Li-ion cannot absorb overcharge, and when fully charged the charge current must be cut off. A continuous trickle charge would cause plating of metallic lithium, and this could compromise safety. To minimize stress, keep the lithium-ion battery at the 4.20V/cell peak voltage as short a time as possible.
Once the charge is terminated, the battery voltage begins to drop, and this eases the voltage stress. Over time, the open-circuit voltage will settle to between 3.60 and 3.90V/cell. Note that a Li-ion battery that received a fully saturated charge will keep the higher voltage longer than one that was fast-charged and terminated at the voltage threshold without a saturation charge.
If a lithium-ion battery must be left in the charger for operational readiness, some chargers apply a brief topping charge to compensate for the small self-discharge the battery and its protective circuit consume. The charger may kick in when the open-circuit voltage drops to 4.05V/cell and turn off again at a high 4.20V/cell. Chargers made for operational readiness, or standby mode, often let the battery voltage drop to 4.00V/cell and recharge to only 4.05V/cell instead of the full 4.20V/cell. This reduces voltage-related stress and prolongs battery life.
Some portable devices sit in a charge cradle in the on position. The current drawn through the device is called the parasitic load and can distort the charge cycle. Battery manufacturers advise against parasitic load because it induces mini-cycles. The battery is continuously being discharged to 4.20V/cell and then charged by the device. The stress level on the battery is especially high because the cycles occur at the 4.20V/cell threshold.