By Joe Levi | July 9, 2013 7:36 AM
Yesterday we talked about how phones seem to degrade over time, and some of the reasons why the physical components do, in point of fact, fail with use (and abuse). We didn’t talk about software decay, and why your phone seems to get slower and slower with use. No fear! That’s what another article is for — how about this one: how to fix whatever is wrong with your Android.
Your Android, whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet, is a physical device. Physical devices eventually break. Sometimes when it breaks, you just have to throw it out (read: properly repurpose or recycle it), but there are many things you may be able to do to fix your Android.
Your Android also runs software. Software often suffers from various kinds of maladies, some of which are intentional (malware), whereas some are not (bugs). These types of problems are a bit harder to troubleshoot, but are often much easier to fix than hardware problems.
How to fix your Android’s hardware problems
Depending on your device, your “reparability options” may be limited. Some breaks are obvious: your screen gets cracked, or touches are no longer recognized. In the case of physical damage, prevention is the best “cure”. However, in the event that
“prevention” failed, contacting your device’s manufacturer is a good first step.
Remember my Nexus 4 that decided it would rather fly through the air that remain safely in my hand? It met with a quick and sudden death when it landed on the cement floor. I hurried and ordered a replacement from the Play Store, but kept the old device around. After several weeks a friend at work advised me to contact LG for a replacement. Sure enough, US$160 or so and a few weeks later I had a brand-new (albeit refurbished) Nexus 4 — which my wife now enjoys as her daily driver.
If your manufacturer isn’t as kind, you might be able to get a 3rd party to repair your device, or maybe undertake the task yourself. Some repairs aren’t hard: replacing a worn out battery, for example. Others can be tricky: replacing a screen and digitizer. It never hurts to find out what your options are.
How to fix your Android’s software problems
Software problems are generally much easier to fix than hardware issues. Most problems of this type show themselves by your making your device gradually slow down, or behave in an unwanted or unexpected manner. In both cases the culprit is usually an app that has some sort of problem with it: a bug, a memory leak, etc.
Although you can attempt uninstalling apps one at a time, I’d recommend a different approach: start with a clean slate.
Depending on which version of Android you’re running, the way to perform a factory reset will vary. On my Nexus 4, for example, I go to Settings, Backup & reset, and Factory data reset. This, as it implies, will reset everything to the factory defaults — well, mostly. Some things like, pictures and other files might not be wiped, but make sure you have a backup of anything and everything that you don’t want to lose before you proceed.
After you “OK” a few questions your device will shut down and restart. It may do this a few times, but eventually you’ll be brought back to the base configuration. At this point, supply your Google Account credentials, but watch for the “restore settings” prompt. Don’t check that (or uncheck it if it’s already checked). I know, this goes against everything you’ve heard and will make setting up your device again take longer. That’s okay.
Like I mentioned previously, your problems may have been caused by an app that was misbehaving, or may have been caused by a bad configuration, corrupt settings, or it may even have been caused by having more apps installed than your device could handle. Take this opportunity to re-install only the apps that you actually use, and don’t install them all at once. Install the apps you use regularly first, then wait a day or so before you install the next batch.
Have your problems gone away? If so, great! Start installing more apps that you can’t live without. Wait a day or so to make sure your problems haven’t returned. Keep repeating the process until all the apps that you genuinely need have been reloaded. If, at any point in this process, your problems return, remove a few of the apps that you recently installed. Keep removing apps until the problem goes away. At that point you’ll be able to whittle down the list until you find the offending app. Drop the developer a note via email and let them know why you removed their app and what your symptoms were. Do so in a constructive manner so the developer will be more likely to fix the app.
Generally speaking, this method will help you fix anything that’s wrong with your Android. How long it says fixed will depend on the true root-cause of the problem. Don’t be afraid to repeat the process every several months, or as circumstances dictate.. Your device should run faster, have less hiccups, and your problems should be a thing of the past.
Image credit: (cc) skistz