Mobile phones have changed quite a bit since the 1990s, but a lot of the myths surrounding them haven't…
MYTH: Closing your background apps will speed up your phone.
FALSE. It makes sense – your phone can only handle so much, and having every single app open at the same time must be a bit of a brain drain. But the truth is, most modern smartphones are designed to optimise foreground tasks while any number of others are waiting harmlessly in the background. It doesn’t hurt to have a clean-out from time to time, but it won't speed your phone up if you do.
MYTH: You can dry a wet phone in a bag of rice.
FALSE. Unless you've got a water-resistant smartphone like the iPhone 7, the Samsung Galaxy S7 or the Sony Xperia™ XZ, you’re probably terrified of water. If you drop your old handset in a swimming pool, there’s a good chance it’s going to die – which is why you should always carry a bag of uncooked rice, or so says the internet. While rice does absorb moisture, it only works if the grains can actually touch the water, which they obviously can’t when it’s inside your sealed phone. What’s more, the powdery starch that comes off the rice can work its way through the cracks and may end up /increasing/ the corrosion instead.
MYTH: A screen protector will stop your phone getting scratched.
LARGELY FALSE. When touchscreen smartphones first came out, they were made of thin, responsive glass that was highly susceptible to scratches, chips and cracks. But for the last five years or more, all the major handset manufacturers have been pioneering super-tough displays (such as Gorilla Glass on LG, Huawei and Samsung models) that can even survive being taken to with a knife. So don’t let others tell you that a plastic screen protector is a must-buy: it simply isn’t the case anymore.
MYTH: More megapixels means a better camera.
FALSE. The megapixel war ended years ago. Back when point-and-shoot digital cameras (remember them?!) were trying to outdo each other, the bigger the number on the box, the better. The amount of megapixels a camera has actually only relates to how big a photo you can take with it, which – unless you want to make billboards – has been fairly redundant since about 2009. If you’re looking for a good phone camera, ignore the MP count and look at the more important stats instead: the quality of the sensor, the lens and the image-processor.
MYTH: A mobile phone can cook an egg.
FALSE. In the early days of mobile technology, there were all kinds of horror stories about radiation. The worst came from a string of YouTube videos that appeared to show an egg cooking between two ringing phones – supposedly showing what was happening to your brain when you made a call. The only problem is, it was all a hoax. Mobile phones do emit a microscopic amount of radiation, but you’d need about 7,000 handsets to even start getting an egg warm.
MYTH: You should drain your battery completely before recharging it.
LARGELY FALSE. Back in the old days (well, about ten years ago), mobile phones were powered by NiCAD and NiMH batteries that lasted longer if you ran them down before charging them back up again. But if you've bought your phone anytime in the last five years, it'll come with a Lithium-ion battery, which doesn't have "cell memory" like the older units – meaning it makes no difference if you recharge from 1% or 99%.
MYTH: Charging your phone overnight is bad for it.
LARGELY FALSE. Yet another myth that’s left over from the dark ages – old phones didn’t know when they were fully charged, which meant it was a bad idea to leave them plugged in for long stretches overnight. Modern phones aren’t called “smart” for nothing though –they all stop drawing power as soon as they’re at 100%. (Top tip: You can charge your phone even quicker if you switch it to airplane mode.)
MYTH: Taking out your SIM card keeps you from being tracked.
FALSE. The bigger myth here is that you're being tracked at all. Unless you're a wanted criminal, the government has no interest in who you are or what you're doing with your phone. What makes no sense, however, is every Hollywood film that sees Tom Cruise trying to evade the police by taking out his SIM card. If your phone still has power in the battery, it can be tracked by the authorities. When Tom throws away his SIM, it just means he’s going to have to get a new contract.
MYTH: You can wipe your phone with a magnet.
FALSE. Walter White did it, so it must be true. Right? Wrong. While Breaking Bad featured a great scene when an incriminating hard drive was destroyed with a giant magnet, in reality, it just wouldn’t have worked (without the world’s most powerful super magnet). What’s more, computer hard drives (HDD) and the solid state drives (SSD) inside your phone are very different, which means it’s perfectly safe to expose your mobile to a magnetic field. It will mess with the compass though, so it’s not a great idea if you're using a map app.
MYTH: Phones interfere with hospitals and planes.
FALSE. Back when mobile phones were a new thing and everyone suddenly started carrying radiation-emitting devices in their pockets, it made sense to err on the side of caution and ban them from hospitals, airplanes and petrol stations. The fact is though, phones are far too weak to switch-off life support machines, crash jumbo jets or blow up oil tankers (and all those things are now electromagnetically shielded) – but it's still considered safer not to risk it.