7 smartphone disasters that could happen to you

How to use your smartphone safely

Smartphone horror story No. 5: The data disaster

Talk may be cheap, but data sure isn't - at least, not when your company uses capped plans and you shatter the limit.

Blake Bookstaff of CharterJets.com depends on his business's BlackBerry to keep in touch wherever he roams. He's no data hog, though: Bookstaff has only a certain amount of data he can transfer within his company's plan. If he goes over that amount, each additional megabyte costs a pretty penny.

One month, Bookstaff noticed something strange on his smartphone: an icon indicating the device was sending and receiving data far more than it normally did. He didn't think much of it and went about his day-to-day work. Weeks later, he got wind of the month's total bill - and it practically knocked the wind out of him.

"The bill came in, and it was several hundred dollars more [than usual]," Bookstaff says. "Whatever was happening with my BlackBerry went way over my data usage allotment."

Bookstaff figures his phone started syncing data at regular intervals - something he didn't typically allow it to do. As he discovered, one tiny setting can lead to one massive charge on the corporate account.

The moral: Unless your limits are sky-high, keep close tabs on your data and minute usage throughout the month. Whether it's a mistakenly toggled setting or some unexpected international-travel surcharge, it's all too easy to stack up accidental fees and end up with a nasty surprise.

Smartphone horror story No. 6: The sleeping smartphone

Let's face it: Corporate conference calls can be pretty damn dull. So maybe it shouldn't come as a total shock that even our smartphones sometimes fall asleep midsession.

As the president of Wireless Communications Alliance, David T. Witkowski relies on his wireless phone for all of his communication needs. He regularly uses his Motorola Milestone's speakerphone to help an entire room take part in a conversation.

The problem: Occasionally, the Droid fails to wake up after its screen goes dark during a call. And because the phone doesn't have a hard-wired button to end a call, this leaves Witkowski with no easy way to hang up.

"Normally I just wait until the other person drops off, which terminates the call and clears the problem," he says.

One time, that work-around plan didn't work so well. Witkowski was in the room with some clients, chatting with their customers via his Droid. His end of the conversation concluded, and the customers asked him to disconnect so that they could continue speaking privately on their own. Unfortunately, Witkowski's phone had decided to take a little nap.

"So there I am, trying to hang up the call, and the customers are saying, 'Are you still on the line?'" he says. "Very embarrassing, especially given that I'm the president of a 4,000-member wireless industry alliance. Of all people, I shouldn't be struggling with my phone."

The moral: No piece of technology is 100 percent dependable. Sometimes, a good old-fashioned landline - or, if all else fails, a call-ending sledgehammer - can go a long way.

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Shane O'Neill

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