It’s September, and once again, Apple has announced new iPhone models, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Upgrading is always tempting. A new phone promises more than just a shiny new gadget. It’s a do-over moment. A new phone is a promise of renewal. With a new phone, we tell ourselves, we will take better photos, have more storage space, and from that moment forward, be more organized with the device.
Sometimes, however, we get distracted by what’s new and forget to focus on what we need. That’s the point of a flashy press conference, isn’t it? If you’re an iPhone owner who is considering jumping to the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, you might first ask yourself whether you’re making the most of the phone you have now. Does your current phone already meet your needs? Are you getting out of it what you thought you would when it was the shiny new upgrade model? And what about all you people who got the 6s and 6s Plus, who aren’t due for upgrades? How can you recapture that sense of excitement about your no-longer cutting edge handset?
Extending the life of your current phone could buy you some time, which might help you reach the end of a stifling contract or even save you some money. It might also extend the life of those nice headphones you purchased. Of course, I’m half-joking about the new iPhone models’ lack of a standard headphone jack.
There are situations that do in fact call for a new phone. But if you think your current phone might have a little life left in it, here are some ways to help extend that life by doing some pretty minor cleanup and restoration work.
Free Up Some Storage Space
If your iPhone’s tight on space, check your storage space to first figure out if there are any unnecessary hogs. Often the culprits are photos, videos, and music. Chances are good that you’ll need to do this anyhow, before you upgrade to iOS 10 (which might already help make your older phone feel new again).
The easiest way to free up space taken up by iPhone photos and videos is to offload them to a cloud storage service, such as Dropbox. If you move your photos to Dropbox or some other cloud storage provider, be sure to install that company’s app on your phone so that you can still get to your pictures easily. Once you’ve moved the photos to a new location, you can delete them from your phone and free up some space.
Important: Be sure to dump the Recently Deleted folder in the Photos app. A lot of people miss this step and don’t see any gains in their space for a month!
Music is a little bit trickier to handle, although with such good music streaming services available now, there’s less of a need to keep music files on the phone. If you move your music files to a cloud storage service, you’ll still be able to download them or stream them when you want to hear those tracks.
Delete apps you don’t use, too. It’s easier said than done, I know, but think of it as phone hygiene.
Try Some New Apps
Now that you’ve freed up some space by deleting old stuff, maybe it’s time to fill at least some of it back up again with new stuff. Have you just been sticking with the same old apps for the past year or two? If so, there are many thousands of new ones for you to choose from. You can teach your old phone some new tricks with a fresh app or two. Best of all, there’s no need to troll the app store for ideas. We’ve picked the best of the best in our list of the 100 Best iPhone Apps.
Take Better iPhone Photos
A better camera has long been one of the most attractive reasons to upgrade from one iPhone to the next. But before you blame the camera for your poor photos, ask whether you know all the ins and outs of taking a decent shot in the first place. There are some very simple tricks to learn with the iPhone camera to take better pictures.
The simplest one—and forgive me for how simple it is, but some people might not yet know—is to tell the camera where to focus before taking a photo. Press your finger on the screen where you want the point of focus to be. In many cases, the exposure will change as you move the focus, too. Try it out a few times before snapping the pictures.
Another easy way to take better photos is to use the HDR setting. It’s right at the top of the interface when you open the camera app. HDR stands for high dynamic range. It basically balances out the shadows and highlights of a photo by taking three pictures in quick succession and then merging them into one. It’s really important to hold still while taking HDR photos.
Lastly, if your phone is old, you may need to clean the camera lens. You can use compressed air and a microfiber cloth to clean off the exterior lens casing. If that doesn’t help, you might need to take your phone apart to clean the inside. You’ll need a Pentalobe screwdriver, two suction cups, some compressed air, and a lens-cleaning device that’s small enough for a smartphone (Lenspen makes one).
If taking apart your phone sounds scary, you can ask a mobile phone repair shop to do this task for you. Paying someone a few bucks to clean your phone’s camera lens is still several hundred dollars cheaper than what it would cost to get a whole new phone. Make sure to consider the state of your warranty, of course, but we’re mostly talking about older phones here, so that probably isn’t so much of an issue here.
Other small matters of maintenance can bring back some life to your phone. For example, I swear by keeping a microfiber cloth in my bag at all times so that I can wipe my phone screen clean often.
You can also clean the headphone jack and Lightning connection jack by pulling off most of the cotton from a cotton swab (to make it smaller) and putting a tiny dab of rubbing alcohol on what’s left of it. Roll that around inside the connection points to help clear out any lint that may have become lodged inside. Do not use alcohol anywhere on the screen, though.
Finally, treat yourself to a new case and screen protector. Those will also help extend the life of your phone by minimizing damage.