5 ways to make an old smartphone feel like new in 2022

Long lines were back this year as people in some parts of the world waited all night to be among the first to own Apple’s latest iPhone 14s. The newest handsets were available for pre-order on Sept. 9 and launched in stores on Sept. 16.

If you’re not among those vying to “keep up with the phone-ses” and shell out a small fortune to own the latest model, whether from Apple or Samsung or any of the newest devices debuting this fall, there are several simple ways to make your older phone feel like new again. Here are five of the easiest to do today.

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1. Replace your battery

If your battery dies before lunchtime every day, you’re likely tempted to toss it and get a new one. This is the main complaint I hear and one of the main reasons people upgrade.

Batteries drain noticeably faster when you’ve had your phone for about two years — or around 500-charge cycles. If the rest of the phone works just fine — you can get a brand new battery for an iPhone X for $70 or for a Samsung Galaxy S10 for between $75 and $80.

That’s hundreds if not more than a thousand dollars less expensive than the brand-new handsets coming out.

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How to replace your battery if it can’t hold more than an 80% charge

On iPhone: Go to Settings > Battery > Battery Health to see your battery’s capacity.

For most Android Phones: Go to Settings > Device > Battery (or Settings > Battery if you have a newer version of Android).

The information on this menu is essentially the same as on an iPhone and lists “Device Idle,” which is the same as the standby mode.

If you can’t find an easily accessible built-in feature, use an app like AccuBattery to get the same info.

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As I wrote earlier this year, most of us do at least one thing every day that shortens the lifespan of our devices. The lithium-ion batteries in our phones last longest when we keep them charged between 30% and 80% throughout the day, not just topped up to 100% and then down to zero.

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2. Free up space

Think of your smartphone like a room in your home, say your bedroom. Imagine adding dozens of new physical items such as books, stacks of photos and movies (imagine them on old VHS tapes if you’re like me and old enough to remember those). Now, think of going two to five years without removing a single thing. Yikes! You wouldn’t have any room to move around!

Your smartphone is like that. When the internal storage is almost full, the device slows down. When memory runs out, your phone can’t cram in new data, so it has to overwrite the old data. That’s what makes the phone move like molasses.

See what’s hogging storage in iPhone or Android settings, and follow prompts to get rid of everything you can. Delete duplicate photos, video, and files. Use a photo cloud service that backs up images, saves them in the cloud, and then automatically removes them from living on your device.

Also, ditch all the screen grabs, movies you’ve downloaded and watched, old Messages and texts, podcasts, apps you no longer use, and anything else you don’t want or need anymore.

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3. How to speed your phone up

Once you get your phone cleaned out, you can speed it up even more by turning it off and restarting it every other day. Leaving it on indefinitely can fill it up with things you don’t use or need, including clogging your cache.

Your phone often stores data to load things faster the next time. It’s kind of like using a shortcut to get to work every day. Instead of looking at a map every time you need to know the shortest distance between two places, you automatically go the same way. When you go to a website in your browser, your browser stores a little bit of data on your phone to get you there faster the next time.

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The easiest way to clear your history and cookies on an iPhone

Go to Settings > Safari, and tap Clear History and Website Data. Clearing your history, cookies, and browsing data from Safari won't change your AutoFill information.

To clear your cookies and keep your history, go to Settings > Safari > Advanced > Website Data, then tap Remove All Website Data.

How to clear your history and cookies on an Android

Go to Settings > Storage > Cache. Now clear all the cache data by tapping on the “Clear Cache” button.

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4. Update your software to keep your old phone running quickly

Running the newest software is always a good idea because it fixes security issues and makes pretty much everything on your device run more smoothly, including apps.

Apple released its latest operating system, iOS 16, and while it’s okay to wait a few weeks while it’s still in its glitchy early days, it will eventually become the standard. But, iOS 16 won’t work with any iPhone older than the iPhone 8 (2017), according to Apple. So if you have an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, it’s time to upgrade to a newer model phone.

It’s a little more complicated for Android devices because they differ by manufacturer. You can check and update your Android version in the settings app, but know that security and system updates are separate.

If you use a Google Pixel handset, you can find out about the latest updates at its help center. For Samsung, devices get three years (Galaxy S20 and older) or four years (Galaxy S21 and newer) of Android OS updates and an additional year of security updates.

Be sure to update all of your apps too. These can bog your phone down if they’re late to update to the latest OS too.

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5. Fix the broken bits on your phone

It’s often less expensive to replace a cracked screen, clean out a clogged port, or repair a minor water damage than it is to buy a new phone. For instance, replacing the screen on an iPhone X costs $279, or $29 if it’s under Apple Care. It’s $165 to replace the screen on a Samsung Galaxy S10.

Depending on repair costs, you might want to look at upgrading to a new phone, just not this year’s newest one. For instance, an iPhone 12 or 13, with a trade-in of your phone might cost about the same as a repair. It’s worth running those numbers any time you’re looking at a repair bill that’s $300 or more.

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Always use a case to protect your phone

This brings us to the final to-do here. No matter what model you have, use a case that protects the back and sides. It’s surprising how many people I see walking around with their naked and often cracked phones.

Hopefully, a little maintenance and care can get you through one more year with your trusty handset by your side before you send it off to smartphone retirement and spring for a new one.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. Email her at jj@techish.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 5 easy ways to revive your cell phone instead of buying a new one