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When a smartphone fault isn't a fault: battery life, performance and storage problems explained

How you might be able to fix your faulty smartphone

We have become dependent on our mobile devices for everything from phone calls to emails and storing our favourite photos, so it’s no surprise that sales of smartphones are soaring. A recent announcement from IDC suggested that, for the first time, 2013 will see more smartphones sold worldwide than traditional feature phones. However, as sales of smartphones continue to rise, so too will the number of ‘faults’ found with these devices.

In the UK alone approximately 60,000 mobile phones are reported as ‘faulty’ each month. For many of us, this can result in an agonising three-day separation from our phone while it’s sent to the network operator’s repair centre to be fixed. But it isn't always necessary to send your phone away to the repair centre, though. So what’s going on?

Around 30 percent of smartphone faults are a result of unrealistic expectation or user error, while a further 60 percent are caused by software or application issues. However, what’s important to note is that these can be fixed easily without the need to send the device away.

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The most common mobile faults can be divided into three main categories: battery-related problems, connectivity issues such as being unable to receive emails or connect to the internet, and application or software problems, such as the device speed or applications freezing up.

Although such problems may seem a disaster - especially if you rely on your phone for work - in 60 percent of cases these issues can be resolved within minutes or, perhaps more surprisingly, are not even faults at all.

Smartphone faults: Unrealistic expectations

In many cases, the problem is down to your expectations, rather than a fault with the device itself. When switching from an old feature phone to the latest smartphone, most people tend to expect better performance all round, but this is unrealistic.

Low battery

For example, one of the most common 'faults' reported with smartphones is that the battery drains too quickly. However, this is usually because it's being compared with the user's old feature phone which might last all week without needing a recharge.

Smartphones, though, have much bigger screens, GPS receivers, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (to name a few features), all consuming much more energy, so we can hardly expect the battery to last as long.

Another frequently reported problem is that the smartphone won’t take photos, when in fact it’s simply that the device's storage is full and can’t save the images. We expect our iPhones to hold a limitless amount of photos, but we often forget that high-quality videos take up an awful lot of space, as do large quantities of photos, emails and applications.

iPhone photos and videos

Smartphone faults: Misuse

Another factor behind mobile faults is the misuse of the smartphones' functions. When we get a new handset we often have no idea what it can and can't do.

For example, a common complaint is that the speaker doesn’t work. However in the majority of cases this is because the volume is set to minimum. Unlike old feature phones, there are now at least seven volume settings to contend with, from radio to keyboard and speaker volume, so it’s more than likely that you’re not adjusting the right one. It may even be because the phone is set to mute, or in a silent or 'Do Not Disturb' mode.

Volume muted

Other common issues include a lack of internet connection or ability to receive data services. These faults are often a result of user error such as leaving the phone on aeroplane mode or having data services turned off when roaming. Software updates can also remove or reset data settings, and all that needs to be done is to enter the correct settings again.

Smartphone faults: Avoiding problems

To help avoid unnecessary problems and save yourself the anxiety of parting with your phone for a few days, here are five top tips that all smartphone users should know:

1. Always close down your apps after use: Keeping apps running when you are not using them could drain your battery a lot more quickly and also cause your smartphone to become slow to respond.

2. Delete unwanted content: Pictures, videos, music – they all take up storage space. Make sure to check your phone’s content regularly and delete anything you don't need. You can sync or back up videos and other space-hogging files.

3. Turn off unnecessary features: Smartphones may have host of new features, but do you need them all enabled? Switch off any unnecessary features when you are not using them, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to save your battery life.

4. Be careful which apps you download: Some applications can put a high demand on the processor or have access to your personal data, so be sure to check the permissions and application requirements before installing anything

5. Understand the settings: How many of us actually bother to read the manual when we get a new smartphone? Before jumping to conclusions about what’s wrong with your phone, check through the phones’ settings and make sure nothing is turned on(or off)  that shouldn’t be. There could be a simple explanation to the problem.

Many mobile operators now have the technology to provide in-store and even remote diagnosis and repair for all kinds of smartphone problems. Devices such as the Cellebrite Touch, enable operators to identify and fix a host of problems - from the basic user error such as forgetting your phone pin code, to the more serious mobile malware and dodgy applications that may be syphoning away your information (and cash).

So next time you have a problem with your mobile phone, why not take it to your operator’s local store and see if they have this facility? You might just be spared having to be without your device.

About the authorDavid Heled

Guest author David Heled is VP R&D for Cellebrite and has more than 20 years of experience in R&D management in high-tech companies and the IDF. David holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the Technion, Israel institute of Technology and an MBA from the Israeli Academic Studies Centre.

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