Be smart about your smartphone

Did you know rice can save your phone? Here are some simple ways of keeping your smartphone up and running, without repeated visits to the service centre

Date: 14/09/2010, Mint, Business of Life section

Shweta Taneja

A harried customer came to TVS E-Service Tech because the touch screen of her HTC Touch was not working properly. N.A.N. Natesh, a service engineer at TVS E-Service, a service provider for HTC smartphones in Bangalore, looked at the screen and said, “It was the case of months of abuse of the touch screen.” The customer had used her fingers, be they wet or dirty, to operate the touch screen, which was the cause of the problem.

“Smartphones are like children,” says Satchit Gayakwad, spokesperson, Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerry. “You need to provide yours with lots of tender love and care.”

If you don’t understand how the device works, chances are you will not be able to make the most of it without making midnight calls to smirking service centre executives. Here are three ways to keep your phone in good condition and off the service centre table.

Battery bootcamp

“The most common complaint in a smartphone is battery draining and that the software OS (operating system) hangs,” says Natesh. In a month, Natesh and his team test 200-300 handsets. “Forty per cent out of these are in warranty and on our table for mishandling,” he says.

“Many people leave Bluetooth running even though they aren’t using it. Ditto with GPS, Wi-Fi and 3G,” says Atul Chitnis, a consulting technologist who is an expert in hand-held computing. These are power-hungry features and can eat up a significant amount of battery power over the course of the day. You should keep them disabled and use them only when you need to, like when you are transferring files or using the Net. “Also, don’t cover the antenna with your fingers. This causes the phone to work harder trying to maintain a signal, which causes faster battery drain,” he adds.

Backup plan: Maximize battery capacity.

Overcharging is another mistake. A smartphone charges in 1-3 hours. You need to take it out of the socket after that. “Never charge the phone overnight because that’s a sureshot way to kill your battery over the longer run,” says Natesh. Another battery killer is charging the phone before the battery is completely drained, he says.

When you browse the Internet on a smartphone, websites rich with multimedia such as flash animation and pictures consume more battery and make the download slower. You should simply set your browser option for text-only. Another common reason for battery leaks is constant updates of your email andsocial networking applications. “You need to know immediately you’ve got mail,” says Gayakwad, “but other than that, your social service networks don’t need to constantly search for updates.”

Third-party applications for social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MSN, Gmail and Gtalk constantly retrieve data from the Internet. These can be set to have refresh timelines of 20 minutes to an hour. This way, there’s no constant search for data by your phone on these sites and that can help save a lot of battery. Then there are applications such as weather updates which run in the background even when you’re not using them and can use up your battery life. Uninstall these apps. You can always reinstall them if you decide you need them at a later date. Applications such as complex games, flash-based applications which use up a lot of memory and CPU to play, also drain battery.

Safeguard sensibly

You need to use a cover and a screen protector for your phone. “If you use unclean or wet hands to use the touch panel of your phone, it will start giving problems, like not responding to your touch,” says Natesh. He advises the use of stylus on a touch screen. Regularly clean the exterior with a soft microfibre cloth to get the fingerprints off the screen and body. “Oh, and never vacuum the phone,” Gayakwad adds.

In case your mobile is exposed to water or falls into water, remove the battery immediately. “Never try to turn it on as that will short-circuit all its innards,” explains Gayakwad. Use tissue or cloth and delicately wipe off the moisture. “The easiest way of drying a phone is by putting it into a bowlful of uncooked rice. Rice absorbs moisture and makes the phone dry,” he adds. After it has dried, take it to the service centre. Service centres have special devices to dry your phone and make it functional again.

Smartphones are embedded with tiny, complicated electronic materials which are heat sensitive, so do not expose them to extreme heat, such as the dashboard of a car. “Heated phone also causes greater battery drain,” says Chitnis. So avoid extreme climates for your phone. In case it heats up, you need to give the phone battery some rest by switching it off for a while.

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