By Marie Flanagan October 26, 2021
Summary: We’re spending more time (and money) on our phones than ever. So, you might as well make sure you’re using it as efficiently as possible. We’ve rounded up the top 12 tips for your phone, from security to battery life to screen time. Scroll on.
In many cases, our cell phones are practically glued to our hands, whether we’re actually holding them or receiving notifications on wearable tech like smartwatches. In fact, Americans spend an average of 5.4 hours per day on their phones. If you’re going to be on it that often, you should know some shortcuts to get more out of your phone.
There’s seemingly no end to what our phones can do, but not every feature interests every person. We’ve broken our tips into three sections — security, battery life, and screen time — so you can easily find what you’re looking for.
As a mobile and internet service provider committed to security, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about how to stay safer on your phone.
Of course, this isn’t just limited to a number anymore. You can use fingerprint or face ID, patterns, and passwords — depending on your phone. While it can be annoying to unlock your phone just to read a text, don’t skip this step.
Having some sort of barrier between your phone and the rest of the world means that someone who steals it (or a good Samaritan who finds it left behind on a table) can’t automatically access your contacts, saved addresses, banking information, and any other confidential information you’ve got stored on your phone.
And not just the massive new systems that are rolled out every fall. Even the seemingly small software system updates offer important security patches. When developers find weak spots in their software, they create a patch and distribute that through a software update. Older systems are easier to hack, both because they’re less sophisticated and because hackers have had more time to find the weak spots.
Enable automatic software updates and you can rest easy, knowing you’re staying safer and your phone is updating at a time you’re not using it.
Just like you’d only access reputable websites on your computer (right?), you should only be downloading apps from reputable creators. This is important for every smartphone user but could be a bigger concern for those who use the Google Play store. Apple has infamously stringent qualifications before it will feature an app, so most iPhone users are relatively safe. Still, a little extra caution never hurt anybody.
If you’re not sure if you can trust an app, do a quick online search or read the app store reviews. Some people will make dupes of reputable apps in order to steal personal information. When in doubt, don’t download.
A battery that just never died is probably the thing we miss most about dumb phones. But since we’ll never go back to the days of printing out MapQuest directions, we’ve rounded up how to extend your phone’s battery life — in both your day-to-day usage and in the long-term.
Background app refresh is when your phone is, literally, refreshing your apps in the background — even if you’re not using them. Rather than waiting for your apps to update when you open them (like fetching new emails and loading new social media stories), everything will be up to date when you open the app. That’s convenient, but it can quickly drain your battery (and your mobile data plan) — even if you’re not actively using your phone.
Background app refresh is a feature of both Apple and Android operating systems and can be controlled under settings. For the maximum battery savings, turn it off completely, but you can always pick and choose what apps you’re okay with waiting to update. To find specific instructions for your phone and operating system, just do a quick search.
Our phone screens can be extremely bright. This is a useful feature if you’re outside on a sunny day or you’re scanning a virtual ticket, but if you’re just sitting on the couch, you probably don’t need it all the way up. Screen brightness can quickly drain your phone battery and is more likely to give you a headache.
Don’t want to worry about manually adjusting the brightness throughout the day? Turn on auto-brightness in your phone’s display settings. It’ll automatically change depending on how bright it is where you are. And don’t worry — you can still manually change things from there.
If new emails, direct messages, Facebook comments, or some other types of notification are frequently lighting up your home screen, consider turning off push notifications. This will save your battery in two ways: your home screen won’t be lighting up and you’ll probably be picking your phone up less to deal with the notification. Win-win.
Can’t live without push notifications? Try keeping them on for more urgent apps (like work email, but not social media) or using badges, which display on the app icon within your phone but don’t have to be displayed on your home screen.
If our earlier mention of screen time struck fear into your heart, you’re not alone. And while we love our phones most of the time, sometimes we want tools that help us feel less addicted to them. We’ve got three for you.
If social media is what has you constantly reaching for your device — scrolling through colorful photos and stories — try out gray-scale mode. It turns everything into black and white, like the reverse of what Dorothy experienced in the Wizard of Oz. You might find those posts less compelling when everything is gray, and you can still check in on any relevant accounts without falling down the rabbit hole.
Your device is probably already tracking your screen time. Rather than avoiding that section, use it to your advantage! You can set screen time limits for certain apps, general categories, or restrict access after a certain time. This is especially useful for those who are trying to break the habit of scrolling before bed.
Avoiding screens before bed is one of the most recommended strategies, but many of us have developed a routine of scrolling through social media or watching YouTube in bed before we fall asleep. That blue light could be disrupting your sleep cycle — and if you’re like most people, you’re probably battling any insomnia with more screen time.
Try downloading audio-based meditation or sleep apps. Or, go analog and enjoy a book. Some e-readers are okay, too, just be sure to turn off the backlight to get the maximum benefits.
Staying more secure, saving your battery life, and even using screen time responsibly are all important pieces of being a smartphone owner today. So is finding a plan that fits your life and your budget. EarthLink Mobile can help, with mobile plans starting at $17.95 per month all the way up to unlimited data — there’s something for everyone. Learn more about our mobile service today or chat with one of our experts at 866-314-0206 today!
Marie Flanagan is a contributing writer for EarthLink. She’s a life-long Atlantan with a passion for SaaS, IoT, AI, fintech, and everything technology. Her ideal offline situation is volunteering in STEM education for girls or on her front porch with a book.
See all posts from Marie Flanagan.