The Coronavirus: Cleaning Your Phone 😷🧼

In the last week, The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the spread of novel coronavirus a global pandemic. The United States has also followed suit with the president declaring a national state of emergency. In the last two months, we have seen the transition of the virus travel outward from its origin in central China, across the world to the middle east and now to its current epicenter in mainland Europe. Until the risk of coronavirus in the US declines significantly, we urge everyone to be aware of updates from local, state and the federal government.

In the effort of minimizing the spread of the coronavirus, the best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands and avoid touching your face. Everyone should be fully aware of the risks involved in being at large public gatherings. This virus will not infect you if it sits on your skin, so resist the urge to touch your face and be aware of what your hands come in contact with.

Your phone in particular carries many germs and its a surface many of us rarely pay any mind to. There are many ways to clean your phone, some better than others and a few that should be avoided altogether. DON’T clean your phone with bleach or other harsh and abrasive chemicals. No need to spray your phone directly with Lysol or other disinfectant as that will likely damage your phone’s internal instruments. Don’t directly apply cleaning agent to the phone and avoid using paper towels as they can be abrasive. Needless to say, do not dip your phone into any sort of liquid, whether it’s advertised as waterproof or not, it isn’t a good idea. Instead, DO use a microfiber cloth or another soft cloth to apply the cleaning agent to and use the cloth to gently rub away oil, dirt and germs off of your phone’s exterior. You can use something containing 70% isopropyl alcohol or similar to properly disinfect your phone. Apple has recently lifted recommending against using Clorox Disinfecting Wipes on iPhones and said they won’t do damage. It should be noted that most phones (major Android vendors / iPhones) have a special coating. This oleophobic coating is meant to prevent smudges and finger prints from dirtying the screen. Using products like clorox wipes, abrasive paper towels and harsher chemical will likely accelerate the deterioration of this coating. Do this every couple days or as often as you deem necessary.

Wash Your Hands
Be sure to keep your hands clean and the surfaces they touch often, like your phone!

We will be offering screen and battery repairs in our shops throughout this difficult time, as we know many people will be self-quarantined, but please call ahead if you have questions about a particular repair. We will be happy to help as best we can, but supplies may be limited in quantity due to a large percentage of parts that are shipped from overseas. Please be safe in the coming weeks and months and keep being awesome!

A man climbing a cell tower

Let’s Talk About 5G: How It Works 🤔

In this installment of our Introduction to 5G, we’ll be explaining how this new form of communication functions and how it compares to our existing network.

Let’s Talk About 5G

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

First things first, let’s explain how wireless communication works in the real world. All wireless phones and devices operate along the electromagnetic spectrum. The spectrum is the complete range of all types of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and that radiation is just energy that travels outward in all directions at the speed of light. A lamp, for instance, will trasnmit EMR within a segment of that spectrum (what we see as visible light) and our eyes can interpret that transmission. On the lower end of that spectrum are radio waves which power technologies like AM/FM radio, television broadcasts, WiFi and cellular phones. Radio and micro waves are similar to visible light in that they operate on the same spectrum, just on a lower frequency (30Hz to 300GHz).

Differences: Current and 5G

Bandwidth

Much like our existing 3G/4G infrastructure, 5G is a type network used to transfer data between devices. Each one of these networks operate within a specific range on the electromagnetic spectrum. For decades, we’ve been using the same range for the majority of our devices: 1GHz to 6GHz. As technology progresses, the increasing amount of wireless devices we have are all competing with each other for the same limited bandwidth. The new 5G network is designed to operate within a much larger range above 6GHz all the way up to 100GHz! That’s a substantial increase in the amount of bandwidth in which our devices will now be given for a variety of applications.

Range

Our current 3G/4G signal can travel over longer distances as they operate on a lower frequency which gives them extended range. However, 5G devices will operate on much higher frequencies and those signals can’t travel the distances that lower 3G/4G frequencies can. To work around this, the infrastructure for this new network will require a combination of our existing towers and a much smaller, more condensed grid of “mini” towers every block as these waves aren’t able to penetrate foliage and inclement weather.

Also, most 4G devices were designed to be backwards-compatible with older networks. However, 5G is not meant to be merely an incremental update to existing mobile communication standards. Having said that, your new 5G phone will also still likely work with legacy networks via additional antennas as the transition rolls out.

If you’re having trouble connecting to any of your existing networks, be sure to stop by one of The Fix Hut’s four shops and have one of our technicians check it out. Antennas are usually replaceable, affordable and the turnaround time is quick. Call us if you have any questions!

Worth Noting

There has been much discussion surrounding the potential health hazards regarding the increased exposure to radio/microwaves that 5G will bring. These frequencies for communication have been in use for quite some time, though they’ve never been used on the same scale which we anticipate will be the case with 5G. The arguments for that debate are well beyond the scope of this post, so here are some links to some differing opinions on the matter:

A City Connected By Wireless Communication

Let’s Talk About 5G: An Introduction 📱

5G is coming! And it’s not only going to replace our current existing 4G LTE infrastructure, primarily used by mobile devices. The move to 5G will represent a fundamental shift in the way all of our electronics connect with each other, negating the requirement of hard-wired coaxial and fiber optics for high-speed, low-latency communication.

Let’s Talk About 5G

What network do we have now?

Our current wireless communication networks have predominantly operated within the same 5GHz bandwidth range on the electromagnetic spectrum for decades. That includes your AM/FM Radio, cordless phones (remember those?), bluetooth devices, mobile phones, and both 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi routers which, if you’re sitting at home or work, you’re likely utilizing to have this content delivered to your reading device. We’ve reached a point where there are too many devices competing for the same radio waves and colliding with each other in a traffic jam of sorts.

What is 5G?

While 5G, as you may have guessed, stands for fifth-generation, the changes aren’t merely just a version bump. The implications of this change will be massive! We’re not talking just a speed boost in how fast web pages and YouTube videos load, but also an awareness and focus on location for optimized transfer of data, enhanced security, and reliable, low latency (ultra-responsive) communication. These attributes will enable smart cars, augmented reality, detailed logistics for homes, businesses and agriculture, as well as mission critical data for health and automated appliances at home, work and industry. 5G will enable us to cater to specific aspects of communication depending upon the requirements. We’re only just scratching the surface of the opportunities this level of communication can bring to society.

When do we get to live in the matrix?

We might all have to exercise a bit of patience for this to rollout, so hold your horses. This transition won’t happen as quickly as we’d all like as the infrastructure currently in place must first either be upgraded or completely replaced in order for us to move up to 5G… and it will be costly! You’re more likely to visit our store and get your screen or battery replaced before you start reaping the benefits of 5G in the years ahead. Over the course of the next month, we plan on discussing examples of applications for 5G and what sort of technological innovations we might expect to see in a thoroughly connected world. Stay tuned!

Old mobile phones

Heavy Metal In Your Devices 🤘

In the last three decades, the demand for mobile phones has grown exponentially. What was once a convenient luxury for the fortunate is now a critical component of daily life for the billions of inhabitants. So much so, that the total number of mobile devices have outnumbered the population of the Earth (well over 7 billion) for a few years now! This number is only expected to get larger as with devices becoming more accessible and affordable. It can be argued that, apart from the internet, no other technology has had the effect that mobile phones have had on our modern civilization.

The current trends show there will be more and more devices manufactured, with many users owning more than one device, all of which contain precious metals and materials. One day, all of these devices will become obsolete and disposed in favor of something better, more modern. This cycle will continue just as it has for every other device, appliance or tool we use on a daily basis. According to Asurion [*], 80 million phones are lost, stolen or damaged every single year. Breaking that number down, that’s approximately: 220,000 phones a day / 9,132 phones every hour / over 152 phones every minute / 2.5 phones every second!

Think about the resources it takes to build such complex devices. Every mobile device you have contains precious metals like platinum, gold, silver, and palladium to name just a few. These valuable metals are finite and the process in which some of these have to be mined is dangerous and require a lot of energy. Take a look at the table which lists different types of metals and what they might be used for:

  • Copper: connectors, printed circuit boards, resistors, coils, speakers
  • Nickel: connectors, capacitors, resistors, shield plates, batteries
  • Silver: printed circuit boards, capacitors, resistors
  • Gold: connectors, printed circuit boards
  • Palladium: printed circuit board
  • Cobalt: batteries
  • Lithium: batteries
  • Lead: capacitors, resistors
  • Tin: printed circuit boards, capacitors, LCD displays
  • Zinc: resistors
  • REE: permanent magnets, LCD displays, speakers
  • Gallium: printed circuit boards
  • Indium: LCD displays
  • Iron: resistors, shield plates
  • Chromium: shield plates
  • Niobium: printed circuit boards
  • Tantalum: printed circuit boards
  • Titanium: capacitors

Once these precious metals are gone, the electronics industry will face a monumental scientific task in sourcing materials that will operate in a similar fashion, many of which have no viable alternative. Therefore, it is our duty, as relatively short-term tenants of this planet, to recycle our devices responsibly as many of these components are irreplaceable. Tossing them into a garbage bin for them to end up in a landfill is not something that should even be considered as many of the materials used are toxic and future inhabitants will be left to deal with the consequences of our actions.

We recommend you bring your old devices to any of our shops as we can ensure said devices are recycled responsibly, and in the case we can’t take them, we’ll offer guidance on where you can bring them.

Valentine’s Day in November

Did you receive a confusing text in the middle of the night?

Have you recently received a text message which seemed irrelevant or completely out-of-context? Then you might be one of the many bewildered people left scratching their heads when unsent messages were read nearly nine months after they had been initially dispatched. Here at The Fix Hut, many of our employees and customers have also received SMS texts in the early morning hours of November 7th. It appears complaints are widespread, involving all major carriers with messages sent from both iPhones and Android users.

At fault was a server that went offline on Valentine’s Day 2019, with the resulting 168,149 unsent messages being pushed through when the server finally came back online on November 7th. A spokesperson for Sprint stated that server “maintenance update” during the evening had caused the error and that it had been fixed. T-Mobile was made aware and pointed the finger at a third-party contractor, also stating that the matter had been resolved. Syniverse, the company accepting blame for the failure of messages being undelivered, later told The Verge that they were “still assessing the scope and volume of messages impacted by this server disruption”.

Limitations of Short Message Service (SMS)

No carrier can guarantee delivery of SMS text messages and the technology itself is woefully antiquated, having its roots in development since the 1980s. It’s also not reliable as there is no such mechanism to determine whether or not a message has been delivered. It helps explain why the rise of applications like Apple’s iMessage, Google Messages and WhatsApp are being used on-top or in-place of SMS. These messaging apps can quickly deliver messages over the internet (using either WiFi or cellular data) and confirm whether or not a message has been sent and received via receipts. On top of that, they also facilitate the sharing of rich-media, such as photos and video, in much higher fidelity when compared to the same content shared via MMS. Keep all of this in mind when you want to share content in the future.

Winterizing Your Phone

Keep your phone safe from the changing weather!

Winter weather is upon us, and if you like using your phone to take pictures of nature or if you just want to check Facebook, it is important to know some facts about your device and the cold weather.

First off, your phone is powered by a Lithium Ion Battery. Lithium is significantly affected by temperature fluctuations. When you pull your phone out in freezing weather, it can quickly go from 80% full to 5% or just shut off entirely. To mitigate this, we recommend carrying your phone in the warmest pocket possible and wrapping some material around it to keep it warm. I like using that random single sock that lost its pair when skiing because it keeps it warmer and dryer than leaving it in my pants pocket.

Most importantly, is knowing what to do next if your pocket holding your phone gets wet. Like all electronics getting wet, the first step is to shut it off as soon as you realize that moisture has gotten to the device. Once it is shut off, get it to a warm and dry place ASAP and DO NOT PLUG IT IN. I want to repeat that really important and often overlooked step, DO NOT TURN ON THE PHONE OR PLUG IT IN! Do not attempt to charge your device until you can verify that there is no moisture in the device. The only way you can be sure is by opening up the device and conclusively seeing no moisture. If you don’t have the ability to open it, bring it to someone that can, ie The Fix Hut. After its had a chance to dry completely, you can then try to turn it back on and see what happens.

The Trap of Fake Apps

Anyone who’s used Android’s play store has seen them at some point. Applications claiming to improve battery life or “clean up your phone”, or even providing antivirus capabilities when you download them. A recent report from an Australian antivirus testing group, AV-Comparatives, found that of a pool of 250 apps tested, two thirds were ineffective in detecting malware downloaded on to a phone. Only about 10% of all apps had a significant (at or near 100%) detection rate. So, why’re there so many poor quality applications on the play store? The main reason is the relatively lax requirements from google to put an app on the store, but how can you find the right apps for you on the app store? First and foremost, look for applications that are highly rated (at least 4 stars and above) and have a large number of downloads. While this isn’t perfect on its own for learning what apps are good, it’s a start where you can look into information on it and see what people think of the app on the internet.

Antivirus and anti-malware apps aren’t the only “fake” apps on the play store though, many other applications are more or less malicious or are a front for some other aspect of the application. There are flashlight apps that are widely downloaded that operate to harvest the user’s data. An application like this should only be requesting access to your camera, as that’s what’s typically tied into using the built in flash. They could also just make your screen entirely white as well, but any of these applications that also request access to your phone, microphone, calendar, and other personal information. When downloading applications, keep an eye on what it’s asking for access to and decide for yourself if you think the application should have access to that information.

In my history of working on cellular devices, I’ve seen plenty of people come in for battery or storage issues on their phone. Sometimes, it’s a legitimate problem from prolonged use of the phone, a dying battery or a phone filled up with photos. However, I’ll always see what applications the customer has. Fairly often, I’ll see these “battery saving” apps or “phone cleaner” apps as well, and the customer complains of constantly getting ads on their phone. When these applications are removed, these problems can often disappear as well. These applications are more or less doing the opposite of what they intend to do, with the battery apps constantly running in the background and eating up more and more power, and these cleaning apps just taking up more space than they “cleaned up”. All the while, due to how these constantly running apps are working they’re taking user information and constantly showing advertisements to their user.

So, how do you as a user protect yourself? Well, first and foremost is to learn what your phone can actually do. Almost all modern phones have built in flashlight functions, on androids they’re typically found from the pull down menu where you can see your notifications. Often from these same menus you can turn on battery savers. From the settings, you can get a granular look at how much battery your phone is using and what’s taking up the most memory. Using these tips, you can help protect your own information and extend the life of your phone.

This Year’s New iPhone

Last year, Apple released their brand new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max to the public. As with each annual release of the iPhone, a question of “is it worth upgrading?” comes about. In 2017, apple released the iPhone X, with its edge to edge curved screens like those seen on Android devices, even dating back to the Galaxy S6 Edge from 2015. This was the first major device redesign since the iPhone 6 was launched and it appears they’re sticking with it moving forward.

The iPhone XS and XS Max aren’t terribly different from their predecessor in terms of actual technology within the device itself. Of course, there’s the highly boasted A12 Bionic chip, new antenna lines (located towards the bottom of the phone near the charging port), a better camera for the rear facing side of the phone and a few other minor changes here and there. The new iPhone XS has 30 minutes more battery life compared to the previous iPhone X, but actually has a smaller battery than the latter. The iPhone X’s battery clocked in at 2,716 mAh, whereas the iPhone XS’ battery is smaller at 2,649. The new iPhone XS Max’s battery sits at 3,179 mAh, which makes sense given its larger size and larger display. In fact, while Apple is reporting an increase in battery life between the iPhone X and XS specs listed on their website, the iPhone XS has the exact same estimated time for uses such as internet usage, video playback and audio playback. The only exception is the call time which has gone down by one full hour compared (at 20 hours) to the iPhone X (which has a reported 21 hours).

However, it’s not all doom and gloom on the horizon for the newest iPhones. The yet to be released iPhone XR has an increased battery life compared to both as well as a notably cheaper price point. Additionally, newer hardware in the devices mean that they can do more for less energy, new software made for these newer phones allows for more high quality pictures to be taken and edited, better videos to be made and so on. In the end, it’s up to each consumer to make an informed decision on whether they think it’s worth their time and money to upgrade to one of these newer devices.
An iPhone Teardown

Avoiding the Headache: Choosing a Repairable Phone

A lot of people, ourselves included, get swept up in the marketing hype whenever a new phone comes out. New features like beveled glass edges, 4k cameras, and all-glass bodies seem innovative and attractive… until you drop the phone.

Suddenly an all-glass body or a beveled edge is much less appealing when it means spending upwards of $400 or more just to fix the screen! This information isn’t common knowledge for a lot of people until they break the phone and can be quite an unwelcome surprise.

We here at the Fix Hut feel your pain, and want to help you make an educated choice regarding what phone is not only a good blend of features, but also fast and cheap to repair.

Our friends over at iFixit have put together a handy chart to help you choose what phone is the best. Their Smartphone Repairability Scores list a number of popular Apple and Android phones with a 10-point rating system to separate the best and worst. A perfect 10 is always going to be our top recommendation to the consumer, but any device that is a 7 or up, would also stand to be a solid choice.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to give any of our four shops a call. Repairing phones is our passion, and sharing the knowledge of what is possible helps make the world a better place for everyone.

Greener Choices: Ethical Consumer Electronics and You

In 2017, Greenpeace released a report unprecedented in its scope. In Greenpeace’s “Guide to Greener Electronics 2017”, a comprehensive analysis of seventeen of the world’s leading manufacturer’s of consumer electronics was made. Heavy hitters such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Amazon are listed, as well as other brands that have a significant effect on the environment through their choices.

By 2017, the global volume of waste produced in the manufacturing and use of consumer electronics surpassed 65 million metric tons of waste. That’s enough waste to cover the entirety of Manhattan, from street-level to it’s tallest building. That’s a lot of waste. The final results are sobering… but there is a way that you, as a consumer, can affect immediate change:

  • Step One: Research your brand. Check out Greenpeace’s company report card. See what decisions companies are making to fight their environmental impact, and vote with your dollar.
  • Step Two: Push for legislation that holds companies accountable to a better environmental impact in its manufacturing processes, and fight for your Right to Repair.
  • Step Three: Bring your phone in to get repaired by us! Extending the life of your phone by having it repaired in our shop drastically reduces the impact to landfills, and also sends a message to corporations that planned obsolescence is unacceptable. We at The Fix Hut believe in a world where future generations don’t suffer under the weight of a disposable society. Help us change it!
  • Step Four: Let us recycle your old phones. We understand that sometimes a broken phone is a broken phone, but even in the end of your phone’s life, there is a way to decrease the impact of throwing it away. Choosing to let us recycle your old phones not only decreases clutter in your home, but is an ethical way to make sure that impact to the environment is as low as it possibly can get.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to drop by at your local Fix Hut and say hello!