We’ve all heard it before: Unplug your device so it doesn’t overcharge. Or perhaps you’ve heard that you should close your apps to save battery. After all, smartphones are one of the most widely-used electronics in the world. As a result, there’s a lot of opinions out there on how to best maintain them. With that in mind, we’ve researched and compiled some of these popular myths for your convenience and edification! Cool, right? We thought so!
iPhones, being the most active phones in the U.S., are the subject of this series. So, let’s start debunking!
Stop Closing All Your Apps!
First on our list is an oldie, but a goodie. Despite many plainly-stated, unequivocal answers which echo a resounding “No!” I still see people “cleaning” out their active apps. There hasn’t been a more succinct answer on this topic than from Apple’s Senior Vice President of software engineering, and your friend's rich-but-cool dad, Craig Federighi. Answering a customer’s e-mail originally intended for Tim Cook, as he often does, Mr. Federighi categorically denies any necessity for closing apps.
“No and No” from Apple’s VP of software engineering is good enough for us, but to elaborate just a bit, here’s why: Essentially, apps that show up in your “recent apps” are in such low power states that they’re not impacting battery life really at all. Coupled with this is the simple fact that you use your phone, and if you close all of your apps – no matter how light your usage is – when they need to be opened again, by you or the system, more CPU power and therefore battery power is used getting them open again.
There are a couple quick caveats to this approach. With apps that are background-resource-heavy like Facebook and other social media, closing them without disabling “background app refresh” won’t do you much good. Also, in the case of location-tracking apps, limiting location services is also advised. Other features like the iPhone’s “Share My Location” feature are also good ones to disable for hanging on to your precious juice. Settings like “Bluetooth Sharing” may transmit data from Bluetooth devices, such as wearables, to their respective apps even when they’re not open, but this transmission should have negligible effects on your battery life.
If you think there’s an errant app wreaking havoc on your battery, it’s relatively easy to manipulate these authorizations. Firstly, you can check an apps background usage from the “Battery” menu in General settings. Tap any app in the list to see a breakdown of battery drain due to on-screen time versus background activity.
Next, from the Privacy menu in the main settings you’ll find location services while the rest of these relevant preferences can be found within the app in question’s dedicated settings, also found in the iPhone’s General settings menu. Beware, of course, not to turn off something like background app refresh on a work communication app like Slack if you rely on its notifications for work or disable cellular connectivity on WhatsApp if you need to be available even when you’re not on Wi-Fi. Otherwise, you can tweak the aforementioned settings to your liking or use them to limit an app’s access to your iPhone’s resources and see for yourself if an app truly is running wild.
Oh, and as always, using the auto-brightness and True Tone options are also effective ways to limit your usage without having to think too much about it. Lastly, you can turn off Wi-Fi when you’re out and about to prevent your phone from constantly searching for possible networks to connect with.
Short Answer: Don’t close apps, but rather keep them in check with set-it-and-forget-it options in your iPhone’s settings. And use auto brightness!
Don’t let your phone charge overnight!
OK this one’s kind of true.
Many of us have heard stories of phone batteries over-heating and exploding, but barring any serious manufacturing defects, that’s not something to worry about when deciding if you should charge your phone overnight. Batteries can and often do emit some heat when charging, so taking off thicker cases and making sure your phone is in a well-ventilated area to charge is advisable for the battery’s longevity, but fortunately not your own. Plus, the iPhone, and really every modern phone, now have features that stop charging your battery once it gets to 100%. So, don’t smother it and charge away, right?
Well, not really.
While it’s not dangerous to charge your phone overnight it actually does affect the health of the battery.
The first thing to consider here is that lithium-ion batteries, like those found in the iPhone, have lifespans based on full, 100 – 0% discharges. This doesn’t mean you need to let your phone charge to 100 and discharge to 0% – in fact don’t. What this essentially means is if you let your phone discharge from 90% to 40% then recharge back to 90%, and then back down to 40% then you’ve completed one full charging cycle as, by this point, a total of 100% has been discharged. (iPhones are rated for about 500 cycles.)
The next thing to know is that lithium-ion batteries don’t like extremes; neither extreme temperatures nor extreme charging states. Apple lists iPhone’s temperature comfort zone from 32 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. In terms of capacity, while Apple doesn’t have specific recommendations there (likely in the interest of keeping things as user-friendly with as little detriment to the phone as possible) Lithium-Ion batteries like to stay in between about 30 and 80% during active use.
So, while your phone does stop charging at 100%, being there for prolonged times isn’t ideal as it degrades battery health over time. According to some scientific studies on the matter, this deterioration is exacerbated with faster chargers.
We know. Batteries are complicated, and so is life, so these guidelines may not always be so easy to follow but, as best as you can, adhere to these key points:
Charging overnight isn’t dangerous, but keeping your battery full for long periods can degrade battery life a bit over time
If possible, use a slower charger overnight versus fast-charging alternatives
Aim to keep your phone between 30 and 80% charge
Avoid exposing your iPhone to temperatures below 32 and above 95 degrees Fahrenheit
If storing your phone for long periods, charge to 50% and turn it off
Again, none of this is a matter of life and death – to you at least – but they may be the difference between feeding your battery cheeseburgers and cigarettes or salads and chicken breast during its lifetime.
Only Use Apple-Certified Chargers!
This one may actually be a matter of life and death.
While we’re on the topic of charging, let’s talk Apple-certified chargers. I know, it’s a talk many of you don’t want to have, but it’s for your own good.
This one’s pretty simple. If it doesn’t say “made for iPhone | iPad | iPod” – don’t use it. Simply put, the harm this can cause to both you and the device far outweighs the short-term gain of saving a few bucks or grabbing a gas station charger in a pinch. Obviously, if it’s an emergency (like a real one), it’s an emergency, but otherwise, avoid chargers that aren’t MFi-certified like the plague.
MFi is Apple’s “Made for iDevice” certification program launched in 2005 which helps save you from burning out, short-circuiting, or otherwise irreparably damaging your iPhone with faulty chargers. With a knock-off charger, things can get dangerous pretty quickly for your personal safety too. A UK-based, non-profit consumer electronics safety group tested 50 non-MFi-certified iPhone chargers and found 49 out of the 50 “had the potential to deliver a lethal electrical shock or cause a fire.” Scary stuff.
If you’re not satisfied with Apple’s puny 5-watt charger, you have tons of safe options for upgrade. You can use Apple’s 12W USB power adapter, but newer iPhones support faster charging up to 18W with a USB-C Power Delivery adapter and a USB-C-to-Lightning cable. You may use more powerful adapters, but they won't charge your iPhone any faster. You also have plenty of MFi-certified, third-party options. One of our favorite accessory brands, Anker, has a set ranging from 24 to 60 watts and most have multiple ports.
Short Answer: You can’t go wrong with these reliable, certified charging adapters, but things can go very wrong with anything not Apple-certified.
Even Your iPhone Needs Antivirus Software!
Not really, but a virus is possible.
Technically speaking – yes – your iPhone could get a virus. But it’s pretty hard. There’s one of two ways this may happen.
A malware-infected app gets through Apple’s security measures and is loaded into the official App Store.
You’re on a jailbroken device downloading potentially unsafe apps, willfully, from an unofficial app store
Since a virus needs to be installed, and Apple is very strict with what gets installed on iOS devices, and how, these are really the only two routes of infection. The former, of course, is rigorously vetted for such threats, but a few things have slipped through the cracks. It’s been years since a major breach like this, and iOS, being a largely homogenized OS within its running devices, can push through updates pretty quickly in the event that something similar were to happen again.
As for Jailbroken devices, such users forfeit such protections and download apps at their own risk through a clandestine app store. The risks here are pretty obvious.
What about those pesky pop-ups you can’t get out of or phishing schemes sent via text or email? Neither of these meets the actual definition of a virus and can easily be avoided or remedied with the following tips.
1. For closing pesky pop ups, try closing the webpage in Safari or going to Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data, then re-opening Safari.
2. Don’t answer or click links from texts or emails especially regarding needing sensitive info, like login credentials. If you receive an alert from a company you use, go to their website directly or call them to verify and resolve the issue.
3. Always update your device software and apps! Bug fixes and patches are very important for your device’s safety. No excuses!
Apple Slows Down Your Phone to Force You to Update/Upgrade!
Cut it out.
Alright, alright, who told you that? I mean…we won’t tell. But we will say, this is one of those rumors that doesn’t seem to die.
Apple’s relatively recent admission that the company slows down older phones via updates to protect the hardware hasn’t exactly helped put out the flames on this hot rumor, especially since Apple was essentially caught in the act, rather than making this fact known previously.
However, that admission is a bit different from what people are alleging here. The idea that iPhones get slower with time makes sense and Apple’s explanation for trying to make the aging process a bit more gradual and stable also seems pretty logical. The assertion that Apple slows down phones or otherwise makes them buggier to encourage users to install an incoming update or buy the latest iPhone around release time is decidedly more conspiratorial in nature.
We’ll just first say this: there has yet to be any certifiable evidence that this is the case. Secondly, while we would love it if operating systems remained stable long beyond their release without updates, it’s not very feasible. As mentioned earlier, updates are critical as they’re constantly patching vulnerabilities, fixing bugs, and overall making your device a much safer, more stable place for your things. When I used to fix computers, the machines with the most devastating viruses were those running OSes that were no longer supported, like Windows XP.
Think of your OS as your immune system and updates as vaccines. If you live in a bubble, with no outward inputs, you’ll get deathly ill the first time you leave it because your body doesn’t know how to fend off long-ago eradicated or minor threats.
In this scenario you have nothing to lose since updates are free! An iOS device’s update lifespan is around 5 years, so if you’re lucky enough to still have a working device by then, it still may be time to Marie Kondo that iPhone. Thank Apple for supporting it for so long (longer than any other smartphone) and throw it away – er just put it in a drawer if it still sparks joy, I guess.
If you’re noticing bugginess and have software updates pending here’s some things you can do:
1. Run your updates!
2. Ensure you have at least a gig or two of free space – things can get wonky without room to operate
3. Perform a hard reset (for iPhone’s without home buttons, hold volume down and power until phone resets, otherwise hold down power and the home button)
4. Back up your data and factory reset the device
Airpods are giving you cancer!
Unfortunately, this one isn’t so cut and dry. For the full analysis of this claim regarding all wireless earphones, including Airpods, check our previous article on the matter. But here’s a summary of the main points.
Airpods and all wireless earphones emit ElectroMagnetic Fields, just as smartphones and any device with wireless capabilities does – including your car radio. The U.S. and other regions have upper limit requirements on how much of this energy any given device can let its user absorb. This is called the specific absorption rate, or SAR. Airpods, fall under the required SAR limit, as they must do to be sold in the U.S., but fundamental issues with how SAR is measured have been raised. This isn’t Apple’s fault, but rather a potential flaw in how the measurement was first calculated back in the 1980’s.
There’s no data that suggests that wireless devices or earphones, like Airpods, pose a health risk but this is because no such studies have been done. While most scientists agree that prolonged, concentrated exposure to EMF’s can cause cancer and other adverse effects on living cells, not all agree that wireless headphones will do this to you.
So, what’s the verdict?
While Apple’s Airpods meet U.S. regulations, it’s hard to say that these and other EMF’s like Wi-Fi and radio signals aren’t potentially doing damage to us on a daily basis. It’s also hard to discern at this point whether eliminating Airpods from the equation would make much of a difference considering the many other EMF’s we encounter daily.