- Although we use technology like smartphones and social networks on a daily basis, there are still some misconceptions about how these products work.
- From whether or not browsing in private mode actually keeps your history secret, to the notion that Macs can’t get viruses, here’s some clarity around several common tech myths.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Despite how often we use devices like smartphones and laptops, we still have plenty of questions about how they work.
Here’s a look at some of the most common misunderstandings about the tech products we use every day – from whether it’s harmful to keep your phone plugged in overnight, to the idea that web browsing in Incognito mode keeps you completely anonymous, to whether closing apps actually help your iPhone’s battery last longer.
While the answers to some of these myths may be a bit more complicated than a simple true or false, below you’ll find explanations that can help provide clarity.
1. Mac computers can’t get viruses.
- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
Apple computers are susceptible to malware, too. Apple used to brag that its computers aren’t as vulnerable as Windows PCs to viruses, but the company quickly changed its marketing language after a Trojan affected thousands of Mac computers in 2012.
2. Closing apps on your iPhone saves battery life.
- Avery Hartmans/Business Insider
There are many myths about how the batteries in our smartphones work, but the notion that closing apps extends battery life is among the most prominent. As it turns out, swiping away all of those apps running in the background on your iPhone doesn’t do anything to further your device’s battery life.
In 2016, an Apple fan actually emailed CEO Tim Cook to get the final word on whether or not closing apps improves battery life. Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, answered in Cook’s place, as 9to5Mac reported at the time. The email asked whether Cook quits his iOS multitasking apps frequently and whether this is necessary for battery life, to which Federighi replied: “No and No.”
3. Private/Incognito browsing keeps you anonymous.
There’s a misconception that “incognito” and “private” are synonymous with anonymous. If you’re using Incognito Mode in Google Chrome or Private browsing in Safari, it simply means the browser won’t keep track of your history or automatically log into any of your accounts. Basically, it’s good for keeping other people who use your computer from seeing what you’ve been doing. But it won’t keep your identity or your ISP hidden from the sites you visit – so keep that in mind if you’re visiting sites you shouldn’t be.
4. It’s impossible to track a smartphone without GPS.
While GPS is certainly one way to pinpoint the location of a mobile device, it’s not the only way. It’s also possible to track a cell phone via Wi-Fi networks and cell towers, as the Pew Research Center noted in a study from 2017.
Last year, researchers at Northwestern University also demonstrated how it’s possible to infer a device’s location by gathering data from other sensors, such as the accelerometer and gyroscope in your phone, as CNBC reported.
5. Facebook uses your phone’s microphone to listen in on private conversations.
- Iain Masterton/Getty
Given the ongoing privacy scandals that have surrounded Facebook over the past year, there are plenty of reasons why the general public may be skeptical of the social network.
But a persistent myth that’s floated around for years is the idea that Facebook eavesdrops on personal conversations and then later serves ads based on what you say. That simply isn’t true, says Facebook.
The belief came about as people began to come forward with stories over the years in which they had encountered Facebook ads that closely mirrored recent conversations. For example, one couple saw wedding ads the day after they had gotten engaged, before they had even told anyone, as the BBC reported.
Facebook issued a statement in 2016 to debunk this claim. “Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in the News Feed,” the company wrote. “We show ads based on people’s interest and other profile information – not what you’re talking out loud about.”
6. Leaving your phone plugged in damages the battery.
- Hollis Johnson
Like most people, you probably leave your phone plugged in overnight long after the battery is fully charged. There has been a general perception that doing so will damage your smartphone’s battery, but the truth is actually more complicated.
Leaving your phone plugged in doesn’t damage your device, per se. But Dominik Schulte, managing director of German battery technology consultancy firm BatterieIngenieure, previously told Business Insider that leaving your smartphone at 100% for extended periods of time can cause it to age faster. Other experts, however, have said that charging your phone overnight will have no noticeable impact on the battery aging process.
7. You should always let your iPhone battery completely die before recharging.
This, too, is a popular myth. Apple points out on its website that you can charge your iPhone whenever you want without worrying about the battery. “You complete one charge cycle when you’ve used (discharged) an amount that equals 100% of your battery’s capacity – but not necessarily all from one charge.”
8. More megapixels always means a better camera.
- Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
The megapixel has become the standard specification by which many people evaluate smartphone cameras, but there are many factors that impact a camera’s performance. The size of the pixels is actually more important than the number of pixels, considering larger pixels are capable of absorbing more light. So looking at the sheer number of pixels, and ignoring other factors like the size of the pixels and the sensor, won’t provide an accurate sense of the camera’s overall quality.
9. Higher resolution always means a better smartphone display.
- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
As is the case with its camera, there are several factors that contribute to a smartphone’s screen quality. Resolution is one of these factors, but certainly not the only one.
The type of panel used is also critical in determining display quality. A phone made with an OLED display panel versus LCD may show bolder colors and deeper contrast regardless of the resolution, for example.
Some smartphone makers have added specific features that can make their device’s screens look different as well. Apple’s iPhones, for example, have a feature called True Tone that adjusts the white balance according to the device’s surroundings, another factor that impacts how content looks on the iPhone’s screen.
10. You shouldn’t use your iPad charger for your iPhone.
Apple says it’s fine to use the power adapter that comes with your iPad or Mac to charge your iPhone. Doing so may even power up your smartphone more quickly than the smaller charger that came in the box with your iPhone.
However, Steve Sandler, founder and chief technical officer at electronics analysis company AEi Systems, told Popular Mechanics that this could stress your iPhone’s battery over time if you do it regularly. It would take about a year, however, to notice any changes in battery efficiency.
11. Holding a magnet close to your computer will erase all of its data.
- Flickr/Matt McGee
This technically isn’t wrong – you may remember how easy it was to wipe a floppy disk using a magnet back in the day. But you would need a really, really big magnet to wipe out your computer’s hard drive. Experts told PCMag that hard drives on modern computers would only be susceptible to really strong magnets with really focused magnetic fields – so your average refrigerator magnet wouldn’t do the trick.
12. Cellphones give you cancer.
- MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Most studies conducted so far haven’t found a link between cell phone usage and the development of tumors, but research thus far has been limited, according to the American Cancer Society.
There are a few reasons why research has been constrained so far, as the organization notes on its website: studies over the long term haven’t been conducted yet, cell phone use is constantly changing, and many studies so far have focused on adults only rather than children.