The coronavirus can likely live on the surface of smartphones where droplets from coughing and sneezing land, sometimes for multiple days, says Rudra Channappanavar, an immunologist who has studied coronaviruses at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Glass in particular—like the kind on screen of most smartphones today—can harbor live coronaviruses for up to 96 hours, or four days at room temperature, according to an article published by Quartz.
These estimates come from data collected during the 2003 SARS outbreak and reported to the World Health Organization. The two viruses are genetic cousins: Both infect our airways, have a single strand of genetic material, called RNA, and have proteins protruding from their shells. The virus behind the SARS outbreak is technically named SARS-CoV; the new virus is SARS-CoV-2.
To avoid contracting the virus from a smartphone, you should clean the surface. You can use a microfiber cloth slightly damp with soapy water, face wipes or baby wipes, or a solution of half water and half rubbing alcohol—just avoid any openings. UV lights will also kill most viruses bacteria on surfaces.
Also, it can’t hurt to wash your hands more, and touch your face less.