We depend upon our smartphones. They keep us connected, informed, and up to date during the hectic daily grind. For many of us, those smartphones have become more than a simple tool, so we should probably take better care of them than we do. Instead of treating them as if they are toys that can be replaced on a whim, we should treat smartphones as if they contain sensitive data and our jobs depend upon them.
What steps can you take to make sure you don't damage or destroy your mobile device? I have a list of nasty things that can be hazardous to the health your smartphone or tablet. Give this a read and see whether you're guilty of any of these abusive behaviors.
1: Exposing it to the elements
Both heat and cold can bring that smart device to the land of devastation. Leaving your phone in a car in the heat of summer or overnight in the cold of winter is a surefire way of saying goodbye and having to return to your carrier for a replacement. Studies have shown that Android devices fare better in the cold than do IOS devices, but at about -40 degrees Fahrenheit both platforms will cease to work.
Heat is worse. At 113 degrees Fahrenheit, the devices will be adversely affected. The best way to avoid the effects of heat is to turn off the device. The moral of this story: Don't leave your phone in your car (and if you find yourself in the desert, turn that device off).
2: Rooting improperly
There's a certain cross-section of users who want to take as much control over their devices as possible. To do this, they root their smartphones. There are many reasons to root a device — as well as one reason not to. There is always a slim chance that an improper rooting can brick a phone. This is why, on every set of rooting instructions you find, you will see warnings that should have average users turning away from act. Actually, in many cases, there are tools that make rooting quite simple. But even with that simplicity, you could find yourself with a device refusing to function. Root carefully.
3: Ignoring malware
Malware isn't just for desktops. In fact, the threat of malware could do even worse damage on a smartphone. Why? Because smartphone malware can track your location (no matter where you are), snatch highly sensitive data, among other things. It is crucial that you use caution when installing apps on your smartphone. I always recommend that users install an app like Malwarebytes to keep their phones as malware free as possible. Do not ignore the threat of malware. Install enough malware-filled apps and your phone will become useless until it is removed.
4: Cramming it full
Smartphones have precious little storage space. Unless you use an Android phone and use SD cards intelligently, you can quickly fill up those devices until they won't work. My wife was completely unaware she was working without an SD card until the device started malfunctioning. I discovered she had no space remaining, added an SD card, and transferred all her photos from main storage. All was well. Without enough storage space, the device simply won't function. Monitor the space on your device and if possible, use SD cards.
5: Leaving it on... always
Our smartphones work, and work, and work, and work. In fact, in many cases these devices work better than our desktops and laptops. Thing is, even these remarkably stable mobile platforms need to be given a rest. At least once a week, reboot that device or (even better) shut it down for 30 minutes or so. Doing this will ensure that caches are cleared and subsystems are properly restarted. Shutting down the device once a week will aid with the longevity of the RAM on the device and allow certain diagnostics to be run at boot.
6: Botching the SIM card lock
There is one good reason to place a lock on your SIM card — so others can't use it. However, botch the SIM card lock and that SIM card is toast. I understand this is not the device itself — but until you can get the SIM card replaced, your phone will not function. If you feel the need to place a lock on the SIM card, do so VERY carefully. If you're not sure how to do this, read my post Pro tip: Protect your Android SIM card with a SIM PINlock.
7: Plugging it in carelessly
Those micro USB connections aren't as bad as USB connections (there's always a 50/50 chance you'll get it right on the first try), but they still can be a bit tricky to connect. When frustration sets in, it's tempting to force the issue. Fight that urge at all costs. One swift push and the micro USB port is ruined. You break that and the phone is gone (at least when the battery finally runs down). Believe me, I've known a few people that have done this and wound up having to shell out for a new device. Always use care when connecting the device.
8: Pocket dwelling
For some odd reason, the younger generations have a penchant for shoving their devices into the back pockets of their skinny jeans. The first, obvious, risk is breakage. If those jeans don't have enough spandex in the fabric, and you sit the wrong way, that device could snap in half (with enough pressure). The other risk is due to the infinitesimal size of the pockets — barely large enough to hide half of the phone. Stand up too quickly and the phone will be jettisoned and crash down on the floor. Don't let death by skinny jeans be the end of your smartphone.
9: Flashing the wrong ROM
There are many ROMs out there for Android devices — ROMs that bring all kinds of amazing functionality or even just a bare minimum of functionality. But if you flash the wrong ROM onto your device, it will be toast. Flashing an incorrect ROM could even render the cell radio dead. Make absolutely sure that you're flashing a ROM that was designed for your specific device. You have been warned.
10: Getting it wet
I left the obvious for last. You might be surprised that even the slightest bit of water can do irreparable damage to a smartphone. This means if you use your device for outdoor activities (such as running or cycling), be sure to put the device in a waterproof case or baggie. Just make sure it doesn't get too hot or you'll run the risk of heat damage. If your device does get exposed to water, the first thing you should do is shut it down and pull out the battery (if applicable). And you can always use the "rice trick" —submerge the device in dry rice so all the moisture is removed. I have done this, and it works (if the moisture hasn't already destroyed the device).
Take no chances
Your smartphone isn't invincible. The likelihood that you'll destroy your device is low... but not low enough that you should ignore best practices. Treat that device with care and it will last you until the day before your contract expires. ;-)
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What other kinds of damage have you seen inflicted on mobile devices? Share your tips and cautionary tales with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.