The Truth About Your Phone: 17+ Phone Myths Answered
Released on 05/17/2023
Have you ever asked yourself,
Is my phone listening to me?
Is my phone watching me?
Does my phone track me even when it's off?
Maybe the real question is, does it even need to?
Here to set the record straight, I'm David Payette,
former Apple Store Tech and smartphone expert.
This is Tech Truths.
Are our phones listening to us?
The simple answer is yes
but not in the way you would expect.
If you want to rest easy,
the amount of battery life our phones would use
if they listened to everything you said all the time
would drain its battery very fast.
Let's use this iPhone 14 Pro as an example.
In the case of Hey Siri,
the first sounds it listens for is not hey, it's S.
It isn't transcribing your words or entire sentences.
It's not nearly powerful enough for that.
Instead it's listening for a specific sequence of sounds
which is called an acoustic model.
The takeaway is that your phone
is absolutely listening to you,
but it can only recognize one thing.
Hey Siri, kind of like my cats whenever I say food.
The phone's main processor is a lot more powerful
than it's always-on processor,
but that power comes at a cost, battery life.
So it's the always-on processor
that always listens for trigger sounds.
When the always-on processor hears an S sound
it triggers a kind of built-in checklist.
Was the S preceded by a high front vowel like A?
Was it followed by another front vowel like E?
If all the boxes get checked, the always-on processor
wakes up the A16 Bionic for help.
Now that the phone's main processor is involved
the possibilities for analyzing your voice are endless.
is by far the clearest and the safest,
at least in terms of your personal privacy.
So what can you do to protect your privacy
as much as possible?
If you go to the settings app on your phone
and disable, 'Hey Siri', 'Hey Google' or 'Hi Bixby',
then none of this happens at all.
Are our phones watching us?
No, and they don't have to.
Social media companies can all infer our emotions
and our reactions based on our behavior.
And what about TikTok?
They've been all over the news lately.
TikTok collects both face prints and voice prints
from content that you upload to their servers.
Doesn't sound great but it gets worse.
TikTok uses pre-loading to send photos and videos
from your phone to their servers
even before you choose to share it publicly.
We may collect biometric identifiers
of biometric information as defined under US laws
such as face prints and voice prints from your user content.
Where required by law,
we will seek any required permissions from you
prior to any such collection.
They'll ask our permission to do it
but only if they're legally required to.
That doesn't exactly make me feel better.
Do our phones track us even when they're off?
There's no right or wrong answer to this one.
Does your phone ever really turn-
Somebody's- [phone beeping]
Do our phones ever really turn all the way off?
The answer to that question is no.
The always-on processor stays running in the background
even when your phone's operating system isn't.
But that doesn't necessarily mean you could be tracked.
On iPhones, Find My works
even when your phone is powered off
but it's not your phone that's tracking you.
All of the other Apple devices
that are part of the Find My network can locate your device
and report its location to Apple servers.
Androids are a different story.
You can find a Samsung Galaxy phone when it's offline,
meaning cellular data or wifi are turned off
but not if the phone itself is turned all the way off.
Google's find my device feature
is one step further behind that.
You might be able to find your phone's last known location
but you won't be able to see any live location
if it isn't connected to the internet.
If you want to not be findable
you could disable Find My when you power off your phone.
First, press the side button and either volume button
until 'slide to power off' appears on the screen.
Then tap the tiny text below the slider
that says 'iPhone Findable After Power Off'.
Then tap 'Temporarily Turn off Finding',
enter your passcode and power off your phone.
Alright, time for rapid fire.
Does your phone get better service
depending on how you hold it?
Antenna gate is over
and it's been over since the iPhone four.
Does your phone ruin credit cards or hotel room keys?
Your phone by itself? No.
It does create some magnetic fields
but they're not strong enough to demagnetize a credit card.
MagSafe and other magnetic chargers and cases however,
are a different story.
Never put a credit card in between your phone
and a MagSafe case or it will demagnetize.
Will a magnet wipe your phone?
Nope, this one is a myth.
Magnets used to be, oh oh, I'm just kidding, okay.
Do phones attract lightning?
No, but if you're on top of a mountain,
holding an umbrella, taking a selfie and you get zapped.
Don't blame your phone.
Is it safe to hold your phone while you're pumping gas?
Myth Busters already covered that one.
Can your phone be hacked on public wifi
or by plugging it into random USB chargers?
Yes, but in different ways.
Public wifi networks are often unsecured
meaning that any device that's also connected to it
may be able to intercept your data
or see what websites you're visiting
using an attack called a Man In The Middle attack.
Plugging your phone into public USB chargers
isn't a good idea either
but phone manufacturers have been making it easier
to protect against this kind of hack.
The reason public chargers are so dangerous
is that your phone's charging port
is also used for data transfers.
You might see a charging port
but a tiny computer might be lurking beneath the surface.
On iPhones a 'Trust This Device' popup appears
whenever you plug it into a device
that tries to access data on your phone.
Is there anyone there?
I told you.
On Androids the pop-up might say something else
like 'Enable USB File Transfer'.
That pop-up never happens
when you plug your phone into a charger
that's just a charger.
If you see that kind of popup when you plug in your phone
don't trust it and find another charger right away.
Is airplane mode really necessary?
In theory, radio frequency interference from cell phones
could affect certain airplane systems.
In practice, it's not just improbable,
it's likely impossible.
There are a few reasons for this.
First, airplane systems and modern planes
are hardened against RFI.
There has never been an airplane crash
due to cell phone interference.
I've always thought the real reason
for airplane mode wasn't about safety,
it's about wireless carriers.
As we travel, our cell phones get handed off
from tower to tower to tower.
If you have airplanes full of hundreds of phones
zipping by these towers at hundreds of miles an hour
that's a lot of handing off for cell phone carriers to do.
The European Union recently made the decision
to allow 5G on their airplanes
along with previous mobile technology generations like 4G.
So this means airplane mode
is about to become a thing of the past, at least in the EU.
What about flights in the US you ask?
Not a peep from the FAA so far.
Airplane mode isn't going anywhere yet.
Does dark mode actually help your eyesight?
I'm not a doctor but my opinion is yes,
in certain circumstances,
especially since OLED displays became mainstream.
Maybe you're thinking, Okay nerd, why is OLED
or organic light emitting diode such a big deal?
It's easiest if I show you.
Both these phones are showing an image
of some white text on a black background
but one of the backgrounds, isn't really black? Is it?
It's more of a glowing blue.
The big deal with OLED
is that instead of your phone's backlight
lighting up the entire screen,
now the black pixels are just off.
Not only does it increase contrast
and make your phone easier to look at,
no backlight means longer battery life.
Dark mode on OLED displays helps your eyesight more
than dark mode on older LCD screens.
Is planned obsolescence real?
I think so, but tech companies are sneaky about it.
Today's phones have amazingly powerful hardware
but one of the things people complain about
is that once we upgrade our phones
to the latest version of the operating system
we can never go back to an older one.
And the result is that over time,
new features in our phones get slower.
Usually iPhones support about five years
of the latest versions of iOS.
For instance, iOS 16, which came out in September, 2022
is supported on phones as old as the iPhone 10
and the iPhone eight, both of which were released in 2017.
Androids however, are a different story.
Whether or not you could downgrade
the software on your Android phone
depends entirely on the phone manufacturer
and model of phone you have.
Whether or not you should downgrade your Android
is a different story.
You could expose your phone to a software vulnerability
that had been patched or avoid your warranty.
So how often should we be updating our phones?
My advice is to always update to the latest version
of the operating system
unless your phone is the oldest model
supported by the newest operating system.
How waterproof are phones really?
Basically, phones are about as water resistant
as they need to be.
Apple and Samsung love to talk
about various phones IP ratings.
An Ingress Protection rating is composed of two digits.
The first digit, which could be zero through six
represents the degree of protection
against solids like dust and dirt.
The second number, which could be zero through nine
represents a phone's degree of protection against liquids.
IP67 is clearly defined.
You can have your phone underwater for 30 minutes
at up to one meter deep, that's about three feet.
An IP68 can mean very different things for different phones,
but they're all rated IP68.
What about IP69 ratings?
Do we need that?
Not unless you're power washing your phone,
but there's a catch.
Our phones are water resistant, not soapy water resistant.
Over time, exposure to other liquids
can slowly break down the waterproof seals inside your phone
so be careful the next time you're in the shower.
Shampoo your hair but not your phone.
Does closing apps really enhance your phone's performance?
I think we can all agree
that the signs performance has gone downhill
but we might not all agree on my response to this question.
Companies like Apple and Samsung put a lot of effort
into building an operating system
that manages memory very efficiently
and minimizes the amount of battery apps use
when they're not on the screen.
That is absolutely true.
The second point they make
is that you're actually wasting phone battery life
if you close out your apps because it takes more battery
to start an app up from scratch
than it does to restore it from a background sleep state.
That is also true but there's one very important
and fairly obvious thing the experts often leave out.
Apps don't always do what they're supposed to.
Otherwise, why would Apple have an article
about what to do with unresponsive apps?
When something goes wrong with an app and it happens a lot
it can rev your phone's processor
all the way up to 100% and get stuck there
and that drains your battery life.
My opinion is that it's a good idea
to close out your apps at the end of the day
just to be safe.
Or whenever you notice your phone battery draining faster
or getting hotter than normal.
What's the deal with exploding phone batteries?
Inside every phone repair shop, there's one very important,
very low tech piece of technology, a fire safe,
or at least there should be.
Every new technician is told
that if a phone battery starts to leak or sizzle or smoke
to throw it in the fire safe and shut the door.
Lithium ion batteries don't usually explode,
at least not in the traditional sense.
When they're damaged or they're short circuit
the chemicals inside react poorly.
They smoke or they bubble
and sometimes they do catch on fire.
Usually though there are warning signs.
Phones rarely go up in flames,
but if no one's around to notice the problem
that's where the real danger occurs.
And that's why it's not the best idea
to put lithium ion batteries
in your checked baggage on an airplane.
If your phone is so hot
it feels like it's going to catch on fire,
turn it off if you can
and then set it aside until it cools down.
What's the best way to charge our phones?
Lithium ion batteries are much smarter
than older nickel cadmium
or nickel metal hydride rechargeable batteries.
The smart technology built into our phones
is designed to help maximize the battery's lifespan.
The zero to 100% charge level you see on your phone
doesn't represent the battery's actual minimum
or maximum capacity.
It's kind of like the gas gauge on your car.
You can fill it up past F and when you hit E
there's still a little bit of gas left in the tank.
A 100% of your phone is the maximum capacity
it can be charged to without overcharging,
which could damage the battery.
On the other hand, 0% is the minimum amount of charge
your phone could be recharged from.
With lithium ion batteries
if they run completely out of juice, they never work again.
If you're going to store your phone
for a long period of time
leave it charged to around 50% to maximize its lifespan.
How often should you turn off your phone?
I like to say once a week.
Not only will it help you maximize your phone's performance,
it'll also help you save some battery life.
Oh I missed a cable.
How often do you really need to clean your phone screen?
According to Charles Gerba,
a microbiologist at the University of Arizona,
cell phones have about 10 times as many bacteria
as the average toilet seat.
Incidentally, toilet seats aren't really even that bad.
It's those remote cont-
It's those remote controls and doorknobs
you need to watch out for.
Scientists say, it's not our germs that get us sick.
It's other people's germs.
So I think the answer to how often
you should clean your phone
depends on how often you're handing it to other people.
If you're going to visit your grandparents
to show them photos,
it might be a good idea to sanitize your phone first.
Well we may never know everything going on
behind the scenes of the world of tech.
With a little digging, there's a lot of intriguing
and alarming information to discover.
Until next time, I'm David Payette and this was Tech Truth.
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