Swelling, bulging, expanding iPhone battery?

Swelling, bulging, expanding iPhone battery?

Swollen iPhone 3GS Battery


Lithium-based batteries are considered a technological marvel. With its lightweight, high capacity, and low self-discharge capability, it’s no wonder why this is the type of battery chosen by the majority of mobile devices. But like all batteries, lithium-based ones can also deteriorate. 

But why do batteries swell and what happens when they do?

Stress, overcharging and exposure to uncomfortable temperatures are reported to cause batteries to swell. Lithium-based batteries are especially sensitive to very high/low temperatures. This is why manufacturers advise consumers to keep devices from extreme heat and cold. Luckily these temperatures will not be an issue in your everyday life as the range is below freezing or above 113F/45C.

Batteries also tend to swell if they are very heavily used, especially in combination with uncomfortable temperatures. Running multiple demanding tasks with an old battery that has heavily reduced capacity will also increase the risk. Normally, the battery should trigger the phone to shut off and cool down but the system isn’t flawless.

All in all a swollen battery means that an unwanted chemical reaction has happened inside the battery but the problem is contained within the battery’s durable walls.

Many people are unaware of this and continue to use the phone with a swollen battery. It rarely involves a security risk. Sometimes the swelling is minimal, sometimes it’s severe enough to push the screen up a bit from its frame. It’s very uncommon, regardless. Still, it should be taken seriously.

Swelling is basically a result of a chemical reaction within the battery. The electrolytes become unstable causing it to heat up and as gas increases, the battery begins to expand. Because there is no avenue to release pressure, it keeps on expanding. The battery’s inner shell acts as a barrier from leakage and protects it from any external reaction as long as the battery isn’t punctured. There are several safety features built-in inside the battery that kick in when something goes wrong.

iPhone 5 with an expanded battery
Here's an example of a severely swollen battery in an iPhone 5

Does this happen to all batteries? Is it common?

Swelling can happen to any lithium battery but it’s not common. It even happens with the iPhone official batteries. It happens to all lithium-Ion batteries. Regardless of the brand or product type, as long as the device is using a lithium-based battery, swelling can happen. You can find plenty of examples online for all brands by searching: [Brand] + swollen battery. While bulging can happen with any lithium battery, this problem is highly unusual. For every battery we sell, we hear about bulging issues in less than 0.0001% cases. And even if the battery swells, the fix is not awfully complicated but in extreme cases, a repair shop should be contacted. The image above illustrates an extreme example.

Is there anything I can do to prevent it?

Keep it away from extreme temperatures. Keep your device cool but not cold. Keep it away from heat. Do not expose it to direct sunlight for too long and needless to say, do not place it near heat-generating appliances. The recommended charge temperatures are 50F/10C - 104F/40C but 60F/15C - 68F/20C are ideal.

Regardless of the protective mechanisms placed by manufacturers, it is advised to unplug the charger once the battery has been charged. Do not use a faulty charger and more importantly, use a charger with the correct amperage (amp) specified by the manufacturer. A higher amp charger can definitely charge faster but it’ll cause a lot of stress to the battery. iPad chargers for iPhones are fine, though. The added deterioration rate is minimal due to the small amp difference.

If my battery swells, what can I do?

First of all, relax. While it does look scary, there is no need to panic. Battery manufacturers understand this risk and have created “safeguards” to regulate the charge. These safeguards protect the battery and the device, and if something goes wrong, it will shut-off.

Secondly, batteries can be replaced. Phones will look bloated as the battery inside has expanded. It will look as though the device is broken but in reality, the screen is just pushed up by the bulging battery. As soon as the battery is removed, the screen will normally slide back to its position. When a new battery is installed, the phone will be operational again.

Bulging battery pushing iPhone 5S screen
Bulging battery pushing the screen of an iPhone 5S up from the frame

Expanded iPhone 5C battery replaced
Here's an iPhone 5C that just had its somewhat bulging battery replaced.

How should I dispose of swollen batteries?

Keep in mind that batteries which are considerably swollen carry a certain safety risk. Do not puncture. Puncturing a battery, regardless if it’s bulging or not, can lead to combustion (fire and smoke). Handle and dispose safely. You can contact your nearest recycling center or hazardous waste station to safely dispose of the faulty unit.

We can help you!

Scandi Tech offers and toolkits batteries for iPhones. If your battery is bulging and you want to replace it on your own, our guides will walk you through the process. Fair warning: as mentioned above, if your battery is in critical condition or extremely swollen, it’s best to let a professional handle it. If you decide to take it on, we provide complete step-by-step guides both in written and video format. Replacing the iPhone battery is straightforward but it still requires a bit of technical know-how. Our customer support is also available 24/7 by email to help you with the replacement.

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