Generally speaking, it’s safe to use a phone while charging it with a power bank.
However, and here comes the disclaimer, it’s best not to do so if you can. First of all, using the mobile while it’s being charged by a power bank will lead to an increase in radiating heat. As you already noticed, when you’re actively using your smartphone, it tends to get hotter the more intensely you’re using it, such as in the example of playing a game. Similarly, the phone will get a bit hot when it’s being charged, even if it’s not used.
This happens due to the transfer of energy from the charger/power bank to the phone battery. So if you’re both charging the phone with a power bank and using it at the same time, then these two heat-generating activities will overlap and the phone will get warmer than usual. The extent to which this happens can depend on the quality of the phone, the battery, the power bank, and the type of usage.
The extra heat does have some negative consequences. Although most of the time they’re negligible, you should still be aware of them:
Reduced Charging Efficiency
Extra heat leads to reduced charging efficiency. This means that you’ll get less out of your power bank’s capacity than expected. The power bank will lose more energy in the process of charging your phone, so in the end, a smaller capacity will end up in your phone’s battery.
So if you’re looking to maximize the amount of power you get from the power bank, the most sensible way would be not to use your phone while it’s being charged.
Reduced Battery Lifespan
Another reason for avoiding using your mobile while it’s being charged with a power bank is the fact that heat tends to also reduce battery lifespan. Thus, if you want your phone battery to last for the longest period of time possible, you’d avoid using it while it’s being charged, regardless if you charge it with a power bank or with a traditional wall adaptor.
More on ways to increase the lifespan of your battery in this article: how long do cell phone batteries last?
Longer Time to Reach a Full Charge
Yet another reason would to not use your phone while it’s being charged is that it will take longer to reach a full charge. It might even be possible that it won’t even be able to reach a full charge altogether. This depends on the amount of power that is delivered by the portable charger and the resource drain of your usage style. For example, if you’re using your phone intensively and the power bank can only supply 5V/1A, it might even be possible that the battery will continue to decrease in charge, albeit at a much slower rate. But overall, you might see the charge going down instead of up.
While the above reasons might be pretty mild and acceptable, you should know that in some rare cases, there might be some more extreme consequences. These cases tend to happen if the mobile and/or the power bank are very poorly built or if they have been previously subjected to maltreatment. Here’s what might happen if you’re really unlucky:
- The phone battery might simply die and become unusable with no other sign of damage
- The battery might get bloated. This will lead to your phone getting swollen and maybe you’d start to smell or even see smoke coming out of the phone.
- The last and worst-case scenario is your phone’s battery catching fire and/or exploding. Although very rare, these accidents do happen. For example, we’ve documented some cases of power banks exploding.
Other Things to Consider When Using Your Phone While Charging it With a Power Bank
Quality and Safety Standards of Power Banks
An important consideration when charging a phone using a power bank is the quality and safety standards of the power bank itself. Not all power banks are created equal, and poor-quality ones can pose safety risks. Reputable brands often undergo rigorous testing and meet safety standards such as UL certification, FCC (for the US), CE (for Europe), etc. For choosing a good power bank, please refer to our buyers’ guide.
The Role of Smart Charging Technology
Advanced charging technology has greatly improved safety and efficiency. Many modern smartphones and power banks come with smart charging technology, which manages power delivery to prevent overcharging and overheating, ultimately making it safer to use your phone while it’s charging. These technologies include Qualcomm’s Quick Charge, Apple’s Fast Charge, or USB Power Delivery (USB-PD).
The Impact of Wireless Charging
Over the last year, wireless charging has dramatically increased in popularity, especially with the dawn of technologies such as MagSafe. Hence, we have a wide array of power banks that can wirelessly charge phones while they’re in use. One such example is the Anker MagSafe 622. But it’s important to mention the fact that wireless charging generates more heat than wired charging, which can impact the safety and efficiency considerations of using a phone while it’s charging.
Cables and Connectors
The quality of the cable used for charging can also impact the safety and efficiency of charging. Poor quality or damaged cables can cause problems such as slow charging, overheating, or even damage to the phone or power bank. Ideally, you would use a charging cable that came either with your phone or with your portable charger.
How Different Activities Impact Charging
Different activities use different amounts of power. For instance, watching a video or playing a game uses much more power than simply checking emails. More power also equals more heat, which is detrimental to the long-term lifespan of the phone if it happens on a constant basis. Generally speaking, try to have a reduced load on your smartphone while it’s being charged.
Recognizing Signs of Trouble
A very important aspect is to quickly recognize potential issues with your phone, power bank, or charging cable. If you notice signs that point to unusual heat, bulging batteries, or a smell of burning or visible smoke, then unplug the device and stop using it. Depending on the severity of the symptom, you may want to get the device checked up by a professional.