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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?

Released on 05/17/2023


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.

Of these four companies, Apple's privacy policy for Siri

is by far the clearest and the safest,

at least in terms of your personal privacy.

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.

From Tiktok's privacy policy,

We may collect biometric identifiers

of biometric information as defined under US laws

such as face prints and voice prints from your user content.

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]


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.

Let's go.

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? No.

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]


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.

On Android.


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? Is it?

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.

[upbeat music]