We expect a lot from our phones. They’re our alarm clocks, our navigators, and even our personal assistants. No wonder we lose it when there’s the slightest hiccup. But before we blame our phones too harshly, maybe we should ask what we could do to keep them running more smoothly.
Over a third of Americans have cracked their phone screens at least once.
Surprise, surprise: There are a few, basic phone-related maintenance tasks you should stay on top of. If your apps are lagging or you’re constantly facing that battery-life struggle, avoid these bad habits to bring your device back up to speed.
1. Procrastinating on Updating
Why does every operating system update feel like such an obtrusive pain-in-the-attention-span? Those “update” notices always seem to pop up at the wrong time in the day, and if you’re like us, constant reminders just make you dig in your heels all the more.
However, OS updates are an important factor in keeping your phone running smoothly and securely. Emily Shapiro, a phone specialist at iPower Resale, weighs in on why keeping your OS up to date is so crucial for your phone’s performance.
“We always recommend updating to the newest OS,” Shapiro tells Urbo. “OS releases not only have performance fixes and boosts, but also very important safety measures. The world of malware continually evolves, so your OS protection becomes outdated once the malware creators update their software to get past security updates.”
The few minutes it takes for a new OS to download is well worth the wait. As long as you don’t update the OS, your phone may be vulnerable to malware or other security breaches, and that outcome is way worse than missing a text or two.
Shapiro has seen the damage first-hand.
“We’ve seen phones that have been remotely hacked or had some nasty malware installed, and it’s not pretty. Losing data, repair costs: These can mean a compromised phone costs a lot more than originally thought and could have easily been avoided with a simple OS update,” Shapiro explains.
Of course, simply keeping your OS up-to-date isn’t enough to protect your phone’s data, says Ben Carmitchel, CEO of Datarecovery.com. You also have to watch for suspicious online activity.
“Don’t open any unusual email attachments or web pages, even if they come from a source you recognize,” Carmitchel tells us. “It doesn’t matter what your phone’s operating system is; you’re susceptible to ransomware if you don’t use some common sense.”
2. Making Tech Purchases at Gas Stations
There are a ton of incredibly cheap phone chargers available online (and in gas stations.) While it may be tempting to stock up, it’s better to invest in quality equipment. A phone charger that only costs a couple of bucks seems too good to be true—and usually is. Not only can these types of chargers fail quickly, they can cause serious damage to your device.
“We’ve had customers come in with chargers that have exploded, damaged phones, or chargers that have simply died after a week,” says Shapiro.
That’s a risk you shouldn’t take with your phone. Shapiro explains that “even if those chargers are a little cheaper, they can end up costing you a lot more.”
Don’t risk destroying your phone to save a few dollars. Plus, because these cheaper accessories fail more often, you’ll probably end up spending as much on cheap chargers as high-quality ones—if not more—through constant replacement.
Despite the benefits of using Apple-approved accessories, you may be feeling hesitant about dropping $30 on a charger. Fear not; there are ways to improve the lifespan of your investment.
3. Living in Fear of the Toilet
Do you really need insurance on your phone? In other words, how likely is it really that you’re going to drop your device in the toilet? Well, the answer is higher than you think.
Phone insurance may feel unnecessary, but it can save you a lot of time and money, especially if you’re on the clumsy side. Not only does most insurance cover damages, but many policies offer replacement options in the terrible event your device is stolen. Shapiro says that, when in doubt, always opt in.
“Lost and damaged phones are a common reality for most Americans,” she says. “Over a third of Americans have cracked their phone screens at least once and repair costs for an iPhone can go upwards of $100 (the iPhone X will cost $279 to repair a damaged screen).”
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
4. Running It Down Daily
There’s nothing worse than the constant nagging worry that your phone is about to die. While you can plan ahead and bring along a portable charger (there are plenty that aren’t too cumbersome), it’s more convenient to figure out how to keep your battery from draining in the first place. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to save to keep your phone charged all day long.
Brad Nichols, lead technician at Staymobile, says the first step in conserving your phone’s battery is knowing exactly how it’s being used.
“Assess your battery usage. There are a lot of different things that can kill your phone’s battery, and oftentimes they’re items you aren’t aware of,” says Nichols. “Go to your phone’s battery button under Settings to see what has been draining the battery most recently. You may be surprised at what applications are going behind your back to draw data down from the cellular network when you don’t need or want it to.”
Once you see where your battery is going, you can take steps to modify settings, or even delete certain apps to help save power.
Another great way to save power is by adjusting the brightness level of your screen. Your screen doesn’t need to be at 100 percent brightness all of the time. Trying dimming it or using the auto-brightness setting.
Your notifications can also affect your battery level.
“Vibrations use up more power than ringtones,” says Nichols. “The sounds produced by ringtones are just very tiny vibrations in your smartphone’s speaker. Vibrations are great for notifying you about incoming calls or messages when you’re in the theatre, meetings, or other places where it’s necessary to keep the phone silent,” but you’ll quickly drain your battery if you use the vibration function for all of your notifications, all the time.
In fact, let’s talk about notifications. Do you really need constant news updates or a tip-off every time one of your friends posts something on Instagram? Alerts that light up your phone or create a vibration are a huge battery drain. Take stock of what you really need to be notified about, then adjust your settings accordingly.
If you still struggle with maintaining your battery life, make sure you have a power bank handy for quick charging on-the-go.
If you still suffer from a constant low battery after all these suggestions, you can at least “utilize the low power mode on your phone,” says Nichols. “It turns off processes and otherwise conserves as much power as it can.”
This will help keep your phone running for a little while longer until you can get somewhere and get properly charged.
5. Connecting to Whatever, Wherever
Lots of us take our work or studies to coffee shops or libraries and use public internet while we work. While most places offer password-protected WiFi, if you come across a place that doesn’t, don’t log on.
Hackers can essentially watch what you’re doing online if they have access to an unencrypted WiFi source.
Unencrypted WiFi (that is, WiFi without a password) can place your valuable personable information at risk. “To put it simply, hackers can intercept your activity if using unencrypted WiFi,” Shapiro explains. “Hackers can essentially watch what you’re doing online if they have access to an unencrypted WiFi source.”
So when you work on public WiFi, there are a few steps you can take to be sure your information stays safe.
“The first is to make sure you are using the correct WiFi; some hackers will create their own WiFi hotspot with a familiar name so that people log on without second thought. If you are using public WiFi, check with an employee to ensure you’re connecting to the correct hotspot,” says Shapiro. “Next, use encrypted sites that have an https: address—you’ll see a padlock to the left of the URL, and the website should start with https://, not http://. This means that the website will encrypt any of the data within that website. Lastly, you can also look to use a VPN, or virtual private network. This will encrypt any inbound and outbound data to ensure your information is protected.”
6. Choosing the Wrong Protection
So you finally decided to cash in on your upgrade and got a brand new phone. You swear that this time it will be different—you aren’t going to drop, throw, soak, or otherwise destroy this one. You’re going to treat this device with the care it deserves.
Fast forward a week later, and you’re probably already using it as a coaster or holding it between your teeth as you open your front door. At least you had good intentions, right?
Everyone is pretty hard on their phones, and many people believe a big, dense case is the key to keeping their phones safe and intact.
Cases can be tricky.
While there are some good options available, the truth is that sometimes a phone case will cause more damage than a phone laid bare. Lifeproof offers an assortment of great cases and screen protectors that provide varying levels of protection.
Shapiro explains that “cases can be tricky. There is a variety of options available almost everywhere. Most consumers use cases to protect their phones from drop damage, specifically shattered screens. However, some phone cases can block any escaping heat from the phone, causing the phone itself to get warmer than it should.”
Overheating can cause serious damage to your device. Because you typically never take off the case once it’s on your phone, this continuous buildup of heat can eventually do serious damage. If you want to use a case, look for ones that are not completely restrictive and will allow some airflow to the back of the device.
If you want to enjoy that phone for all it’s worth, it’s time to change your ways for good.