The sticker price for a new phone can clock in at $700 or more — with a trade-in, no less. With phones setting you back almost as much as a new laptop, you of course want to make it last longer than the typical year or two most of us manage. Luckily, aside from the obvious, like keeping it out of toilet bowls and puddles, there are a few things you can do to help your phone stay in service way longer than you’d think is possible. Here’s what you need to do.
“Your screen is a crystal lattice and, if you get a scratch on the screen, it’ll make the glass less strong,” says Kyle Wiens, co-founder and CEO of iFixit, a company that provides instruction manuals and necessary pieces for repairing devices. “If you have scratched your screen and then you drop it, it will be more likely to break than if you haven’t scratched the screen.” There are lots of screen protectors out there, but the Otterbox Amplify Screen Protector offers long-lasting strength and scratch resistance that’s up to five times greater than the leading glass alternative. (This makes sense when you realize it’s engineered by Corning, a brand that’s been making innovative glass products for more than 167 years.) A sturdy case is nice, too, of course, if you want the ultimate protection.
Most phones aren’t designed to be used in freezing cold temperatures or extremely high ones. “Both iPhones and Android phones are designed to function normally between 32 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Tosiron Adegbija, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona. If your phone overheats or gets too cold, it could slow down or turn off on its own. In extreme cases, the phone could suffer permanent damage and/or the battery life could be permanently shortened. To warm a phone that’s too cold, Adegbija recommends putting it in your pocket or purse right away. For a phone that’s too hot: Try removing the case and turning off some functions (like GPS and Wi-Fi).
Everything in your phone should really last 10 years or so, save for the battery, which is not designed for this longevity, said Wiens, who adds that the life span of most batteries is around 500 charge cycles. How can you find out how many cycles your phone’s gone through? To get a full picture, you can install coconutBattery on your computer, plug in your iPhone, and it will tell you the estimated cycle count. (For an Android, there’s AccuBattery.) Or, you can just plan on replacing the battery every 18 months. That’s how long it’ll take most of us to hit that 500 mark.
Researchers are still looking into ways to improve phone performance and energy consumption, but generally speaking, uninstalling some apps and using cloud storage can help. “Cloud storage can help free up your phone and reduce the stress on the device,” says Adegbija. For example, instead of downloading documents, try Google Docs, which won’t hog processing power or memory space.
While it’s not very common for cellphones to get infected with a virus or malware, it can happen — usually through the download of an app. “In general, the best way to prevent [viruses or malware] is to avoid downloading and installing apps that aren’t from the Apple or Google app stores,” Adegbija says. “This isn’t to say all apps from outside of these stores are malicious.” It’s just that viruses or malware are harder to get through these stores. Also, to protect your phone and your personal information, be careful about email attachments and visiting unsecured websites on your phone.