Can your phone survive you? 8 classic ways (plus some dumb ones) to damage your phone

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Ever watched in slow motion as your phone decided to take a leap of faith off the table, only to meet its nemesis, the floor, with a crackling thud? Yeah, me too. It’s like watching a horror movie where you know the villain is about to get the hero and there is nothing you can do but cover your eyes and hope for the best. Our smartphones have pretty much become extensions of our arms. They keep us connected, entertained and even take us from A to B without getting lost (most of the time). So, it’s a real bummer when they suddenly decide to give up on us – often, thanks to our own quirky mishaps.

Not too long ago, we turned our eyes skyward to witness the celestial spectacle of a total solar eclipse. Amidst the awe and wonder, NASA warned us that trying to snap a photo of the cosmic show could actually harm our phones. Apparently, the intense rays can fry some of the inner workings, like the image sensor. That got me thinking – what other unexpected ways are we torturing our phones without even realizing it?

While dropping your phone in water or watching it plummet to its doom are the headline acts of how to wreck your digital buddy, there are plenty of other, less obvious ways we contribute to their demise. Let’s dive into some of the most common (and amusing) ways we accidentally – or sometimes, negligently – send our phones into an unplanned retirement.

Oops, I dropped my phone!

It’s almost a rite of passage for every phone owner. Whether it slips out of your hand or you perform an accidental juggling act that ends in disaster, the result is often a screen that looks like a spiderweb. Did you know that in the US alone, two smartphone screens crack every second? It is like a symphony of oops and ouchs.

Prevention tip: Invest in a rugged case that can take a hit, and maybe add a grip or strap for those extra slippery days.

Electronics don’t need to be watered

Water and electronics are ancient enemies, yet somehow, we keep insisting on introducing them. From the classic toilet drop to a dive into the pool, because you forgot your phone was in your pocket, these stories are almost too common. I heard about someone who tried to take a call while showering. Spoiler alert: it didn’t end well.

Prevention tip: A waterproof case is your phone’s best friend, and maybe check your pockets before a cannonball jump. And hey, next time you are eyeing that shiny new phone, maybe take a peek at its IP rating. You know, that little number that tells you just how much it can handle a surprise shower or a dust storm.

A lot of the latest and greatest, like the Galaxy S24 or the iPhone 15, boast an IP68 rating. Translation? They can take a splash or a dust-up better than most. But let’s not get too confident and use them as underwater cameras (especially if not in fresh water) or desert storm trackers, okay? It is better to play it safe than to test the limits of those resistance ratings.

The inevitable scratched screen

Ever reached into your pocket and pulled out your phone only to find new scratches decorating its screen? Keys, coins, and even sand can leave your screen looking like it had a run-in with a cat. Think of it as a battle royale in your pocket where your phone screen is unfortunately not the champion.Prevention tip: Screen protectors are worth their weight in gold, and dedicating a pocket solely to your phone can save you a lot of heartache. Also, consider choosing a phone with, let’s say, Gorilla Glass. What is Gorilla Glass? Well, it is a scratch-resistant material used in many phone screens, but it can still be scratched by sharp objects.

Broken phone due to temperature tantrums

Phones are a bit like Goldilocks; they don’t like it too hot or too cold. Leaving your phone in your car on a summer day or a freezing night can cause it to act out, battery life to plummet, or even hardware damage. Extreme temperatures are the silent assassins of the phone world.

For example, leaving your phone in direct sunlight for too long can cook its internal components in a few ways:

  • Overheating: The sun heats up the metal and glass in your phone, which can quickly reach very high temperatures. This can cause the phone to glitch, shut down completely, or even permanently damage the internal components.
  • Battery damage: Heat is bad for batteries, especially the lithium-ion battery used in modern smartphones. Sun exposure can drain your battery quickly and shorten its lifespan over time. In extreme cases, it can even damage the battery to the point where it won’t hold a charge anymore.
  • Screen mayhem: The delicate display on your phone can also suffer from sun damage. This can cause discoloration, dead pixels, or warping of the touchscreen.
  • Data disaster: In the worst-case scenario, extreme heat can corrupt or erase data stored on your phone.

Prevention tip: Keep your phone close to your body in extreme conditions. Your warmth in winter and shade in summer can make all the difference.

The hidden dangers of outdated software and shady apps

In the digital age, not all threats are physical. Sometimes, the danger lurks within, hidden in the software we neglect or the apps we shouldn’t trust. Ignoring software updates because you are in the middle of a Candy Crush saga? Guilty. Downloading that “too good to be true” app? Also guilty. These actions can lead to sluggish performance, bugs, and even malicious software taking a joyride on your personal data highway.

Prevention tip: Keep your software up to date and stick to downloading apps from reputable sources.

Can charging your phone be wrong?

Ever grabbed that cheap charger from the gas station because you left yours at home? Or maybe you are a fan of charging your phone overnight, every night? These habits can be the slow kiss of death for your phone’s battery life. Off-brand chargers can be harmful, and keeping your phone plugged in for too long can wear out the battery faster than you can say “low battery.”

Myth-busting: It’s a myth that charging your phone overnight will overcharge and destroy your battery. However, it is true that batteries have a lifespan based on charge cycles, so unnecessary charging can shorten that lifespan.

Prevention tip: Use official or at least chargers from reputable manufacturers and try to keep your battery between 20% and 80% to extend its life.

How are you secretly destroying your phone?

Your phone might survive a fall, but how about the constant pressure of being sat on every time you forget it is in your back pocket? Or squeezing it into tight spaces where the screen is under constant pressure? These scenarios can lead to internal damage or a warped chassis. Just imagine the worst yoga pose your phone ever did – The Crushed Lotus.

Prevention tip: Be mindful of where your phone is before sitting down or cramming it into a tight space. Your phone’s flexibility doesn’t match yours.

Sorry, my dog ate my phone!

Pets are the adorable culprits behind many a phone’s untimely demise. Whether it is a dog who thinks your phone is a chew toy or a cat who finds the highest shelf to knock it off from, pets add an extra layer of hazard to phone safety.

“Fun fact”: Did you know there is a special place in phone heaven for devices martyred by the innocence of a pet’s curiosity? I sure do hope mine is there.

Prevention tip: Keep your phone out of reach or in a protective case that can withstand the occasional pet attack.

5 dumb ways to damage your phone

Who doesn’t have a slightly embarrassing, hilariously unfortunate tale of gadget gaffes? Maybe it involved giving your phone a quick sear on the hot stove, accidentally zapping it in the microwave (yep, that happens), or giving it the ride of its life on the roof of your car. People have experienced all sorts of bizarre ways they manage to break their gadgets, and luckily, they shared it online on Reddit. So, to send us off on a high note and maybe make you feel a little better about any of your own tech mishaps, here are my top 5 face-palm-worthy ways to damage your phone:

  1. Bite on your screen: Seriously, what is the thought process here? Hunger for knowledge taken a bit too literally, perhaps?
  2. Drown it in hand sanitizer: In a quest for germ-free glory, one phone ended up more sanitized than ever imagined. At least it went out sparkling clean!
  3. Toss it into the washing machine: A friendly reminder to pat down those pockets before you hit “Start.” Your phone definitely didn’t sign up for a spin cycle.
  4. Entrust it to a toddler: Words are unnecessary. If you have been there, you know. Toddlers and tech are a mix as chaotic as you’d expect.
  5. Juggle it with your other items: Ever tried to multitask and ended up throwing your phone instead of the ball you were holding in your other hand? Yep, gravity is unforgiving.

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