Smartphone batteries are both our best friend and our worst nightmare. Whether it’s because they can never quite make it until we get home, or that they need charging twice a day they’re the gadget we simply can’t live without.
In extreme cases though, the smartphone battery can prove itself to be more than a little dangerous, with cases cropping up every year of phones ‘exploding’ in owners’ pockets.
Samsung’s monumental decision to recall the Galaxy Note 7 for this very reason is further evidence that while we need them, lithium batteries are far from perfect.
So why do phone batteries keep exploding?
It’s not just Samsung that has suffered from this problem, indeed any gadget or device that uses a lithium battery is at risk from this same problem, and so to better understand why here’s a fantastically simple explanation of how your smartphone battery works, courtesy of TED Talks.
So now we better understand how they work we can begin to understand what makes them vulnerable to the extremely rare incidents like catching fire.
The key causes of a battery fire will be either an extremely rare manufacturing fault or a power surge, both of which will cause a short circuit.
In the case of a power surge this can be caused by using a cheaper, or non-official charging unit to charge your device. This could then charge the phone too quickly, causing lithium plates to form which will then cause a short circuit.
As you can see from the video above, a short circuit being caused by something as simple as a knife produces an extraordinary amount of heat.
Every smartphone from a well-known manufacturer will have in-built technology which prevents this, but of course in extremely rare cases this can fail due to overheating, or a manufacturing fault at the factory.
GeekSquad recommends that you look out for the warning signs which can include the battery bulging or the phone getting abnormally warm.
Some tips on how to prevent your phone from overheating:
- Don’t charge your phone under a pillow. A phone already gets warm from charging and this will only make things worse.
- Never leave your phone in direct sunlight. While some smartphones will have safety features which prevent use (the iPhone) it’s better to not take the risk,
- Be considerate of tasks which you know will be very heat intensive: Recording 4K video, downloading lots of apps and movies, playing graphically intensive games on your phone.
- Cases will protect your phone but they’re not going to help your phone cool down, be mindful of a very large thick case.
- Always use an official and approved charger and plug.