Should You Switch Your Phone Off While Its Charging?

As I was picking the letter for this week’s edition of Ask Lifehacker, I was reminded of how happy I am that my house has solar panels. This means I can leave most of my devices on during the day, charging away, and not feel guilty about how much electricity I’d be wasting otherwise. But what about the devices themselves? Should I be leaving them on so much?

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I’m not the only one who ponders this, as Lifehacker reader Wiliam wrote in with a similar query:

My question is...Is it less stressful for the internal electronics in your tablet or smartphone to always leave it on? I was once told by a former NASA certified engineer/electrician that electronics in general are better off left on for 24/7.

The reason I bring this up is that during the past 2 years I have had Samsung phones and tablets that refused to fully power up after nightly shutdowns, and all had to be scrapped due to either processor or memory board failures.

As was explained to me, the process of shutting down and then powering up these electronics daily puts additional heavy strain on the internal electronics when done over extended time periods...like 3+ years, as was my case.

This one’s interesting, for sure. To start, I presume that most — and by most, I mean 99 per cent of all people — leave their handheld devices powered on all the time. What good is a smartphone that you have to turn on and off all the time? What if someone needs to reach you in the wee hours of the morning for whatever reason? Or what if you, like a lot of people, use your smartphone as your alarm clock?

Generally speaking, I think it’s fine to leave your smartphones and tablets on all the time, because that’s how they’re designed to be used. As for the other part of your question, I don’t think that turning your smartphone or tablet on and off is going to affect it — at least, no more than normal, unseen wear and tear (or an occasional unexpected kiss with the floor) would otherwise cause a device to have issues.

These devices don’t really have moving parts, so the only strain they are likely to experience is when components expand or contract due to temperature shifts. Play a graphically intensive game on your device (or leave it out in the sun), and then power it off or put it in a cooler location, and that could do something to its internal components. Perhaps a soldered connection could loosen up, but I’d expect that to be a rarer scenario.

After all, these devices’ temperatures are designed to fluctuate a little bit. I can’t see you doing much more damage to them by forcing a smaller temperature shift when you power your device off (or power it back on).

That all said, I haven’t touched the elephant in the room: the battery. Of all the components in your smartphone, I would say this is the one with the most potential to be affected by any kind of stress. For example, if you’re not going to be using a device for weeks, let the battery drain down a bit and turn it off. Also, stop draining the entire battery before charging it up again, as you’re doing yourself a disservice by sticking to this antiquated myth.

This doesn’t quite relate to your “Should I power-down my device all the time” question, but I’d probably focus more on this — making sure I’m doing everything I can to keep my battery chugging along without issue — than worrying about whether you’re powering your device on and off too much.

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In fact, most of the research I stumbled across when scouring for answers to this question — your original question about powering cycling your device, that is — all related to battery life, not the health of the smartphone’s other components.

If anything, shutting down your smartphone could be a good step for your health, but I really didn’t see any other dire warnings out there that made me feel as if powering your devices on and off is going to trash them. That’s not to say that it’s not possible, and I’m not discounting what has happened to you and your devices. It’s also possible that something unrelated to turning the devices off caused issues—correlation does not imply causation, et cetera.

Why not make ample use of your device’s Do Not Disturb mode instead? This is only one person talking, but I rarely power my (many) devices off, and I have yet to experience any disasters from leaving them on (or sleeping) all the time. Come join me on the wild side.


Comments

    With fast charging these days there is little reason to leave your phone plugged in for extended periods. My OnePlus 5t charges to full within an hour and usually 10 to 15 minutes is enough to see me though the entire day with moderate usage. Charging overnight... Pointless now.

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