Is this another useless superpower?
September 6, 2012 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Do other peoples' cellphone batteries spontaneously discharge, or is it just me?

Every once in a while, old my cellphone battery would suddenly - and completely - discharge. As in, there would be a very reasonable amount of battery life left, and suddenly there would be none, to the point that I'd have to plug it in to even get a 'dead battery' message. So I got a new phone, completely different kind, doesn't use the same kind of battery, and the same thing happened with the new one, within the first few days.

It's been fine since, but I've only had it about 3 weeks. I know neither of them were trying to use data, because the first one wasn't a smartphone, and the second (Android) had wifi, bluetooth, 3G and background processing turned off. I don't think it's weak signal either; it tends to be very strong around here.

So my question is: is this something fairly common, or did I just get 2 bad phones (or 2 bad batteries)? Should I try again, or is this just a fact of modern life?
posted by still_wears_a_hat to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Happens to my iPhone 4 occasionally.
posted by zachawry at 2:41 PM on September 6, 2012

In my tablet and smartphone-heavy household, what you describe has never happened (including older phones over the last decade or so).
posted by halogen at 2:54 PM on September 6, 2012

Most cell phones are designed to show 100% battery remaining, until they hit 10% remaining, at which point they'll show 66% remaining. 5% remaining will show 33%...
posted by Yowser at 3:06 PM on September 6, 2012

Most cell phones are designed to show 100% battery remaining, until they hit 10% remaining, at which point they'll show 66% remaining. 5% remaining will show 33%...

This is not my experience at all.
posted by grouse at 3:07 PM on September 6, 2012 [12 favorites]

Most cell phones are designed to show 100% battery remaining, until they hit 10% remaining, at which point they'll show 66% remaining. 5% remaining will show 33%...

There's no truth to that (thankfully).

still_wears_a_hat, I would say no, it's not common. There are certainly times where it seems like the battery will drain faster than usual, or faster than it should. But I haven't experienced any decent charge to no charge in a matter of moments like you've indicated. Bad phone? Or maybe it's coming in contact with something that can drain it of batter somehow?
posted by twinight at 3:14 PM on September 6, 2012

My partner's phones always end up doing this.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:16 PM on September 6, 2012

Something that happened to daisyk a while ago is that there was an app on her phone that kept on unsuccessfully trying to log into its server. Drained the battery overnight without fail and racked up a ~$120 data bill.
posted by Zarkonnen at 3:17 PM on September 6, 2012

Depending on your Android version, go to: Settings -> Battery. You will see a graph of battery usage and a breakdown of what apps are using the most power. This may help identify if there is a rogue app that is doing something wonky.

It's also possible you have a bad battery. But this is not normal behavior, no.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:27 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

The cell phone has an imprecise way of measuring how much juice is left - a calibration profile it updates as the battery ages. A battery also wears out and can reach a tipping point where it discharges faster that the phone's profile for it predicts.

Either figure out how to reset your phone's battery calibration profile, and also, if you've had the phone battery for 2-3 years, it may be time to replace it.
posted by zippy at 3:32 PM on September 6, 2012

I 've had that problem with my phone. About once a week, the phone will spontaneously reset itself, and when everything is reloaded there's maybe 10% of the charge that it had just prior to resetting. For what its worth, this did not happen until the phone's OS was upgraded to the newest version of android... no problems with the original factory OS.
posted by Dr. ShadowMask at 4:18 PM on September 6, 2012

Besides a rogue app, what came to mind is "breaking in" a new battery. They recommend to drain it fully and recharge it fully a couple times at the beginning to get a fuller charge and longer life. But I don't think that would cause what you're describing.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:43 PM on September 6, 2012

Some cars seem to do that - I charge my phone less than once a week (though I don't make a lot of calls); An hour in my SO's car, and even if I charged it the night before, it'll pretty reliably die before we get back home.

When yours dies, do you have it in any particular (less common) environment for a long time?
posted by pla at 5:31 PM on September 6, 2012

The only time I've had this happen is camping out in the bush, just on the edge of reception, so my phone was catching/dropping signals regularly and trying to re-find it every time it dropped. Are you sure you're always getting a signal (ie. do you live in a basement suite, or lose reception in one room of your house, anything like that)?
posted by mannequito at 8:12 PM on September 6, 2012

Thanks, everyone. I don't think I'm having the phones anywhere particularly strange, or coming into contact with anything that would short them out. But I'll make sure to look out for that, and see what happens.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:28 AM on September 7, 2012

My ancient Wildfire does this, but only if I use my Xbox to charge it. Guaranteed that it'll go from 100% to zero in minutes.
posted by veedubya at 7:48 AM on September 7, 2012

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