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 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.
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, then dive into more Android battery tips.
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 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 truth is that they’re both pretty useful and remarkably similar. But do they kill your battery?
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.
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
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
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, 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.
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). 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.
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 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