How to Protect Your Phone, Make It Last Longer & Maximize Resale Value

New phone prices eclipse $1,000 and used phone values vary considerably by condition, so it makes sense to protect your phone like it’s an investment. Here’s how to protect your phone so you can keep it longer and get more money when you eventually sell it.

Use a phone case

Cases protect your phone from scratches, impact and shock (the sudden jarring that occurs during impacts, which can rattle internal components). Here’s how to choose the best phone case to protect your phone.

Choose the right case material

Performance largely depends on case material. Soft cases made from polyurethane, silicone, rubber and leather offer good shock protection but minimal impact resistance. Hard cases made from polycarbonate, wood, metal and carbon fiber offer good impact resistance but poor shock protection.

For max protection, choose a phone case that combines a hard, impact resistant layer with a soft, shock absorbent layer. One example is the Otterbox Defender series. Recommended by Pia Ceres in Wired, the Otterbox Defender encases a hard polycarbonate shell in a soft synthetic rubber slipcover.

What’s the best place to sell a smartphone?  Compare all phone selling options
Note that case material is more important than the MIL-STD rating often advertised by case companies. MIL-STD is the military standard for shock protection, but it can be inaccurate or even deceptive. Drop tests typically aren’t conducted by independent researchers and there can be a lot of variation between testing methods, according to a Digital Trends article by Simon Hill.

Understand the IP rating

You should, however, pay attention to your case’s Ingress Protection (IP) rating. The IP rating is expressed as two numbers, where the first represents how well a case resists dust and dirt (intrusions) and the second how well it resists water (moisture).

The higher each number, the better. The highest dust rating possible is 6 and the highest water rating is 9, though the best rating you’ll find for a phone case is probably IP-68. That’s good enough, though, because it means the case is completely dust-tight and waterproof under extended high-pressure immersion.

Check the case design, port and button covers

Cases that completely cover buttons and include flaps to cover ports help keep dust, debris and water out of the interior of your phone. Check the case design, too: cases with ridges that extend beyond your screen will help prevent shattering if your phone is dropped face-down. Some cases even have screen protectors built in to completely seal your phone off from the outside world.

Which phone case is best for you? That ultimately depends on your lifestyle and how accident prone you are. If you’re an adventurer, you might want to check out one of the rugged cases recommended by Digital Trends or GottaBeMobile. Spend weekends at the beach or on the boat? Your best bet might be a waterproof case like the one Owen Burke tested for Business Insider. If you just need a slim case that offers minimal protection, check out these thin phone cases on BGR.

If you’re still not sure which case you want, browse some of the top-rated Samsung Galaxy cases on Tom’s Guide or TechRadar. You can find the best iPhone cases on Engadget, PCMag and Forbes. Want something fun, unique and geeky? Check out these quirky phone cases on CNET.

Use a screen protector

Screen protectors prevent display scratches and cracks. There are three primary types of screen protectors:

Tempered glass

Generally considered the most protective option, tempered glass fuses layers of silicone (for shock absorption) to tempered glass (for impact resistance) and an oleophobic coating (to repel smudges from skin oils).

Tempered glass screen protectors are rated on the Moh’s hardness scale, with the highest number being the hardest and the most scratch resistant. Some experts recommend getting a screen protector with a hardness of 9h, but others say the 5h to 6h range offers better impact resistance.

Either way, tempered glass offers better protection than other options. PCMag recommends AmFilm, Maxboos and Zaggs screen protectors.

Need to replace your screen protector? Remove it safely to avoid damaging your phone.  Learn more

TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane)

A step below tempered glass, TPU is a flexible plastic that’s often billed as “self-healling” since it’s soft enough to absorb minor impact and will naturally expand to fill small divots. Thought it’s not the best option, it does offer some protection. If you go the TPU route, PCMag recommends IQU Shield, Zaggs and InvisibileShield brands.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate)

PET offers no impact protection and doesn’t offer much scratch resistance beyond what your screen can already resist. In fact, Phone Arena states PET screen protectors offer the least protection compared to TPU and tempered glass. Avoid it.

Another option, nano liquid, can be applied to your phone screen like fingernail polish. It can’t be removed (though it will wear off) and isn’t recommended for max protection.

If you’re looking for screen protectors by phone type, check out GottaBeMobile’s list of the best Galaxy S10 screen protectors and Jacob Krol’s list of the best iPhone screen protectors on CNN.

Did you know? Many phones are worth $100+. Find the value of your phone.


Get phone insurance

If something does happen, phone insurance can help you get your phone repaired or replaced for a reduced price. Here are some options and associated costs.

Manufacturer insurance

AppleCare+ costs $199 upfront or $9.99 per month. AppleCare+ with Theft & Loss costs $299 if paid upfront or $14.99 per month. For both plans, broken screens have a $29 deductible and other damages have a $99 deductible. On AppleCare+ with Theft & Loss, theft or loss has a $199 to $269 deductible, depending on your iPhone model. Note that AppleCare+ is only good for 24 months.

Samsung Premium care costs $11.99 per month. The deductible for all claims is $99, though it does not cover theft or loss.

Phone Insurance: Worth it or waste of money?  Find out

Carrier insurance

Based on the iPhone XS, Verizon Total Mobile Protection costs $13 per month. The screen damage deductible is $29 and other damage, loss or theft is $199. AT&T Mobile Protection Pack costs $11.99 per month and has a screen repair deductible of $49 and a $299 deductible for all other claims.

Sprint Complete costs $19 per month. The screen damage deductible is $29, other damage is $140 and theft or loss is $275. T-Mobile Protection 360 costs $15 per month. Insurance is provided via AppleCare+ at its pricing for the first 24 months; after that, the deductible for all damage is $249.

Verizon Phone Insurance:  What it covers, what it doesn’t

Third party insurance

You can purchase insurance separately from the manufacturer and carrier. For the iPhone XS, SquareTrade charges $8.99 per month and has a $149 deductible for all repairs, but it does not cover theft or loss. Worth Ave. Group charges a one-time flat fee of $189 and has a $50 deductible for all claims.

For more about what phone insurance covers, check out Luke Edwards’ comparison on TechRadar.

Enable automatic backups

Automatic backups ensure you don’t lose important data: contacts, photos, videos and more. There are multiple backup apps available for both iOS and Android operating systems, but the easiest backup methods are iCloud for iOS and Google backup for Android.

How to enable iCloud backups

If you have an iPhone, you can make sure iCloud is enabled by browsing to SETTINGS > YOUR NAME > ICLOUD (or just SETTINGS > ICLOUD).
Selling an iPhone? Protect your data with a backup and factory reset.  Learn more

How to enable Google (Android) backups

If you have an Android device, Google backups should turn on automatically when you log into your Google account on your phone. You can verify it’s enabled by browsing to “back up” in the settings menu. The process varies depending on which Android device you have.
Ready to sell your Android? Back it up and wipe its data first.  Here’s how
You can also use iTunes to back up your iPhone, Samsung Cloud to back up your Android, your carrier’s backup system or even take a manual USB backup, as described by Perla Shaheen on CNET.

Enable Find My iPhone/Activation Lock or Google Find My Device

These security features help you locate your phone if it’s lost. Be sure to set a lock screen message with contact information (but not your address) in case someone finds it. If it’s stolen, you can lock your phone so others can’t use it, erase its data or reactivate it. You can even have your phone automatically snap a photo of anyone who tries to use it, then send the photo to you so you can alert law enforcement.

How to enable Find My iPhone

  • Make sure FIND MY IPHONE AND SEND LAST LOCATION are turned on

How to enable Google Find My Device

  • Select FIND MY DEVICE and ensure it’s turned on
  • Select LOCATION and ensure it’s turned on
In addition, you can use third-party phone finder and phone lock apps to keep your phone secure. Get tips from CNET’s Jason Cipriani and Kim Komando, who recommends the Lookout app.
Did You Know? You can sell an iPhone that’s activation locked.  Learn more

Install an antivirus app

Install an antivirus app and routinely scan for malware to find and remove any dangerous apps and software from your phone. Malware can run in the background, causing components to overheat and compromising your data. They can even overtax your battery, reducing its shelf life.

AVG is a popular antivirus app (there’s a free version available). Mashable’s Andrea Kornstein recommends Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android phones. If you have an iPhone, you don’t need an antivirus app because Apple has malware protection built in. In fact, you can’t even get an antivirus app for your iPhone if you wanted to. Gizmodo’s David Nield explains why.

Save your passwords

Getting locked out of your phone is a real pain. If you can’t remember your passwords, you might not be able to access it. You can try Android Device Manager, but you might need to erase your phone if you don’t know your password. Or, you could go to an Apple Store with your original receipt and ask for an unlock. Neither of those methods are guaranteed, however, and if you can’t unlock your phone it will lose a lot of value (even though you can still sell it).

The simplest and easiest way to ensure you never get locked out of your phone is to manually write your password, passcode, pin and/or pattern on paper, then store it somewhere safe and secure where you’ll remember it if you need it. Get more tips on managing your passwords from The New York Times’ Andrew Cunningham.
Locked out of your Galaxy Note?  Here’s how to unlock it

Limit phone wear and tear

Use these tricks to keep your phone in good condition while you own it, which will make it last longer and maximize its resale value when you’re ready to trade it in or sell it.

Charge your phone wirelessly

Wireless charging eliminates wear and tear on your charging port – a common repair. Check out PC World’s comprehensive overview of wireless chargers to find the best options for iPhones and Android phones.

Use wireless headphones

Similarly, wireless headphones eliminate wear and tear on your headphone jack. The Wall Street Journal’s David Pierce has an excellent list of the best wireless headphones that aren’t AirPods.

Maintain your battery

Integrated batteries are expensive to replace. Improve your battery life and avoid battery replacement by enabling your phone’s battery saver mode. Disable apps from running in the background. Dim your screen and turn off Bluetooth and any other radios you don’t need. Avoid draining your battery entirely and charging it to 100 percent, which can stress the battery. Keep your phone away from extreme hot and cold temperatures. Get more battery maintenance tips from USA Today’s Jefferson Graham.

Keep your phone clean

Dust and debris can work their way into ports and under your screen protector, even with a good case (your phone is full of bacteria, too, according to The Washington Posts’s Helen Carefoot). Every now and then, remove your case and screen protector to give your phone a thorough cleaning with a soft, microfiber cloth. Check out these phone cleaning tips from CNET’s Katie Conner.

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