Give Your Smartphone a Mid-Life Spruce-Up

By Chris Mills on at

Two year contracts, eh? They suck. They suck bad. Holding onto a smartphone for two whole years seems like an eternity in this day and age, where new flagship phones roll through seemingly every couple of months. But it's not all bad: if you're having a bit of a mid-phone crisis, here are a few tips to make it all better.

 

The Simple

There are a few things that are so obvious they barely qualify for the term 'spruce-up', but worth mentioning anyway.

To start with, you can have an app purge. Go to the app list (on Android) or just the homes screen on iOS, and force yourself to go through deleting things you don't actually use on your phone. No-one really watches 4oD on their phone. (Actually, does anyone really watch 4oD at all?) All the ones that you don't use, delete. Err on the side of deletingness here, as you'll be honestly surprised how little you use most apps until they're gone. And hey, they're just one download away if you want the poor critters back.

The next thing I'd recommend is a full physical cleaning. According to stats from Which? magazine, the average smartphone has more germs than most toilet seats. Antibacterial wipes can sort that out. If your phone has exposed toggles, like the mute toggle on iPhones, that's often a terrible place for dirt and grime to hide -- the end of a needle, wrapped in a super-thin cloth like a lens cloth can normally sort that out.

The hardest place to clean, unsurprisingly, is the headphone jack. On my phone, which generally lives in the cesspool of lint that is my jeans pockets, I have to go fishing with a needle for pieces of lint every few months. But even if you don't have anything jammed in the bottom, giving it a clean can do wonders for audio quality. Best way to go about it is a Q-tip liberally doused in a powerful solvent (rubbing alcohol works best).

 

The Tiny-Bit-More-Complicated

The second R of the three Rs of tech support is reinstall, and that's effectively what we're going to do here. Unlike on older PCs, where getting a clean start requires reinstalling Windows, you can just do a factory reset. Depending on your phone, this option is normally found under the General/Reset/Backup menu, and is the semi-thermonuclear option.

A factory reset will wipe all your data from the phone, including contacts, messages and apps. But, in payback, you'll get a phone that will probably run a lot smoother without all your junk. Just make sure you get a backup of the stuff you want to keep (realistically, photos, contacts and maybe messages) before wiping.

Another thing I'd definitely recommend is a battery replacement. While the rest of the components in your phone don't really wear down after a year's usage, a li-ion battery can lose up to 30 per cent of its capacity in just 12 month's usage.

Replacing varies between super-easy and totally impossible depending on your handset. Phones with a replaceable cell (most Samsung devices) just need you to pick up a new battery off eBay for a tenner (careful of crappy Chinese fakes); iPhone batteries can be swapped out with just a screwdriver and a pair of tweezers, but if you've got pretty much anything else, you'll be out of luck replacing it yourself. Manufacturers will normally charge upwards of £70 for a battery replacement.

 

The Full-On Nerd

Got a slightly older Android handset? Chances are you can give it a big boost by flashing a custom ROM. The procedure varies from handset to handset, but as a general rule, it requires hooking your phone up to a PC, playing with drivers for a little while, using the often-feared 'recovery mode', and sideloading files. We've got a general guide to rooting, a roundup of the best custom ROMs, and even some rooting how-to walkthroughs for some of the more popular handsets out there.

Rooting a custom ROM is good for a bunch of reasons, but at heart, you're getting a tuned-up operating system, often tweaked to get the most out of a specific handset, and with a more up-to-date version of Android than whatever you were rocking before. Not to mention, the visual differences between stock Android and some of the custom ROMs is worth upgrading for the novelty value alone.

This week, we're expanding minds and dispensing some of Gizmodo UK's favourite tips, with a "how to" theme week, in association with O2 Guru TV. Bookmark this page for all related features.

 

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