This defeats the purpose of a cell phone
April 22, 2014 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Phone battery won't hold a charge-what can I do?

I have an older samsung smartphone, I'm not sure what the model is but I can follow up with that info if needed. The problem is it doesn't hold a charge-it dies within a few minutes of being off of the charger. When I turn it back on, it shows the battery as being nearly full, usually, but occasionally will show the battery being at half charge or low charge, pretty randomly.

Any idea what's going on? If I buy a new battery, will that fix the problem or is it originating from the phone itself?
posted by geegollygosh to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What kind of actual usage do you get out of it? For example, the phone is saying the battery is about to die but it lasts for the rest of the day. If the lifetime of the battery is what the phone is saying it is, then it's a problem with the battery. If the battery is lasting much longer than the phone says it will, then the problem is with the phone.

I think it's more likely that the problem is with the battery, though. They don't last forever, and if the phone is old, you're likely to be able to pick one up for cheap, or a non-OEM one for even cheaper.
posted by Solomon at 12:18 PM on April 22, 2014

Have you taken the battery out and given the contacts a good rub? That fixed my wifes charging issues. (though it didnt sound like the same issue, maybe.. hers just didnt charge well at all)
posted by Jacen at 12:18 PM on April 22, 2014

(1) Could be the charger, not the battery. Those things don't last forever either. I've got one charger that won't work with one of my phones at all and only charges the other one at a snail's pace.

(2) Could be the battery though, especially if it's a bit older. Are you on a contract with a major carrier? Are you due for a new phone? Barring that, can you drop by a store and see if they'll fix it? Might cost you some money, but might be less than a new phone. Heck, even if you aren't a customer they might be willing to look at your hardware for a fee.
posted by valkyryn at 12:25 PM on April 22, 2014

If I were to unplug the phone right now, it would say it was at full charge but die within ten minutes, still saying it was at full charge. When I turned it back on, out would say it was nearly fully charged, but die in less time than it had before.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:25 PM on April 22, 2014

Oh, and I am using multiple chargers. I have also noticed that with some chargers and with some electrical outlets, it won't charge at all, or needs to be plugged into the outlet in a certain way. Strange.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:28 PM on April 22, 2014

Just buy a new battery?
posted by pharm at 12:31 PM on April 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Smartphones these days are designed to work for two years: some brands tend to last less than that (Samsung, LG) and some more (Apple, Nokia) but it could be a battery issue or it could be an issue with the internal power management circuitry on your phone. If you buy a new battery and that's not it, you're basically SOL, while you could get a Moto G (almost assuredly better than what you have) for $99.
posted by Oktober at 12:31 PM on April 22, 2014

Which model is the phone you have? You might be able to get a very cheap knockoff battery from Amazon that you could use to test if it's the phone or the battery.

Other than that, I can highly recommend the Moto G that Oktober suggests above.
posted by Solomon at 12:48 PM on April 22, 2014

When I had a charging problem with my older Samsung (a Nexus S), it was only by taking it to a repair shop that I learned what was wrong with it (in my case it wouldn't charge at all and ended up being a problem with the usb port). Since that part is apparently not easily available anymore I had to get a new phone.

Don't buy a new battery yet. A decent repair shop should be happy to test a new battery in your phone to see if that's the issue. And test different chargers. Especially if it's a mom and pop type of place, they really shouldn't charge for that. If I were you, I would go there before trying to deal with the provider or manufacturer.
posted by kitcat at 12:49 PM on April 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lithium batteries don't age well. After the battery leaves the factory, there's about three years before it becomes useless. (The decay is not related to usage pattern; it's a chemical process inside the battery.) The only solution is a new battery.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:13 PM on April 22, 2014

There are such apps as battery loggers-- they're designed to help app developers watch their battery usage. If you wanted to get some data on that, get one of those. Here's one I used for running down a power drain issue I was having.

Your carrier should be able to test the battery, but they'll probably have an expensive solution for replacing it. Avoid their solution, but not necessarily their tests.

I would replace the battery. Near the end of life for my last phone, I bought two batteries and a charger. New phone doesn't have a user-replaceable battery, else I would've done the same with it. Having a recharged spare battery is awesome.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:40 PM on April 22, 2014

Buy a new battery. You can probably get one off Amazon by searching for "[your phone model] battery". Third-party batteries will be fine, in fact they're probably better than Samsung brand ones because they're more likely to be recent production. (Lithium batteries crap out after a few years, even if they're just sitting on a shelf.) I picked up a pair of extra batteries for my phone, plus an external battery charger, for I think about $20 a while back. They work great, and are handy for when I have to go places where I need my phone but won't be able to charge it much.
posted by Scientist at 4:58 PM on April 22, 2014

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