Here’s how long you should charge a new cell phone before using it:
It is perfectly fine to use a modern phone as soon as you receive it or take it out of a box.
Older battery technology required significant charging before it was ready for use, but that has not been the case for several years now.
A new phone is fine to be used or charged as you see fit from the moment you get it.
So if you want to learn all about how long you need to charge your new cell phone before you use it for the first time, then you’re in the right place.
Can You Use Your Phone Out of the Box Without Charging It First?
In most cases, it’s absolutely fine to use the phone as soon as you have it in your possession.
Phones typically have enough charge to power on and operate for at least a few hours out of the box, and this is by design.
In fact, if you get a data transfer service when you buy a new phone at a retail location, they will open it up and turn it on right there on the spot.
You can walk out of the store with the new phone activated, and you will be fine to continue using the phone throughout the day.
Why Modern Phones Are Shipped With Charged Batteries
There are two main reasons why a phone is good to go as soon as you receive it.
First, it’s good for the customer experience. When someone gets a new phone, they are often excited about it, and they want to start using it right away.
If they instead have to wait to charge the phone for a half-day, that kills the enthusiasm, and it hurts the initial reaction and overall customer satisfaction.
Phone manufacturers know this, and they want users to be excited and enthusiastic. So, they ship phones with charged batteries. They’ve done the math, and they have determined that it is good for their bottom lines.
The Technical Aspects of Modern Phone Batteries
The second reason is entirely technical. Most phones today use either lithium-polymer or lithium-ion batteries.
In either case, you’re looking at a very good battery that doesn’t lose charge in storage as quickly as a lot of older batteries. Also, lithium-based batteries operate under different optimum conditions as compared to older batteries.
Essentially, if you’re going to have a phone turned off for a long period of time (such as when it is shipped and then stored on a shelf for a retailer), the best thing to do is charge the battery to around 70 percent. This is due to the chemical nature of the battery itself.
If a lithium-based battery is fully charged, the strength of the voltage inside the battery creates a subtle strain on the device. That strain can warp the internal chemistry of the battery, and it ultimately shortens the battery’s lifespan.
Now, this happens in very, very small increments. A cell phone manufacturer could ship batteries at a 100-percent charge, and most users wouldn’t notice the difference. But, if the engineers want everything to be optimal, it’s best to ship with less voltage in the battery to mitigate that strain.
On the other end of the spectrum, a battery with a zero-percent charge also experiences strain. Because of how batteries work, if it has absolutely no charge, then there is actually a voltage buildup on the other side of the battery. This causes strain the same way that a 100-percent charge does, but because the voltage is on the wrong side of the battery, uncharged batteries age even faster.
So, it’s definitely better to ship batteries that are at least partially charged.
When you crunch all of the numbers, you find that the optimal storage charge is between 50 and 70 percent for most modern batteries. Phone manufacturers usually aim for the 70-percent mark when they ship their products in order to optimize battery life and the user experience.
This still isn’t the end of the story. Even when a battery is optimally charged, it is still going to slowly lose charge over time. That definitely happens while batteries are shipped or sitting on shelves.
It’s common for new phones to be anywhere from 50 to 70 percent charged by the time you open the box.
Applying Everything to Your Own Phone Usage
All of this knowledge can be useful to you long after you get your new phone. If you ever need to leave your phone off for an extended period of time (maybe you’re going camping where there is no service), then you can learn from the manufacturers.
Try to get the battery to around 70 percent (you don’t need to be perfect). Then, turn it off and leave it off. This will cause the least amount of strain possible on the battery until you use the phone again.
If things are a little more intense and you need to leave the phone in storage for months, it’s good to recharge the battery to 70 percent every once in a while. A phone battery can stay in the sweet spot for weeks at a time. Eventually, it will drain, and as you know, you don’t want it to sit at zero percent for too long.
If you can’t periodically charge the battery, you should plan on it losing capacity and lifespan while in storage. It might need a new battery when you finally take it out of storage.
Where Does the Idea That You Need to Charge It First Come From?
Ok. Modern phones can be used right away. Why do so many people think otherwise? Is it a crazy myth, or is there a nugget of truth in the old adage that you should charge a phone for eight hours when it’s brand new?
It turns out that this advice used to be quite true and reliable. In the past, most batteries were made from nickel compounds. These batteries, in a physical sense, worked very differently from modern lithium batteries.
Because of the older technology, manufacturers recommended that you charge the battery all the way to full before you use the phone for the first time. On average, this took around eight hours to accomplish.
If you ignored this advice and used the phone before the battery was fully charged, it would throw off the charging cycle. The battery wouldn’t be able to hold as much charge, so a phone that was supposed to be able to last for 12 hours might only last for 8. This issue could sometimes be fixed by cycling the battery. This is where you use the phone until the battery is completely drained. Then, you charge it all the way to full before turning it back on. This type of cycling is essentially what the manufacturers recommended doing at the outset.
The Memory Effect of Batteries
The situation with nickel batteries described above is known as the memory effect. The older batteries would “memorize” your charging habits and then adjust their voltages accordingly. If this sounds sophisticated, it’s only the framing.
Here’s how the memory effect really works. When you charge a battery to a certain voltage, the chemistry of the battery shifts in response to that level of voltage.
So, if you charge a battery below the maximum capacity, the chemistry naturally shifts. That shift lowers the maximum capacity of the battery. Cycling the battery can allow you to resent the chemical response, but it only works so well and so many times.
Because lithium-based batteries operate on completely different chemistry than the older batteries, new phones don’t ever have to worry about the memory effect.
Is It Ok to Charge a New Phone Right Away?
So, you can use your phone as soon as you get it.
What if you don’t need to?
What if you want a fully charged phone?
Is it ok to plug it in right away?
Yes. Lithium batteries will not be damaged if you want to charge them to full right away. The 70-percent number is ideal for storage. When in use, it’s perfectly fine to charge a phone to full on a regular basis.
In fact, you can leave the phone plugged in while you use it and long past the time that it is full. Lithium-based batteries don’t overcharge when you leave them plugged in. This was another problem with older batteries, but it’s not an issue with the new, modern technologies.
If you really want to optimize your battery’s life, then you want to avoid letting it get to a zero-percent charge. As you know, leaving it at zero percent puts strain on the battery. In truth, that strain begins roughly when the charge drops below 30 percent.
If your battery ever gets below 30 percent, you haven’t murdered it. These batteries are designed for normal use, and they can get down to zero multiple times before long-term effects kick in.
The goal is to set the habit to start charging the phone when it gets to that 30-percent ballpark. If you do, you’ll minimize the time the phone spends in sub-optimal conditions, and the battery will last that much longer for your efforts.
Still, it’s important to remember that no battery lasts forever. Eventually, it will age, and when it does, its capacity will diminish.