At some point, every smartphone owner has found themselves with a dying phone battery—and no charger in sight. Most of us these days keep our lives on our phones so it’s not something you can just go without easily.
The good news is, there are a lot of ways to re-charge your phone, even if you’ve lost the charger that came with it. Let’s look at some of your options so you know what to do the next time you’re stuck with a dying phone.
How to Charge a Phone Battery Without a Charger
Option 1: Use another device.
What you’ll need:
- USB to Micro USB/Type C/lightning connector (depending on phone brand)
- A charged device with USB port
Smartphones can charge through any USB port. If you have a charging cable but don’t have an available outlet, just plug the USB end of your cable into another device, such as a laptop.
Now, this isn’t the ideal method for a couple of reasons. First, USB ports are notably slow to charge, delivering only 500-900 mA. Second, the power doesn’t come from thin air—you’ll be draining the battery of your device while you charge your phone.
If you’re in a pinch, though, this is the quickest and easiest way to charge a phone without a charger.
Option 2: Invest in a portable power bank.
A power bank is a device that stores energy for recharging electronic devices. You can find portable power packs that are about the size of a credit card—definitely small enough to carry in your purse, briefcase, or backpack.
Power banks don’t hold their charge forever, so you’ll want to take the power bank out and charge it up every 6 months or so. So long as you do that, you’ll always have a way to charge your phone up in an emergency.
Option 3: Charge it from another battery.
What you’ll need:
- AA, AAA, or 9V batteries
- Two lengths of wire (ideally insulated with exposed ends)
- Electrical tape
This method uses the same basic concept as charging from another device: transferring stored energy from one source to another. While it requires a bit more planning and preparation, it allows you to charge your phone when you don’t have access to a wall outlet or USB port. It’s also one of the methods that will work if your charging port is malfunctioning.
One important note: you should not attempt this method (or any method that involves removing the battery) on an iPhone. The battery in Apple products cannot be accessed at home without permanently damaging the phone.
To charge your phone from another battery:
- Remove your phone’s back cover. Most phones make this difficult on purpose, so you’ll want to proceed carefully to avoid causing damage. On most Android-based phones (Samsung, Google, LG, etc.) the cover will pop off if you apply pressure in the right spot.
- Remove the battery and examine it to identify the battery’s voltage. This should be printed on the label. If you don’t see it, this information should be in your phone’s manual. Most phone batteries have 3.7-volt cells.
- Gather up enough batteries to equal or exceed the voltage of your phone battery. A single 9-volt will do the trick. Smaller batteries (AAA, AA, C, or D) are about 1.5 volts, so you’ll need at least 3 of them.
- If you’re using multiple batteries, connect them in series with the positive (+) end of one battery touching the negative (-) end of the next. Use electrical tape to hold them together.
- Tape one wire to the negative terminal of your battery (or battery series), and tape the other wire to the positive. If you’re using uninsulated wires, wear rubber gloves to avoid a shock.
- Tape the other end of both wires over the charging contacts on the cell phone battery. This will normally be at the top of the battery (wherever it connects to the charging points inside the cell phone’s housing).
It will take a while to charge your battery using this method, and it probably won’t fill it up completely. With enough time, though, you’ll at least get sufficient charge to use the phone.
Option 4: DIY a charger out of another cable.
What you’ll need:
- USB cable
- Scissors or wire strippers
If you have a spare USB cable but it’s not the connector your phone needs, you can bypass the charging port and use it directly on your battery. To do this:
- Cut off the non-USB end of the cable (or one end of a USB to USB cable).
- Strip back the cable insulation to reveal the wires bundled inside. There will normally be 4, color-coded with red, black, green, and white insulation.
- Further, strip the red and black wires until you have about an inch of exposed metal wire at the end of each.
- Open your phone and remove the battery. You can either tape the wire ends to the battery’s contacts or insert them into the charging pins inside the phone housing, then re-insert the battery. Be very careful to match the red wire to the positive (+) pin and the black wire to the negative (-) pin. Swapping them could cause damage to your phone.
- Plug the USB end of the cable into a device or wall outlet.
Safety note: Do not touch the exposed part of the wire when the cord is plugged in, especially if you’re using a wall outlet. Always unplug the charger from the wall first before you remove it from your battery to avoid shocks.
Option 5: The rubbing method.
To be fair, this is not actually a method to charge your battery—if it’s completely dead, rubbing it won’t change things. Rather, rubbing the battery raises the temperature of the cells, which makes them more efficient. This lets you use that last 3-4% of a battery’s charge you can’t otherwise access.
Start by removing the battery from the phone. Next, rub it hard between your hands or against your pant’s leg for 3-4 minutes. You’ll get a few moments of power when you put the battery back in your phone, basically enough to make an emergency call.
What if the Charging Port is Broken?
Most cell phone batteries last for about 3 years. If your phone is younger than that but the battery won’t charge when you plug it in, the problem is likely the charging port, not the battery itself.
If the charging port on your phone is broken, you have two options:
- Remove the battery and charge it directly. Both the DIY charger method and the battery-to-battery method described above bypass the charging port.
- Take advantage of wireless charging. Not all phones offer this option, but many modern models do. Wireless charging pads can be pricey. Having said that, they’re still cheaper than a new phone—the only other option for iPhone users whose charging ports die.
The Bottom Line
It’s frustrating when you can’t charge a dead phone, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. With a little ingenuity, you can recharge your phone anytime, anywhere.