Most of us are doing at least one thing a day that shortens the lifespan of our favorite gadgets without even knowing it.
Take smartphones for example. Eighty-five percent of Americans have one, according to Pew Research Center, and more than 70% are checking theirs within the first 10 minutes of waking up each morning. It’s our constant companion, keeper of all things. They also cost a small fortune to replace.
Here are 10 common mistakes people make that wear out these beloved do-everything devices.
1. You might be burning out your battery without knowing it.
Your smartphone is your most powerful communication tool, but it’s no good if it’s dead. The lithium-ion batteries in our phones last longest when we keep them charged between 30% and 80% throughout the day — not just topped up to 100% then down to zero.
Don’t worry about charging it overnight. That’s OK with many smartphone makers adding a “trickle charging” function — which lets the battery drop below 100% to help it last longer — just be sure to keep it above that 30% throughout the day. That said, it’s OK to let it discharge occasionally to calibrate the sensors, but don’t make a habit of it.
2. Stop letting your device get too hot or too cold.
If you’re in the habit of treating your smartphone, tablet or laptop as though it were designed with temperature torture tests in mind, that’s another problem. Apple, Samsung and most other device manufacturers say to avoid letting the temperature of your battery-powered gadgets dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or soar above 95 degrees. If it’s particularly cold outside, keep your phone in a pocket so that it can benefit from the warmth of your body, and conversely, keep electronics out of direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
3. Quit quitting your apps.
Smartphones are designed to keep apps open in the background. Forcibly closing them may satisfy that little part of your brain that wants to keep things neat and tidy, but because it takes more juice to start an app fresh than to wake it up, you’re beating up on your battery every time you do it. Stop!
4. Disable background refresh for apps that don’t need it.
Background refresh allows apps you’re not actively using to continue to work on their own, fetching social updates, refreshing lists or syncing data online. All of these tiny actions use up some of your battery, and it can add up fast.
On iOS, head to Settings and then General. From here, tap Background App Refresh and toggle it off for any apps you don’t absolutely need to be working in the background.
On Android, a feature called Adaptive Battery takes care of a lot of the headaches for you, but you need to make sure it’s turned on. Go to Settings, then Battery. From here, go into Adaptive Preferences and turn Adaptive Battery on. Your device will now limit battery usage for apps that shouldn’t use it or that you rarely use.
5. Your passwords might have security risks.
There’s no reason to not be using a password manager today. Both iOS and Android have them built-in, the most popular browsers all sync passwords across multiple devices, and it doesn’t even matter if you’re using a Mac or Windows.
Still, despite the convenient and secure options, some of us still use our birthdays, or other incredibly easy passwords to hack like “123456” or “password.”
Want to see if hackers can get at your passwords? There’s an easy way to check on iOS:
Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
In Settings, tap on Passwords.
Enter your passcode, Touch ID or Face ID.
Underneath AutoFull Passwords, you'll see Security Recommendations. A number will appear to notify you of how many risks have been spotted.
Tap on Security Recommendations. Your iPhone or iPad will list the accounts that have been compromised and have passwords appear in a known data leak. Tap on Change Password on Website.
6. Use a password manager.
Password manager apps like 1Password, LastPass and Bitwarden are great choices if you want to use a single storage solution across all of your apps, websites and gadgets. I even store many of my passwords on an Excel spreadsheet on my laptop — because a security advisor once told me the odds of someone breaking into my home, stealing my laptop, getting past my security settings and finding that spreadsheet — are far less than getting struck by lightning.
7. Security safeguards
Recent built-in password saving tools in your web browser or mobile operating system are also great ways to better lock down your privacy and security — and they’re totally free too. And when the password manager on your browser or mobile device pops up to suggest a password, it’s OK to use it. That’s what it’s there for.
For an added layer of security, enable two-factor authentication on your phone or tablet. In most cases, this requires you to input a special code that arrives via text message. Then, if a crook tries to break into your account, they’ll need your username, password and your phone to make it happen — which to be honest — is really, really rare.
Also, you can always check the site Have I Been Pwned to see if your email addresses have been involved in data breaches.
8. More privacy patrols
People love to complain about big tech companies intruding in their private lives, but very few of us actually take advantage of the tools right at our fingertips to do anything about it. It’s really easy to revoke a great deal of access to our data with a few tweaks.
The two easiest changes you can make is to limit the power of intrusive ads and nix location access from any apps that don’t absolutely need it. Giving apps permission to access personal data usually produces more personalized ads, but with so many security leaks from big companies these days, you never know where that data will actually end up. The same goes for location data, which is often requested by apps that have no business knowing where you are.
On iOS, tweak permissions inside of the Privacy section of your Settings. For starters, toggle off Allow Apps To Request To Track. Next, select Location Services and toggle location access off for apps that you know don’t need it. If you don’t really use maps apps at all, toggle location access off entirely.
Android users can find similar options under the Permissions Manager menu under Privacy within Settings.
Toggling off location access for most apps won’t pose a problem. Of course, apps that use your location provide a service, like Uber or Lyft, will still need access to work as intended.
9. “Free app” fails
Free app trials are tempting for a reason. “I’ll remember to cancel this cool new photo editing app within the next week,” you think to yourself. No, you won’t. And what’s worse is that you won’t realize you forgot for another six months. It can be hard to actually find your current app subscriptions, and that’s probably also not a coincidence.
On iOS, you have to go into Settings, then click your name at the top to open your Apple ID settings. From here, click Subscriptions and you’ll see a list of all the apps you’re subscribed to, with the renew dates.
On Android it’s slightly more laborious. First, open Settings, then click Google, then Manage your Google Account. From here, tap Payments & Subscriptions and then select Manage Subscriptions.
Chances are you’re going to find at least a couple of apps that you signed up for but either never use anymore or simply forgot to cancel. Tap on these apps and unsubscribe to save yourself some unwanted charges.
10. Cover it!
This one should go without saying, but sadly, people still walk around with expensive smartphones with no protective case to save it from spills, drops, slips and dips. Not having a case on your phone is like driving around a car without a bumper. Invest in one that will protect it from all of life’s little bumps and falls.