A charge cycle is the process of charging a rechargeable battery and discharging it as required into a load. The term is typically used to specify a battery's expected life, as the number of charge cycles affects life more than the mere passage of time. Discharging the battery fully before recharging may be called "deep discharge"; partially discharging then recharging may be called "shallow discharge".
In general, number of cycles for a rechargeable battery indicates how many times it can undergo the process of complete charging and discharging until failure or it starting to lose capacity.
Apple Inc. clarifies that a charge cycle means using all the battery's capacity, but not necessarily by full charge and discharge; e.g., using half the charge of a fully charged battery, charging it, and then using the same amount of charge again count as a single charge cycle.
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