Posts with «smart phones» label

Apple brings eye-tracking to recent iPhones and iPads

Ahead of Global Accessibility Awareness Day this week, Apple is issuing its typical annual set of announcements around its assistive features. Many of these are useful for people with disabilities, but also have broader applications as well. For instance, Personal Voice, which was released last year, helps preserve someone's speaking voice. It can be helpful to those who are at risk of losing their voice or have other reasons for wanting to retain their own vocal signature for loved ones in their absence. Today, Apple is bringing eye-tracking support to recent models of iPhones and iPads, as well as customizable vocal shortcuts, music haptics, vehicle motion cues and more. 

Built-in eye-tracking for iPhones and iPads

The most intriguing feature of the set is the ability to use the front-facing camera on iPhones or iPads (at least those with the A12 chip or later) to navigate the software without additional hardware or accessories. With this enabled, people can look at their screen to move through elements like apps and menus, then linger on an item to select it. 

That pause to select is something Apple calls Dwell Control, which has already been available elsewhere in the company's ecosystem like in Mac's accessibility settings. The setup and calibration process should only take a few seconds, and on-device AI is at work to understand your gaze. It'll also work with third-party apps from launch, since it's a layer in the OS like Assistive Touch. Since Apple already supported eye-tracking in iOS and iPadOS with eye-detection devices connected, the news today is the ability to do so without extra hardware.

Vocal shortcuts for easier hands-free control

Apple is also working on improving the accessibility of its voice-based controls on iPhones and iPads. It again uses on-device AI to create personalized models for each person setting up a new vocal shortcut. You can set up a command for a single word or phrase, or even an utterance (like "Oy!" perhaps). Siri will understand these and perform your designated shortcut or task. You can have these launch apps or run a series of actions that you define in the Shortcuts app, and once set up, you won't have to first ask Siri to be ready. 

Another improvement coming to vocal interactions is "Listen for Atypical Speech," which has iPhones and iPads use on-device machine learning to recognize speech patterns and customize their voice recognition around your unique way of vocalizing. This sounds similar to Google's Project Relate, which is also designed to help technology better understand those with speech impairments or atypical speech.

To build these tools, Apple worked with the Speech Accessibility Project at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The institute is also collaborating with other tech giants like Google and Amazon to further development in this space across their products.

Music haptics in Apple Music and other apps

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, Apple is bringing haptics to music players on iPhone, starting with millions of songs on its own Music app. When enabled, music haptics will play taps, textures and specialized vibrations in tandem with the audio to bring a new layer of sensation. It'll be available as an API so developers can bring greater accessibility to their apps, too. 

Help in cars — motion sickness and CarPlay

Drivers with disabilities need better systems in their cars, and Apple is addressing some of the issues with its updates to CarPlay. Voice control and color filters are coming to the interface for vehicles, making it easier to control apps by talking and for those with visual impairments to see menus or alerts. To that end, CarPlay is also getting bold and large text support, as well as sound recognition for noises like sirens or honks. When the system identifies such a sound, it will display an alert at the bottom of the screen to let you know what it heard. This works similarly to Apple's existing sound recognition feature in other devices like the iPhone.


For those who get motion sickness while using their iPhones or iPads in moving vehicles, a new feature called Vehicle Motion Cues might alleviate some of that discomfort. Since motion sickness is based on a sensory conflict from looking at stationary content while being in a moving vehicle, the new feature is meant to better align the conflicting senses through onscreen dots. When enabled, these dots will line the four edges of your screen and sway in response to the motion it detects. If the car moves forward or accelerates, the dots will sway backwards as if in reaction to the increase in speed in that direction.

Other Apple Accessibility updates

There are plenty more features coming to the company's suite of products, including Live Captions in VisionOS, a new Reader mode in Magnifier, support for multi-line braille and a virtual trackpad for those who use Assistive Touch. It's not yet clear when all of these announced updates will roll out, though Apple has historically made these features available in upcoming versions of iOS. With its developer conference WWDC just a few weeks away, it's likely many of today's tools get officially released with the next iOS.

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Meta encourages you to disregard your seat mates and use VR headsets on a plane

Your experience while taking a flight comes down to many random factors, including who sits next to you. Your seatmate has plenty of ways to bother you — you've lived them, we don't need to remind you how — but now there's a whole new option. Meta has announced a new feature called Travel Mode for its Quest 2 and 3 headsets that lets people use the devices while on a plane.

Meta claims it has "specially tuned" its algorithms, so the experience remains stable, even if you direct it out the window. Users can try Travel Mode out for themselves by visiting the experimental features section in settings. They can quickly turn the feature on and off in quick settings and should also get a prompt to activate it while flying on some airlines — though Meta doesn't specify which ones.

In general, if someone is traveling on a flight with Wi-Fi, then they can access entertainment like movies, games, and messages, but, as Meta's photo indicates, it definitely could go into the next person's space (or at least mean their seatmate is flailing their arms all around. However, Meta is also partnering with Lufthansa to offer Quest 3 headsets with custom content and entertainment on select flights' Business Class Suites. As usual, getting any dedicated space on a plane costs a lot of money. 

Interestingly, Meta decided to introduce Travel Mode on planes and not something more stable (read: moving on the ground), but it plans to expand the feature to trains and other modes of transportation.

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Two of our top Anker power banks are back on sale at all-time low prices

Some of the best and brightest Anker power banks are on sale via Amazon and directly from the company. These deals include the 20,000mAh Prime portable charge, which is down to $90 from its usual price of $130. That’s a discount of 31 percent and matches a previous record low.

Anker products are all over our list of the best power banks, and we named the Prime charger as the best ultra-premium product on the market. Unfortunately, ultra-premium also means ultra-expensive, though $90 is a whole lot better than $130.

We admired the slick aesthetics, as power banks don’t tend to turn heads. The case is a textured metallic plastic with a nice polish. There’s a built-in screen and rounded corners, all of which work to give this bank a luxe feel. The screen is useful, displaying the remaining charge within the battery and the watts flowing out to each device. The charge times and capacity were in line with other 20K batteries we tested.

It’s easy to use, which is made even easier if people pony up for the companion base. This base includes magnets to align the pins, so users can just plop the battery down and move on to something else. The base does offer additional ports, one USB-A and two USB-C, which turns the whole package into a fairly decent power hub. However, the base costs $70 and isn’t currently on sale.

We did notice that the Prime charger can be sluggish to wake, which isn’t a huge deal. The power bank’s sleek and shiny finish also tends to pick up fingerprints. There’s a faux-suede pouch to carry it in, which is a nice touch.

The Anker Nano Battery is also on sale for $18, which is a savings of 40 percent. This cute little thing boasts a foldable USB-C connector, so as to better integrate with smartphones. It also made our list of the best power banks and we heartily recommend it for anyone looking for a quick partial charge of an Android device.

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The Apple Watch Series 9 is back on sale for $299

If you've been planning on buying an Apple Watch Series 9, today looks like a decent time to take the plunge. The smartwatch is currently on sale for $299 at multiple retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Target and Walmart. That's not quite the lowest price we've seen — a couple colorways briefly fell to $269 earlier this month, for instance — but steeper discounts have generally been uncommon. This deal takes about $30 off the watch's typical street price on Amazon, and it's $100 less than buying from Apple directly. As of this writing, the offer applies to the 41mm non-cellular version of the watch in Midnight, Red, Silver or Starlight. It covers models with a rubber, S/M- or M/L-sized Sport Band or a nylon Sport Loop.

We gave the Apple Watch Series 9 a score of 92 in our review last September, and it's currently the top pick in our guide to the best smartwatches. It runs fast, it's water-resistant and it can still handle many tasks that'd normally require an iPhone, from checking iMessages to calling on Siri to using Apple Pay. Most of the essential health and fitness tracking features are still here as well, as are safety-related tools like fall detection and an emergency SOS function. Compared to the lower-cost Apple Watch SE, it has a slightly larger display that can stay always-on, which makes it less cumbersome for checking the time at a glance. 

New to this model is a handy Double Tap feature, which lets you respond to notifications without having to physically touch the device, and the ability to complete many Siri requests on-device, without having to always be online. It also has double the internal storage (64GB) as the Series 8, and its display's peak brightness rating (2,000 nits) is twice as high. 

That said, the usual caveats with any Apple Watch still apply. The whole thing will only work with iPhones. The battery will last most of a typical day but not much longer. There are better options for sleep tracking. Due to an ongoing patent dispute, Apple has also had to disable the watch's blood oxygen monitoring feature. In general, there's no huge need to make the switch if you own an Apple Watch today and are still happy with it. But if you're looking to upgrade today, this should be a nice value.

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Disney+ is also cracking down on password sharing

Say goodbye to your best friend's neighbor's great aunt's Disney+ account. Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an interview with CNBC that the streamer is cracking down on password sharing worldwide this summer. The company enacted the same restrictions for Canadian subscribers last fall.

The move is hardly a surprise, as Disney's CFO Hugh Johnston shared the plan during an earnings call in February. "Paid sharing is an opportunity for us. It's one that our competitor is obviously taking advantage of, and one that sits in front of us. We've got some very specific actions that we're taking in the next couple of months." Disney-owned Hulu started its own crackdown on password sharing on March 14, and both streamers' terms of service explicitly ban people from using other customers' login information (Though its latest announcement indicates Disney is actually ready to enforce it). 

Streamers across the lineup are restricting password sharing, and it seems to be working — for them, not us. According to analytics firm Antenna, Netflix's United States signups increased by 102 percent during the first four days after the rule went into effect, compared to the 60 days prior. There were an average of 73,000 new signups daily, far outpacing cancelations. Max will also start restricting sharing this year, fully cracking down in 2025.  

Disney+ will start its clampdown in some countries come June, expanding to a second wave of countries in September. It's unclear as of now which group the US is in, but Disney will likely provide a breakdown when the dates get closer. Disney+ currently costs $8 monthly with ads and $14 monthly for ad-free viewing. 

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The best smartphone cameras for 2024: How to choose the phone with the best photography chops

I remember begging my parents to get me a phone with a camera when the earliest ones were launched. The idea of taking photos wherever I went was new and appealing, but it’s since become less of a novelty and more of a daily habit. Yes, I’m one of those. I take pictures of everything — from beautiful meals and funny signs to gorgeous landscapes and plumes of smoke billowing in the distance.

If you grew up in the Nokia 3310 era like me, then you know how far we’ve come. Gone are the 2-megapixel embarrassments that we used to post to Friendster with glee. Now, many of us use the cameras on our phones to not only capture precious memories of our adventures and loved ones, but also to share our lives with the world.

I’m lucky enough that I have access to multiple phones thanks to my job, and at times would carry a second device with me on a day-trip just because I preferred its cameras. But most people don’t have that luxury. Chances are, if you’re reading this, a phone’s cameras may be of utmost importance to you. But you’ll still want to make sure the device you end up getting doesn’t fall flat in other ways. At Engadget, we test and review dozens of smartphones every year; our top picks below represent not only the best phone cameras available right now, but also the most well-rounded options out there.

What to look for when choosing a phone for its cameras

Before scrutinizing a phone’s camera array, you’ll want to take stock of your needs — what are you using it for? If your needs are fairly simple, like taking photos and videos of your new baby or pet, most modern smartphones will serve you well. Those who plan to shoot for audiences on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube should look for video-optimizing features like stabilization and high frame rate support (for slow-motion clips).

Most smartphones today have at least two cameras on the rear and one up front. Those that cost more than $700 usually come with three, including wide-angle, telephoto or macro lenses. We’ve also reached a point where the number of megapixels (MP) doesn’t really matter anymore — most flagship phones from Apple, Samsung and Google have sensors that are either 48MP or 50MP. You’ll even come across some touting resolutions of 108MP or 200MP, in pro-level devices like the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Most people won’t need anything that sharp, and in general, smartphone makers combine the pixels to deliver pictures that are the equivalent of 12MP anyway. The benefits of pixel-binning are fairly minor in phone cameras, though, and you’ll usually need to blow up an image to fit a 27-inch monitor before you’ll see the slightest improvements.

In fact, smartphone cameras tend to be so limited in size that there’s often little room for variation across devices. They typically use sensors from the same manufacturers and have similar aperture sizes, lens lengths and fields of view. So while it might be worth considering the impact of sensor size on things like DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, on a smartphone those differences are minimal.

Sensor size and field of view

If you still want a bit of guidance on what to look for, here are some quick tips: By and large, the bigger the sensor the better, as this will allow more light and data to be captured. Not many phone makers will list the sensor size in spec lists, so you’ll have to dig around for this info. A larger aperture (usually indicated by a smaller number with an “f/” preceding a digit) is ideal for the same reason, and it also affects the level of depth of field (or background blur) that’s not added via software. Since portrait modes are available on most phones these days, though, a big aperture isn’t as necessary to achieve this effect.

When looking for a specific field of view on a wide-angle camera, know that the most common offering from companies like Samsung and Google is about 120 degrees. Finally, most premium phones like the iPhone 15 Pro Max and Galaxy S24 Ultra offer telephoto systems that go up to 5x optical zoom with software taking that to 20x or even 100x.

Processing and extra features

These features will likely perform at a similar quality across the board, and where you really see a difference is in the processing. Samsung traditionally renders pictures that are more saturated, while Google’s Pixel phones take photos that are more neutral and evenly exposed. iPhones have historically produced pictures with color profiles that seem more accurate, though in comparison to images from the other two, they can come off yellowish. However, that was mostly resolved after Apple introduced a feature in the iPhone 13 called Photographic Styles that lets you set a profile with customizable contrast levels and color temperature that would apply to every picture taken via the native camera app.

Pro users who want to manually edit their shots should see if the phone they’re considering can take images in RAW format. Those who want to shoot a lot of videos while on the move should look for stabilization features and a decent frame rate. Most of the phones we’ve tested at Engadget record at either 60 frames per second at 1080p or 30 fps at 4K. It’s worth checking to see what the front camera shoots at, too, since they’re not usually on par with their counterparts on the rear.

Finally, while the phone’s native editor is usually not a dealbreaker (since you can install a third-party app for better controls), it’s worth noting that the latest flagships from Samsung and Google all offer AI tools that make manipulating an image a lot easier. They also offer a lot of fun, useful extras, like erasing photobombers, moving objects around or making sure everyone in the shot has their eyes open.

How we test smartphone cameras

For the last few years, I’ve reviewed flagships from Google, Samsung and Apple, and each time, I do the same set of tests. I’m especially particular when testing their cameras, and usually take all the phones I’m comparing out on a day or weekend photo-taking trip. Any time I see a photo- or video-worthy moment, I whip out all the devices and record what I can, doing my best to keep all factors identical and maintain the same angle and framing across the board.

It isn’t always easy to perfectly replicate the shooting conditions for each camera, even if I have them out immediately after I put the last one away. Of course, having them on some sort of multi-mount rack would be the most scientific way, but that makes framing shots a lot harder and is not representative of most people’s real-world use. Also, just imagine me holding up a three-prong camera rack running after the poor panicked wildlife I’m trying to photograph. It’s just not practical.

For each device, I make sure to test all modes, like portrait, night and video, as well as all the lenses, including wide, telephoto and macro. When there are new or special features, I test them as well. Since different phone displays can affect how their pictures appear, I wanted to level the playing field: I upload all the material to Google Drive in full resolution so I can compare everything on the same large screen. Because the photos from today’s phones are of mostly the same quality, I usually have to zoom in very closely to see the differences. I also frequently get a coworker who’s a photo or video expert to look at the files and weigh in.

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The Apple Watch Series 9 is on sale for $299 right now

If you've missed picking up the latest Apple Watch in past sales, now's your chance. The Apple Watch Series 9 is back down to its record-low price thanks to a 25 percent discount. The 41mm smartwatch is on sale right now for $299, down from $399. The deal is only available on the model with a Midnight aluminum case and a matching nylon sports loop.

The Apple Watch Series 9 debuted last September and garnered a 92 in our review. We even named it our pick for 2024's best overall smartwatch. One of the biggest changes for the Series 9 was the addition of Double Tap. This feature allows you to bring your thumb and index finger together (on the watch-wearing hand) to activate controls like hanging up a call. The Apple Watch Series 9 is also the first in its lineup to offer on-device Siri. This shift means Siri works a bit faster and is also available even when your watch is offline.

The Series 9 smartwatch offers a comprehensive range of health features, including a heart rate monitor, sleep monitoring and cycle tracking. Plus, as an added bonus, the Apple Watch Series 9 is carbon neutral, so you can feel a little better about buying another device.

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Pick up the 2023 Echo Show 8 with a free smart bulb for $100 in the Amazon Spring Sale

Today marks the end of the Amazon Big Spring Sale and there are still a few tech deals still worth checking out, including this bundle of an Echo Show 8 paired with an Amazon Basics smart bulb. If you bought them at full price and separately, you'd pay $163, but now the set is down to $100. That amounts to a 38 percent discount. If you want the smart display on its own, it's the same $100. That's about $10 more than its record low price and a 33 percent savings.  

If you're just starting on the path towards smart home grandeur, you can think of the set as a starter kit, as the Echo Show gives you voice and routine control over your new bulb. We named the previous generation of the Echo Show 8 the best Amazon display in our guide. It strikes a good balance between not taking up too much space and offering a sizable enough viewing area with its 8-inch screen. We also liked how adept it is at handling video calls. 

We were able to get a look at this latest version of the display at a demo during Amazon's hardware event last fall. It has a new edge-to-edge glass front and a more refined design overall. But perhaps the most interesting update is the introduction of the adaptive content feature. Depending on where you are in the room, the display will show different content: large-font time and weather info when you're far away, and more personalized calendar and news articles when you get closer. 

The bulb lets you change its brightness and color just by talking to your smart display. You can also use the Alexa app to set up routines that will, for example, turn off the light when you say "goodnight" or turn it on an hour before sunset.   

Your Spring Sales Shopping Guide: Spring sales are in the air, headlined by Amazon’s Big Spring sale event. Our expert editors are curating all the best spring sales right here. Follow Engadget to shop the best tech deals from Amazon’s Big Spring Sale, hear from Autoblog’s car experts on the best spring auto deals on Amazon, and find spring sales to shop on AOL, handpicked just for you.

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The iPhone changed tech overnight. Almost 20 years later, nothing else has come close

I vividly remember Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone on January 9, 2007, a device he dubbed a touchscreen iPod, mobile phone and “internet communicator” all in one product. I immediately looked at my Motorola Razr with a burning sense of hatred. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty easy to say the iPhone launch was the most transformative event in the last 20 years of consumer technology. Even though the original model was lacking in a lot of important ways, its impact was so immediate and monumental that the history of consumer technology was instantly split into two eras: PreiPhone and Post iPhone.

Take the personal computer revolution, for example. Moving room-sized computers from research institutes into something a regular person could buy and use in their home was undoubtedly a huge advance, but there were multiple inflection points in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s that helped usher in modern computing. The trinity of the Apple II, Tandy TRS-80 and Commodore PET 2001 in the ’70s represented the first wave, followed by the rise of the IBM PC and Macintosh in the ’80s. Things really took hold in the ’90s with the dominance of Microsoft Windows; the arrival of Windows 95 was a particularly transformative moment. In more recent history, the laptop became a viable and then dominant in the late ’90s and 2000s, which changed how most people think about computing. These were all events that moved the personal computing marketplace forward, but it’s hard to say one was more important than the others. It was more of a gradual rise and fall of various technologies that brought us to the modern era.

But the mobile phone market was completely reshaped by the iPhone, even if it took a few years for the effects to play out. Companies like BlackBerry, Palm and Nokia clung to the pre-iPhone conception of a smartphone for too long, focusing on business users and physical keyboards and not materially improving the software experience. Those companies are gone or irrelevant to mainstream consumers now. Palm’s introduction of its own webOS and Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia to push Windows Phone forward were reasonable efforts to challenge the iPhone, but they were far too little, too late. Hardware and software quality was hit or miss in both cases, but the main issue was that developers never embraced either platform, largely because consumers adopted iPhone and Android so quickly. The best iPhone apps usually never hit those devices, leading to inevitable doom.

On the other hand, Google and Samsung went all-in on Android almost immediately and quickly reaped the rewards of having an alternative to the iPhone. Android had enough similarities to iOS while also offering enough differentiation to capture a new part of the market. That’s particularly true internationally, where the massive variety of price points and devices was a huge advantage in markets where most people were priced out of Apple’s products. And given that Android arrived just a few months after Apple launched the iPhone App Store meant developers quickly started writing apps for both platforms, giving Android the support it needed. Essentially, everyone either followed in Apple’s footsteps or quickly went extinct.

It goes without saying that the iPhone reshaped a number of other businesses as well. The late aughts were awash with single-function gadgets, from obvious things like digital cameras, portable gaming devices and the iPod. (Also consider what phones have done to watches, paper calendars, lists and address books.) In the Post iPhone Era, consumer-grade digital cameras and portable music players are extremely niche — the iPhone’s camera is more than good enough for most people, and the iPhone itself quickly cannibalized the iPod.

Portable gaming systems are enjoying a bit of a resurgence, but the popularity of games on a phone that anyone can pick up and play is unmatched. If Nintendo’s Wii made its mark by offering casual gaming, the iPhone and the App Store quickly took that concept on the go. Both Call of Duty Mobile and Candy Crush Saga have peaked at about 500 million players, while Minecraft is the top-selling game of all time, with 300 million copies sold. Most AAA blockbuster titles don’t crack 50 million copies sold.

Moving from that Razr to an iPhone was a breath of fresh air. Watching YouTube and movies I had purchased via iTunes transformed my plane rides or commutes. Being able to browse real web pages and use a solid enough email client on the go made me more productive (and began my crippling information addiction). The “touchscreen iPod” felt like a futuristic and intuitive way to navigate my music library. It took until the iPhone 4 in 2010 for Apple to really focus on camera and image quality, but that didn’t stop people from shooting tons of photos and uploading them to Facebook. Even 2009’s iPhone 3GS took respectable enough snapshots and videos that my photo library started growing exponentially, and I’m glad to have a lot of those old, grainy shots from my late 20s.

And about a year after the first iPhone, the App Store blew open the doors on what was possible. Games, productivity tools, better messaging apps, social media, streaming music and everything else we associate with a modern smartphone quickly burst forth. Some people didn’t really consider the first iPhone a “smartphone” since you couldn’t install third-party apps, and Apple wisely saw the writing on the wall and fixed that glaring omission.

Whether all of the changes that followed the iPhone’s rise are a good thing is debatable. Having near-unlimited access to the internet at all times often feels like more than we can handle, and smartphones have enabled all kinds of digital abuse. Our privacy has gone out the window as these devices log vast amounts of data about our movements and desires and spending habits and search histories on behalf of the biggest companies in the world, who monetize it and try to keep us addicted. Steve Jobs almost certainly did not have all of this in mind when he pulled the iPhone out of his pocket in 2007, and the technology advanced so quickly we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.

The ramifications of all this will take decades to fully play out, and to some degree, many of us are already pulling back from the “always connected, sharing everything” mindset the iPhone enabled. The specter of government regulation, at least from the EU, coming for companies like Apple and Google is impossible to ignore, though it’s hard to imagine much happening to loosen their dominance in the near term. Regardless of what changes, there’s no doubt we live in a world where, thanks to the iPhone, the most important computer in people’s lives is the one in their pocket.

To celebrate Engadget's 20th anniversary, we're taking a look back at the products and services that have changed the industry since March 2, 2004.

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How to make your smartphone last longer

Replacing a smartphone every two years is partially why billions of phones go into landfills each year. If stacked flat atop one another, that many handsets would reach farther than the ISS. But we’ve become accustomed to that 24-month time frame because wireless carriers often push an upgrade on biennial contracts, and many smaller phone makers only offer software support for two years. But now, with longer software commitments from major manufacturers, along with growing right-to-repair legislation, many newer phones can stay in our pockets for closer to seven trips around the sun. Here’s how you can extend the lifespan of your smartphone and avoid shelling out hundreds before it’s absolutely necessary.

How to make your smartphone last longer


Use a case

It’s a flashy move to carry a naked phone around, but the chances of a handset making it through a tumble go up dramatically when you employ extra protection. We recommend a number of them in our guide to iPhone cases and in our eco-friendly phone cases guide. In my family, we’ve been happy with Mous cases. Though we’ve never subjected our phones to the brutality seen in the company’s ads, I can say that these cases have seen my partner’s aging Samsung Galaxy and my elderly iPhone through some pretty gnarly spills, sparing them from scratches or worse.

Take care of the built-in battery (or use a power bank)

Since a phone’s battery is often the first thing to show signs of age, it’s worth it to follow recommendations for extending its lifespan. Lithium-ion batteries don’t perform well in heat and you should avoid charging them if it’s hotter than 95 degrees — doing so can degrade the battery quickly and even cause them to malfunction. They’ll tolerate cold weather better, but can get sluggish when things get too chilly.

If you’re storing a phone for a while, it’s best to do so with the battery at half charge, rather than full or empty. In fact, Li-ion cells last longer when they spend less time being either completely discharged or full — that’s why battery optimization features in iPhones and Pixel phones delay overnight charging to 100 percent until about an hour before you typically grab your mobile. And while it’s sometimes necessary to charge a battery quickly, a slower charging method when speed isn’t critical will put less stress on the ionic components and help extend the cell’s life.

But over time, any battery will eventually wear down. The cell powering my iPhone 11 can make it through a typical day, but if I’m traveling, relying heavily on navigation or using the phone as a hotspot, it’ll need a top-off before bedtime. That’s easy if I’m home, but out in the world, a battery pack is an essential. I have a slew of them on hand after testing for our best power banks guide and the two I grab most often are the Otterbox Fast Charge, because it looks cool and has a good capacity, and the Nimble Champ Pro, because it’s crazy fast.

If you really want to give your phone a new lease on life, a new internal battery could be the ticket. For Pixel phones, you can go through Google’s official channel for either a walk-in or mail-in repair, or you can pick the DIY route with iFixit’s Pixel repair kits and instructions. For iPhones, you can start with Apple’s official page, go through Best Buy or other third-parties, or try iFixit’s methods. Samsung also has an in-house option, or you can try Best Buy or iFixit. Depending where you go and the model of your phone, the price for a new battery and installation will likely run you between $45 and $150 — still far less than ditching your handset for something brand new.

Clean up your phone’s storage

Most advice on how to declutter your phone and make it run faster centers on one thing: freeing up space. Your phone’s OS will likely have suggestions for clearing up storage space, like automatically offloading unused apps or deleting year-old messages. You can also do things manually by deleting any apps you don’t use. Next, consider the photos and videos you’re storing locally and either opt to pay for cloud storage or transfer the files to a computer or an external backup device. You can also consider getting rid of any music and movies you may have downloaded for offline use, and deleting old messages and large attachments. A good rule is to keep your storage at around 80 percent capacity. Once you’ve deleted and transferred what you can, restart your phone to give it a chance to clear up its temporary memory.

Why you can (and should) extend the life of your smartphone

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The e-waste stream grows each year and doesn't do great things for human or planetary health. Smartphone companies are offering better and more consistent trade-in deals, but even some electronic recycling has its faults. Simply hanging onto a device instead of opting for a new one is the most efficient way of cutting back on a phone's environmental impact — plus it'll save you money.  

While every giant phone maker would like you to believe that upgrading annually is critical, it’s worth noting that new generations of phones often bear strong resemblance to the prior year’s model. We called both the latest iPhone and Google Pixel the most significant updates in years, but prior to that, upgrading didn’t make much sense. The latest Samsung Galaxy phone has a slew of new AI tricks, but physically, it’s not much different than the one that came before it.

With only minor hardware upgrades, the more exciting new features come via over-the-air software updates. When Google released the Pixel 8 last October, the company promised security and software updates for a full seven years. Samsung came out with the Galaxy S24 in January of this year and committed the same support for its handsets. Apple hasn’t made the same pledge, but when the launch of iOS 17 last year cut support for the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, both models had enjoyed around six years of updates from launch.

What Apple did announce is that the batteries in all four models of the iPhone 15 last twice as long as the company originally claimed. Originally, battery capacity was listed at 80 percent of the original full charge after 500 cycles. Now, that same capacity rate applies to 1,000 cycles. The improvement, Apple says, comes courtesy of advanced battery tech and better power management from the operating system. It’s true battery technology has improved in capacity over the years, but longevity hasn’t gone up across the board, as a study by PhoneArena makes clear.

More advancements in battery life spans may be on the horizon particularly as the EV industry grows, which also relies on lithium-ion cells. For now, declining battery health is usually the most noticeable issue affecting older phones. This year, the European Parliament voted for rules surrounding battery-powered devices and included a mandate to allow consumers to “easily remove and replace” batteries. That won’t go into effect until 2027, and there will be plenty of interpretation as to what “easily” means. But EU mandates are what made Apple finally ditch Lightning ports on iPhones in favor of USB-C, so this could eventually be a step towards (once again) having smartphones with swappable batteries.

Even in the US, legislation will soon compel companies to make repair a better option. Right-to-repair bills were passed last year in New York, Minnesota and other states. California has the strongest rule, and it even garnered Apple’s support. Once the law goes into effect in July, it will require companies to provide repair tools and documentation, and to sell components for seven years after the last new model is made for any device costing more than $100. Of course, the law didn’t say anything about prohibiting “parts pairing,” in which a device only works properly when repaired with official parts by a manufacturer-authorized repair center.

Currently, a number of phones have decent repairability scores, according to the online repair community iFixit (the FairPhone 5 gets the highest marks). After California’s law goes into effect, more models may become user-repairable, considering few manufacturers are likely to ignore the state’s nearly 40 million customers. In the meantime, authorized repair is an option, as is self-repair for the more industrious.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at