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10 mobile phone myths busted

Most of us spend pretty much every spare second we can on our mobiles, with the majority of the population admitting that they spend more time staring at their smartphone than their significant other.

But while we’re pretty reliant on our handsets, the workings of our mobiles remain a mystery to most of us. And with so many myths, urban legends and rumours floating around, it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not.

After all, could your device blow up a petrol station? Is it more powerful than the computers used for the Apollo 11 space mission? And can it really be more germ-riddled than a public toilet?

Read on and we’ll debunk these myths and more.

1) Phones can demagnetise train tickets- mostly false

Smartphone and train ticket

There’s nothing in your smartphone that should be able to demagnetise a train ticket. But if you keep both of them in the same pocket or hold them in the same hand, your ticket is likely to stop working.

But it’s probably not your phone that’s doing it. According to Transport for London, the cause of tickets becoming demagnetised is actually the magnets used in phone covers and cases. So, if you have a smartphone cover, it’s a good idea to keep it away from your rail ticket, if you want to avoid getting stopped at the barriers.

2) Rice can fix a water-damaged phone- sometimes true

Water-damaged smartphone in rice

Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to this one. In some cases, putting a water-damaged phone in rice can actually fix it. To find out how to do this, read our handy guide.

This one isn’t guaranteed to work though, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t salvage your phone. It’s unlikely to do any harm though, so if your phone has stopped working as the result of water damage, you might as well give the rice trick a go.

3) Using your mobile can blow up a petrol station- false

Using a smartphone at a petrol station

Despite the fact that lots of petrol stations have signs up forbidding the use of mobile phones when filling up, there are no reported incidences of a mobile phone actually causing an explosion at a petrol station.

In fact, there have been lots of studies to see if a mobile phone can create a spark that could lead to an ignitable fire or explosion. And they all conclude that, while a spark could theoretically result from a phone battery and ignite petrol vapour, there are only very precise conditions this can happen under.

That said, if you’re at a petrol station you get told to put your phone away, it’s probably best to do so. It’s easier than having to drive to the next petrol station, after all.

4) Mobiles have 18 times more bacteria than toilet handles- true

Man using smartphone in the toilet

Sorry, but this one’s true. In 2010, Which? magazine hired a hygiene expert who conducted a study of 30 mobile phones and found that, on average, they harbour 18 times more bacteria than a flush handle in a typical men's public toilet.

An analysis of handsets found almost a quarter were so dirty that they had up to ten times an acceptable level of bacteria. While this probably won’t make you ill, it might be worth investing in some antibacterial wipes.

5) Your mobile has more power than the computers used to launch Apollo 11- true

Astronaut taking a selfie in space

Yup, this one’s true too. In fact, your smartphone is millions of times more powerful than all the computers owned by NASA at the time.

The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) operated at 0.043MHz, making it less powerful than a modern toaster. An iPhone 6, on the other hand, operates at 1.4 GHZ and can process 3.36 billion instructions per second.

Despite its woeful specs, however, the AGC was successfully used to guide the Apollo 11 crew across 356,000 km of space from to the Moon and back again. Pretty impressive really.

6) Phones can interfere with hospital equipment- mostly false

Using a smartphone in hospital

The NHS website claims that using a mobile phone could interfere with medical equipment, such as dialysis machines, defibrillators, ventilators, monitors and pumps. The truth is, modern-day smartphones are very unlikely to have any effect on medical equipment. But, considering how important these machines are, is it really worth the risk?

What’s more likely is loud ringtones and alarms on mobile phones can be confused with alarms on medical equipment. Or at the very least, could disturb other patients. So, if you do need to use your phone in a hospital, the NHS recommends you go to the hospital entrance or reception, a day room or a communal area such as a café.

7) Charging your phone overnight will damage your battery- false

Charing phone in bed

This is something most of us do. After all, if, like the majority of the population, you use your phone every waking hour, the only time you can really charge it up is when you’re asleep.

But could leaving your phone on to charge every night harm your battery? Honestly, your phone’s probably too smart for that. Once it’s fully charged, it will stop the current from coming in to protect itself from overcharging.

Having said that, smartphones can be prone to overheating, which may cause long-term damage to your device. To avoid this, make sure you don’t have your phone in a case that doesn’t allow heat to escape, it’s possible that your phone could overheat.

So, if you’re going to charge your phone overnight, take the case off and leave your phone on a hard, flat surface so that any heat can dissipate easily.

8) Using hands-free while driving is legal- mostly true

Hands-free phone in the car

While the penalties for using a handheld device while driving have gone up to £200 and six points on your licence, the law currently says drivers can use hands-free phones, sat navs and two-way radios. However, if the police think the driver is distracted and not in control of the vehicle, they could get penalised.

If you’re deemed not in control of your vehicle as a result of using a handheld device, you’re liable to be fined £100 fine and three points on your licence.

9) Closing apps will make your phone run faster- false

Close apps on iPhone

Again, this is one where your phone is a lot smarter than it’s given credit for. Both Apple and Android phones will automatically close apps that have been inactive for a while or are using more power or memory than they should.

In fact, you’re actually much better off letting your phone manage your apps for you rather than forcing it to reopen and restart everything every time. Besides not saving your battery, it could make your phone slower and less stable.

10) More megapixels means a better camera- false

Samsung Galaxy S8 camera

Back when point-and-shoot digital cameras were the only way to take photos, the more megapixels the camera had, the better it was. But the megapixel war actually ended years ago, thanks to the innovations of cameraphones.

The amount of megapixels a camera has actually only relates to how big a photo you can take with it, which actually isn’t that helpful. If you’re looking for a good phone camera, ignore the megapixels and look instead at the more important stats, such as the quality of the sensor, the lens and the image-processor.

Need some help with this? Check out our handy cameraphone jargon-buster.

Category: Features
Tagged: smartphones
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