If you’re like most people, your cell phone is practically an appendage. According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone, 77 percent of whom own smartphones. What’s more, smartphone users spend nearly three hours a day using apps, browsing the internet, and keeping in touch with friends and family.
However, despite the ubiquity of these devices, countless individuals don’t exactly know how to keep them in tip-top shape. Perhaps that’s why, according to figures from the Consumer Technology Association, smartphones have a relatively short 4.7-year average lifespan. Consider that smartphones can easily cost $700 or $800—or, in the case of the iPhone X, a whopping $999—and the fact that simple repairs, like screen replacements, can run tabs of more than $150, and you’ll realize that owning a cell phone in the modern era can get expensive, fast.
So, before you ruin another wallet-busting electronic device, learn about all the ways you’re kneecapping your phone’s health, often without even realizing it. Correct course on this behavior, and you’ll never need to visit a cell phone repair shop again. And who knows—you might even be able to wait entire years longer before plopping down serious cash on another digital appendage.
Not cleaning it frequently enough
If you think that wiping down your phone with a little water on a paper towel will get it clean, think again. Not only do many standard methods of cleaning leave you potentially risking water damage if your cleaning materials get into your speaker or headphone jack, they’re also keeping your phone crawling with germs. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Germs, the average high schooler’s phone studied had 17,032 bacterial gene copies on it, including the potentially-deadly Staphylococcus aureus. (That’s the thing that gives you Staph infections.)
So, how should you clean it? Dampen—don’t saturate—a cotton pad or clean cloth with a bit of rubbing alcohol and use a pointed cotton swab to clean out headphone jacks and speaker components.
Keeping it plugged in when it’s fully charged
While topping off your phone from time to time isn’t a bad idea, if you’re keeping your phone plugged in after it’s already at 100 percent, you’re doing yourself a disservice. In fact, according to tech company Cadex’s Battery University, after your phone hits 100 percent, charging it more won’t retain your full charge for a longer period of time. What you will do, however, is mitigate your battery’s efficacy. Upon reaching 100 percent while still plugged in, some lithium ion batteries can actually heat up an additional 9º Fahrenheit, which potentially damages their ability to carry a charge.
Clicking on links from suspicious sources
If you’re clicking on pop-ups or fishy links in your inbox, don’t expect your phone to be long for this world. Clicking suspicious links can expose your phone to viruses and malware, both of which can significantly slow your phone’s operation and potentially expose your private information.
Closing all your apps at once
While leaving a wide array of apps open may seem like it will deplete your battery life, it may actually have the opposite effect in the long run. As developer John Gruber explained to CNBC, closing all your apps at once and later reopening them actually drains more of your battery than if you were to simply leave them running simultaneously.
Not installing software updates
Change is hard, but when it comes to your phone, it’s necessary. While many people simply dismiss those software updates over and over for months, doing so can actually be damaging to your phone. If you’re not updating your software regularly, your apps aren’t working at peak capacity. In fact, according to software company Norton, not updating your apps can make your phone more vulnerable to malware and hacking, potentially putting you at risk for identity theft.
Using your phone in the rain
You probably know well enough not to submerge your phone to clean it off, but many people don’t realize how much using your phone in the rain can damage it. Since many people don’t think that using their phone during a drizzle is akin to dunking it in a sink, they go about using it normally afterward. Big mistake. In fact, the moisture that got inside your phone when you placed that call sans umbrella could be enough to kill it completely. As DE iPhone Repair expert Gary Tan revealed to Phys.org, even a small amount of water in a phone, when connected to a power source, can kill a phone’s circuit board, rendering it useless.
Keeping it in your pocket
If you’re keeping your phone in your front pocket, that’s just another one of the ways you’re ruining your cell phone. In addition to reports of the iPhone 6 and 7 models bending in customers’ pockets, your body heat could deplete its battery. According to Apple, smartphone batteries work best at temperatures between 62º and 72º Fahrenheit—far lower than the 98.6º Fahrenheit your body gives off.
Letting your battery fully deplete
You may have heard time and time again that the best thing you can do for your phone’s battery life is to let it die completely before charging it again. The only problem? Doing so might actually be worse for your phone. According to Samsung, “Overall, and for optimal long-term results, you should keep your phone charged between 40 and 80 percent at all times.”
Using your phone in extreme temperatures
Those treks to the desert and snowy winter walks aren’t exactly phone-friendly activities. Most phones have a temperature range that’s best for them, like between 62º and 72º Fahrenheit, for Apple products, and temperatures outside those narrow boundaries can have a huge effect. In fact, Samsung reports that you can lose between 25 and 35 percent of your battery life per year if you consistently use your phone in extreme heat. To know what’s ideal for yours, conduct the user manual that came with your phone. (Let’s hope you didn’t toss it!)
Dropping your phone
While you may recognize that dropping your device is one of the most obvious ways to ruin your cell phone, that probably doesn’t mean you’re not doing it from time to time. To make matters worse, according to market research firm NPD Group, a full quarter of smartphone users don’t have a case on their phone, making them susceptible to broken screens, malfunctioning ports, and, if you haven’t taken advantage of cloud storage, data loss.
Using all of your storage space
You may not regularly check how much of your phone’s storage space you’re using, but failing to do so can have some seriously deleterious effects on your device. When your storage space is full or close to full, it can significantly slow down your phone, making it harder for apps to load, or even making the photos on your camera roll appear grainy. If you’re looking to clear up some memory fast, start by deleting apps you don’t use, then clean out some of those less-successful selfies from your photo library, and ditch those songs you haven’t listened to in years.
Not using a screen protector
Think that screen protector is a waste of money? Think again. While it may seem like little more than a thin piece of plastic or tempered glass, screen protectors can actually be a major asset when it comes to keeping your phone safe. Computer Repair Doctor’s Matt Ham, speaking to The Wirecutter, admitted that, while screen protectors are far from infallible, any added measure of protection on your phone is a good thing: “[It’s] not an impenetrable force field of protection, it’s an added layer of defense.” And there’s really no excuse not to have one. These days, you can get 2-pack screen protectors on Amazon for the price of a latte.
Jamming the plug into your phone
You might be asking yourself, “How could I possibly be plugging in my phone wrong?” If you’re shoving your charging cable into your phone’s charging port, rather than carefully guiding it in, you could be damaging your phone without knowing it. In fact, doing so can knock your charging port out of proper alignment, meaning your phone doesn’t actually charge fully when it’s plugged in. However, if you’re having problems charging your phone, don’t automatically assume that it’s your port itself: dust and other debris can settle in your charging port, so once in a while, use a clean, soft detail paintbrush or specific phone-cleaning tool to clean it out.
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