How to Protect yourself from Smartphone Theft

With recent reports that smartphone theft is on the rise nationwide, we thought it might be a good idea to provide consumers with a few tips on how to protect yourself and your devices from landing into the wrong hands.

“Thieves know that carrying a smartphone is like carrying $500 in your hands,” said Kevin Mahaffey, a co-founder of Lookout, a San Francisco-based mobile security firm. His company estimates that stolen and lost cell phones could cost American consumers more than $30 billion this year.

That being said, we suggest keeping the following guidelines in mind when it comes to your smartphone.

cell phone use in train stationAvoid Advertising Your Smartphone

It can be tempting to use your smartphone throughout the day, but you should be aware of your surroundings. Some thieves will snatch devices from unsuspecting users, even while they have the phone right up to their ear. It only takes a matter of seconds for a skilled thief to grab and run, particularly on subways, busses, and passing on crowded streets. Monitoring your surroundings can decrease the likelihood that you will be an oblivious target.

Do Not Leave Smartphones Unattended

Many smartphone users will leave their devices on coffee shop tables, car seats, and other highly visible locations. A car window is a surprisingly ineffective crime deterrent, so even while in the comfort of your own vehicle; don’t leave your phone clearly visible on the passenger seat.  An obvious, but important rule to always follow is to never leave your smartphone unattended in a public place.

locked smartphoneUtilize the Manufacturer’s Security Features

Most new smartphones are equipped with some useful security features. At the very least, most devices have a password option, so to provide protection from thieves accessing information on your phone, you should utilize this opportunity.  As soon as you activate your phone, you should set a secure password. Try to change the password regularly and avoid passwords that are easy to guess, such as passwords that include your name.

Download Anti-Theft Apps

App developers have created some very useful anti-theft apps. App features include the ability to track, lock, or erase a smartphone. Tracking apps can help the police find your stolen phone, and this app is also helpful if you misplace your device. Locking apps will remotely lock your smartphone, so most thieves will not be able to obtain your personal information. Apps that remotely erase the information on your smartphone are useful if it is unlikely that your device will be found and returned to you.

cell phone pickpocketBackup Your Files

Losing significant data or precious pictures can be devastating, so it is a good idea to prepare for the worst case scenario. You should regularly save your important files to another device or cloud service. This practice can also save you from the headache caused by a malfunctioning smartphone.

Purchase Insurance

Smartphones are still relatively expensive, and a theft is unlikely to be scheduled for a time that is financially convenient. Obtaining insurance for your device may be a good idea as you never know what will happen and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, potentially saving you money in the long run. You can acquire coverage from your wireless provider or a third party company.

 

If you are unfortunate enough to have your smartphone stolen, the first thing you should do is report it immediately to your wireless provider so you can avoid incurring any charges on the improper use. You should also consider informing the authorities and see if they have any luck in tracking your phone and locating the thief.

The Best and the Worst Smartphones for DIY Repairs

Mobile phone with robotWhen you buy a smartphone, you don’t expect something to go wrong, but accidents happen. The screen might crack, the back might not stay on, buttons may get stuck, etc. If you can’t easily repair your phone, you might have to shell out another $200 (or maybe even much more) to replace it. Here are the best and worst models for DIY smartphone repairs:

The Best of the Best

The folks over at iFixit recently ranked the most popular smartphones on what they’ve dubbed “repairability.” Keep in mind that these phones aren’t ranked for their overall build quality, speed, display resolution, or other specifications. These are simply the phones that are easiest to repair without serious modifications and technical expertise.

Motorola DROID Bionic

Motorola offers a variety of phones, but none is as easy to repair as the DROID Bionic. Unlike many smartphones, the Bionic’s battery can be replaced in a matter of seconds without any tools. A modular design lets anyone remove faulty parts without tearing out multiple components. Because it’s now two years old, you can find replacement parts for the DROID Bionic for next to nothing.

Smashed SmartphoneSamsung Galaxy S4

Nearly as popular as the iPhone, the Galaxy S4 is about as easy to repair as the DROID Bionic. The battery comes out in seconds, and you can access all of the S4’s vital components simply by popping off the rear panel. Unfortunately, a few of the components are attached to the screen’s backside.

Blackberry Z10

Say what you will about Blackberry, but the company makes rugged, dependable phones that are easily repairable. Although the battery comes out in just a few seconds, you’ll need to unscrew the back plate to open the phone up. However, you’re less likely to break the case if you accidentally drop it.

The Worst of the Worst

At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find phones that are all but impossible to repair. These phones are so difficult to repair that even the phone’s manufacturer will often choose to replace it instead of attempting to fix it.

HTC One

A DIY smartphone repair of the HTC One is nothing more than a source of endless despair and frustration. Any attempt to open the phone is all but guaranteed to damage the case. Good luck ordering repair parts — HTC had to delay the One due to part shortages. While those issues might be cleared up by now, you’ll never pry the case apart without destroying it. If your HTC One is damaged, there’s almost no chance that you or HTC can repair it.

repair cell phoneApple iPhone

While newer iPhone models get decent repairability marks, the original was a DIY nightmare. Components were jammed into the case, and components were often glued or soldered together. If you want to repair the original iPhone, set aside at least 20 minutes just to disassemble it.

Motorola DROID RAZR

Remember when we said the DROID Bionic was a fantastic and repairable phone? The DROID RAZR is the complete opposite. While the case isn’t too difficult to pry off, the battery is firmly attached to the motherboard. Attempts to pry it off often result in irreparable damage.

So, if you’re one to frequently damage your phone and don’t have the extra cash to spend on a new one…it might be smart to consider the repairability of the phone model you decide to purchase!

5 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing a Cell Phone for your Child

As HealthyChildren.org puts it, “there really is no ‘right’ age to allow our kids to dip a toe into the digital pond.” Each child and family is different and in every case, only the parents can make the ultimate decision when that “right” time may be. Before you can determine if your child is ready for the responsibility of a phone, there are several things that need to be taken into consideration. Here are five questions to ask yourself before you commit to purchasing a phone for your child.

Why does your child need a phone?

ids playing with cell phoneThe main question you should ask yourself is: what are the main reasons your child needs a phone. Is it for their benefit or yours? Would it be used solely for keeping in touch with parents or for use in emergencies, or would it be for a combination of communication and entertainment? If only to be used as a safety precaution, you could consider a prepaid phone with limited capabilities. If you think your child needs the phone to provide entertainment value, smartphones are a better option and they also have multiple apps that provide parental control resources. Evaluate the benefits that a phone could offer to not only your child, but to you as parents, against any of the concerns that come associated with phone ownership; and see what seems to weigh heavier.

Is our child responsible enough?

Age is not necessarily the best measurement of maturity levels as many of us know. Everyone grows at their own rate and if you believe that your child is mature enough to handle the responsibilities that come with a cell phone, than only you can make that judgment. Keep in mind that you will probably be setting rules and guidelines that your child should follow, such as data usage, screen time and acceptable contacts; so it is important to consider if you believe your child is mature enough to actually respect and follow your designated restrictions.

How will this help your family?

For families juggling school, sports, extra-curricular studies and parent work schedules,kids on cell phone staying in touch is often a problem. This could very well be confronted by purchasing your child a cell phone, but there are other thinks to keep in mind before jumping to this quick decision. Will purchasing one child a phone create drama with other siblings? Or maybe you will decide to put every child on a family plan to create ease of communication between everyone. Will having a phone put you, as parents, more at ease, being able to contact your child at any moment? Or will it add more worry, knowing that they have constant access to the outside world. Obviously every family runs differently, but it is essential to really reflect on if this purchase will benefit your family as a whole or will it create strain and constant concern?

What type of cell phone should you get?

As mentioned earlier, deciding what exactly your child needs a phone for will help determine what type of cell phone will best supplement those needs. If the phone will be used primarily for texting, a standard flip phone could suffice. If you would rather provide them with an all-in-one device, combining their music, internet access and communication abilities, going the smartphone route would be more suitable. Set a budget on what you are willing to spend and figure out which features are most important for your child to have access to.

What rules can and will you apply?

cell phone parentingOne of the most imperative aspects of purchasing a cell phone for your child is deciding what rules you should or will apply. Whatever ground rules you deem necessary need to be laid out before a purchase is made. Things to consider include restrictions on call time, who can be called, what hours are appropriate for use and awareness of overuse fees. Smartphones that allow internet access and app downloads further impact rules that will need to be set for your child. Of course, there are multiple parental control apps that can be installed, however be aware that children are extremely technically savvy these days and may be able to get passed any limitations you establish.

You could consider creating a “contract” for your child to sign, so they can see in writing the rules and penalties that come along with the responsibility of owning a phone. This will add a sense of accountability and hopefully generate a feeling of maturity in your child that will lead to proper cell phone use.  However, as with most things, it is important to follow through with any repercussions you have presented with cell phone misuse to ensure that your child knows that an unacceptable action will not be tolerated.

Purchasing a cell phone for children can make life easier for busy parents, but make sure that children know that the privileges comes with strings attached.

The Smartphone: The All-in-One Remote Control

Most people know that smartphones (and tablets) can be used to navigate the Web, play games, visit remote controlsocial networks and keep track of tasks, but these devices seem to be getting even smarter. You can now use your phone to manage various aspects of your house from anywhere in the world. Hundreds of applications are available to take the stress out of being a homeowner. With very little effort, you can remotely control and monitor virtually an entire house.

Keep Your Home Secure

There is an assortment of downloadable smartphone apps that maximize your home’s security. Through your mobile device, you can program a complete security system and receive notifications if anything unusual occurs. You can also connect a live-footage motion surveillance system to your phone. If there is movement in or around your house, a motion-activated camera will turn on and you will be alerted on your phone.

Upgrade Your Locking System

smartphone lockIn addition to utilizing your smartphone as a handheld home security panel, you can also use it as a house key. Unlike with traditional locking systems, you never have to worry about anyone making copies of your keys or picking your locks. With a smart-key application, you can authorize temporary electronic access to whomever you wish. You will also be able to view which doors are open or unlocked no matter where you are.

Control the Lighting

Saving money as a homeowner typically requires being stingy with the electricity. You may turn some of the lights down at night to conserve energy, or you may shut them all off completely while you’re away. But we have all had those days where you leave the house in a rush and you just can’t seem to remember if you flipped the switch before you jetted out the door. Some smartphone apps offer the perfect solution to this problem and allow you to turn on, off, or even dim lights throughout your day, no matter where you are. This is also a great app to have while you and your family may be away vacationing. By turning lights on and off randomly throughout your time away, you can deter and potential break ins as it will seem as though people are in the house.

Manage Temperatures

Another way to conserve energy with your smartphone is to download a smart thermostat remote home controlapplication. Thermostats with Wi-Fi capabilities can be controlled at any time and from anywhere. Switch to more cost-efficient temperatures while you’re away from your house, and bring the climate back to a comfortable level right before you arrive home. Some apps automatically make adjustments after learning the schedule.

Program Your Appliances

A variety of appliances can be programmed through a smartphone. You can set your stereo to play your favorite music when you come home, or you can schedule your coffeemaker to dispense your morning fuel before you even get out of bed. Whether you need clean dishes or a warm meal, you’ll likely find an application that will free your mind of its cluttered to-do list. There are even apps that allow you to remotely dispense food for your pets.

Many popular phone apps can be utilized with smart outlets as well, which means the sky is the limit when it comes to home management. You can easily transform nearly any plug-in appliance or device into a smart gadget if you have the right application. No matter how you choose to control, monitor or manage your home surroundings, your smartphone is the key to hassle-free and worry-free living.

How Smartphones have made Traveling Easier than Ever

Smartphones have improved the lives of travelers, allowing their owners to work and play while on the move. Your smartphone can serve as a critical tool during your travels, giving you important information such as real-time traffic updates and intelligent directions. By downloading useful apps before you travel, you can maximize the awesome capabilities of your phone.

Mobile Entertainment

smartphone movieBefore the spread of smartphones, entertaining your family members during a long road trip was a challenging feat that required a CD player, a portable game console and stacks of books. Today, you can replace all of those cumbersome devices with your smartphone. If you want to read a book, the Kindle app will give you access to thousands of e-books. To entertain your children, you can look for a fun mobile game to download, such as Jetpack Joyride or Candy Crush. With the Netflix app, you and your family can watch a movie to pass the time in a long car ride.

Work from Anywhere

Traveling with a laptop can be burdensome, especially if you’re flying and don’t have much free space in your luggage. However, there are plenty of ways to utilize your phone so that you can be productive during your travel. While you’re waiting for your flight, you can check and respond to a few work emails. During your flight, you can use your phone’s airplane mode to input notes in the Evernote app or read important documents. If you need to type more than just a few quick notes, use a Bluetooth keyboard to have similar capabilities to a laptop without the excess bulk.

Find Your Way

If you’re on the road, your phone can give invaluable information to help you find your smartphone directionsdestination. Google’s Maps app, for example, can give you detailed maps and turn-by-turn directions. After inputting your current address and your destination, you can view a map to help you see an overview of your planned trip along with alternate routes to make the trip as easy as possible. The app can also provide voice directions to guide you so that you can keep your eyes on the road. The TomTom app offers updated traffic information in addition to accurate directions and maps.

Store Your Travel Information

If you fly frequently, using your favorite airline’s mobile app is a great way to get through busy lines at the airline counter. The United Airlines app, for example, lets you store your boarding pass on your phone. You can also use the app to upgrade your seat and get updates about your upcoming flight. Hotel booking apps, including the app from Orbitz, store your hotel information in your phone, giving you quick access to your information when you’re ready to get your room key.

Stay Connected to Home

smartphone travel

Thanks to mobile technology, your loved ones don’t have to wait for your return to hear details about your trip. During your travels, you can snap pictures with your phone’s camera to immediately upload to Instagram or another photo sharing site. If you want to see your loved ones, you can use Skype to have a live video chat together. If you install a webcam in your house, you can use your smartphone to regularly check and make sure that your home is safe.

 

Top Reasons to Buy a Refurbished Cell Phone

With technology changing ever so rapidly and mobile phones evolving constantly, chances are that your brand-new phone might be considered outdated in just a couple of months. When it comes to purchasing a cell phone, buying a refurbished model can be an incredibly smart decision. Not only can you save a substantial amount of money, your refurbished cell phone will most likely be as good as its newer counterpart.

It is high time that we wade past the stigma associated with buying a refurbished cell phone. In actuality, a phone is considered to be in the used category at the very instant it lands in your hands. When you purchase a refurbished device, it does not necessarily mean that you are settling for a used and abused device, so consider these reasons why you might want to think about acquiring a refurbished cell phone the next time your in the market for a new phone.

Much Lower Prices

discounted price tag

Buying the coolest new Apple iPhone, Android cell phone or any other smartphone most certainly comes with a hefty price tag. By opting for a refurbished cell phone, you will be able to own an expensive smartphone at a much lower price. Typically, you can receive anywhere from a 20 to 50 percent discount on a refurbished mobile device. Many reputable companies offer a 90-day warranty period on every purchase, thus giving you the added assurance that your phone is covered for any malfunction or defect. Refurbished options are available in most cell phone makes, from the newest editions to old school phones that you may never want to part with, For someone trying to maintain a budget, purchasing a refurbished cell phone could be an ideal option.

smartphone gift boxAs Good As Brand New

Refurbished does not imply damaged. When you purchase a refurbished cell phone, you might actually be getting a device that has been used for a short period of time and returned. The reasons for returning mobile phones could range from new upgrade choices to simple cosmetic defects. Often, they might not have been defective at all, merely having been rejected due to the buyers’ preferences. Upon return to the manufacturer, each cell phone undergoes a thorough inspection and reconditioning process. Any missing or damaged parts are repaired. If the screen has a scratch or dent, it is replaced with a brand new one. The end result is a cell phone that is as good as new.

Environment Friendlyrecycled smartphone

Refurbished essentially means recycled. Increasing environmental damage and growing landfills are major concerns that could harm the very balance of our planet. Millions of used cell phones and electronics are discarded on a day-to-day basis. By purchasing a refurbished cell phone, you will be a part of the earth-conscious population that cares about making a positive difference.

The Best Choice for Emergencies

So your cell phone was run over by a truck, you dropped it in the toilet, it fell off the window ledge…the stories are endless. When an unexpected turn of events leaves you needing a new phone right away, going the refurbished route may be your perfect option. Since you obviously weren’t expecting to replace your fully functional cell phone any time soon, chances are you don’t have the money saved up to throw away on another brand new phone. When you think about it, the phone you are replacing probably wasn’t brand new anyways…so you’re not really downgrading by going with a refurbished phone. For quick replacements at a cost that won’t break the bank, refurbished phones are a great way to go.

There are many negative connotations associated with refurbished cell phones but in reality, in many cases, these ideas do not actually apply. If you really want that iPhone 5 but just don’t have the funds to afford it right now, try a refurbished one! There is a good chance you, or anyone for that matter, would ever be able to tell it wasn’t brand new. And hey, since the iPhone 5 is our featured phone of the week…capitalize on some more great savings and stock up on these discounted iPhone 5 accessories at All4Cellular today! (the iPhone not for you? Don’t forget to check back next week for our new phone of the week special)

Overcharging Your Cell Phone: Fact or Fiction?

The idea that a cell phone battery can be overcharged is bandied about quite a lot, and people are often warned not to keep their smartphones plugged in overnight. It is said that doing so can reduce its life, which may result in having to replace the cell phone battery prematurely. As common as this advice may be, however, it’s not entirely accurate. In reality, it’s far better to charge your cell phone frequently.

battery chargeLithium-Ion Batteries

The vast majority of cell phone batteries are of the lithium-ion variety. The idea that they shouldn’t be overcharged is rampant because people don’t realize that they’re dealing with different types of batteries. There are, indeed, certain types of batteries that shouldn’t be overcharged. Some should even be allowed to discharge completely on a regular basis. However, this is not the case with lithium-ion cell phone batteries.

Avoid Full Discharges

While it’s technically okay to allow a cell phone battery to discharge, or run out of juice completely every now and then, it’s best to try to avoid it in general. Things happen, of course, and completely discharging a cell phone battery is sometimes unavoidable. Nevertheless, there is no need or benefit in deliberately discharging a lithium-ion battery all the way.

Charge Frequently Between Usescell phone car charger

When it comes to cell phone batteries, the best rule of thumb is to charge them whenever the opportunity arises. While sitting at a computer, for instance, keep it plugged in. Keep a charger in the car and keep the phone plugged in while driving. The only exception to these steps would be if the cell phone battery is already at full capacity. Keeping it almost constantly charging while it is already in a state of full charge can be detrimental. However, it is still far less damaging than allowing it to discharge fully on a regular basis.

Avoid High Temperatures and Full Charges at All Costs

Basically, you should try to keep your cell phone battery as charged as possible but stop charging it when it achieves a full charge. It’s okay to charge it several times throughout the day to keep it highly charged, as long as you avoid allowing it to discharge it all the way. The absolute worst thing you can do is to expose a fully charged cell phone battery to high temperatures for extended periods of time. It’s bad to bare these batteries to high temperatures in general, but the consequences can be a lot more severe when they are fully charged.

cell phone chargingOvernight Charging

Like many people, you may charge your phone overnight. If you were to listen to the conventional wisdom saying that it’s bad to overcharge your phone, you may consider rethinking the nightly recharge. As noted earlier, keeping a phone perpetually in a fully charged state can be harmful to your battery’s health, which may sound a bit contradictory when we now state that charging a phone battery overnight is perfectly okay. The main concern with leaving a battery plugged in when it is already at 100% is that it is more prone to overheating. However, the majority of the time, heat is not an issue and  leaving your device plugged in is acceptable because, truth be told, it will not overcharge. Cell phones recognize when the battery is at full capacity and will stop charging. Ultimately, keeping your phone fully charged is far better than allowing it to discharge all the way too often.

Simple Ways to be a Savvy Smartphone User

Smartphone AppsYour smartphone is your gateway to the exciting world of the Internet. However, your online forays come at a price from your service provider. Reducing excess data usage on your smartphone will help you keep your monthly bills reasonable.

Know How Much You’re Using

Before you can reduce your data usage, you need to know how much data you’re actually consuming. If you don’t have a way to access your data usage, contact your service provider for more information.

If you’re regularly using less data than you’re paying for, you can reduce the size of your data package to help you save on your monthly bill.

Enable Wi-Fi

When you use your phone at home, you can easily reduce your data usage by using your home Internet connection instead of your service provider’s wireless Internet connection. After setting up your connection, make sure that the Wi-Fi option is enabled each time you plan to spend more than few minutes online. When you’re away from home, you can use public wireless connections to access the Internet. Libraries and coffee shops are just some of the many places that offer free Wi-Fi.

Turn Off Notifications

Your installed apps may constantly try to notify you of new updates, from new emails to private messages on your social media profiles. Turning off these notifications can make a small but noticeable difference in your data usage each month. Unless you need to know about every single email that you receive, change the notification setting to manual instead of automatic.

Curb Your Activities

If you’re not able to connect to a Wi-Fi connection while using your phone, be mindful of your online activities. Watching endless prank videos online will quickly burn through your allotted data usage. Listening to your own music stored on your phone, however, will not consume your data plan. You can also safely use apps that have an offline version.

Although some apps obviously connect to the Internet constantly, such as web browsers, others are not so obvious about their data consumption. Even solo games may keep an active connection to the Internet, potentially costing you money just for a few minutes of entertainment.

Change Your Browsing Habits

Changing your browsing habits on your smartphone can help you save on data costs. Always try to visit the mobile version of a website. Most mobile websites offer reduced data-heavy content, from advertisements to images. Most browsers offer a setting that automatically redirects you to the mobile version of a website. In addition, the mobile version will be easier for you to view on a small device. You can also try downloading a different browser to help you trim your data usage. Opera, for example, allows users to view compressed versions of websites.

Turn Off GPS

Most smartphones come equipped with a GPS feature. Unless you require your smartphone to navigate your way through the city, you can probably turn off the GPS function. If you know that you will need access to a map while you’re on the go, try using a map app that includes an offline mode.

Close Your Apps

Many people do not realize that simply quitting an app does not necessarily turn it off. Many times, unknown to the user, apps will be running in the background while there is no need for its use. For iPhone users, be sure to double click the “home” button and close all apps from there. This will ensure that the apps are actually not in use. Another way to ensure that apps are not running and using data is to go into your settings and manually turn the data off. If you keep data shut off while you are in areas that do not have Wi-Fi, no app will be able to connect to the internet, and thus, not waste data.

If you habitually go over your data limit each month, you may be spending more than you want to on your data plan. By managing your data usage intelligently, however, you can rein in your spending and save money for your other bills.

How to take Better Smartphone Pictures

Smartphone cameras have become more advanced in recent years, and many phones are now equipped with photographic abilities that rival that of other small digital cameras. If your cell phone pictures don’t turn out as well as you’d like, here are a few tips for improving their quality:

Pay attention to lighting

Although some smartphones are equipped with a flash, it won’t be powerful enough to make up for poor lighting. For best results, put your back to a light Smartphone Photographysource; just be sure that your shadow isn’t obscuring the shot. Natural light from outside makes for better color and picture quality than artificial lights indoors, so shoot by a window whenever possible.

Keep the lens clean

A smudged or dirty lens can affect your picture quality dramatically. Use a specialized gadget cleaning wipe on the lens to protect it from damage and ensure great picture quality.

Learn the different photo modes on your phone

Most smartphones come with several photography modes, and learning what all the settings do is an important part of ensuring that your pictures turn out well. For example, some phones have a particular setting for low-light or high-speed photography, which will help your pictures turn out better. You can check your owner’s manual for this information or look online for the settings for your specific smartphone. You can also just play around with the features on the camera until you get comfortable.

Use the phone’s editing program

Many phones come with built-in editing programs, and there are additional apps you may be able to download to give you even more options. A basic program can help you crop a photo and adjust its lighting. Other apps can help you have fun with your photos by adding special effects like banners, speech bubbles and “stickers.”

Expand your memory for extra storage

As you start practicing your smartphone photography skills, you’ll need plenty of space for storing photos. Although you can upload photos directly to a site like Instagram, it’s still a good idea to have some extra space on your phone for photo storage. A micro SD card will give you plenty of extra memory at a reasonable price. You may even be able to use a converter to put your phone’s SD card into a digital camera for seamless photo transfer and device integration.

With a little knowledge and some practice, you can start taking high-quality smartphone photos. With such a powerful camera in your pocket, there’s no reason to ever miss a great photo opportunity.