Tips for keeping your phone, laptop around longer

Sunday Signal

By Kim Komando

Spill one cup of coffee, and fry your laptop. Drop your tablet while taking a photo, and it can plunge to its doom. Lose your grip on a smartphone, and your $1,000 device could slip through a drainage grate and disappear forever.

Most of us can’t afford to regularly replace our devices, which is why we have to take good care of them.

Based on calls to my show, email and questions posted on my site’s tech support forums, here are five mistakes that people routinely make.

1. Going the cheap route

In theory, you can buy a “Lightning” cable at your local corner store. But many fail to acknowledge that the specific charger and cable included in the box with any new device is designed especially for that product.

If you lose your charger or the USB cable gets frayed, do not buy the cheapest charger and cable you can find. The few dollars you save on a low-cost substitute will very likely negatively affect your device’s performance.

The dirty secret these one-size-fits-all charger and cable makers don’t want you to know is that often their products do not have the proper voltage needed to work with your specific device. Why does that matter? Your battery may end up not getting the juice it needs to charge fully.

2. Being an over-charger

The newest batteries for smartphones, tablets, and laptops are a vast improvement over past years, and most of them are made of high-quality lithium-ion or lithium-polymer. While it may seem counter-intuitive, over-charging your battery can damage it.

The rule of thumb is to keep your phone, tablet and laptop charged somewhere between 40% and 80%. Batteries containing a higher charge are more stressed.

As for your laptop, those batteries have a finite number of charge-discharge cycles. If you frequently let your battery completely run out of juice, it affects the charge-discharge cycle and diminishes its intended lifespan.

3. Charging all the time

Do you plug your device into the wall socket and forget about it? Fortunately, when the new generation of batteries reaches maximum charge, they have mechanisms to prevent excess charging. That holds true for tablets, smartphones and laptops.

While it’s not considered harmful to keep your smartphone or tablet plugged in all night, do try to turn them off when you can to give them a rest. A huge side benefit is that a device’s performance gets a huge boost from a power off, power on cycle.

Don’t keep your laptop plugged in all the time.

4. Not paying attention

The latest phones are fairly rugged: tough, water-resistant and less likely to shatter when dropped. But leaving your device in a hot car or out in the sun can cause serious damage. Not only can it cause the battery to leak or overheat, but it can also cause data to be lost or corrupted.

Extreme cold temperatures also wreak havoc on your phone. Lithium-ion batteries can stop discharging electricity in extremely cold temperatures, leading to shortened battery life, display problems, and even cracking the display glass.

5. Being a Pig Pen

Whether you’re cleaning your laptop, iPad, smartphone or favorite mouse, here are a few useful cleaning items to have on hand. They’re flexible for tidying up just about anything: compressed air; isopropyl alcohol; distilled or purified bottled water; and soft cloths.

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