10 smartphone myths you always thought were true
There are many smartphones myths in the Android world, and they generally go unquestioned. It’s easy to see how that happens. Something occurs once, under certain circumstances, or completely by accident, and starts to be considered the rule. We’re here to set the record straight on some of the more common smartphone myths that you probably thought were fact.
Myth 1: You need to charge your device fully on its first time of use
We are often advised to charge a new device fully on first use, something that’s is referred to as “priming” the battery. This isn’t a bad practice, but it’s not actually essential, and failing to do so will not harm your phone.
“While some older rechargeable battery types, like Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) and Nickel Metal Hydrate (NiMH) need priming, Lithium-ions in general (including Li-ion Polymers) do not need priming. You can use them out of the box,” says the Battery University website, an educational resource offering advice on charging best practices.
This applies to the majority of modern smartphones, which use similar lithium batteries. One benefit that fully charging a phone before its first use may have, however, is calibration. After a complete charge, the battery percentage that your smartphone shows could be closer to the reality. That said, any inaccuracy usually corrects itself after a number of charges anyway.
Myth 2: Android devices are safe from malware
Android security threats do tend to be exaggerated, and it’s no surprise that many of these exaggerations come from security companies that have security software to sell. With that in mind, Android’s prevalence (more than one billion devices are currently running the software) does mean it is a target for scam artists, and for this reason, Android is one of the least safe platforms in the world.
CEO of security group Kaspersky Lab, Eugene Kaspersky, spoke to iTWire about current software threats. “Windows is a much better operating system than the rest (iOS, OS X and Android) and Microsoft is tightening it up much more in the next version,” he said.
Of the Android platforms threats, Kaspersky stated: “More and more – millions of brutal attacks – not safe”, and that iPhone attacks are “less probable because it is very difficult to develop malware for iPhones”.
Meanwhile, Symantec’s internet security report for 2015 claims that in 2014 it found that “17 percent of all Android apps (nearly one million total) were actually malware in disguise,” and Pulse Secure’s 2015 mobile threat report says that the Android platform accounts for “97 percent of all mobile malware developed”.
Android’s security threats are growing year on year, so stay safe and only interact with content from trusted developers and sources.
Myth 3: Live wallpapers dramatically reduce battery life
Live wallpapers do reduce battery life more than static wallpapers, but the extent to which they drain battery life varies. In some cases, if the live wallpaper doesn’t use other sensors on your phone (such as the gyroscoper), or pull data from your weather app, the additional battery life consumed is negligible.
I decided to test this. I put a Sony Xperia Z3 in airplane mode at 100 percent brightness and set a live wallpaper on the homescreen. I then set the display timeout to 30 minutes, switched the phone off, and charged it to 100 percent.
I then switched on the device and took a screenshot as soon as the homescreen loaded, and just after the display turned off 30 minutes later. Then I repeated the process with a static wallpaper. Here are the results:
The live wallpaper consumed 6% battery in 30 minutes
The static wallpaper also consumed 6% battery in the same time.
It’s a crude test, but you get the basic idea. The battery percentage after 30 minutes is the same despite the live wallpaper. The estimated standby time remaining was also the same. If you were to extrapolate this over a day, then you may see some more significant numbers, but if it doesn’t have a perceptible effect at full brightness over 30 minutes purely on that screen, I’d be surprised if its impact were dramatic during real-world use. Check out this chart from AndroidBeat to see the difference over an eight-hour period.
Live wallpapers can look really cool and it would be a shame not to use them when the battery effect may be so little.
Myth 4: Task killers improve performance
Okay, I hope nobody still believes this to be true! According to How-to Geek, not only is it incorrect, but in some instances Task Killers can actually harm your device’s performance. PhoneArena echoed these thoughts earlier this year in an article titled ‘Task killers and memory cleaners can actually do more harm than good and you should stop using them’.
Android is a sophisticated mobile operating system and it has been developed to hold large numbers of apps in a state that allows them to be quickly opened. It’s the reason that you can easily find places in your recent apps drawer that you haven’t visited for weeks. This is a natural part of the device functionality, and installing an app to rework that process isn’t worth it.
Myth 5: Having NFC always on really hurts battery life
Using NFC affects battery life, but having NFC on effects battery life to such a minor degree that you wouldn’t even notice. John Bullard, NFC developer and cofounder of Flomio, which helps develop technologies that use NFC, says that while it has the potential to affect battery life, Android has some preventative measures in place so that NFC is only active under certain circumstances.
Unless you use NFC many times throughout the day, having it enabled won’t have a huge imparct on battery life.
Myth 6: You should only use the charger that came with your phone
If this were true, none of our office phones would be working – we rarely use the ‘correct’ charger and our devices are almost always charging. There is a little truth to this myth though.
Amperage, wattage and voltage all affect the how a device is charged. Different chargers have different specifications but as ExtremeTech pointed out recently, “you can plug any USB device into any USB cable and into any USB port, and nothing will blow up – and in fact, using a more powerful charger should speed up battery charging.”
That said, we wouldn’t suggest picking up a Jimmy’s PowerJuice branded charger from the market. That’s not to say knock-off chargers bought in packs of 20 won’t charge your device, but poorly constructed electronics could be harmful. Using an HTC-supplied USB charger to charge your Sony smartphone though? That’s just fine.
Myth 7: Black wallpaper saves battery life
This is a truth, but not a universal one. Black wallpaper can save battery life, to some degree, on devices with an LED display (Super AMOLED and OLED included). LED displays do not require power for black pixels. LCD displays however, do use light even for black pixels, which is also why LCD screens can’t show true black.
Myth 8: Better specs mean better performance
When manufacturers boast about 4 GB of RAM and 21 MP cameras, it’s easy to assume that this means it will perform better than older, less-powerful handsets or cameras with fewer megapixels.
But look at Geekbench’s performance statistics for the HTC One M9. The M9 is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor, which is said to be one of the fastest smartphone processors in the world, yet the One M9’s single core performance is beaten by the two-year-old LG G2 and its Snapdragon 800 chip.
In dual-core performance, the Nexus 6 and Galaxy S5 Plus, with last-generation Snapdragon 805 processors, are also superior to the M9. Of course this is a cherry-picked example – we know the HTC One M9 featured an underclocked CPU. But Geekbench offers many examples of where older hardware outperforms current components.
Great hardware means nothing without the proper implementation. Though performance is hard to quantify, the number of megapixels a smartphone camera has is often used to sell the product. The difference between the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ camera in the composition below is in excess of 12 million pixels. But which photo do you think looks the best?
iPhone 6 (top left), Nexus 5 (top right), OnePlus 2 (bottom left), and Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (bottom right).
The photos were taken on four different phones (detailed in the caption), in 4:3, at the highest setting the camera would permit. We have to note that the test above wasn’t conducted under strict scientific conditions, and the images have been compressed to fit the website, but this isn’t so important in this scenario.
The 12 million pixel difference between the 20.7 MP camera (bottom right) and the 8 MP camera (top left) isn’t reflected by significantly superior camera performance. True, if you zoomed 20 times into the highest and lowest resolution photos, the difference would be clearer, but most people do not do this, and most smartphone photos aren’t viewed on displays that can recreate every pixel.
Specs sheets can tell you how many pixels are in a shot, but they can’t tell you how good that shot is.
Myth 9: Overcharging your phone damages the battery
Like all the best myths, there is some accuracy in this. Modern smartphones are built to defend themselves against overcharging, so there is no problem leaving your phone on charge overnight, even if the battery reaches 100 percent charge before it is unplugged.
Shane Broesky, co-founder of Farbe Technik, a company that makes charging accessories, told digital trends: “Your phone is very smart. Once it’s fully charged, it knows when to stop the current from coming in to protect [itself] from overcharging.”
However, charging a phone will make the battery temperature increase, which will in turn increase the phone temperature. If the phone is inside a tight spot, in a case or, say, under a pillow, it could heat up and expand beyond what it normally would, and damage can occur. Remember to take your phone out of its case and leave it in an open space before charging for long times to help avoid this.
Myth 10: A factory reset completely wipes data
It is often advised to factory reset a phone before selling it, giving it to somebody else, or throwing it away. This is good advice; a factory reset will remove much of the data from your phone. But it doesn’t remove everything. Android’s flawed factory reset is discussed in-depth over at ArsTechnica, which claims that “an estimated 630 million phones fail to purge contacts, e-mails, images, and more.”
The reason for this is that the content is not ‘removed’ by a factory reset, it is just put in a state where it is ready to be overwritten. It is suggested that you encrypt your phone before the factory reset to give it the best chance of success.