Like any technology that is made to be used daily by consumers, Smart Home Tech can get a bit uppity, run slowly, crash or perform strangely. This can be caused by any number of issues, but mostly they can be easily fixed by following the mantra “Have you tried turning it off and on again!?”
(Here’s an interesting fact, Tommy Flowers, the man who designed and built Colossus, the bedroom sized computer which Alan Turing used to break the Enigma code recommended that his machine was never turned off, as it would take more than 3 days to start again! PC users know the feeling.)
But what if a ‘dynamic power cycle’ (unplugging it without turning it off) doesn’t have the desired effect? Is there anything else you can do or is your Smart device kaput?
Chances are that there isn’t really anything wrong with it at all, and here’s what you can do to fix many of the most common problems Smart Home Tech users experience.
Frozen Or Slow Apps
Apps can act up for a number of reasons, from needing software updates to incompatibility with the hub you’re using to control it. If it’s never worked properly, look to make sure the device is completely compatible with the software which the devices are running on. If that’s fine, try stopping and restarting the app as this little jolt is the app version of ‘off and on again’. If that doesn’t work, uninstall the app and go to the manufacturer’s website and download the latest version. Apps which you may find in other locations may be corrupted or contain malware which will infect your device and compromise your data security.
Intermittent App Failure
Intermittent problems can be the most frustrating as they always seem to crop up exactly when you could do without them the most, and never manifest themselves when you’re trying to explain them to an expert! This is one of the problems which can sometimes be fixed by turning things off and on again. Turn everything which is affected off, leave it for twenty seconds at least, and then turn things back on again one at a time. This should clear out any cycling software and the devices’ short term memories, meaning that they should be able to run more smoothly. Other factors can play a leading role in intermittent Smart Home Technology problems though. If a device is getting too hot it can behave strangely, and environment can affect performance too. Walls, microwave ovens, speakers and metallic objects can interfere with performance, even people sitting or standing in the wrong place can have an effect on particularly sensitive devices so ensure devices which need to communicate with one another have as clear a line of sight as possible.
If you’re having trouble connecting to wifi, network and there is no way around the fact that you can’t improve on the line of sight then an almost guaranteed solution is to get additional routers or extenders which will boost signal in any blind spots in your Wifi coverage. Naturally, if a Smart Home device requires a strong GSM network connection to work properly you have fewer options, signal boosters are available but expensive and often receive negative reviews, so perhaps you’ll need to reconcile yourself to only using mobile signal dependent devices where the signal is strongest and wherever possible use IFTTT to increase their usefulness. Again, turning apps off, or reinstalling from fresh for the latest possible versions is recommended when you start looking at fixing connection faults.
Charging And Cable Issues
Many people are choosing wireless earphones over cabled for the convenience of not getting into a tangled mess whenever they need to be put away, and wireless charging could mean that we won’t need a micro USB port at all in the future, but until then we’re still going to have problems with them. Pockets are full of fluff and grit, and this detritus can end up getting into ports on your phone making the charger fail to engage properly, and the headphone jack not connect fully, leaving you with a loose cable which not only charges poorly or intermittently, but makes data transfer from your phone to your computer and vice versa unreliable. When you plug in your headphones you might only get one channel or the jack keeps popping out when you walk. The problems are often easily solved by cleaning. Use a non-metalic probe, such as a toothpick to pick fluff out of a charger port and you’ll be surprised how much ballast had got in there. The same goes for headphone sockets. If the socket is clear but the sound is patchy, check your media settings as some smart phones use a different volume control for the ring tone and the playback volume, and check your earphone cable for damage and wear too.
Water Damage & Broken Screens
We get such dissonant messages about our phone’s screens. They’re incredibly delicate and should only be cleaned very carefully with expensive lotions, then we jab our fingers at them, and throw them in our bags and pockets which are full of lint and grit. If you drop your phone and it goes in water, say from the sink, toilet or a dirty puddle the most important things to do are to get the battery out (wherever possible) and to get the phone dried off as quickly as you can. If you can remove the battery then do so as it’s often current flowing through damp circuits which does most damage. In either case, don’t shake or blow on the phone as this can force water deeper into the circuitry. Instead, simply turn it off immediately, wipe it down then place the phone into a jar full of rice as it is a desiccant which will draw moisture from the atmosphere inside the jar, and consequently from your phone. Leave it somewhere warm for at least 48 hours to ensure that all moisture has been absorbed. (Salt would do a better job, but is not recommended in any way as damp salt will damage your phone far more badly than water alone.)
If your screen is cracked this will inevitably lead to bigger cracks and the smart phone will eventually become useless. Even small cracks will let in moisture and damage the integrity of the handset making it flex and damage delicate internal parts. Unfortunately there isn’t a home fix for a damaged screen so it’s necessary to take it to a qualified phone repair shop. However, because cracked and smashed screens are such a common problem you won’t find it hard to locate an expert on a high street near you who should be able to fix it while you wait, or within a few hours.