Phone Battery Drain: How Viruses Affect Performance & 4 Fixes

Maybe you’ve seen a message like “Your Battery Is Badly Damaged by (4) Virus!” on your smartphone. Is this a scam, or can a virus damage a phone battery?

While viruses cannot directly attack a smartphone battery, some apps can run in the background draining power making it appear damaged. The long-term presence of malware on a mobile device can cause battery damage. More commonly, some scams falsely claim a user’s battery has been compromised to offer a fake solution.

Keep reading to learn the following:

Man plugging smartphone into battery wondering can a virus damage a phone battery

    Do Battery Viruses Exist?

    Battery viruses exist as a type of scam. Computer viruses primarily attack software, not hardware. But, fraudsters often create malware to generate a problem which often involves draining a battery. These phishing scams sometimes referred to as scareware, place blame on a battery virus that has been contracted elsewhere.

    This means that the pop-up telling you that your battery has been damaged by several viruses is likely scareware. If this happens to you, never follow or tap on a notification or pop-up claiming to help you “remove the virus.”

    Can a virus drain your battery?

    Yes, purpose-built viruses or poorly-coded apps contribute to smartphone battery drain. Wasteful processing, unnecessary screen-on time, and high data transmissions drain the power quickly. The produced heat, frequent recharges, and a protective case reduces battery lifespan resulting in the need to replace the device sooner.

    This is the fear tactic scammers leverage while informing victims their device’s battery has already been damaged. They attempt to get users to download their apps. In reality, their “fix it” apps cause problems by:

    1. Re-opening themselves after you have closed them.
    2. Running in the background.
    3. Draining your battery faster by using your phone’s resources.
    4. Prevent your phone from going into sleep mode.

    This behavior makes mobile phone users believe their battery is really damaged and makes them prey to the scam.

    “Battery viruses” exist as a type of scam. There are no viruses that specifically target a phone’s battery.

    However, viruses can drain your phone’s battery quickly by: running in the background, or using up resources or preventing your phone to go into sleep mode.

    Scammers may use the term “battery virus” to trick people into thinking their phone’s battery is infected, and then try to sell them a solution that is not needed.

    What Are Phishing Scams?

    Typically, malicious software containing viruses gathers information directly from your mobile device or computer. Phishing scams simply try to get you to voluntarily give up your sensitive information or download malware unknowingly.

    How Phishing Scams Work

    In the case of so-called “battery viruses,” the scammers will claim to be offering antivirus software that will rid you of the problem.

    When you click the link, it takes you to a convincing but fake site that prompts you to create an antivirus account. In creating an account, the attackers will ask you to enter everything from your email to your banking information.

    5 Common Indicators That Your Phone Has a Virus

    There are many signs you can watch out for if you suspect you might have a virus. Below are five of the most common warning signs:

    1. More pop-ups than usual: If you are seeing lots of pop-ups, chances are you have malicious software on your mobile phone.
    2. You’re using more data: Many viruses operate in the background while connected to the web and run up your data. If your phone habits haven’t changed, but your data usage is out of control, chances are you have a virus.
    3. Unexpected charges: Mobile malware can automatically use services that increase your phone bill.
    4. Spam text: Lots of spam text messages indicate malware on your phone. Never click on any links in spam messages, as they are often damage-causing.
    5. Hot phone: When playing games requiring heavy processing power, you may notice your phone gets hot. But, if your device gets hot during normal phone function without running anything intensive, this may be a sign you have a malware issue.
    6. Drained battery: Though viruses don’t directly attack your battery, they can cause it to drain much more quickly.

    Got other battery-related questions? Here are 15 FAQs on smartphone batteries…including which smartphone brand has the best battery.

    Close up of gamer playing on smartphone which is hot damaging the phone battery

    Tips to Prevent and Get Rid of Viruses

    The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to malicious software and viruses. Here are some essential tips to help:

    • Stick to apps from trusted sources. If you don’t recognize the company that has produced a particular app, search the internet to check for virus complaints. Though Android OS accounts for 97% of mobile viruses, only 0.1% actually come from the Google Play Store.
    • Use only highly-reviewed mobile browsers. Stick to using well-known web browsers like Google Chrome, Apple Safari, or Mozilla Firefox installed from your main app store. Advanced smartphone users can also consider other web browsers on the app stores based on Chrome or Firefox.
    • Close pop-ups without clicking on anything. Close any browser windows with a pop-up or swipe away unknown notifications that say you have a battery virus or won a contest.
    • Use antivirus apps. Typically it’s unnecessary to use mobile antivirus. But if you frequently download apps to review new offerings or visit suspect websites, consider installing a mobile security app with antivirus software. Companies like Bitdefender make software for both iOS and Android.

    Steps to Take If You Have a Phone Virus

    If you’ve already downloaded malicious software or have been tricked into giving up personal information, here is what you need to do:

    1. Remove recently installed suspicious apps.
    2. Clear browser history or reset your browser’s app data.
    3. Be on high alert for any suspicious account activity at your bank, email service provider, and social networks. Also, consider monitoring for identity theft.
    4. If you’re genuinely concerned, perform a factory reset of your phone in the most extreme cases.

    Pro Info: Performing your smartphone’s factory reset will extend its life and potentially reduce your mobile bill. With fewer apps running, consuming resources like power and mobile data, you’ll be able to budget for a better phone. Remember to back up your critical data before running the reset.

    Is an iPhone or Android Better for Avoiding Viruses?

    iPhones are widely considered to be less susceptible to viruses than Android-based phones for several reasons, including:

    • Source code: Apple closely guards the source code behind its mobile operating system, iOS. This makes finding vulnerabilities in the mobile OS much harder. Android phones, on the other hand, rely heavily on open-source code.
    • Popularity: Android is the best-selling mobile operating system because it is used on many different phone models. This makes it a bigger target than iPhones.
    • Store Options: Unless you jailbreak an iPhone, the Apple Store is the only place to get apps. With an Android phone, however, there are alternative ways to install apps that are less trusted.

    Virus from Jailbreaking an iPhone

    Jailbreaking your iPhone so that you can use software generally prohibited by your iOS may sound like an attractive idea. But, it can actually lead to a higher chance of receiving a malware infection.

    A jailbroken iPhone bypasses many of the security features that would ordinarily protect you from accidentally downloading malicious software become disabled.

    It is best practice to stick to using the official Apple Store if you want to avoid the chances of downloading malware to your iPhone.

    Man connected hist phone to laptop to side load apps potentially getting a virus

    Virus from Side Loading or Alternative App Stores on Android

    Sideloading is when you download and install apps or data from sources other than the Google Play Store onto your Android phone.

    Though the Google Play store requires apps to be certified safe, not all the alternative app stores enact the same due diligence. Installed apps from other stores can wreak havoc for average phone users.

    We’ve listed a few ways that may help ensure that the apps you’re planning to sideload are safe below.

    • Use mobile security software: Mobile security (antivirus) software can help detect and remove malicious apps. It’s a good idea to have it on your phone before experimenting with sideloading apps downloaded from alternative stores.
    • Check the alternative app store: Use only well-known alternative app stores like F-Droid or the Amazon App Store.
    • Check reviews and developer’s reputation: Always check both the reviews for the individual app and the developer’s reputation to avoid surprise malware.
    • Look for red flags: If an app asks for more permissions or information than usual, this may be a sign of something fishy. Immediately delete any app that is requesting extra information.

    Viruses Stealing Personal Data

    Smartphone viruses are notorious for stealing personal data off of victims’ phones. This can include passwords, information about your device, compromising photographs, or even banking information.

    The good news is that there are several ways you can avoid this happening to you, such as:

    • Use reputable mobile security software.
    • Stick to the official app stores as they are far more secure than third-party sources.
    • Keep your cell phone’s apps and operating system up-to-date.
    • Ensure apps don’t ask for more information or permissions than they need to work.
    • Do not click on links that come from spam emails or texts.
    • Be wary of using public WiFi.
    • Use encryption software to further prevent hackers from gaining access to your data.

    Final Thoughts

    A virus cannot directly damage your battery. However, some malicious apps (particularly on Android phones) run in the background to make your battery look like it has been damaged by a virus. Scammers then try to offer you a solution and trick you into giving over your personal information.

    We’ve shared several simple steps to protect your phone from being damaged by a virus. Stay vigilant, and your phone should remain virus-free!

    The Brighter Side did a great round-up video (5m52s@2x) of nine signs your smartphone might have a virus.

    Mike Chu

    Mike is a web developer and content writer living as a digital nomad. With more than 20 years of devops experience, he brings his "programmer with people skills" approach to help explain technology to the average user. Check out his full author bio by clicking here.

    Recent Posts