A quick guide to getting the most out of your new smartphone

Katie McHugh Associate Editor
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It’s the happiest time of year, when two-year contracts expire and new smartphone models appear just in time for Christmas. After grabbing your new gift from under the tree, keep these tips in mind to protect it from the elements (or as the case may be, clumsiness), stretch out the battery life and finish your to-do lists.

PROTECTION: Everyone knows the feeling: Your brand new, unscratched smartphone slides out of your hands and begins its slow-mo plummet toward the unforgiving concrete. Shield it with an OtterBox Defender case, which wraps your phone in layers of polycarbonate plastic and silicone. The company slashed prices in time for the holidays, and is offering a deal — buy one, get one for 50 percent off, with free standard shipping and $5 two-day shipping.

Each case in the series offers a different level of security. If you really want to have peace of mind, check out the waterproof Armor Series, which can withstand two tons of crushing force, just in case your phone gets run over by a truck.

BATTERY LIFE: No one likes charging his phone only to have it shut off at 35 percent an hour later. Extend the lithium ion battery’s life with one rule of thumb: Keep it fully charged, and cool. Warm temperatures — and excess heat generated wireless charges — reduce the life cycle of each charge. Leaving your phone to languish in a hot car can be a death sentence. Lithium ion batteries initiate a self-destruct sequence when their power gets dangerously low, keeping you safe from an acid burn but killing your phone in the process.

Turn off apps running in the background, shut off the bluetooth and GPS services and stream video on Wi-Fi to save on data charges and battery life. Games can also drain power — mostly to fuel advertisements. Seventy-five percent of power usage from Angry Birds runs ads.

PRODUCTIVITY: Before you download SnapChat and Facebook, try a few productivity apps. Tempo calendar syncs your contacts, meetings, invitation and emails while giving you directions. It’s easy to tap into conference calls and send a quick note that you may be a few minutes late. It also provides flight data.

Asana, a web-based app available for both iOS and Android, lets you coordinate projects with up to 15 people and create, assign and check off lists of tasks. Wunderlist is a fine app as well, whether you’re putting together a grocery list or a business project. Evernote is indispensable, and comes with a whole host of apps that collect everything you read and write into one, easy-read format: Say goodbye to bookmarks and favorites. Refer a few friends and get a premium services for a year, including huge storage.

Your new phone can be a supercomputer if you know how to manage it. Pick up some new headphones and a spare charger, and you’re good to go.

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