Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's resolution - take care of your gadgets in 2012

Our life expectancy  from gadgets (and the timespan in which we get bored and want to replace them) is shortening rapidly. Earlier, I had blogged about how the lifespan of my first two mobile phones was 7 years. Nowadays, I get bored with them in less than a year, and I don't have to feel guilty about it - research shows that the average smartphone user replaces his handset after approximately 11 months.

However, even if we replace our toys sooner, we can still take care of them better. In fact, extra care is indicated because they are more expensive AND more fragile than ever before. Touchscreens, even those protected with Gorilla Glass, are not likely to survive falls.  Both battery longevity and life are under threat from increasingly powerful processors in tablets, mobile phones and laptops. The displays and the fancy surfaces of gadgets are increasingly susceptible to smudges, scratches and scuffs. 

Whether you plan to sell or exchange your old gadgets or simply pass them on to other family members, it's nice to keep them in mint condition, so that the next user is happier to get them! So let's see some simple tips to ensure that you do this -

1. Give your gadgets a rest!

I credit this idea to David Carnoy's post on CNet. When he took his iPhone to the Apple Genius Bar complaining of poor battery life, the Apple Genius gave him a simple and ingenious solution - turn off your phone at night, at least once a week. According to him, all gadgets get 'stressed' when they are continuously powered up, even if they are idle. 

Whether or not this improves battery life, it seems like good common sense advice to me. Every now and then, let your gadgets get a good night's sleep. This applies especially for your mobile phone, your router and your laptop, if you prefer to hibernate it rather than shut it down. 

2. Get screen protection first!

The most vulnerable part of your device (especially a touchscreen device) is the screen. Not only is it likely to crack if you drop the device, it is also a magnet for fingerprints, smudges and oily marks. As soon as you buy a device, buy the touchscreen protector - a thin protective plastic film that covers it. This is the first line of defence for your screen. Touchscreen protectors for mobile phones are available in most stores, in a range from Rs.200-400. And ask the shop to install it for you, to make sure it is done perfectly, and without ugly air bubbles. They will usually oblige, even in the Apple Store. 

3. Get a slip cover for your iPad or laptop

There are a host of fancy accessories like the Smart Cover for  the iPad and lots of laptop bags. But in a country like India, which is hugely dust-prone, a protective cover is a must. A slip cover or sleeve which completely encases the device, is a cost-effective solution with dual use - it protects the device in transit and if you leave it on at home, it also prevents dust from accumulating on it. At least in Mumbai, where pollution and dust levels are  high, I can see how much dust accumulates on my keyboard and screen, everyday.

Slip covers start at Rs.600 for the iPad and for a 13 inch laptop. You can pick them up at Heera Panna, or at a good luggage store like Sayonara on Linking Road, Bandra (W).

If you are disinclined to spend this money, you can employ the time-tested solution used by my grandmother and most Indian housewives - cover your gadgets with a small cloth when not in use. :) 

But don't underestimate the additional layer of protection that a slip cover will provide in transit. My friend dropped her well-padded Samsonite rucksack in a rickshaw and found that the fall had chipped off the edge of her  Inspiron laptop. An extra protective padding could have prevented it.

4. Charge wisely

There are so many conflicting reports on how to extend battery life through proper charging, and battery life is such a subjective parameter, that it's hard to give advice. But here are some basics that should work for everyone -

  • Never leave a device to charge overnight, you will tend to overcharge, and this reduces battery life.
  • As a general rule, to the extent possible, keep the charging threshold between 30% and 90%. This means, charge the device when  the battery is around 30% and stop charging when it is around 90%. 
  • Never, ever leave a device or charger plugged in permanently or for a long time. It will destroy the battery.

5. A wet tissue, everyday

Wipe your devices every morning with a slightly damp tissue to remove dust and dirt. Of course, it is safe to do this when they are powered off. It will not take you more than 2 minutes and you really  do not need a more expensive cleaning solution. This will prevent dust from settling into open sockets and between the keys.

6. Dedicate a pocket for your phone

While I favor slip covers for tablets and laptops, I don't find them a practical solution for phones. For one thing, you will need to pull out your phone all the time to check messages or answer calls, so it can be inconvenient. Also, in my own experience, if you try to take a phone out from a slip cover in a hurry, say when you are walking, you may accidentally drop the phone. I recommend a separate dedicated and accessible pocket - in your trousers, handbag, or rucksack, as the case may be. A dedicated pocket is necessary because hard or heavy objects like keys or loose change can scratch your phone's display.

I wish you and your gadgets, a high performing and trouble free 2012!