensive] 45W or 60W chargers thinking it will be better for their phones, or charge them more quickly.”
The Best Portable Phone Chargers To Keep Your Phone From Dying
As much as you prepare to have a full battery as you start your day, depending on how you use your phone, you might get that scary 20% notification way before you’re ready to head home. A portable battery charger comes in handy in these situations.
“I think everyone should have a battery bank with them, especially when they're out for a hike or traveling,” advises Lee.
If you’re like Magsino, who jokes that lugging around a portable charger is “totally unchic” — it’s a giant electronic box shoved into your handbag with wires snaking out, after all — then you can always opt for a coy mini power bank. Gee recommends the Anker MagGo. Compatible with MagSafe devices like newer iPhones, all you have to do is connect your phone to the surface of the charger — no wires needed. (It even comes with a stand, which is arguably the chillest way to charge your phone in a panic.) If you’re someone who will inevitably forget your portable charger at home, you can also opt for a MagSafe battery pack that attaches directly to your iPhone. Samsung Galaxy users, take note: many editions of the phone include a Wireless PowerShare feature, says Park, “which allows you to use your phone to reverse wireless charge another phone, watch, or Galaxy Buds. This features works with most Qi-Compatible devices.”
How To Extend Low Battery Life
When you’re out and about sans portable charger or cord and you get that low battery pop-up, what are you supposed to do? “Put it on low battery, lower brightness, disconnect from WiFi, and pray,” jokes Magsino. The truth is, all you can do in moments like this is end any unnecessary activity that could drain your battery.
“If you need to use your phone at that very moment, I'd put it into battery saver mode,” advises Lee. “If you're not using it for extended periods of time but on occasion, I'd simply turn off your phone until you need it again.” If your phone is on extremely low battery, you may want to opt for turning on Airplane Mode, says Park, since you may not be able to turn a phone back on if you power it off with minimal battery. Park adds that reducing your screen timeout, or the amount of time that your screen stays illuminated, can also help with your battery life. You can find this in your device’s Display settings.
Beyond these last-minute measures, there’s not much you can do besides stay off your phone and make sure you’re in the company of a trusted buddy. But a dead phone isn’t always the worst thing. It might just make you take a pause and be a bit more present with your surroundings. As Magsino puts it, “Get off your phone by trying to convince yourself to live in the moment.”