What Are the Differences Between OEM & Non-OEM Cell Phone Batteries?

by Fred Decker
    Large, bright screens and powerful processors make modern smartphones battery intensive.

    Large, bright screens and powerful processors make modern smartphones battery intensive.

    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Handheld portable devices such as tablets and smartphones have become remarkably powerful since the turn of the century, and the most powerful can replace standalone computers for some uses. Unfortunately their powerful processors and large, crisp screens play havoc with battery life, and you might need to replace the battery before you replace your phone. Whether you're upgrading from choice or replacing a failing battery, you have the choice of a factory-original or third-party battery.

    The Basics

    Lithium-ion batteries are almost universal in modern cellular phones, replacing the older nickel-metal hydride type. They're a nearly ideal technology in many ways, packing a maximum of power into a minimum of size and weight. They can be made thin and flat or thick and narrow to match the phone's desired size and weight characteristics. Thick batteries tend to provide more power for their weight, but thin, light batteries are popular with manufacturers of the thinnest and lightest phones. Modern lithium-ion batteries provide three times the power-to-weight ratio of first-generation cells from the 1990s, but the power requirements of modern phones are increasing much faster. This makes battery life a problem.

    Replacements and Upgrades

    Most lithium ion batteries are rated in milliamp-hours, which provides a rough measure of lifespan. For example, if your phone draws 20 milliamps and your battery is rated for 1200 milliamp/hours, you can expect roughly six hours' life from a new battery. A replacement from the original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, should last as long as your original battery. Some manufacturers also offer higher-capacity batteries for heavy users who are willing to gain extended battery life through greater size, weight and cost. Third-party batteries often offer comparable ratings at significantly lower prices, but there are some potential problems involved in using non-OEM batteries.

    Third-Party Batteries

    Third-party batteries vary widely in their capacity and production quality, sometimes approaching the original in quality and sometimes falling well short. Often they use less expensive materials, resulting in a battery that degrades more quickly in daily use or fails to match the original's performance. OEM batteries sometimes include circuitry that works interactively with the phone to extend battery life, using additional non-standard connections to the built-in circuit board. Aftermarket batteries typically lack these added features. In some cases, using an aftermarket battery or charger can void your phone's warranty. Unfortunately replacement batteries aren't always available for the lifetime of your phone, so in some cases aftermarket replacements are your only choice.

    Choosing a Replacement

    Online sources and battery-savvy retailers such as your local electronics store offer a wide range of both original and third-party batteries, as well as the chargers necessary to keep them working. Original replacements can be ordered through the manufacturer, but often reputable resellers can provide the same battery at a lower price. If you opt for a third-party battery from necessity or cost reasons, verify your supplier's return policy. If the battery doesn't fit your phone correctly, or if it charges poorly, return it. Use your favorite search engine to browse online reviews and user forums, comparing feedback on brands and models you're considering.

    Care and Charging

    A few basic techniques can prolong the life of any battery. They're especially useful if you're near the end of your contract and wish to avoid the expense of a new battery or if your phone's battery is not designed for user replacement. Make a point of closing apps when they're not in use, rather than just changing screens. Make sparing use of battery-draining features such as streaming video or your camera's flash. Don't leave your phone constantly on the charger, which degrades the battery's chemistry. So does draining the battery fully, a piece of outdated advice intended for older battery technologies.

    About the Author

    Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer who has written and blogged on food-related topics since 2007. Previously he sold computers, insurance and mutual funds. Decker was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

    Photo Credits

    • Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images