How to Share Your Smartphone Battery: An Etiquette Guide

New smartphones let you share juice with friends (and strangers). But how generous would you be when the tap is running dry?

FEW THINGS TRIGGER that internal scream quite like the moment your smartphone’s battery meter flips from green to red. Your friends’ voices fade as you slip into broken-brain panic: “Can I make it home? Did I pack a charger? Does this booth have a plug?”

That spike of anxiety even has a name: “nomophobia” or fear of no mobile phone.

One potential savior: The latest Samsung Galaxy S10 phones with Wireless PowerShare, a feature that lets anyone with the device gift others battery life via a built-in wireless charger. And needy phones needn’t be Samsungs. If your dying phone is Qi compatible—as most built since 2017 are—just ask your generous friend to toggle on the feature, then lay your phone back-to-back with her S10 and return to the night as your meter slowly refills.

Then again, since this process sucks the life out of the host phone, its power supply limits her charity; the feature smartly shuts off when her supply drops to 30%. But what might your friend say when you desperately need a quick hit and she’s at, say, 37%?

“I might give a charge to my mom,” said UNC Greensboro student Taye Carlton. Others we spoke to were less benevolent, admitting they’d “never” give an ounce of juice to a friend or stranger.

Samsung’s director of product marketing Suzanne De Silva said the brand hopes to inspire users to pay it forward, giving what they can, taking only what they need, though Ms. De Silva admitted she’d be stingy at a concert.

Larry Rosen, who studies smartphone anxiety as a psychology professor at Cal State University Dominguez Hills, said he doubts power sharing will catch on: “There’s too much uncertainty about when you’ll get power back.”

Other phone brands are set to unroll similar features by next year, so here’s our early list of rules until the etiquette is firmly established:

1. “No” if you’re low—can’t bum a last smoke.

2. “No” to anyone whose title is “influencer.”

3. “Yes” to help someone hail a ride home.

4. “No” to that guy still playing Candy Crush.

5. “Yes” to mom. Forget the “might.” She gave you life. Give her a charge.

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