These days, it feels like smartphones become outdated after only a few months. By the time your phone is ready for an upgrade, a new release is due to hit stores in a few more months. Short of buying every new phone available, how do you make sure your phone stays up to date for as long as possible?
Whether or not you believe in “planned obsolescence,” there’s a good chance your own bad habits are slowly damaging your phone over time. Here are some things to avoid.
1. Buying Cheap Cables (and Treating Them Poorly)
Let’s start with the most…explosive way you can destroy your phone: cheap, off-brand charging cables. I’m not talking about trusted manufacturers like Anker or those that carry the Made For iPhone certification, but the no-name USB cables you found for $1 at the corner store.
Many of these cables can permanently damage your device—or worse, put you at risk of fire or electrocution. It isn’t worth the short-term savings: Buy your chargers from a known brand. Then, once you have quality cables, treat them with care.
If you abuse them, you can cause the wires inside to fray, which in and of itself is a fire hazard. So stop wrapping your cables so tightly, and avoid yanking them out of the wall from the cord—pull them out from the actual plug. You don’t want to end up on the evening news as a victim of another battery explosion.
2. Not Using a Case (or a Good Warranty)
How many people do you know with a cracked or shattered screen? We all think it won’t happen to us…until it does. You may prefer the cleaner look of a caseless phone, but it just isn’t worth the risk—even small chips and cracks can ruin the structural integrity and make large-scale damage more likely.
Not only that, but those small chips and cracks can destroy the phone’s resale value when you want to sell your iPhone or Android before upgrading down the line.
So for the love of Jony Ive, keep your phone in a case! A good case with a “lip” around the edge is ideal, and a tough screen protector is a good idea, too (because no, your screen is not scratch-proof). Brands like Silk, Spigen, Speck, and OtterBox are good places to start for solid, time-tested protection.
If you absolutely must go naked, just be ready to pay for repairs if accidents happen. And if you find those accidents happening more often than you expect—say, once a year—then you’re a prime candidate for an insurance plan like AppleCare+, SquareTrade, or Zagg Protect. They’re pricey (and even with those insurance plans, repairs aren’t free), but if you’re particularly clumsy and don’t use a case, they may be worth it.
3. Draining Your Battery Too Often
Phone batteries degrade over time; after a few years, maximum battery life won’t be as high as it was when the devices were brand new. These things are inevitable, but bad habits can speed up that degradation and kill your battery sooner. To avoid this, you should perform regular, shallow discharges, and recharge your phone before it dies—you don’t want to run it down to 0% all the time.
Don’t worry about charging it overnight, or putting it in the freezer (how did that myth start?). Just try to keep the battery above 30% or so, letting it discharge occasionally to calibrate the sensors, and you’ll keep your battery healthy as long as possible. For more on managing battery life, check out our guide for iPhone and Android devices.
4. Too Many Underwater Selfies
There’s no such thing as a truly “waterproof” gadget, despite what some advertising might say. (Remember the Sony Xperia fiasco?) Certain devices may be more water-resistant than others, but there’s always a chance water can find its way inside, and the more you expose your device to water, the more you degrade its resistance.
So even if your device is rated IP67 or IP68, use in water sparingly. It may not damage your phone right away, but over time and repeated exposure, you’re just asking for trouble. And if you do expose your iPhone to water, there’s an Apple Shortcut that can help.
5. Not Practicing Good Security
Too many people are quick to throw security to the wind for quick gratification. Case in point: Software updates. Those “security” patches that appear on your phone may seem boring and non-urgent, but they can protect your device from malware and other serious issues. Don’t put them off. Make sure your apps update too, as they’ll often contain similar bug fixes and security updates that keep you safe.
On the more extreme end of things, be careful with the apps and tweaks you do install. If you’re trying to pirate paid apps using a sketchy app store, you’re going to have a bad time. Just don’t do it: The $3 savings is definitely not worth the increased risk of getting malware. Stick to the official App Store or Google Play storefront on your phone.
At the same time, be wary of fake apps in those stores. These are often adware-riddled apps designed to mimic popular services everyone uses or premium SMS scams in the form of harmless utilities that bill you for services you never signed up for. Keep a close eye on what you download, read the reviews, and make sure it’s the official version of the app. You don’t want malware compromising your phone just because you didn’t look closely enough.
Unsure if your phone is infected? Here are some telltale signs. You may also wish to invest in an antivirus for your Android device in order to stop any intrusions before they become a problem.