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Like everything in technology, mobile phones are prone to myths and rumors that just don’t seem to die. We’re going to tackle 10 of the most prevalent smartphone myths today and see if we can’t do our part in ending the misinformation surrounding today’s smartphones.

Let’s get started.

Apps Running in the Background Should Be Closed to Save Battery and Avoid Slowdowns

Apple and Android both allow applications to run in the background for more efficient multi-tasking. This myth seems as if it could be legitimate due to the idea that any additional processes use system resources, and the more programs you have running, the slower the device will be.

However, both operating systems limit just how much these apps can do while they’re running in the background; Android, less so than Apple. But the amount of drain to your battery is quite minimal, and as far as slowing down your phone is concerned, it’s unlikely that multi-tasking is the culprit.

A side effect of this myth has been the myriad of task killer apps Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android At first glance, RAM boosters and task killers sound incredibly useful, but a closer look shows that they could actually be harming your phone instead. Read More that litter both marketplaces. These apps are essentially useless, and while they do their job by closing background apps, they aren’t actually saving much in the way of resources, or battery life. You see, both Android and iOS will automatically kill a task when more memory is needed and neither will show a noticeable difference without any apps running in the background.

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You Should Let Your Battery Drain Completely Before Recharging

Lithium-ion batteries actually perform better when they remained charged. Older NiCAD and NiMH lasted longer when you let them fully drain before charging back to 100 percent. Modern batteries don’t face this same sort of problem because they don’t have “cell memory” like the older NiCAD and NiMH rechargeables. Learn more about how a battery works and what you’re doing to ruin it How a Battery Works and 3 Ways You Can Ruin It How a Battery Works and 3 Ways You Can Ruin It The modern battery is featured in so many of our favourite technologies that you could almost be forgiven for not spending time learning about their workings. Read More , then dive into more Android battery tips Keep Your Android's Battery Healthy With These Tips Keep Your Android's Battery Healthy With These Tips Software and apps can only go so far -- what about how to charge and discharge your battery? Learn all the tricks here. Read More .

However, there is still some truth to this rumor. While it doesn’t make your battery last any longer, some experts agree that you should be doing a 0-100 cycle – that is, letting it drain completely before fully recharging – every three months, or after 40 partial cycles. It’s not to increase the life of your battery, but instead it’s called a “calibration” and it helps the reading that shows on your display to remain accurate.

Bluetooth/Wi-Fi Direct Kills Your Battery

bluetooth-logo

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct enable you to transfer huge files or other data from device to device in rapid fashion. While we can debate which one is better The Differences Between Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi Direct You Need To Know The Differences Between Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi Direct You Need To Know If you take a peek into the future, it's hard not to envision an always-on society that features a multitude of connected devices that work in unison to make your life more convenient. Read More , the truth is that they’re both pretty useful and remarkably similar. But do they kill your battery?

No.

Newer generations of Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi Direct drain little-to-no power while they’re not in use. Once you enable another device and begin transferring files, that’s when they’ll start eating your battery. Until then, just having them enabled isn’t going to cause any noticeable battery drain.

Higher Specs Mean Better Performance

At its surface, this myth holds some weight, but the truth is that it’s not a reliable enough indicator for performance. Android has dozens of devices that come out each year, and some of them have rather impressive specifications. However, having great specs does not a good phone make.

Cell phone cameras are the most egregious offenders when it comes to spec wars. The reality is, a 12-megapixel camera could be far inferior to an 8-megapixel camera in every major category apart from image size.

The same could be said for multi-core processors What Does "Dual Core" & "Quad Core" Mean? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Does "Dual Core" & "Quad Core" Mean? [MakeUseOf Explains] At one point, our computers had a central processing unit (CPU) with a single core. These days, most CPUs you'll come across are dual core, quad core, or even octo core. We'll explain exactly what... Read More .

In addition, there are other factors in play. For example, there are several Android phones with better specs than an iPhone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the phone is any faster or superior to the one with inferior specs. The operating system matters, as does user behavior while using it.

Specs are for marketers to woo consumers; don’t be fooled.

The Only Charger You Should Be Using is the One that Came with Your Phone

To some extent, this myth exists solely to put money in the pockets of the phone manufacturer’s. While smartphones have razor thin profit margins, the accessory market makes up a good deal of a company’s revenue. As such, they are highly motivated to keep you buying $30 to $50 OEM chargers.

The truth of the matter is that any charger built to manufacturers specs are safe to use with your phone.

What most consumers don’t understand is that there is a difference between a quality third party charger, and that of a cheap Chinese knock-off. Quality manufacturers, such as Belkin, Amazon and others are completely safe to use with your smartphone, as they are built to the original specs of the Apple charger.

The knock-offs, on the other hand, have been shown to be rather dangerous.

Charging Your Phone Overnight Kills the Battery

phone-charging

This is another myth that was true at one point, but as battery and charging technologies have improved, it’s now completely false. Older batteries weren’t smart enough to realize when they’re full, and overcharging them consistently led to decreased battery life over time.

Today’s charging mechanisms are smarter. Once your phone is fully charged, it stops drawing electricity.

It’s completely acceptable to charge your smartphone while you sleep.

Consumers Want Smaller Devices

phablet-lineup

We laugh at movies like Zoolander that display pinky-sized flip phones, but we were once heading that direction. We’re not anymore.

Consumer behavior has shifted Phablets Growing In Popularity, Apple Gunning For Switzerland, And More... [Tech News Digest] Phablets Growing In Popularity, Apple Gunning For Switzerland, And More... [Tech News Digest] Also, tweets in space, the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, cheap Windows tablets, next-generation Minecraft, and Ikea mocks Apple. Read More , and while smaller phones were once all the rage, today’s screens are bigger than ever. It turns out, consumers are quite keen on more real estate for apps, email, games and video chatting. The success of the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy Note offer the only real proof you need to see that consumer demand is beginning to shift toward bigger and more powerful phones.

In fact, we’ve created a new sub-section of cell phones known as the “phablet” to help meet this demand. One part phone, one part tablet, and undeniably a big part of the near future for the cell phone market.

Turning Off the Phone/Removing the SIM/Putting it in Airplane Mode Keeps You From Being Tracked

The first thing that’s important to understand is that unless you’re in a terrorist sleeper cell, or running from the police, law enforcement really has no need or desire to track you.

First, let’s address airplane mode. Putting your phone in airplane mode basically turns off Wi-Fi and cellular service in order to act as a “do not disturb” switch for your phone. This will not keep anyone from tracking you, especially via satellite How Do Satellites Track Mobile Phones? [Technology Explained] How Do Satellites Track Mobile Phones? [Technology Explained] Read More .

You see, a phone essentially has two operating systems. The first connects to the cellular networks around you while the other is a direct interface between phone and consumer. When you switch your phone into airplane mode, it disables one part of the operating system (the consumer facing one), but the part of your phone that communicates with cellular networks is still active. It won’t keep you from being tracked.

The truth is, a phone needs power in order to transmit a signal, so turning off the phone, or (better yet) removing the battery will indeed keep you from being tracked (or you can use a burner phone Sick of the NSA Tracking You? Burn Them with a Burner Phone Sick of the NSA Tracking You? Burn Them with a Burner Phone Sick of the NSA tracking you using your phone's positioning coordinates? Prepaid phones known colloquially as "burners" can provide you with partial privacy. Read More ). Except, not always. Phones that are infected with certain types of malware, such as the estimated 10,000 currently running Android’s PowerOffHijack (no, you won’t find it in Google Play) spoof the usual shutdown animation and make it appear as if your phone is off. The reality is, it’s not, and it’s probably tracking you.

Removing the SIM also won’t work, as your phone still has built-in identifiers detectable by Stingray devices, or fake cell towers used by the NSA. These devices are all used by government agencies, military and law enforcement in the United States.

The only foolproof way to avoid tracking is to remove the battery. Of course, if you’re using an iPhone 6, a  Galaxy S6, or other phone that doesn’t allow you access to the battery, the only real option is ditching the phone, or investing in a privacy case, which is essentially a Faraday Cage for your phone. Nothing goes in, nothing goes out.

Ska Direct 100% Anti-tracking Anti-spying GPS Rfid Signal Blocker Pouch Case Bag Handset Function Bag for Cell Phone Privacy Protection and Car Key FOB - (Black) Ska Direct 100% Anti-tracking Anti-spying GPS Rfid Signal Blocker Pouch Case Bag Handset Function Bag for Cell Phone Privacy Protection and Car Key FOB - (Black) High quality and perfect design, Can be used as a wallet at the same time Buy Now At Amazon $4.96

Automatic Brightness Settings Save Battery

This is completely false. The idea is, by using the on-board light sensor of a smartphone, it can automatically calibrate the ideal brightness setting to save power.

The reality is, this might save you a bit of battery by dimming your screen when appropriate, but that pesky light sensor actually uses more power over the course of the day by constantly pinging your CPU to process the data it collects and decide if a lower (or higher) brightness setting is appropriate.

The Open Source Nature of Android Makes it More Prone to Vulnerabilities

Open source software What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] "Open source" is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. You may know that certain things are open source, like Linux and Android, but do you know what it entails? What is open... Read More is by its very definition, well, open. Giving access to the inner workings of the operating system could lead to exploits, but you might be surprised to know that Android as an operating system is remarkably secure.

What’s not secure are the apps. The open nature of the app marketplace, and the ability to run apps outside of the centralized Google Play marketplace makes Android phones more susceptible to malware exploits than Apple with its somewhat heavy-handed app store.

Are there any myths you’d like to add? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what mobile phone myths you’d like to see die. 

Photo credit: Bluetooth Logo by Intel Free Press, Phablets by Maria Elena both via Flickr

  1. Károly Németh
    August 14, 2015 at 1:56 am

    "The truth is that it’s not a reliable enough indicator for performance." AND "The success of the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy Note offer the only real proof you need to see that consumer demand is beginning to shift toward bigger and more powerful phones." I totally disagree with these statements. Actually you have to buy bigger phone if you want stronger device AND you have to buy stronger device if you want smoother performance. This is a trap of 22. The apps need more and more... This segment like PC area. Every factory and software company want more and more money. They push their advertisements and most consumer believe them.

    Performance unfortunately does matter. I have a tablet and a phone (from 2 very big mainstream brand) with 1 GB RAM and 8 GB ROM and suffer with every task. Well I bought a phone (from a very new Chinese factory) with 2 GB RAM and 16 GB ROM and it works very well. (I watch many in-depth review before decision.) Most company make their product in China.

    Non-removable battery is a big disadvantage. This part could be bad first. Sometimes you need more juice and a bigger or secondary battery is very useful. (An additional good sample: youtube.com/watch?v=lwqTco90tcY)
    Other bad factory choices: one SIM card slot, lack of SD card slot, 2 or more partition of storage, lack of OTG, lack of App2SD

  2. Bill Rabbit
    August 12, 2015 at 3:53 am

    So much of what you said is just plain wrong that I tend not to believe the rest. Wifi destroys your battery, no not connecting to devices but just DETECTING networks. Higher specs IS better performance. How that performance is used is software. Airplane mode shuts down all cellular emissions. You even say so yourself it turns off cellular and then the next sentence you say but it doesn't turn off the cellular network. Of course it shuts down tower pinging, are you dense? Open source makes it far more vulnerable to malware, the thing about open source though is that millions of programmers can view it and when it's open it is easily patched and fixed by anyone who cares to fix it, in this case google and all the other large companies. THe sensor for brightness uses next to nothing while the display on a phone can be 90% of the power consumption. Are you nuts? And yes consumers want smaller devices, but bigger screens. Apps run in the background use power, more than if not used, what is not to understand about that? Especially if they have features using functions of the phone like GPS. This is the worst article of "debunking" I've ever read. Go back to college and get a computer science degree.

  3. Ranuka Perera
    August 11, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    I disagree with the closing apps point. It is true that in a new flagship phone it is useless to close apps as the system will automatically close the others. But in low end or old mid range android phones, closing apps helps a lot because running a single app in the foreground would kill the launcher and other background apps. When switching back, if you didn't kill the app, the launcher would have to fight with the app over the remaining memory.

  4. jsteedley
    August 11, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    I don't think people want to disable tracking to prevent the 'authorities' from knowing their location.
    I think they do it to prevent *businesses* [Google knows where you are] from tracking their location.
    If the authorities are 'tracking' you, your 'privacy' is the last thing to worry about.

    Have a GREAT day, Neighbors!

  5. L3 CM
    August 11, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Some of these are correct. Others... not so much. I work in IT and just this week I came across an iOS device with 72 open applications running simultaneously. Many had not been used for months. The OS does not shut down or "kill" apps automatically without user interaction. Also, as the apps are using processing power and RAM to remain available to the user, they are using battery power. Therefore stopping those processes can save battery power and improve performance. The same goes for your wifi and bluetooth section. Those radios are useless without power - therefore shutting them off can help conserve battery power. The savings may be minimal depending on the context, but it is there nonetheless. Scientific facts.

    I appreciated many of your points, but you need to include your research documentation (a link) for each one - it will make your article much more credible. Thanks for writing.

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 17, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      Thanks for the civil and polite style of discussion, L3 CM! Always a pleasure when commenters are constructive instead of ranting. I hope to see more of you around here at MakeUseOf :)

  6. Slashee the Cow
    August 11, 2015 at 8:58 am

    I said the idea of airplane mode was to prevent interference. I didn't say it was necessary (and hey, even before the FAA allowed phone usage on planes, many planes had WiFi, so it obviously couldn't have been any and all RF that would pose a problem). However, I don't have the equipment to test whether my phone attempts to communicate with the outside world when in airplane mode, so I can't be 100% sure due to a lack of first hand experience.

    I will agree that the best way to make sure is to pull the battery though... unfortunately that isn't an option on most recent smartphones (I'm not worried about being tracked so much as I like for there to be a way that's guaranteed to reboot it if it freezes, or to be able to replace the battery if I know I'll be away from a charger for a while - yes, you can get the mobile power banks these days, but they're less efficient - you lose power when charging it, it discharges when not in use, then you lose power when you use it to charge your phone, plus you have to keep it connected for as long as it takes to charge - I'd much rather be able to do a 30 second swap to get back up to full power).

    As for your last point: yes, giving good guy hackers access to source code also means giving bad guy hackers access to it. But the bad guys are already going to be looking for vulnerabilities, and they tend not to have too much trouble finding them (Windows is closed source and has vulnerabilities exploited fairly often, and while exploits for OS X or iOS are less common, they do still happen). So if the bad guys are going to be trying anyway, it helps to have more good guys trying to find these things before the bad guys do.

    But the article is correct about the main reason there's more malware for Android just being that it's much easier to run apps which haven't been checked or anything (apps on the Google Play Store get automatically scanned for viruses, and I'm pretty sure they get run in an emulator to check for suspicious behaviour too - Google isn't completely open about how they test apps, because if they were, the bad guys would know more about how to sneak bad apps past them). A good piece of advice for Android is to always leave the option for installing apps from outside the Play Store turned off, and if you want to install an app manually (sideload it) turn the option on, install your app, then turn it off again.

  7. BeaTz
    August 11, 2015 at 3:03 am

    About the charging overnight, it's true that nowadays battery is smart so it makes the phones cut-off the electricity when it's full. But I read somewhere sometime ago that the problem of charging overnight will affect the lifecycle of the battery, because some phones will charge your battery again when it reach 90% mark. As you know, smartphones battery have lifecycle that tells how many charges are safe for the battery.
    I don't think this affect all smartphones...

  8. Bryan Clark
    August 10, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    Airplane mode shuts off your ability to make and receive calls as well as disabling mobile Internet. It doesn't keep the phone from pinging nearby cell towers. In essence, it disables the UI of your phone, as well as limits the functionality, but it's still trackable through cell tower triangulation, and other methods.

  9. Matthew Day
    August 10, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    Isn't airplane mode back to front - it leaves the UI on, so you can play games, view videos etc., but turns off wireless emissions to comply with airline regulations.

    Similarly, receive only GPS may be left enabled, so the phone can track it's position, but in airplane mode, cannot report it to other services.

    The key point, in airplane mode, the device is no longer a functioning phone, just a game & media player.

    • Bryan Clark
      August 10, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Airplane mode shuts off your ability to make and receive calls as well as disabling mobile Internet. It doesn’t keep the phone from pinging nearby cell towers. In essence, it disables the UI of your phone, as well as limits the functionality, but it’s still trackable through cell tower triangulation, and other methods.

      • Slashee the Cow
        August 11, 2015 at 4:59 am

        I'm pretty sure airplane mode DOES stop your phone pinging cell towers - and not just because there's no point pinging them if you can't use calls or data, but the whole idea of airplane mode is to prevent the signals from your phone from interfering with sensetive electronics (like the avionics in a plane) - if airplane mode didn't turn off the signals coming out of your phone and just made it look like it did, there'd be absolutely, positively, no point to it.

        Also, about automatic brightness: if you're the sort of person who would leave manual brightness pretty high, it will save battery when it turns the screen down. The brightness sensor itself uses a basically non-existant amount of power and it's only active when the screen is on, meaning at least one processor core is going to be awake, waiting for input anyway, so running it for a few cycles isn't going to use a meaningful amount of power anyway (and certainly FAR less power than would be used by leaving the screen brightness up - if you actually use your phone, the screen is going to be the part of it that uses the most power... even on low brightness, but especially on high).

        Also, about charging overnight: when the battery reaches full, the phone will start trickle charging. Nowhere near as bad as things used to be, but it's still drawing a little bit of power, which isn't good. Unless you have a robotic phone which physically unplugs its power cable when it's full, of course.

        Also, about task killer apps: I usually like to mention that they'll use more battery power than they save. Not only does the processor have to run the task killer, but an inactive task, dormant in memory, uses no power (since the phone is powering the RAM anyway). If you force that task to close, closing it uses power (since apps get a chance to save information on exit) and then opening it later when you're going to use it again uses more power (since it's starting from a clean slate).

        Also, about Android being more or less secure because it's open source: I might be biased on this, because I'm an Android fanboy, but I'd argue that being open source helps. Sure, anyone can look through the code and try and find a security hole to exploit, but not everyone who knows programming is a ne'er-do-well who's going to use it for evil, most are white hat (good guy) or grey hat (willing to sell what they find, and Google is usually willing to pay for holes in Android to keep them out of the hands of the bad guys). With a closed source program, you don't get all those well intentioned people helping you find holes.

        • Bryan Clark
          August 11, 2015 at 8:17 am

          Airplane mode is sort of a "do not disturb" button for your phone. There are many components that are still working under the hood, and some of these may actually go beyond pinging a cell tower... there are rumors that the GPS units in some major cell phones don't just receive a signal, they can actually send one as well. I can't say if this is true or not, because it's not like major phone companies (Apple, Samsung, LG, etc.) are lining up to let us know about features in their phones designed to track you. It could also be false, but thinking that airplane mode does disable everything within a phone that can track you is incorrect.

          And this...

          "to prevent the signals from your phone from interfering with sensetive (sic) electronics (like the avionics in a plane)"

          Has been proven inaccurate, and now - in the US at least - the FAA no longer requires you to turn off electronic devices.

          I agree with he points about the light sensor using less power than the screen at full brightness, although I supposed I'd have to test it to see if it's accurate... but it seems legit.

          The task killer app comment is a good point.

          The charging mention... all of the major cell phone companies have come out and said it's safe to charge their devices overnight. You are correct in the point that all electronics draw some amount of power, even when they're fully charged, or not in use. That said, it's not harmful to the battery or the device, and the amount of power we're talking about is miniscule.

          I can't disagree with the Android point, but I can pose a question. You mention that giving access to the source code (or parts of it) can lead to good guy hackers showing vulnerabilities in the code to Google (or others)... but the opposite could also be true, right? But then again, the OS isn't the problem, it is (and will remain) the open app ecosystem and the potential for exploitative applications including all sorts of (growingly sophisticated) malware.

          All great points. Thanks for taking the time to share them.

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