Did you know? The Truth Behind Surprise Shutdowns

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A black void stares back at the user reminding them that their source for entertainment, news, and communication is dead until they return to a charger. The unthinkable has happened. With five percent battery left, the miracle of modern technology that is a smart phones dies.Why do phones do this? If they say they have “X” amount of battery left, how does that charge disappear?

The power the battery can produce is reliant on how much chemical energy it contains. With today’s technology, the way to increase battery life is to increase battery size. The problem is that we just want to make our phones thinner and smaller, putting our want for increased battery power at odds with our want for a super thin and portable phone.

Furthermore, batteries become less effective the more they’re used. Every time a battery is charged and discharged, it’s sustaining a mini concussion. The battery is damaged as lithium gets shaved off of the surface, thus slowing down the battery and making it work harder. This brings us back to the original question. Why do phones shut down when they still have charge? In actuality, our phones are actually helping us.

Devices need to shut down properly. That’s why laptops display a “wait” message before shutting off. It has to compose itself. Without this, the smartphone could have an error and erase all those priceless family photos. If a device shuts down cold turkey, without going through all it’s necessary processes, madness will ensue. No one likes having their data erased.

Another reason why phones shut down early is due to safety; when a lithium-ion battery gets too low on power it can get unstable to point where the battery could explode.

“Overheated battery modules create a domino effect, producing more and more heat, and the battery explodes,” says LiveScience.

Although, this usually won’t happen as there many fail safes in place that destroy the battery if at zero and stops the runaway thermal reaction. The lower the Lithium battery gets to zero, the greater the very small chance of a catastrophic failure is. The battery is designed to never really get to zero. There is always a little charge left. Designers of this technology are always attempting to put as many safety measures in place as possible.

Paul Shearing, a chemical engineer at the University College London says , “[Batteries fail] when internal electrical components short-circuit, when mechanical problems crop up after a fall or an accident, or when they are installed incorrectly.” Only forty-three recalls for lithium-ion batteries have occurred since 2002, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Smartphones phone shutting down early is actually pretty great. It helps maintain the battery, which is good because the replacement is like ten bucks on Amazon. Who has that kind of money?  It also ensures the safety of precious photos and stops the rare possibility of a catastrophic failure.

So when your phone shuts off at 5%. Don’t scream. Don’t be angry. Just say, good work phone. Or, thanks for making sure NOT to melt down.

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