The Truth About Your Phone: 17+ Phone Myths Answered
We all have plenty of questions about our phones. Is our phone always listening to us? Is it safe to use while pumping gas? Does closing apps help our phone perform better? Former Apple store tech David Payette is here to set the record straight. Director: Trevor Locke Director of Photography: Rahil Ashruff Editor: Louis Lalire Host: David Payette Coordinating Producer: Kevyn Fairchild Line Producer: Joseph Buscemi Associate Producer: Shelby Bomah Production Manager: Eric Martinez Production Coordinator: Fernando Davila Casting Producer: Thomas Giglio Talent Booker: Nicole Ford Camera Operator: Cloud Audio: Gabe Quiroga Gaffer: Cody Blevins Production Assistant: Caleb, Clark Lea Donenberg Post Production Supervisor: Alexa Deutsch Post Production Coordinator: Ian Bryant Supervising Editor: Doug Larsen Assistant Editor: Andy Morell Graphics Supervisor: Ross Rackin Designer: Samuel Fuller 00:00 - Tech Truths with David Payette 00:21 - Is my phone listening to me? 02:03 - Are our phones watching us? 02:59 - Do our phones track us even when they are off? 04:20 - Does your phone get better service depending on how you hold it? 04:27 - Does your phone ruin credit cards or hotel room keys? 04:48 - Will a magnet wipe your phone? 04:57 - Do phones attract lightning? 05:07 - Is it safe to hold your phone when pumping gas? 05:15 - Can your phone be hacked on public WiFi or random USB chargers? 06:23 - Is Airplane Mode really necessary? 07:32 - Does dark mode help your eyesight? 08:20 - Is planned obsolescence real? 09:28 - How waterproof are our phones? 10:33 - Does closing apps enhance your phone’s performance? 11:43 - What’s the deal with exploding phone batteries? 12:40 - What’s the best way to charge our phones? 13:48 - How often do you need to clean your phone’s screen?
- 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.
[fingers snapping] 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.
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?
[bright music] 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.
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] [beep] 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?
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.
[crew laughing] [beep] 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?
- On Androids?
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.
- Let's dance.
[David chuckling] - 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?
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- [signage thudding] 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.