Can you put down your smartphone?

A few weeks ago 60 Minutes aired a segment called Brain Hacking. The Victor crew was surprised by some of the information.

Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, compares smartphones to slot machines. Every time you pick it up and check on it, you are looking to see “what you get.” The person being interviewed, said that techniques are used to cause people to keep checking their phones and apps.

In another part of the segment, we find Ramsay Brown, a programmer who understands how the brain works and writes code accordingly. Co-founder of Dopamine Labs, tries to write apps based on the pleasure and desire in our brains. They try to find ways to keep people using apps longer or more often. For instance, he says Instagram may hold back some of your “likes” and release them in a sudden burst. They even try to figure out when the best moment to release them is. You don’t pay for social media like Facebook – advertisers do. He says it’s “your eyeballs are what’s being sold there.”

Read more about the segment.

Smartphone Myths

The Victor crew found an article called “7 of the Biggest Smartphone Myths That Just won’t Die.” We were curious to see what they were. They started out by saying smartphones have only been in the mainstream less than a decade (hard to believe!) Over this time, some myths have developed and keep getting repeated over and over. Let’s see what they are:

1. Closing apps will speed up your iPhone. Hmm – we know you can remove them from the task list to “refresh” them but does closing them all the time help? The truth is, they aren’t running in the background, however, they are still in RAM. Apple limits what apps can do in the background, and what’s more, they automatically will close apps not in use if it needs more RAM. By continually closing them, you will actually make them run slower since the RAM has to load all over again.

2. Using a task killer will speed up your Android phone. You shouldn’t have to close an app on Android unless it starts giving you trouble and has issues. The same as above for iPhone, the apps are using RAM with limited background usage.

3. You should drain your battery fully before recharging it. Most people don’t let their phones drain completely but what about “topping it off?” Modern Lithium-ion batteries can be plugged in and charged whenever you want, as much as you want.

4. You should only use the charger that comes with your device. Most devices and smartphones use a USB charger. As long as it can be plugged into a USB port, you should be able to use it. If you use a more powerful charger, your phone will still only pull what it needs. It may even charge faster. Likewise, a less powerful charger will charge slower or maybe not at all.

5. You should buy a screen protector to protect against scratches. This is that thin piece of film they sell you or charge to install for you to “prevent” scratches. Most modern phones are using Gorilla Glass, scratch resistant glass, or similar technology. If you aren’t too rough you should be fine. There are also some things that would scratch a screen protector that won’t harm the glass.

6. More megapixels mean a better camera. This is a myth for any digital device, cameras included. A high number that may look good on a spec sheet doesn’t really translate to better. It’s just squishing more megapixels in the same space. A megapixel is one million pixels. So if you have an 8-megapixel camera, it will have 8 million pixels. The 8 compared to the 16-megapixels will allow more light since they are bigger pixels. Take into consideration the sensor and image-processor as well.

7. Android phones often get viruses and malware. Technically a virus is self-replicating software. Phones do not get them and even if you get infected by malware, it won’t infect other people’s phones. Malware does exist but it tends to come from downloads outside of Google Play. If you download pirated apps, you could very easily be picking up malware. Just don’t add apps from unknown sources.

More on Smartphones

Last week we talked about some smartphone articles found in the news. The Victor crew came across another article this past week that seemed interesting. It’s about how looking at smartphones (or even your tablets, laptops, or even desktops) by bending over it too long can cause headaches or even neurological pains. It may also happen if you are a voracious reader.

Adam Clark Estes from Gizmodo describes what happened to him. He found he had what is called occipital neuralgia. The nerves become entrapped in the neck and can cause headaches and neck pain. His doctor says she has seen “this condition skyrocket since smartphones became popular.”

Adam found treatment: he had about 20 injections of steroids and numbing agents. There are probably some physical therapy exercises and stretches that might help.

There is another condition commonly called “text neck.” The neck muscles become strained from bending over smartphones and they are now looking into seeing if this leads to occipital neuralgia. Doctors are also exploring whether TMJ treatment can help treat text neck as well.

Are Smartphones taking too much from us?

Recently in the news, the Victor Crew have seen a few articles that should cause concern over the way we let smartphones take over our lives.

The first is that a university in Utah have gone so far as to make a separate lane on the stairs and halls just for those texting while walking. Utah Valley University actually has three lanes, one for walking, one for running, and one for texting. While they say the students don’t actually follow the lines, it has stirred up a lot of buzz across the internet. http://blogs.uvu.edu/newsroom/2015/06/17/uvu-photograph-goes-viral/

Another articles tells about a security flaw in Apple’s iOS and OS X systems, found by six university researchers, that allows malicious apps to gain access to anything saved in the Keychain. The apps containing the malware were uploaded to Apple’s App Store without triggering alarms. When installed, it can raid the Keychain and steal passwords as well as those saved in Google Chrome browser, as well as password vaults. The Google Chromium team has responded by removing Keychain integration for Chrome. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/06/17/apple_hosed_boffins_drop_0day_mac_ios_research_blitzkrieg/

The third and most startling article is about a teenager in Canada that had his life taken over a stolen smartphone. Jeremy Cook lost his phone in a taxi and tracked to a strip mall through his tracking app. He went to approach the car where he believed his phone to be and confronted the the people in the car. As they started to drive away, he held onto the handles of the car and was shot to death in the parking lot. They later found the phone in the car, crashed and abandoned.

If something happens, sure you can use your tracking app to try to find it, but call the police before attempting to retrieve it. Use your app to lock it and wipe the data as well.