How [NOT] to Destroy Your Smartphone

Category: Mobile

All too often, smartphones can make you feel dumb. Even the most cool-headed among us have felt the perfectly understandable urge to wreak utter destruction upon that pocket-sized device that makes us feel so clumsy and stupid. But in most cases, a phone’s demise is deemed “accidental.” Here are ten easy ways to destroy a smartphone, and how to avoid those costly, inconvenient mishaps…

Don't Try This at Home

Breaking mobile phones seems to be a popular pastime, even if it is accidental in most cases. According to industry estimates, Americans spend over $4 billion annually on repair and replacement of broken phones. Popular YouTube celebrities draw millions of viewers by creatively destroying brand-new phones - usually iPhones, for some reason. Check out these videos if you've ever wondered what happens when you drop an iPhone into a river of red-hot lava, or attack it with a 4.5mm airgun.

No volcanos handy? You could hop a plane to Hawaii, but there are easier ways to fold, spindle or mutilate your expensive smartphone. Here are ten tongue-in-cheek suggestions for breaking your phone, all of which you'll want to avoid.

#1 - Drop your phone on a hard surface. Manufacturers love to brag that phones can survive falls of up to ten feet onto a concrete floor. What they don’t mention is how precisely those phones are oriented before they’re dropped, to avoid landing on their most vulnerable points. In real life, a phone that lands on its glass face is very likely to shatter its display, resulting in a repair bill of $200 or more. Soft silicone cases not only cushion falls, they provide a non-slip grip that makes dropping a phone less likely.

I use and recommend Spigen Phone Cases because they fit perfectly, look good, and are very reasonably priced, from $12 to $16. For extra protection, I add a Supershieldz screen protector to prevent scratching and nicks.

Broken smartphone

#2 - Get your phone wet. In a Geekly Update segment, I mentioned the sailor who dropped his iPhone X into the ocean, and it was still working after being submerged for 6 days. Chances are you won't be so lucky - you don’t need a large body of liquid to short-circuit the electronics in your phone. Just leave it on a countertop at a bar, cafe, or restaurant and eventually something will spill and seep into the phone. At the beach or swimming pool, set the phone down close to the water so you can hear your favorite tunes clearly. Or take it for a chlorinated swim, like I did. Another favorite way to drown a phone is to let it slip out of your back pocket into a toilet.

If your phone does get dunked, don’t break out the white rice! See my article Oops, I dropped My Phone AGAIN for tips on how to rescue a wet phone.

Speaking of the back pocket, that leads us to our third most popular way to break a phone.

#3 - Sit on it. Bending iPhones or Android phones can cause them to cease functioning and even shatter. This astounding discovery took the tech world by surprise with the release of the iPhone 6 Plus in 2014, generating dozens of test videos and heated debates about whether or not a phone should break when a 200-pound-plus person sits on it. Well yes, it should, because it isn’t a paperback book, wallet, or a two-by-four. The newer iPhone 11/12 and Samsung Galaxy S21 models seem to fare much better in bend testing, but why take that risk? If you have a low-end, less expensive model, it probably won’t have the tough construction of these flagship phones.

Another caution about putting your phone in your pocket has nothing to do with physics. I was told by a Verizon store owner that phones are most easily stolen when stored in the back pocket. In a crowd, a skilled thief can relieve you of your phone long before you notice that it went missing.

#4 - Cook it or Freeze it. Phones and other electronic devices don’t like excessive heat; see my article, Do You Know Your Computer’s Worst Enemy?. When overheated for prolonged periods, RAM will start dropping bits, disk drives will develop bad sectors, transistors and resistors will burn out, and the phone will “just stop working.” And by “cooking” I don’t mean putting your precious in the microwave. Most phones are rated to stand up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature easily exceeded on a car’s dashboard on a sunny day. Even leaving a phone on a window sill in an air-conditioned room can lead to overheating due to the phone’s absorption of radiant energy. Freezing a phone to death is a bit harder; most are rated down to -4 F.

Both Apple and Samsung recommend keeping your phone between 32 to 95 degrees F during usage. Apple warns that lower or higher temperatures "might cause the device to change its behavior" and might temporarily or permanently shorten battery life.

#5 - Leave it on always. If you don’t sleep, you get confused, slow down, and eventually stop working; the same goes for your phone. Constant background operations muddy memory, wear out hardware, and lead to early failure. Turn the phone off at night (you’ll sleep better!) or at least reboot it once a week.

Should you buy "device insurance" or a "protection plan" from your mobile phone carrier? My advice is no. See my article SCAM ALERT: Mobile Device Insurance and Extended Warranties to find out why, and a much cheaper alternative.

#6 - Cram it full of stuff. Photos, videos, messages, contacts, and apps take up storage space. The more crowded storage becomes, the harder the phone has to work to keep things organized and retrieve what’s needed at a given moment. I've also found that having a boatload of saved text messages can really slow or even freeze my phone. If 90% or more of your storage is full, it’s time to clean house. Move files and photos to offline or cloud storage, uninstall unused apps, and delete old text messages.

#7 - Don’t update anything. A phone that’s running an outdated operating system or apps is operating inefficiently, even dangerously. Updates and patches improve performance (if they’re done right) by eliminating bugs and fine-tuning operating processes. Keeping your phone’s software and apps up to date will make it less likely to crash, and more secure as well.

#8 - Install sketchy apps. Almost all mobile malware sneaks in as a result of using third-party app stores. If you jailbreak your iPhone, or change the settings on your Android phone to allow installation of apps from unknown sources, you're open to a world of hurt. Always use the official iPhone or Google Play app store for your phone, and even then, install only trusted apps with lots of good reviews.

#9 - Use the cheapest charger you can find. A two-buck no-name charger from China is not just as good as a $20-$30 OEM charger. Dirt-cheap chargers often omit feedback circuitry that prevents overcharging of a phone’s battery, and that is how smartphones burn down houses. I recently bought a cheap wireless charger for my Samsung Galaxy, and set it down to charge overnight. The next morning, the phone was super-hot, and had charged only 20 percent. Cheaper is not better when it comes to connecting phones to other devices, either. I explained some of the flaws and telltale signs of a dangerously cheap USB-C cable in my article, Don't Buy the Wrong USB-C Cable.

Speaking of wireless chargers, I highly recommend them if your phone has wireless charging capability. I’ve had several phones with broken charging ports, which can result from inserting the charging cable over and over.

#10 - Never clean the phone. Dust, crumbs, and gunk will get between the phone and that silicone case, and into the ports on the phone. If you ignore this ick, it will eventually clog electrical contact points and your phone will stop working. Remove the case and wipe it clean with a soft cloth and water (not alcohol or soap) every now and then, and especially after a camping trip or other time spent in the great, filthy outdoors. Clean ports as gently and carefully as you would clean your ears; a soft-bristle toothbrush swept lightly over the outer rim of a port is often enough.

Have you tried any of these handy tips for ruining your mobile phone? How did they work? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…

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Most recent comments on "How [NOT] to Destroy Your Smartphone"

Posted by:

24 Aug 2021

I one loaded my tennis gear in my car and drove off toward home. About the time I realized I did not have my ohone in the car I heard a bump-bump sound from the car roof. I glanced in the rear-view mirroe just in time to see my phone fall onto the roadway behind me but in front of 3 or 4 cars. I circled back to retrive the phone which was face-doen in the roadway with tire tracks accross the back of the protective case, which was no match for the 3,000-pound vehicles. Turning it over I found the front glass shattered in an impressive pattern reflecting the rough surface of the roadway. I do not recommend this method of destroying your fancy phone.

Posted by:

24 Aug 2021

I live in a desert region and know very well how heat can destroy stuff.Recently on a trip,I had to make a quick pit stop.While at the stop,I found a iPhone laying in the sand.The case was sunburned and the screen glass was completely shattered.

The area where I found the phone is an impromptu rest area next to a state highway,so anybody could have stopped there.If someone really wanted to rid of the phone,they found a great place to do it.

I am curious about what's on it,but with criminal and other types around,I think I will pass on it and just put it in my recycling box.

Posted by:

24 Aug 2021

Until the iPhone 12, I've used Otterbox and a plastic screen saver. Otterbox is so heavily cushioned that it makes your phone much larger, for one thing, but also really protects it from accidental drops. With the iPhone 12 though, I switched to a smaller Apple case which has worked well and GoTo glass screen cover - both obtained at T-Mobile store which is the best screen cover I've ever had. Near a year into it and both are working fine. Couldn't even find the proper screen cover for an iPhone 12 Supershieldz at Amazon, only went up the SX and X models, fyi...

Posted by:

24 Aug 2021

this is a true story; no names where changed to protect the innocent :bambi eyes: I do not have a smart phone. I have what is termed a candy bar phone and have had for over 13 years. during that time I have not dropped it, especially I have not dropped it in the toilet. do you suppose I can claim some special award??

Posted by:

Bob S
24 Aug 2021

As I see it, your phone case recommendation (Supershieldz screen protector) is only for iPhone's. Some of us, as I'm sure you know, own android phones. However, it does seem that many stores that sell marked down phone cases such as Ross and Marshalls offer mainly iPhone cases and screen protectors. Not sure why this is so. Maybe because there are too many variations on android phones.

Posted by:

Ken H
24 Aug 2021

I didn't actually ruin my last iPhone X+ exactly, but by not paying attention to charging and discharging recommendations I manages to get the available battery down to 75%.

I am treating my Pro Max 12 much better.

Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
25 Aug 2021

I always use a screen protector on my Galaxy S9+, which can be purchased on eBay for between $5 and $10. The screen protector is the static cling variety, not the glued-on type. After a few months it will start to get hairline cracks in it, and I'll replace it with another inexpensive one. Meanwhile the real screen on the cell phone remains pristine. This has worked well for years.

Posted by:

Emily Booth
25 Aug 2021

I was price driven when it came to cable chargers. Not any more. After a bad experience w/ one, just poor quality, I get the name brand cable charger. It's worth it. It gets the job done.

Posted by:

Stukahna Sandbahr
25 Aug 2021

In a fit of rage due to its balkiness, I slammed my iPhone 6s, encased in Otter, on my kitchen floor thinking ah, now I can go back to my flip phone. Well, it still works. Was hoping the shock would fix the voicemail alert which never did work, but it did not.

Posted by:

25 Aug 2021

When my company swapped out my iPhone 5SE for iPhone 8 I noticed that it slid off the arm of our sofa very easily as unlike the former the new device was smooth on both sides. Sorted using a piece of masking tape on the back, ugly but it works and when the tape starts to peel I can replace it easily and it's cheap. It's a work device, so does trick nicely without me spending lots of my own money.

Because I have a pacemaker I can't put phone in shirt pocket or other pocket near pacemaker site. The pedometer works better at hip level anyway so it goes in standard trouser pocket. Not so good if you have one of those really big phones but both devices work supplied do fit here.

Posted by:

25 Aug 2021

There is no reason every cell phone shouldn't have some sort of water and dust resistance unless you want to develop a disposable phone. It reminds me of the old chevettes that kept running, so flaws were intentionally designed in so that people would have to replace their car more often.

Posted by:

25 Aug 2021

I don't know if I should be depressed since I am missing out on the whole smartphone cultural(?) rituals uze awl are happily engaged with/in.
Novelist Thomas Pynchon wondered if it was “O.K. to be a Luddite”... I amcelebrating the 200th (+/-) year anniversary of Ned and the Great Enoch.

Posted by:

Sandy Jewell
31 Dec 2021

Going back some years (14?) to my Nokia phone and cordless landline, I would place them on the front steps while I watered the garden. Twice I accidentally drowned them with the hose. After I shook the water out, they sounded a bit gurgly but they continued to work fine.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How [NOT] to Destroy Your Smartphone (Posted: 24 Aug 2021)
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