The Myth of the Memory Effect

For years, people have warned cell phone and tablet users to deplete the charge in their batteries before recharging.

By on March 5, 2015

For years, people have warned cell phone and tablet users to deplete the charge in their batteries before recharging. The reasoning for this warning was that the batteries were susceptible to what is known as “the memory effect” - a condition that causes a battery to be unable to accept a full charge if there is a partial charge present.  In other words, the battery remembers what was there and thinks it is full when only receiving partial power.

Think again.

If you are using a relatively new smartphone or tablet equipped with a lithium ion battery, that “memory effect” doesn’t apply to you. Your device battery can achieve a full charge regardless of the amount of charge present, at least when the battery is relatively new and has not been completely run down.

A Chemical Reaction In Your Hand

Batteries basically consist of three main elements – a positive electrode, a negative electrode and an electrolyte, which separates the two electrodes. When the battery is providing energy to a device, ions flow from the negative electrode across the electrolyte to the positive electrode in the battery.  It is a simple chemical reaction that creates electricity and can be repeated hundreds or thousands of times. When a battery is recharged, the flow of the ions is reversed and the battery is able to store power.

However, not all batteries are created equal. Different batteries are made up of different kinds of elements, metals and compounds and we typically describe batteries by the elements that they are made of. Some of the battery types include alkaline batteries (the kind you may have in a typical flashlight); NiCad batteries (containing nickel and cadmium); and the LiOn batteries (lithium-ion) that are used in most wireless devices today.

As you might expect, the various chemicals and metals react with each other in various ways. Alkaline batteries are not considered to be rechargeable because it is difficult to reverse the chemical reaction that creates a charge in the first place. NiCad batteries are rechargeable, but if they aren’t completely discharged each time you recharge, they do tend to lose overall capacity. That’s where the myth about the “memory effect” comes in. Old NiCad batteries did have a “memory effect,” but they have largely been replaced by the lighter-weight, more efficient lithium ion batteries in newer wireless devices. Lithium batteries don’t have a “memory effect,” but some people do – and they keep remembering how the older style batteries worked.

Be Nice To Your Batteries

Just because you don’t have to deal with a memory problem doesn’t mean that your batteries don’t require some level of care. Battery manufacturers, device manufacturers and major wireless companies all provide guidelines that can help you prolong the life of your batteries and ensure a reliable source of power for all your mobile devices.

For additional information on battery saving tips, speak to a Verizon Wireless customer representative or visit: http://www.verizonwireless.com/news/article/2014/03/smartphone-battery-saving-apps-accessories.html .

Brenda Hill is a public relations manager for Verizon Wireless. You can follow her on Twitter at: @VZWbrenda.

Tags: smartphone ownership, tablet, Battery Life