Smartphones have the power to make our lives more efficient. They also have the power to cause major migraines.
Let’s face it: Technology wouldn’t be technology without the occasional facepalm-inducing failure—and mobile devices are no exception. But an annoying Android error doesn’t have to send you scrambling to the nearest clueless carrier store or online help forum. I’ve been covering and personally using Android since its infancy, and I’m here to help. (My certified-geek badge is on file in the main office if you need to see it.)
Check out the fixes below or save this story for a rainy day. With these troubleshooting tips in hand, you’ll be swatting away problems and getting back to business in no time—no aspirin required.
1. What to do when your Android phone freezes or won’t start
It’s one of the scariest feelings of our always-connected lives: glancing down at your phone and realizing it’s frozen on some screen and not responding to your touch. Worse yet is the heart-dropping sensation you experience when you try to turn your phone on and absolutely nothing happens.
Before you launch into full-fledged CPR—which, in full disclosure, is more likely to result in a cracked screen than any sort of resuscitation—try the following troubleshooting steps:
- Press and hold the power button for a full 30 seconds—and don’t cut it short. Sometimes holding the power button down for an extended period of time is all it takes to wake and restart an unresponsive device.
- If your phone won’t turn on at all, plug it into its charger and leave it for a solid couple of hours, then come back and try again. I’ve personally seen numerous instances when a phone looks like it’s a goner, but the only problem is that its battery is dead. Give it a whirl, even if it seems like there’s no logical reason for that to be the case (a misbehaving app can drain your battery in a surprisingly short amount of time).
- Still no luck? Try pressing and holding your phone’s volume-down button and then pressing and holding the power button at the same time. Hold both buttons down together for at least 10 seconds. If your phone was frozen, this should force it to reboot. If the phone won’t turn on, this should force it to boot up to a recovery menu. In the latter case, you’ll want to tap the volume-down key upon reaching that menu until you see an option for either powering off or restarting the phone—then tap the power button to select that option.
If the freezing keeps happening, it’s time to try booting your device into something known as Safe Mode, which is a state that disables all apps you’ve downloaded and uses only the device’s original software. The procedure for entering Safe Mode can vary somewhat depending on your phone’s manufacturer, but you may be able to reach it by pressing and holding the power key for a couple of seconds and then pressing and holding “Power off” on the menu that appears.
If that doesn’t work, try powering up your phone normally. Then, as soon as the startup animation begins, press and hold either the volume-down key, or the volume-up and volume-down keys together until the phone finishes booting. When you reach the lock screen, you should see the words “Safe Mode” along the bottom of the screen.
Now, the test: See how your phone functions. If everything seems fine when in Safe Mode, that’s a sign that an app you’ve downloaded is misbehaving and causing problems. Restart your device to go back to the regular (“non-safe”) environment, then uninstall your downloaded apps one by one. Restart your phone after each uninstall and watch for things to get back to normal.
If you’re unable to find the culprit, all you have left is the nuclear option: resetting your phone to its original factory state and starting over fresh. And unless your actual hardware is just failing, that’ll almost certainly get you back on track.
2. What to do when your phone’s getting slow
New phones are almost always as snappy as can be. But, invariably, most Android devices seem to grow increasingly poky over time. So what to do?
First, try restarting your phone. (It sounds obvious, I realize, but some people almost never do it!) A fresh boot can do wonders for clearing out gunk and making things run more smoothly.
If that doesn’t do the trick, check the Storage section of your system settings to see if your available space is getting low. If you have about 10 percent or less of your total storage free, that may be your problem. (See item No. 5 below for some tips on freeing up space.)
The last thing to consider is if a particular app might be causing the issue. Boot your phone into Safe Mode, using the steps described in the previous tip. If things feel faster in that state, one or more of your downloaded apps is almost certainly slowing you down. Restart your device to go back to the regular (“non-safe”) environment, then uninstall your downloaded apps one by one until you see an improvement.
If all else fails, consider a factory reset, and also consider reinstalling your apps one at a time as you need them to avoid bogging down your device with things you don’t actually use. This is practically guaranteed to get your system running at optimum speed again—at least for a while.
3. What to do if your device starts feeling hot
No one wants a smartphone that doubles as a frying pan. If your device is feeling significantly warmer than normal, it’s probably because it’s working extra hard at resource-intensive tasks like video playback, game play, uploading or downloading large amounts of data, GPS navigation, virtual reality use, or Wi-Fi hotspot broadcasting. Your phone may also feel especially warm when charging.
This is all normal and to be expected, but if the surface starts to feel alarmingly hot, stop any of the aforementioned activities until it cools down. You may also want to turn the display brightness down and take your phone out of its case to help it cool. (In fact, you may want to consider using a less restrictive case or forgoing one entirely for a while to see if that helps. A lack of ventilation can make it tough for a phone to avoid overheating.)
Finally, at the risk of being Dr. Obvious: If you’re using the phone in the sun, get it out of the sun. Humans aren’t the only ones that can overheat from too much exposure.
Next page: The rest of the tips