[OUCH] 10 Ways to Destroy Your Phone

Category: Gadgets

All but the most imperturbable Zen Masters 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 inconvenient mishaps…

Don't Try This at Home

Breaking smartphones seems to be a popular American pastime, even if it is accidental in most cases. As of late 2014, Americans had spent $23.5 billion 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. If you've ever wondered what happens when you drop a $649 iPhone 6S into a river of red-hot lava, watch this video.

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 six 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, a $100 or more repair. Soft silicone cases not only cushion falls, they provide a non-slip grip that makes dropping a phone less likely.

Broken smartphone

#2 - Get your phone wet. 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 buy some water-resistant Bluetooth speakers and keep the phone a safe, dry distance away. 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, see my article 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 causes them to cease functioning and even shatter. This astounding discovery took the tech world by surprise in the third quarter of 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 2x4 board. The laws of physics are very clear on this subject.

#4 - Cook it. Phones and other electronic devices don’t like excessive heat; see my article, Your Computer’s Enemy Number One. 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.” 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 -40 F.

#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, 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 to offline 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. Keep your phone’s software and apps up to date and it will be less likely to crash.

#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 app store for your phone, and install only trusted apps with lots of good reviews.

#9 - Use the cheapest charger you can find. A two-buck no-name Asian charger 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. 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.

#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 "[OUCH] 10 Ways to Destroy Your Phone"

Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
24 Mar 2016

#7 - Don’t update anything.

With iPhones, it's easy to update; Apple will push any update out to all iPhones. The new iOS 9.3 patch was announced a couple of days ago, and was available over the air later that afternoon.

With Android devices, this can be a LOT harder. With Nexus devices, you'll probably get the new version within a month or so, but others - like HTC - you're likely to NEVER get an Android version update.

Posted by:

Jim Swan
24 Mar 2016

Whoops! This article comes too late!

Did #2 a few years ago on a crummy Nokia that I really couldn't stand using anyway, but unfortunately did #1 on my new iPhone 6s last week.

Thanks anyway . . . .

Posted by:

Mary S.
24 Mar 2016

#2 - get your phone wet. Three years ago I took my android with me when I went to the UK. A week after I returned, the battery shorted out. When I took the three month old phone back to the store, the clerk said it was water damage. After arguing for several minutes, the clerk finally said " we didn't make this to be used in England". I gave up. It's hard to deal with stupidity.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2016

Bob, (reply requested if you have time or any one else knows) -- when you say 'no alcohol' are you referring to 'rubbing alcohol'(even the 70% kind for lamps), or to ALL alcohols, like the near 95%-98% denatured methanol like you buy in (often the paint section) hardware stores (aka 'Lab Alcohol')? I've always tended to clean things with lab-grade alcohol since it seems to react with nearly nothing except biologicals. It's also so dry, it will 'pull' water out when it evaporates into even humid air. Have I slowly been destroying high-end scopes and electronics and not known it yet? Thanks!

Posted by:

Dennis Foster
24 Mar 2016

Any suggestions for keeping the memory optimized? Also, I have a memory card installed. Will it automatically be utilized efficiently or are there settings to ensure this?

Posted by:

24 Mar 2016

Hi Bob,
I have a similar question to Doc's.
For years I use alcohol for cleaning electronics. I go through incredible hoops to acquire super clean, consumable quality alcohol of 95-99 %, (not proof!). It is very hard, because some idiot people tried to drink it "as is", causing some damage to themselves and to the laws that govern the sale of such alcohol. Even if it is an important part of many delicious food recipes, home made medicinal infusions and the best disinfectant, ever.
But I digress, sorry. So I use that to clean a lot of stuff considered "gone" and it comes back to life. I have an original Nintendo NES with some 30+ working games for it, just because I was able to swap away the impurities from the "connecticazoints" with an alcohol moistened q-tip.
So far, I didn't feel the need to clean my iPhone with alcohol, but I would like to know why I shouldn't. I trust you know something I don't, would you please explain, pretty please, with sugar on top.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2016

#7 - Don’t update anything

I've found out from years of experience that I shouldn't EVER allow auto-updates. There are unintended consequences more times than I can shake a stick at.
Facebook is one of the worst offenders. They've changed my default app settings so many times that I just went ahead and dumped the app. Messenger as well.
Why should a flashlight app need an update or extra permissions? Why would simple games that work perfectly fine need an update? The same reasoning goes with many single purpose apps.
I've been burned too many times by updates. I still update some apps, but I have to have a good and compelling reason to. Many apps give you incomplete info as to why they're updating. 'Bug fixes' tells me nothing.
Color me skeptical.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2016

Almost all smartphones now come with an oleophobic coating to resist grease, and make it easier to clean (introduced on the iPhone 3GS - 2009). Alcohol (at any strength) will cause the coating to degrade faster than normal.
The oleophobic coating is never used on any keyboards of phones, so it's perfectly safe to use isopropyl there.

Posted by:

Jay R
25 Mar 2016

sirpaul2- I have been oleophobic ever since I read the list of ingredients on the package of Fleischmann's. I'm strictly into butter these days. This is a list of agents which are used to denature ethanol- methanol,isopropyl alcohol, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, and denatonium. *** The advice about the charger was new to me. I'll have to check mine. I have amassed quite a collection over the years. It is very possible that some non-OEMs have snuck in. As always, thanx, Bob.

Posted by:

25 Mar 2016

Thank you sirpaul2 and Jay R.
Knowing all the "why"s is important. It is very easy to forget, or mess up all instructions if one doesn't understand reasons behind. It is silly of me, not to figure out, that those tiny bubbles of moisture forming on the screen of the phone (or an reader), when it's wiped with water, means that something grissy was added to their finish. But I didn't stop to think about it. Now I won't be tempted to use even dishwashing fluid to clean it. Good to know. Still, "clean", consumable alcohol is superior for cleaning all metal endings and connections, even if it is about ten times more expensive than the "rubbing" one from the pharmacy. Not to mention, that many states don't allow its sale. Oh well, many old fashioned, time proven things disappear from our lives. Clean alcohol, good yeast, natural food, and doctors used to tell us butter and eggs are bad for us.
Thank you for your answers. I really needed them.

Posted by:

25 Mar 2016

Oh yes... #1 accomplished tonight - Thursday night of a loooong weekend- by a feline who shall remain anonymous! Not the first trip to that concrete floor, but definitely its last!

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