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5 stupid mistakes that shorten the life of your gadgets

5 stupid mistakes that shorten the life of your gadgets
© Antonio Guillem | Dreamstime.com

The latest, top-of-the-line smartphones can cost anywhere from $700 to well over $1,000. The prices are even higher for laptops, reaching past $2,000. Tablets like iPads can be pricey, too.

Nowadays, you're not just buying a new gadget, you're making an investment. As we all know, investments are long-term enterprises that you have to protect.

So, if you want to make sure that expensive new device you've invested in lasts longer, take care of it. Avoid these five mistakes that can curtail your smart devices' lifespan.

1. Being a cheapskate

Many of us fail to realize that the charger and cable that came in the box with our new device is designed especially for the product. A charger is a charger, right?

Wrong. If you lose your charger or the USB cable attached to it gets frayed, do not buy the cheapest charger and cable you can find. The few dollars you save on a cheaper accessory are very likely to affect the performance of your device.

That's because these chargers and cables are one-size-fits-all and often do not have the voltage needed to work with your specific device. Why does that matter? Well, your battery may end up not getting the juice it needs to fully charge or it actually begins to erode the battery's life.

These cheap chargers can also be a threat to your life. Researchers say generic phone chargers are less likely to meet established safety and quality testing guidelines than their name-brand counterparts and lead to serious shocks and burns.

A woman in Louisiana reported that her generic iPhone charger had caused a fire in her bed, burning both her sheets and her arms. The lesson: Spend a little more on getting a replacement charger and cable from the devices' manufacturers or from certified dealers.

2. Wanting to be at 100% all the time

While newer lithium-ion or lithium-polymer smartphone, tablet and laptop batteries are a huge improvement from the past, it's best not to tempt fate. Avoid situations that can shorten your battery's life.

We've already discussed how off-brand chargers can degrade your battery. Now let's talk about how you charge your battery.

The rule of thumb for the past few years is to keep your phone, tablet and/or laptop charged at between 40% and 80%. The reason is that batteries containing a higher voltage are more stressed.

As for your laptop, remember that those batteries have a finite number of charge-discharge cycles. If you frequently let your battery completely run out of juice, it affects the charge-discharge cycle and takes away from its originally-intended lifespan. That's why you should try to keep your battery charged to at least 40%.

3. Being power-hungry

This is an interesting one. When the new generation of batteries reaches maximum charge they have mechanisms to prevent additional charging. That holds true for tablets, smartphones and laptops.

While it's not considered harmful to keep your smartphone or tablet plugged in all night, do try to turn them off when you can to give them a rest. It doesn't hurt.

The same can't be said about laptops. The reason you don't want them to stay plugged in all the time is that some batteries can overheat and possibly cause fires. Most times it's the manufacturers' fault, but again, don't tempt fate.

4. Playing with the elements

This seems like a no-brainer, but here you go. Smartphones are more prone to being battered by Mother Nature because we take them everywhere.

Whether you leave them in a hot car or out under the sun during a beach outing, you should know that heat is your phone's worst enemy. Not only can it cause the battery to leak or overheat, but it can also cause data to be lost or corrupted.

Going back to avoiding non-authorized accessories, this rule doesn't just apply to chargers and cables. It also — and especially — applies to batteries. In Oklahoma City, a woman left a lithium-ion battery meant for her iPhone inside her hot car.

The battery didn't just overheat, it exploded and set the woman's car on fire. The battery had been purchased from an unauthorized third-party dealer.

Extreme cold temperatures also wreak havoc on your phone. Lithium-ion batteries can stop discharging electricity in extremely cold temperatures leading to shortened battery life, display problems and even shattering the glass on the display.

5. Being Pig Pen

By cleaning, we don't mean just a surface clean to get rid of the inherent germs we bring to our smartphones, tablets and laptop keyboards (although that is important). What we mean is a deep clean.

If you use your laptop frequently, the fan that keeps the device cool also sucks in dust, lint and all manner of airborne debris. A dirty laptop can impede performance and cause overheating.

Using a can of compressed air, spray it along the keyboard to blow out any dust, lint or crumbs. Don't ignore any vents and USB cable openings. Debris gathers there as well. Make this a once a week habit.

You need to clean the inside of your smartphones and tablets as well. The places where debris can get in are USB ports, earphone jacks and tiny speakers.

These openings are small, so your cleaning tools have to be too. Use a needle or a plastic toothpick and gently probe and dig into the opening to get as much debris out as you can. Again, the watchword is gently.

These are easy mistakes to rectify. Maybe the fact that they are so easy leads us to forget all about them. So print these reminders, keep them somewhere you can see them and remember to do them to keep your devices working longer.

Kim's Take: Should you buy a foldable smartphone?

It takes a lot to impress tech customers. So far this year, the foldable smartphone is generating a ton of excitement. And why not? A radical new phone design hasn’t appeared in years. Should you buy one?

Click or tap here to get Kim's take on whether you should buy a foldable phone.

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