Testing the IQ of Smartphones from Apple, Amazon, Samsung, and HTC

Fixya Top Smartphone Issues

The Holiday 2015 Fixya Smartphone Report covers common issues and their solutions from popular smartphone producers Apple, Amazon, Samsung, and HTC. Overall, our report discovered some consistent problems across all smartphones with their battery life and the devices rebooting themselves at inopportune times, but found that each individual brand had unique problems with their products that could not be found with their competitors.

Smartphones come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes today, and are used by a large number of people for a variety of uses. Whether you use your smartphone for work or personal matters, to browse the internet casually and talk to friends or for hard-hitting research and business, keeping your smartphone in working order and reducing any issues you’re having with your device is essential.

Which is where we come in.

Drawing from our unique and proprietary data found on Fixya, as well as the Fixya Fixboard which provides unique actionable insight on today’s top brands, we will cover some of the the most common issues and solutions that each company has with its smartphone products and give you the tools to find a solution.

APPLE: iPhone 6 and 6+

iPhone 6 and 6+

Synopsis

Apple has had a pretty firm grip on the smartphone market over the years due to their first mover advantage, innovation and incredible brand power. The iPhone has had an excellent user interface, making it a simple transition for consumers who have never owned a smartphone. This perception has had its share of bumps along the road, like antenna gate and battery gate, but by and large there's no debating that Apple understands how to make a product that appeals to the masses.

Apple underscored those notions with the iPhone 6 and 6+. Although it struggled a bit out of the gate (which is a relative term, as Apple’s sales figures are always among the industry leaders, if not the leader outright), supply is meeting demand this holiday season for the iPhone 6 and 6+.

So how does the iPhone 6 and 6+ stack up according to users who own the device? Let's take a look at some common problems.

Common Problems & Solutions

Random Reboots — Similar to other phones in this report, the iPhone 6 and 6+ were prone to randomly rebooting. While inopportune and clearly an annoyance, the vast majority of the reason for this is that the phone is either swamped with an overwhelming number of open applications and programs it is running at the time, is overheating due to significant use, or cannot handle the load of a specific app or game. All of these issues, whether working in concert or separately, cause the device to reboot and shut down the phone before restarting.

The Fix:

  • Ensure that your iOS is updated to the current system. You can do this by going into your settings menu and downloading the most recent software update.
  • Perform a factory reset on your device to wipe it of anything that may be causing the issue.
  • Avoid playing a graphical game or watching videos for an extended period of time
  • Be cognizant of the heat of your device; if it is constantly running hot due to overuse, let the device “breathe” for a moment and do not use.
  • Delete any apps where this problem occurs most frequently.

Battery Life - Similar to issues with the iPhone 5s, both the iPhone 6 and 6+ experience notable problems with the battery life of the device on a fairly consistent basis. The biggest drains on battery life are the most common suspects—graphics driven games, location services (especially when using the device as a GPS on a trip), and consistently using your phone. While the urge is always going to be there to use your smartphone constantly, especially with how well Apple delivers on numerous aspects of this device, constantly running the smartphone and using it will cause the battery life issue to become more and more pronounced as the minutes drag on.

These battery issues aren't a new thing for Apple users, who underwent some pretty significant battery drain problems with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5. While it hasn’t hurt the company yet, especially because most cutting-edge smartphones have similar issues, this issue may turn off some consumers who are looking for a smartphone that has a more reliable battery life.

The Fix:

  • Turn off automatic fetching for your email services, instead opting to manual fetch your emails
  • Ensure that location services are only being used when needed and not constantly left on
  • Turn off push notifications and background app refresh, which refreshes your apps even when you are not currently using them
  • Limit the time you spend watching videos and playing games, as these are the most data invasive uses of your phone.
  • Be cognizant of any apps you download that may be heavy battery drainers

Camera Issues - The iPhone’s camera is one of the best, if not the best, amongst all new smartphones, which makes the occasional issue taking pictures and retrieving photos all the more frustrating for users who wish to take advantage of the device’s ability to take excellent photos. The primary issue for users who have problems with the iPhone’s camera is that upon booting up the camera to use, a black screen appears instead of the camera. Although this is not a device-breaking issue (most users are able to exit out of the camera option and attempt to take a picture again), it does significantly slow down the process of taking a photo, which can be especially frustrating when the picture in question is time-sensitive.

The Fix:

  • Reset all settings on your phone to reboot everything (including your camera).
  • Perform a factory reset on your phone.
  • Ensure that you are not using an old backup file from a previous phone or version of iOS.
  • Make sure you have enough memory available on your phone to take a picture and save it.
  • Close down all other applications when using the camera function.

AMAZON: Fire

Amazon Fire Phone

Serving as Amazon’s first foray into the ultra-competitive smartphone space, the Fire is a reasonably successful product that you would expect from the company that brought you the Kindle Fire. With all of the development and product testing the company poured into the Kindle Fire, making the transition to the smartphone was likely a relatively straightforward process, especially when one considers how similar tablets and smartphones are becoming with each subsequent release.

Running a version of the Android system, by most accounts the Fire has a solid UI, some bells and whistles, and a more than passable overall experience. While it hasn’t been a standout in the space, it’s heavy integration with Amazon Prime does make it appealing for users who use those services daily (which is assumedly one of the core groups of consumers that Amazon was aiming for when developing the phone).

So while the Amazon delivered a pretty solid product with the Fire (especially considering it was their first crack at the smartphone space), the phone does have some issues with it that users need to be aware of.

Here’s a list of those issues, and how to fix them.

Common Problems & Solutions

Battery Issues— Considering the Fire is Amazon’s first smartphone, and huge companies like Apple have released numerous editions of smartphones and are still dealing with issues of battery complaints, we tend to give the Fire a bit of a pass on its issues with battery life. Having said that however, as a user, dealing with issues of battery life can be a significantly frustrating experience especially since it gets directly in the way of what you're attempting to do with your phone—use it without it turning off on you.

The Fix:

  • Turn off your Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location services when you are not using them. These types of features will pose a relatively significant slow drain on your phone if left on that is unnecessary if you are not in the process of using them.
  • Ensure that your Amazon Fire is up to date with the most recent version of software.
  • Close any apps that you are not currently using and may be running in the background, slowly draining your battery
  • Turn down the brightness level of your Fire
  • Turn off different types of gesture settings (like Dynamic Perspective), which can put a drain on your battery life.

App Store Selection - As we saw with the early versions of smartphones running the Windows phone software, any new smartphone entering the market today and attempting to break into the space is going to have issues with app selection at the outset of phones product beginnings. The issues are no different for Amazon, as even with all of the marketing and financial power of the company, onboarding developers who will create apps for the device is going to take time and an increased user base. In addition, although the phone is heavily integrated with Amazon Prime and could be appealing for users who rely heavily on that service for their entertainment and shopping needs, services such as Google Play are not available in the store.

The Fix:

  • Unfortunately for users, this issue cannot be resolved with anything other than time. Amazon Prime users will enjoy the service’s full integration with this device (which is expected considering the phone is coming from Amazon), but until more time has passed and companies begin to put more and more resources into developing Amazon-based apps, this issue will remain.

Overheating — Overheating with phones is a common issue and one that can cause a few number of issues. For starters, it’s uncomfortable to hold an especially hot phone and that definitely detracts from the experience of a brand new smartphone. Although no users reported any type of issues with bodily harm (the phone would likely turn off on its own by that point), it still isn’t a particularly positive experience to hold a phone that’s running hot.

In addition, and probably the most significant problem with a phone that overheats, is that the phone will oftentimes turn off on its own and randomly restart. While this is in effect a positive thing (as the built-in feature to turn off is just a process meant to protect the internal components of the phone), it is a frustrating thing to have happen on a consistent basis, especially when its caused by a hardware fault that caused the phone to overheat in the first place.

Here’s how to reduce the amount of time you spend dealing with overheating.

The Fix:

  • If you feel your phone getting hot, restart the device or turn it off for 10 minutes. This can oftentimes deliver a nice reprieve for the phone and cool it down for much faster.
  • Avoid playing graphic-intensive games and watching video for extended periods of time. These are two of the biggest stresses on smartphones’ computing power, and will cause the device to heat up.
  • Turn off different types of gesture settings (like Dynamic Perspective), which can put a drain on your battery life (which increases the heat of the phone).
  • Do a factory reset of the phone. It is possible that an app or program is causing the phone to overheat.

SAMSUNG: Galaxy S5

Galaxy S5

Synopsis

It's easy to forget that Samsung's run with the Galaxy S line dates back to just 2010, considering the impact it has had on the smartphone market. Now seen as one of the world's premier smartphone brands, it's been a solid four years of success for the Korean phone maker, providing users with an excellent mobile device for consumers to seek out on the Android operating system, and perhaps most importantly for consumers, giving Apple its stiffest competition from a well-financed and established brand.

The Galaxy S5 continues that strong line of smartphones from Samsung, providing an elegant and enjoyable experience while retaining its core feature set from the S4. In fact, the S5 did little in the way of making a huge “jump” from the S4 version—it’s essentially an updated phone which added some nifty new features, like a fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor, and cleaned up some old problems, while providing a similar experience to the previous generation.

So just what are those issues? Let’s dive in.

Common Problems & Solutions

Battery Issues - Stop us if you’ve heard this one before—notable smartphone has issues with its battery life. Like its predecessor and competitors, the Galaxy S5 has a tendency to undergo some severe battery drain over the course of a given day, causing the battery to require a recharge before the day is through. The typical suspects are all at play here in regards to the battery life issues. However, unlike its competitors, the S5 has some issues with the phone being charged. Product owners report that the device sometimes charges extremely slowly when plugged in, taking four or more hours to get a full and complete charge.

Fixes for these battery issues can be found below.

The Fix:

  • Limit the time you spend watching videos and playing games, as these are the most data invasive uses of your phone.
  • Be cognizant of any apps you download that may be heavy battery drainers.
  • Ensure you are using a charger officially made by Samsung, as other chargers may not work as effectively.
  • Charge via a USB port on your personal computer instead of from the outlet; this will charge the phone to charge slower than a functioning charger plugged into a wall socket, but may be faster than a non-functioning charger.
  • Replace the battery of your Galaxy S5

Camera Issues - The Galaxy S5’s camera issues are unfortunate considering the device does a really nice job of taking quality pictures, especially for a smartphone. It’s quality is right up there with all of its competitors, and users who take advantage of this aspect of the device are generally pleased with the results. However, there are some notable bugs and issues that effect the camera of the S5—for starters, the camera is quite slow to load some of the time, which can cause some frustration when users are looking to get off a quick shot. In addition, sometime the camera refuses to load up at all, which means users are unable to take any photos until the eventually are able to fix the device.

The Fix:

  • Turn picture stabilization off when you have enough light for your images.
  • Clear the cache and data of your device, as this may be slowing down or causing the camera to not boot up properly.
  • Make sure all apps currently not in use are shut down. Apps take up computing power on the device, which may be causing the slow down and/or inability to load issues.
  • Restart the device; if this does not work, go through a factory reset.

Touchscreen Issues - Similar to the Galaxy S4, the newest version of the S5 has issues with the screen as well. However, the major difference is that it’s not the aesthetic appearance with the screen; instead, users are having problems with the functionality of it. While the S4 had a screen that was relatively darker than other devices, which caused problems reading text, looking at pictures, and running apps, the S5’s issues are with users interacting with the device. This means that the device will occasionally register “ghost touches”, causing the screen to flip and applications and text to be selected without a touch, as well as the smartphone failing to register touches at all.

The Fix:

  • Play around with the touch sensitivity options in your settings—if you’re having difficulty registering touches turn it up, and if your smartphone is experiencing “ghost touches” turn the sensitivity down.
  • Clean your screen and ensure that any screen protector or case you’re using is not causing the issues to crop up
  • Restart your phone; if that does not fix your issue, restore to factory settings with a hard reset.

HTC: HTC One (M8)

HTC One

Until the HTC One was released, you’d be hard pressed to find much press coverage of HTC’s previous phone releases. The company never had a standout release in the smartphone space, and with devices from companies like Apple, Samsung, and Google grabbing headlines, HTC was consistently overlooked.

That was until the HTC One came along.

With the release of the HTC One, all of a sudden HTC became a player in the smartphone scene. Lauded for its design, beauty, and ergonomic features, critics and consumers gave a thumbs up to the phone that made its competitors begin to take notice. As we’ve said before in regards to the smartphone space, in a market that's saturated with specs and unimportant competitive advantages being thrown around, sometimes it just takes creating a beautiful product to get you noticed and in the discussion.

Which is exactly what HTC did with the HTC One, and again now with their most recent version of their smartphone line, the HTC One (M8). However, despite the company releasing a successful phone for the second year running,

Common Problems & Solutions

Battery Life - Battery life is a notorious issue for smartphones of any kind, and the HTC One (M8) is no different. Although a mass of critics have commended the company for improving the battery life of the phone compared to its predecessor (whose battery life issues were one of the most commonly complained about issues with the device), the battery life still falls short of its competitors and causes users issues when trying to use their device for a prolonged period of time. As is common, the battery life takes a dip during heavy usage periods of data-intensive activities (such as watching videos and playing games).

The Fix:

  • Enter into Extreme Power Saving Mode, a built-in feature that helps elongate your battery life and give you less need to charge your phone
  • Restore phone to factory settings
  • Limit the time you spend watching videos and playing games, as these are the most data invasive uses of your phone.
  • Be cognizant of any apps you download that may be heavy battery drainers

Audio Issues - Similar to the first iteration of the HTC One, users of the HTC One M8 have experienced and complained of issues dealing with the audio output from their smartphones, specifically when they are on a phone call with another person. These issues run the gamut from using the speakerphone to using the regular headset for users, meaning that no matter how you’re using your smartphone to speak to another person, the issue is present. The most common result of this issue is that smartphone owners have difficulty making out what the person on the other end of the line is saying, while the person you are speaking to has no such problems.

The Fix:

  • Turn “Hearing Aids” mode on via the settings menu; this built-in feature of the HTC One (M8) increases the volume of all sound coming out of the phone. As the name suggests this mode is made for people who have hearing aids, but it does help alleviate the issue of a low volume speaker.
  • Purchase a Bluetooth headset to use when talking on the phone instead of the native speaker in the smartphone.
  • Softly blow into the speaker to dislodge any dirt or debris that may be restricting the audio output of your device.

Random Reboots - Like any electronic device, the HTC One (M8) is prone to randomly rebooting at certain times. While inopportune and clearly an annoyance, the vast majority of the reason for this is that the phone is either swamped with an overwhelming number of open applications and programs it is running at the time, is overheating due to significant use, or cannot handle the load of a specific app or game. All of these issues, whether working in concert or separately, cause the device to reboot and shut down the phone before restarting.

Here’s a couple things to look at to try and fix the issue:

The Fix:

  • Perform a factory reset on your device to wipe it of anything that may be causing the issue.
  • Avoid playing a graphical game or watching videos for an extended period of time
  • Be cognizant of the heat of your device; if it is constantly running hot due to overuse, let the device “breathe” for a moment and do not use
  • Enter into Extreme Power Saving Mode to reduce the use of your phone
  • Check if any apps or programs could potentially be causing the issue by checking that data via the settings menu

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