Special to USA TODAY
Published 5:00 AM EDT Sep 19, 2019
Newly unboxed, a smartphone runs like a dream. The device is fresh and spotless, and it has that “new phone” scent. But as time goes by, your phone loses its luster: It just slows down.
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You might blame the phone’s aging circuitry, but the problem is usually much simpler than that. Apps, security issues, and battery use can have a profound impact on your phone, and a little maintenance can go a long way.
1. Clean house
You probably have pages of apps and only use a handful. Time to purge.
On your iPhone, launch the Settings app, tap General, Storage, scroll and select the app you want to delete. Tap Delete App, and Delete again to confirm that you want to delete the app.
To delete apps from Androids, go to Settings, scroll, and tap Apps. A list of the apps on your phone will appear. Select the app you want to delete and tap Uninstall. Make sure to go back to your display window to remove the widget. If all else fails, Settings is the place to start when looking to delete apps. (Note that the steps in this post are for Samsung phones. Your exact steps may be different.)
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2. Don’t believe the app hype
Contrary to what most believe, letting apps run in the background is not bad for Androids. If you are constantly opening and closing apps, you can hurt your phone’s performance and battery life.
Apps on iPhones, on the other hand, don’t truly keep running in the background. If you are multitasking, the app you’ve stopped using will suspend itself, keeping its data in memory but not using resources.
Closing apps and reopening them will drain your battery in the long run on an iPhone. If you want to use Background App Refresh, go to Settings, General, Background App Refresh and turn it on.
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3. More battery drain culprits
Your settings can siphon battery life. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, turn off Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi when you’re not using them. If you’re in a place with no Wi-Fi, use Airplane Mode. Your phone will stop hunting for a signal, which really drains the battery. Another straightforward trick is to lower the brightness of your screen.
To lower the brightness on your iPhone, open the Settings app, and tap Display & Brightness. To turn off the GPS on your iPhone, tap on Settings, Privacy, Location Services and slide the toggle to off. To turn off Bluetooth, open the Settings app, scroll down and tap Bluetooth, then slide the toggle to off.
For turning off Wi-Fi, launch Settings, tap Wi-Fi and slide the toggle to off. There’s also an easy way on iPhones to adjust your screen brightness or shut off your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi by accessing the phone’s handy Control Center. There you can see icons for Screen Brightness, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.
On your Android, open Settings, tap Display and you can either turn on Auto Brightness or use the slider to adjust the brightness manually. To turn off Wi-Fi, go to Settings, tap on Connection, find Wi-Fi, and slide the toggle to off. On the same page, you can also turn off your Bluetooth and GPS.
If your Android supports this function, you can go to your home screen and swipe down to see the Status Bar. From there you can click off the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS simply by tapping the appropriate icons. You can also adjust the brightness of your screen.
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4. Stay up with the times
When there’s an update for your phone, install it. Makers are continually fixing performance and security issues.
On an iPhone, back up files you don’t want to lose such as photos and videos. Next, tap Settings from your home screen, tap General, Software Update, Download and Install, enter Passcode if you are asked, tap Agree to the Terms and Conditions and Agree again to confirm.
Know that apps are not updated during an operating system update. You will have to go to each app to see if any updates are available.
On Android, tap About Phone and then Software Information. This step will tell you if you have the latest operating system. If you don’t have the latest version, tap Settings, Software Updates, and Download Updates.
5. To charge or not?
For iPhones and Androids, keep your phone charged between 40% and 80%. You want to restart your phone from time to time to give it a clean slate. And never let the battery overheat.
Now, this is important. If you need to replace your charging cable, make sure it comes from the original manufacturer or a certified brand. Generic chargers may save you a few bucks, but they can also be extremely dangerous. Check to see if your charger could cause a fire.
6. Stay vigilant on security
Smartphones can get viruses and malware. Here, an iPhone outperforms Android. Apple does not give its source code to developers, and consumers cannot easily modify the code on their own. That keeps hackers at bay.
Androids use open-source code that app developers can use, and hackers can misuse. If you own an Android and think you might have a virus, look for signs such as you’re blasted with pop-up ads, your battery is draining too quickly, you see spikes in data usage and unexpected apps appear on your phone.
To get rid of a bad Android app, put your phone into Safe Mode. This step disables third-party apps. The method for doing this may vary depending on your phone, but for most, it involves holding down the Power key and then tapping and holding Power off. Tap OK when prompted to reboot into Safe Mode.
To remove the offending app, open Settings, tap on Apps, go through your list of apps, and tap on Uninstall. You can then restart your phone to get out of Safe Mode.
Get some more advice if you suspect your phone is infected with malware.
7. Clear things out
Delete the cache from whatever browser you’re using. On iPhone, tap Settings, find your browser and tap Clear History and Website Data.
To clear cache from third-party apps, tap Settings, General, iPhone storage and search through your apps. There may be a button to reset cache when you relaunch the app.
On Android, you can delete files by tapping on Settings, Storage, Free up space, pick a file to delete and check the empty box on the right. Then, tap Free Up at the bottom of the screen.
Keep your data safe: 7 ways to hack-proof your smartphone
Data breaches, ransomware, and phishing attacks are always in the headlines. That’s why it’s essential for you to know these seven ways to hack-proof your smartphone to keep your data safe. Tap or click here before it’s too late.
Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.