How to: use your smartphone without leaving a trace

Cover up your digital footprints.

 

By David Nield of Popular Science

Every time you grab your phone to participate in a group chat, watch a YouTube video, or search the internet, you leave a digital trail of activity. This footprint can compromise your privacy the next time a friend borrows your device. It also puts your personal information at risk should your phone fall into really unscrupulous hands.

In this guide, we’ll explain how you can prevent your device from logging and storing data where other people can easily stumble across it. We will focus on cleaning up your phone’s local storage, as opposed to limiting the information that apps send to the cloud.

Go incognito

The web browser on your phone, like the one on your computer, offers a data-limiting incognito or private mode. When you open a session in this mode, the app will forget the pages you visit and the keywords you search as soon as you close the window.

However, private browsing doesn’t make you invisible. For instance, if you log into Facebook’s web portal in incognito mode, the social network will record your activity. Your internet service provider (ISP), will also see your browsing, and it may log your online behavior as well.

To hide your browsing from your ISP, you’ll need to rely on a Virtual Private Network (VPN) (more on that in this roundup of security gadgets and apps). But if you simply aim to clean up the record left on your phone’s local storage, then this mode tidies up after itself very effectively.

The process for using this mode will depend on the browser app you prefer. For example, to launch incognito mode with Chrome, tap the Menu button (three dots) on the top right of the page and choose New incognito tab. If you forget to browse incognito, you can still clear your saved data. Just hit Menu > Settings > Privacy > Clear browsing data.

ForiPhone users who rely on Safari, tap the Show pages icon (two squares) on the bottom right of the screen and choose Private. Now, when you tap the Plus button to open a new window, it will be an incognito one. To erase data collected outside of private mode, open the Settings app and select Safari > Clear History and Website Data.

Erase messages

Unless you use a chat app with self-destructing messages, it will keep records of your conversations. Of course, most people like to check back on their old communications, but you don’t need to preserve every moment of a years-long thread. You can delete these old conversations manually, or try a less time-consuming option: Automatically erase chat history after a set period of time has elapsed.

On iOS, open the Settings app, go to Messages > Keep Messages, and set messages to automatically disappear after 30 days. Within the app itself, you can manually erase conversations from the front screen: Swipe left on the thread and then tap the Delete button.

Unfortunately, not all chat apps offer this auto-expunge function. To leave no trace of conversations on your phone, you may have to turn to manual deletion. This may be time-consuming, but it isn’t difficult. For example, in Android’s default SMS app, Messages, you delete a conversation by long-pressing on it and then tapping the Trash icon on the top right of the screen.

Some apps make it easier to purge your entire history all at once. In the case of WhatsApp, open the app and head to Settings > Chats > Chat history > Delete all chats. Then make a note to regularly check back and re-erase your latest messages.

Another solution is to only send the aforementioned self-destructing messages. Apps with this option include Telegram Messenger, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat. For more information, check out our guide to self-destructing message apps.

Limit app logging

Each of the apps on your phone will take a slightly different approach to logging your activities. Some of them let you avoid their gaze by using incognito mode, while others will stop tracking you if you ask.

For example, the Android version of YouTube (this is not yet available in the iOS version) just added an incognito mode, which doesn’t track the videos you watch. To activate this mode, open the app, tap your avatar on the top right of the screen, and pick Turn on Incognito.

On the other hand, Google Maps will track your location by default, which lets it accumulate a lot of data about your real-world movements. To stop it, head to the settings: Launch the app, tap the Menu button (three lines) on the top left of the screen, and hit Settings (on Android) or the cog icon (on iOS). Within the settings, select Personal content and turn off the location history feature.

There are millions of apps on the market, with no hard and fast rules about how to keep them from recording your behavior. But in general, a good first step is to check for the aforementioned settings—incognito mode and stopping tracking.

If you don’t find these options, you’ll have to clear your activity manually. This process will vary depending on your operating system.

In Android, open Settings > Apps & notifications, pick an app from the list, and hit Storage > Clear storage. This wipes all the data that the app has stored locally. Afterward, the app will behave as if you’ve installed it from scratch, so you’ll need to log in again, set up your preferences, and so on.

On iOS, you won’t find an identical option, but you can achieve the same effect by uninstalling and reinstalling an app. Open the Settings app, tap General > iPhone Storage, and select one of your apps. Then choose Delete App to wipe all of its data. Finally, re-install the program from the App Store.

It’s not very practical to do this for all of your apps every day. But you might choose to run a manual clean-up at set intervals (say once a month), before you go traveling, or whenever you want to make a fresh start.

Delete search history

Many mobile apps store data locally and in the cloud, so they can sync your information to other devices. That means, to clear search logs from your phone, you’ll have to wipe the records across multiple platforms.

For example, your Google account will store the history of searches you’ve run from your Android phone. To wipe these records, you actually have to access them from the web. Open your browser and head to your Google activity history page. Click the Menu button (three lines) on the top left, then Delete activity by. Set the time span and content type—to erase everything, those should be All time and Search, respectively—and click Delete. This will wipe your search history across all the Google-linked products you use, including Android and the Google search engine.

On iOS, you won’t find a comparable activity cleaner. However, you can prevent Spotlight from betraying your past searches by displaying them as suggestions. To turn off this feature, head to the Settings app, tap Siri & Search, and toggle off the Suggestions in Search switch. Now, when you lend your phone to your mother to look something up, she won’t see all your past search terms.

 

How do you cover your tracks on your smartphone? Share your workflow in the comments below!

Tips and Tricks: for Better Smartphone Photography

For many, phones have completely replaced dedicated digital cameras, but even pros reach for their iPhones or Samsung Galaxy phones to snap images from time to time. Here’s how to take better pics with your smartphone.

 

By Jim Fisher of PCMag.com

Your smartphone is always with you, a constant companion that can connect to the web to look up any tiny nugget of trivia, and generally keep you in constant contact with the outside world. It’s one of the key items you grab before leaving the house, and the last time you (probably) turned it off was at the movie theater.

This also makes your phone your take-everywhere, shoot-anything digital camera. Just a few short years ago, making images and video with smartphones was a compromise, with poorer image quality but a heck of a lot more convenience than a good point-and-shoot camera.

But times have changed and phone cameras have gotten better and better. The latest models offer superior imaging and video to budget point-and-shoot cameras, and offer nifty software tricks to blur backgrounds, just like an SLR and f/2 or f/1.4 lens.
Check out these tips to get the best images you can get from your phone. But remember, even with the latest tech, phones aren’t as versatile imaging tools as modern interchangeable lens cameras.

Start With a Good Camera Phone

Smartphone camera quality has enjoyed a big leap forward in quality over the past couple of years. If you’re using an older handset, chances are the camera isn’t up to snuff. If camera quality is a priority when shopping for a new one, make sure you peruse our list of the top camera phones we’ve tested. But remember that you really can’t go wrong with the latest Apple iPhone, Google Pixel, or Samsung Galaxy devices.

Look for the Light

Smartphones have very bright lenses—the Samsung Galaxy S9 has one that opens up all the way to f/1.5. But sensors are much smaller than you find in a premium compact camera with a 1-inch sensor like the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II. That gives them a distinct disadvantage in image quality in dim lighting. To get the best shots, look for opportunities where your phone’s sensor can shine. If you’re indoors, try to set up your shot so there’s light falling on your subject—some window light will do more to improve your photos than a new phone or camera. It’s always a better option to find good light as opposed to using your phone’s underpowered LED flash.

Adjust Exposure

Smartphones are the modern point-and-shoot, but the apps that run their cameras typically offer some level of manual control. The most basic adjustment you can make is exposure—brightening or darkening a scene—and using it effectively can turn a bland image into a head-turner. Use it to brighten the shot of your fancy dinner to make it perfect for Instagram, or to darken shadows in a portrait for a more dramatic look.

The feature isn’t always labeled the same. On an iPhone you’ll want to drag the sun icon, to the right of the focus confirmation box, up to brighten an image or down to darken it. Android phones typically have the more traditional +/- icon for exposure adjustment.

Turn On Your Grid

Pro SLRs typically have framing grids in the viewfinder window to help you better square up shots and conform to compositional guidelines like the rule of thirds. (For more on composition and other photo basics, read our tips for basic photography, which apply as much to smartphones as they do to pro cameras.)

You can turn on the same thing in your phone’s camera app. Adding a grid line gives you help in keeping the horizon straight and is a big plus for portraits in front of famous landmarks. With the notable exceptions of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it’s generally a good idea to keep upright structures perfectly vertical in your photos.

Learn Your Camera’s Features

The imaging capabilities of modern smartphone cameras are staggering. We’ve seen advances in computational photography that allow you to blur the background of images, mimicking the look of a wide aperture lens and big image sensor, and some handsets can also capture insanely slow-motion video.

Your phone probably has a good burst mode too, and it’s never a bad idea to take a few images in a sequence to get the best one—just make sure not to post all of them. iPhone owners can check out Live Photos, which mix still images and video together.

Try an Add-On Lens

Your phone’s camera certainly has one lens, and some models offer dual rear cameras with the second lens capturing a tighter or wider angle of view than your phone’s main eye. A quality add-on lens will cost you—the bargain-basement ones we’ve reviewed have been universally terrible. Go with a trusted brand like Moment or Olloclip.

Picking the type of add-on lens is important too. I think a macro adds the most versatility to your phone’s camera, but you may prefer an ultra-wide, a fish-eye, or a telephoto conversion lens.

Focus Close

Even without a macro add-on, your phone can focus pretty close. Use it to your advantage. You can snap a shot of your fancy dinner and get close up, but keep the whole frame in focus. That’s something you can’t do with a big camera shooting at f/1.4 or f/2, and one of the areas where small image sensors have a practical advantage over larger ones.

Get a Gimbal

It’s not all about images. Entry-level compact cameras are stuck at 720p, but if you’ve got a recent smartphone you have a 4K-capable video camera in your pocket. Flagship models include optical image stabilization, but that can only go so far. If you want truly smooth, great-looking video, think about a powered gimbal to keep your phone steady. Our favorite is the DJI Osmo Mobile 2, a $130 device that steadies video, can track moving subjects, and also supports time-lapse and panoramic stitching.

Add a Microphone

When shooting video, good audio is more important than sharp footage. Your phone’s internal mic is meant for making phone calls—not recording high-quality audio. Headphone jacks may be disappearing from phones, but you can get a microphone that plugs directly into your USB or Lightning port, or one that works with your phone’s audio dongle. Just make sure to read some reviews to make sure the mic is compatible with your particular phone and its operating system.

Edit Your Shots

Your phone is a powerful handheld computer, just as capable of making basic image adjustments as a high-end laptop running Photoshop. You should download some image editing software—my favorite is VSCO, a free download for both Android and iOS—or use the basic image editing tools built into your operating system.

More advanced photographers can enable Raw capture, which will deliver much more leeway in editing. And if you have a dual-lens iPhone, you can add an app like Focos, which allows you to adjust the amount of and quality of background blur in your Portrait Mode shots.

What tips do you have for shooting quality pic on a smart phone? Tell us in the comments below!

App of the Week: Gmail Archived Mail

What It Is and How to Use It?

 

Need to save that email? Try archiving it

By Scott Orgera of Lifewire.com

We live in a world of seemingly endless emails; many of us send and receive a ton of emails every day. Whether it be for professional or personal purposes, our inboxes can eventually become a cluttered repository of disarray.

While many of these emails are disposable, there are some you may want to keep for future reference. No matter the motive, storing everything in your inbox can become problematic for a number of reasons.

What is the Gmail Archive?

Rather than deleting an email and losing it for good, you can choose to archive it instead. As soon as a message is placed in the Gmail archive, it is removed from your inbox and tagged with the label “All Mail.” These messages remain within your Gmail account and can be easily retrieved at a later time, but for now they are out of sight and out of mind.

Note: If someone replies to an archived message, it’s automatically returned to your inbox.  

How to Archive Email

Sending a message to your Gmail archive is very easy, so much so that many people often mistakenly archive emails by clicking on or tapping the wrong option. For more information on how to retrieve archived messages, visit our step-by-step tutorial.

Archiving Emails on a Computer

  • 1 To archive a message on a computer, first access the Gmail interface via your preferred web browser (Google Chrome is recommended).
  • 2 Select the email or emails that you wish to archive by clicking on their accompanying checkbox(es) so that each of them becomes highlighted.
  • 3 Click the Archive button, represented by a folder with a down arrow in the foreground and circled in the accompanying screenshot above.
  • 4 Your message(s) will now be archived, and a confirmation message should appear along with a link labeled Undo – which will revert this change if clicked on.

 

Archiving Emails on an Android or iOS Device

 

Moving messages into your archive is even easier on smartphones or tablets when using the Gmail app. Simply swipe from right to left on a message in your inbox or other folder and it will instantly be archived, assuming that your swiping settings have not been previously modified.

To validate your Gmail swiping settings beforehand, take the steps below.

Android users: From the menu button, take the following path: Settings > General Settings > Gmail default action and ensure that Archive is selected.

iOS users: From the menu button, take the following path: Settings > “account name” > When removing messages, I prefer to…and ensure that Archive is selected.

Muting Gmail Messages

In addition to archiving individual emails, Google offers a similar feature with one key difference. While messages are still moved to the “All Mail” repository when muted, they are not automatically returned to your inbox when someone replies. To mute a message, take the following steps.

Muting Messages on a Computer

 

  • 1 To mute a message on a computer, first access the Gmail interface via your preferred web browser (Google Chrome is recommended).
  • 2 Select the email or emails that you wish to mute by clicking on their accompanying checkbox(es) so that each of them becomes highlighted.
  • 3 Click the More button, found in Gmail’s main toolbar.
  • 4 When the drop-down menu appears, select the Mute option.
  • 5 A confirmation message should now be displayed, letting you know that the conversation has been muted. Click the Undo button to revert this setting.

 

Muting Messages on Android or iOS Devices

  • 1 To mute a message within the Gmail app on a smartphone or tablet, first select the conversation in question.
  • 2 Next, tap the menu button – represented by three vertical dots and located in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
  • 3 When the pop-out menu appears, select Mute.

 

What best practices do you have for managing your email? Tell us in the comments below!

Tips & Tricks: 13 quick fixes for when your phone starts overheating this summer

 

Be careful using your phone in direct sunlight.

By Madison Vanderburg of thisinsider.com

If you’ve ever had a smartphone, chances are that you’ve had to deal with it overheating. It’s a common issue that’s worse in the summer when the temperatures outside start rising.

According to AndroidPit.com, “smartphones have to physically move things around to work at all, so they have to generate heat.

The amount of heat your smartphone produces is largely proportional to the amount of electricity moving through it.”
This combined with the hot summer sun can cause your phone to overheat.

Here are 13 quick fixes for when you’re smartphone just can’t take the heat.

Only charge your phone’s battery to 80%.

 

Don’t do a full charge

First off, if you must charge your phone overnight, keep it on a cool, flat surface rather than a pillow or bedsheet. But you shouldn’t be charging to your phone to 100% anyways, according to Android Pit— constantly doing a full recharge will shorten the battery’s lifespan. Your phone is more likely to overheat when it’s at a full charge, so charge it when it drops to near 30% and unplug it once it reaches an 80% charge.

Avoid exposing the phone to direct sunlight.

Keep your Tech out of the sun!

This one is self-explanatory — don’t leave your phone on a chair by the pool in direct sunlight for an entire afternoon.

Always close unused apps.

If you’re not using an app — close it.

Your phone works overtime when you have multiple apps open at the same time (this includes open web browser tabs), so get in the habit of closing unused apps periodically. Also, close apps (especially graphics-heavy apps like games) when you charge your phone. Android-users recommend the app Greenify because it automatically puts unused apps into hibernation and conserves power overall.

Turn the brightness down.

Having your phone on full-brightness depletes its battery.

 

Turn your brightness down, especially when you are using the phone outside. If you have a hard time seeing the screen with the brightness low, invest in an anti-glare screen.

Keep apps up-to-date.

Avoid a glitchy phone by updating your apps.

Keep your iOS and your apps up to date because there could be a glitchy bug in an old update that, once fixed, will make your phone operate smoother, according to P Safe.

Don’t be an app hoarder.

These little things can prevent your phone from working to hard.

Delete functions and apps you don’t use. This also includes turning off push notifications, turning off apps that are running in the background, and disabling location services from certain apps.

 

Utilize airplane mode.

If you’re not using your phone, it should be on airplane mode.

 

If you’re at the beach or planning to be outdoors for many hours, turn your phone off or put it on airplane mode. Why burn through your phone’s power when you aren’t really using it?

Ration the Bluetooth.

Disable your phone’s auto-connect while driving.

Try to avoid using Bluetooth for extended periods of time, and make sure you’ve disconnected from Bluetooth once you’re done using it. If your phone auto connects to Bluetooth in your car, disconnect the auto-pairing — especially if you aren’t planning on speaking on the phone or listening to a podcast that day.

Install an antivirus software if you have an Android phone.

It’s possible your Android has a virus.

If you have an Android and your phone is overheating, it could mean that you have a virus. Android phones are susceptible to malware, so eliminate that option entirely by installing anti-virus software on your phone.

Take a break from playing games.

Is it really important to finish that game?

If your phone is already prone to overheating, maybe cool it on playing games and definitely make sure the game isn’t still running in the background after you’ve finished playing.

Take off the case.

The case will only make the phone hotter.

If your phone is already hot, take off the phone’s case in an attempt to cool it down.

Check the charging cable.

A faulty charging cable could be to blame.

If your phone is overheating while you charge it, it could be that there’s an issue with the charging cable. Try swapping it out first and see if that fixes the issue.

The camera could be the culprit.

Try not to use the camera too much.

 

Search “phone overheats camera” and you’ll find hundreds of message boards dedicated to this wildly common problem. This kind of overheating typically happens when you attempt to take a long-form video. So if your phone is overheating and you’ve been filming something for the last five minutes, stop filming, and close the camera app.

 

Do you have any tips for keep your phone cool when the weather is uber hot? Sound off in the comments below!

App of the Week: Record Player

There’s An App Like Shazam But For Album Covers

 

Shazam has proved to be a really useful piece of kit for the casual music listeners amongst us.

Hearing a tune in the background on the office radio or in a store that spikes our interest once upon a time may have ended there. A potentially momentarily frustrating situation if ever there was one.

Along came Shazam to solve such a problem, easing our mysterious musical woes. Just hold your phone up to the sound and the app will tell you what song it is as well as nudging you towards purchasing it on iTunes (support the music man).

It was obviously fairly popular as Apple bought the service last year for around $400 million.

Record Player has seen those successes and applied it to something more visual. Album covers.

The concept is simple. You’re browsing a record store and you see an album that tickles your fancy – however you may not have listened to it properly in the past. Vinyl isn’t exactly cheap so you may want to take the record out for a ‘test run’.

Snap a picture of the cover and the app will use the Google Cloud Vision API and the Spotify API to bring up the playlist on Spotify.

According to Billboard and Nielsen Music, vinyl LP sales have reached a record high, accounting for 14% of all U.S. physical album sales in 2017, an 11% increase from 2016.

Download Record Player for iOS here

Download Record Player for Android here

 

Do you have a favorite reference app like Shazam or Record Player? Tell us about it in the comments below!!

Tips & Tricks: Buying an Android Phone in 2018? Here’s What to Expect

 

 

By Jeffery Van Camp of Wired

Yeah, it’s only March, but phone season has begun for 2018. Dozens of new handsets were unveiled at Mobile World Congress, the largest smartphone show on Earth, (here are the highlights) and Samsung’s Galaxy S9 is already on its way to early birds. Also, Google is now circulating a developer preview of the next Android version, currently codenamed Android P.

With all this action, we’re beginning to get a picture of what smartphones in 2018 will look like. Here are some of the more interesting trends you may see on your next phone.

Notches Galore

It’s been years since smartphones didn’t all look mostly the same. In 2018, we can expect mobile manufacturers to once again get on the same wavelength—with that wave coming straight from Cupertino. Apple put a controversial notch at the top of its

iPhone X screen and we’ve already seen Android phones start to adopt it.
Asus has already shown off a line of phones with Apple’s new signature notch chopped out of the top, and the LG G7 and others will likely follow it into Notch City.

With Google offering support for “display cutouts” in its early Android P developer preview, it looks like the notch invasion is just beginning. The Essential Phone already had a camera cutout in 2017.

By year end, the phone market will be full of phones with really long, edge-to-edge screens, and a notch cut right out from the top. Many iPhone X users don’t seem to really like the notch, but don’t expect that to stop anyone. When the iPhone makes a design change, the industry tends to follow.

Knockoff Animoji

If you were creeped out by Apple’s new face-tracking animated Animoji, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Samsung has already debuted “AR Emoji” on its Galaxy S9, which mimics your face in a Nintendo Mii style and animates it. Asus’s Zenimoji are coming next, which look more like Apple’s version. And now that Samsung has its own Animoji, you can bet its Korean rival LG probably will soon too. Goofy animated faces, not to mention pigs and dogs, are just beginning to seep out of the woodwork.

Helpful Android Enhancements

In its new developer preview of Android P, Google pulled the lid off a few tasty new things you’ll start to see on Android phones in the next year or two. As usual, Google’s Pixel phone will get these features first, and the next Pixel is likely coming out around October. Once the new features launch on Google’s flagship device, they’ll start to trickle out to other phones.

To start, Google is adding support for Wi-Fi 802.11mc, which will let it give more accurate indoor mapping directions in places like museums, casinos, universities, and malls that have shared their indoor layouts. New Android devices that support the wireless protocol will be able to ping nearby networks of Wi-Fi hotspots to pinpoint your position indoors and give more precise guidance. Google Maps may soon be your go-to app when you need to navigate an unfamiliar airport.

Photos and pictures are also coming to Android notifications, along with those quick replies you may have seen in your Gmail, allowing instant responses right from the notification tray.

Google introduced the idea of Instant Apps last year, and you’ll likely start to see more of them pop up in 2018. They’re stripped-down apps that don’t require installation. The goal is to end the annoying requirement of downloading and installing full apps to perform simple tasks. You can access these Instant Apps from a URL, just like webpages.

Finally, security is getting a boost, too. You won’t be able to see it, but apps running in the background won’t have the ability to turn on your camera, microphone, or other sensors. Why they were ever allowed to do these things in the first place is a good question.

Thumb Wars

Apple did away with its Touch ID sensor entirely on the iPhone X, but Android phone makers won’t, partially because most (or all) of them just don’t have the security in place to make facial recognition work as securely as it does with Apple’s new Face ID. Instead, fingerprint sensors on Android handsets have almost all been moved to the backs of the phones, making way for those edge-to-edge screens.

This shift started years ago, thanks to innovations from companies like LG, but it’s the end times for home buttons and fingerprint buttons on the front of phones. You’ll be hard-pressed to find new devices coming out in 2018 that don’t use your index finger for biometric unlocking.

Face Off

It will take a while for Android manufacturers’ facial recognition tech to catch up to the secure systems already in place.

Samsung

Facial recognition technology requires some strict security measures to be an effective way to verify a user’s identity, and most Android manufacturers remain behind the curve. Even though many of the systems being demonstrated now can be fooled by a simple photograph, the big Android players will continue to show off new face detection unlocking features this year, if they haven’t already. They’ll likely call it a new feature, even though several companies have been building it into their devices for a while. Remember: Google showed off basic, insecure face unlocking years ago.

Faster LTE

Most of the fanciest phones this year will run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor, a chip that has gigabit LTE capability built right into it. Qualcomm thinks it will offer a real-world speed boost of 20 percent over current phones, but the platform is capable of 1.2 Gbps speeds.

The big holdup will be your wireless carrier. Providers like Verizon and T-Mobile are testing gigabit speeds, but bandwidth like that won’t be widespread for years. Your next phone will be a lot more capable than your wireless network.

Other perks of the 845 processor include a new dedicated security chip to protect things like payment and fingerprint data, enhanced video capabilities, and some improvements to battery life.

Double the Cameras

Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus (left) makes use of dual cameras to judge depth and add effects to photos.

Apple

 

Most high-end phones already have dual rear cameras, but Android P will bake in more support for the feature, so you can expect a lot more mid-range and cheaper phones to start doubling up their camera hardware. Dual-camera setups use a second camera to more accurately judge depth (this is why you have two eyes) and offer features like 2x zooming, depth effects for portrait shots, and wide-angle photos.

Some phone-makers, like Apple, do a great job utilizing the extra lens, but others still struggle to show a big improvement in photo quality. Who wants to take bets when we’ll see a tri-camera Android phone? It’s not as far off as you think. Rumors are swirling that Huawei is working on a camera with three lenses.

Wireless Charging Everywhere

Samsung has pushed wireless charging for years, but now that Apple has adopted the feature on the iPhone 8 and X, you can bet that the rest of the industry isn’t far behind. Here is a list of phones that have wireless charging now. Chances are high that your next phone will have it. We’ll also start seeing wireless charging stations pop up in places that aren’t McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Future Shocks

Vivo’s Apex phone is just a prototype, but it has some tech inside that signals where Android devices of the future are headed.

Vivo

 

You may wonder: What’s on the horizon for 2019 and beyond? I won’t get too deep into it, but there are a few innovations worth getting excited about. At Mobile World Congress in February, a company named Vivo showed off a concept phone named the Apex that had a fingerprint sensor and speakers built right into its screen.

Features like these could become commonplace. Before it showed off Face ID, Apple was rumored to be testing a Touch ID sensor built into the iPhone X screen. Sony is already selling a Bravia TV with speakers built into its screen, as well.
Smartphone companies have been pursuing foldable screens for many, many years, but they may finally arrive sometime soon. ZTE’s Axon M launched with a fold-out screen last year, and less clunky devices without hinges (or next to no bezel between the screens) are on the horizon.

Such a device may even come from Microsoft. Redmond is believed to be working on a tablet-like device, codenamed Andromeda or possibly a foldable Surface Phone. Samsung and others have also filed patents for foldable device tech. But don’t start buttering that smartphone pretzel just yet. Unlike all the other features actually coming to phones this year, folding screens still have many wrinkles that need ironing out.

Does anyone else see the similarities? Or is it just me? Sound off in the comments below!

How to: stop annoying robocalls on your iPhone or Android phone

Fight back against the constant, annoying scam calls.

By Chris Welch of The Verge

Mobile spam calls have been a nuisance for years, but over the last few months, it’s felt to me like there’s been a surge of them. I get between four and six calls daily, and a quick survey of friends shows that I’m not alone. Every waking day brings with it a new barrage. Robocallers have upped their game by masking their spam with local, genuine-looking phone numbers. Sometimes their nonsense is amusing — like when you get a threatening voicemail about your impending arrest over owed back taxes — but the vast majority of the time, it’s an unwelcome distraction. It’s all too easy for these scammers to wield the power of the internet and fire off countless calls with ease. And once even just a few people fall for a scam, they’ve made enough profit to cover their trivial expenses.

Robocalls have become so infuriating that the Federal Trade Commission received over 375,000 complaints about them every month last year. The agency routinely says it’s doing its best to get a handle on the situation, and yes, there are occasionally significant crackdowns. But real-world feedback indicates that things are getting worse — not better — and it’s starting to feel a little out of control.

So if you’re as sick as I am of pulling a vibrating phone out of your pocket only to see a random, suspect number, let’s go over the options for fighting back and restoring some sense of peace.

First, I’ll review some definitions since the carriers make important distinctions between these calls — even if they’re all unwelcome and annoying. Here’s how Verizon looks at things:
• Robocallers: Automated, prerecorded phone messages
• Spammers: Unwanted callers that may be calling indiscriminately to a large number of recipients; sometimes includes callers to whom you’ve given consent to contact you
• Fraud calls: An entity likely pretending to be someone they’re not with malicious intent

OPTION A: BLOCK INDIVIDUAL NUMBERS ONE BY ONE

 

This is probably a hopeless endeavor if you’re aiming to completely eradicate robocalls, but if there’s a particular number that keeps calling, it’s fairly easy to block it forever from your iPhone or Android phone.

On iOS, just go to the Phone app, then your Recents, and tap the blue information icon to the right of the number you want to block.

For Android, the process isn’t much different: go to the Recents section of the Phone app, long press on the bothersome number, and choose block. On some Android phones, you’ll also be given the option of reporting the number as spam.
Again, this will take a lot of persistent work on your part to keep the spammers away — and it’s good for absolutely nothing against blocked or private callers.

OPTION B: TRUST (OR PAY) YOUR CARRIER TO PROTECT YOU

 

Most of the major mobile providers have taken steps to insert themselves as a barrier between you and these annoying callers. Unfortunately, two of them make you pay an extra monthly fee for their effort.

AT&T: Call Protect
Available for free for all postpaid customers. Unavailable on prepaid lines.

AT&T has a free app, Call Protect, that’s designed to block some fraudulent robocalls from reaching you, and you won’t have to do anything besides install the software on your phone. It won’t completely block spam or telemarketer calls, however; instead, Call Protect will identify those callers as “Suspected Spam” when the phone rings and give you the option of blocking their number in the future. Users can also manually block any numbers they’d like and report numbers to help improve the database.

The important caveats to know are that Call Protect is only available to postpaid customers; prepaid customers can’t use it at all. And the “Suspected Spam” feature only works in areas with AT&T HD Voice coverage. Also, the app is unable to block unknown callers altogether.

Sprint: Premium Caller ID ($2.99 / month)
If you’re willing to add an extra charge to your monthly bill, Sprint’s Premium Caller ID will identify spam callers and anyone not in your contacts list. It flags robocalls and spammers and assigns a “threat level” to give you an indication of how suspect the call might be.

But despite costing a premium, Sprint’s solution doesn’t automatically block anything from getting through. You can block future calls from a number or report it, but the best Premium Caller ID will do is make it clear that you shouldn’t answer. It won’t stop your phone from ringing, and all it takes is someone dialing *67 before your number to thwart it and show up as “Blocked” on your caller ID. Here’s an FAQ on the feature.

T-Mobile: Scam ID and Scam Block
Available for free for all postpaid customers.

T-Mobile includes two network-level layers of protection against robocallers, and both are free. Scam ID will identify known nuisance callers when your phone rings. It does that automatically without you having to install or sign up for anything.

You’ve got the option of enabling Scam Block to prevent those calls from ever popping up in the first place. To turn on Scam Block, dial #ONB# (#662#) from your T-Mobile phone. To disable it, just dial #OFB# (#632#). Like AT&T’s tool, T-Mobile will only prevent known scammers and fraud calls. Telemarketers and spam calls will still get through.

There’s also a third option, but it’s another that costs extra money. For $4 per month, you can subscribe to T-Mobile’s Name ID service. It can “identify any caller’s name and location and block any personal number, even if it’s not in your address book.” It also identifies organizations such as telemarketing agencies, political orgs, and survey callers. Name ID is included for free if you have a T-Mobile One Plus plan.

Verizon Wireless: Caller Name ID ($2.99 per month)

For no charge, you can block up to five phone numbers that you want to prevent from contacting you. However, blocks expire after 90 days and aren’t very helpful against robocallers with numbers that change every day.

If you really want to combat spammers, you’ll have to pay for Caller Name ID, which identifies suspected bunk calls and lets you block those numbers in the future or report them. A free 10-day trial is available to help you decide whether the extra monthly fee is worthwhile.

OPTION C: PROTECT YOURSELF WITH THIRD-PARTY APPS

There are a number of services such as Nomorobo, RoboKiller, Hiya, and others designed to prevent robocalls from ever ringing your phone. Most of them require a monthly (or annual) subscription. At their core, these services rely on a constantly updating list of robocallers, spammers, and fraudsters and use that database to stop nuisance calls. (When I say constantly updating, I mean they’re identifying thousands of bad numbers every day.) A call comes in, and the service runs it against that huge list of scam numbers. If it finds a match, the incoming call gets shut down before it reaches you.

All of them allow you to maintain your own personal blacklist of numbers that might be bothering you and whitelist those you want getting through. Some work by downloading a dedicated contacts list — separate from your regular contacts — to your phone. But both iOS and Android have recently given these services more leeway in taking control over your phone app and stopping the jerks from ever reaching you. On iPhone, you’ll have to enable them in the Settings app and give them caller ID permissions before they can start working. Apple shows you how to do that step-by-step right here.

I’d recommend looking into each of these services to see which one you like best. All of them are largely well-reviewed by customers, and all offer free trials to get started. One of these will ultimately be what you need to really fight back against the robocalls. It’s just a matter of finding your favorite.

Nomorobo: 14-day free trial. After that, $1.99 / month or $19.99 / year

RoboKiller: Free 7-day trial. After that, $2.99 / month or $24.99 / year

Hiya: Free. Hiya partners with Samsung, AT&T, and T-Mobile to provide their spam ID services and also has standalone apps.

TrueCaller: Free.

OPTION D: BUY A PHONE FROM SAMSUNG OR GOOGLE THAT AUTOMATICALLY IDENTIFIES SPAM CALLERS

 

 

Samsung’s recent Galaxy S and Note smartphones automatically flag suspected spam calls right in the phone app as they come in. The company calls this feature Smart Call.

Same goes for the Google Pixel and Pixel 2, which turn the entire screen red as an easy “do not answer!” visual reference whenever a known spammer dials you up. These systems aren’t perfect; my Pixel 2 XL still gets fooled by plenty of numbers that look like local calls. Speaking of which…

NUCLEAR OPTION: USE DO NOT DISTURB TO ONLY ALLOW CALLS FROM YOUR CONTACTS

 

On both Android and iOS, you can set each operating system’s Do Not Disturb mode to allow phone calls from only those people and businesses in your contacts list. This is a pretty drastic, sledgehammer solution to the problem of robocalls, and you’re almost certainly going to miss calls that you would’ve liked to have answered. But those calls will go through to voicemail, and then you can add that number to your contacts for the future. I’d still only recommend this option if you’re completely fed up, though, and only if you’re very good and meticulous about keeping contacts up to date.

WHY DO MORE AND MORE SPAM CALLS LOOK LIKE THEY’RE COMING FROM A LOCAL NUMBER?!

 

It’s super annoying, isn’t it? It’s a trick called neighborhood spoofing, and RoboKiller has a good explainer on it here. https://www.robokiller.com/blog/local-call/ In short, scammers think that a number matching your area code (and maybe even the first digits of your own number) will trick your brain and make you more likely to answer. And it makes their deception feel even more nefarious. What if it’s a family emergency? Maybe it’s your doctor’s office or the pharmacy?

Thankfully the robocall blocker apps have gotten better at spotting neighborhood spoofing. RoboKiller claims it’s been good at doing so since the beginning, and Nomorobo has also made detecting neighborhood spoofing a major focus.
TIP: DON’T FORGET TO ADD YOURSELF TO THE DO NOT CALL REGISTRY

In theory, telemarketers are supposed to be honoring the National Do Not Call Registry. You can add yourself to the list by visiting www.donotcall.gov. The FTC says to allow 31 days for legitimate telemarketer sales calls to stop. Once you’ve signed up, your presence on the Do Not Call Registry never lapses or expires, contrary to some recent rumors. There’s no reason to renew or re-add your number to the list.

The Do Not Call Registry only covers sales calls. Charities, political groups, debt collectors, and surveys are still allowed to call you once you’ve signed up. Same goes for companies that you might’ve recently done business with. (You might be able to stop this specific case by verbally telling them to stop calling you.) Unfortunately, scammers / robocallers don’t pay the DNC Registry any mind and just ignore the thing entirely. The robots answer to no one, which will have you circling back to one of the solutions earlier in this article.

TIP: NEVER LET THE ROBOTS KNOW YOU’RE A REAL HUMAN

 

Tempting as might be to swear up and down at a robocaller or scammer, your best course of action is to leave them unsure as to whether they connected with an actual person. Don’t say anything. Don’t push buttons — even if the robotic voice says doing so will prevent further calls. Put no faith or trust in the robot voice. Either just let it go through to voicemail or hang up immediately if you mistakenly picked up.

TIP: COMPLAIN TO THE FTC… PROBABLY IN VAIN

 

When all else fails and you’re consumed by despair and anger over the never-ending interruptions, you can always report callers to the Federal Trade Commission. They’re not going to pursue every individual complaint, but it’s certainly important to keep the commission aware of the magnitude of this problem. And as I said earlier, sometimes the FTC does actually take down some of these scammers.

If you have a method of eliminating robocalls that I haven’t listed here, definitely share it in the comments. It’s very disappointing to me that two of the major US carriers are charging their customers added fees just to help get spam calls under control. You’re already giving them plenty of money every month. I’m sure they’re doing a lot behind the scenes to detect mass robocalling operations and defend their networks against them, but peace and quiet ought to be included in your regular mobile bill.

 

How do you avoid RoboCalls? Tell us about it in the comments below!!

App of the Week: Out of Milk

Out of Milk, the popular shopping list app, just added support for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.

By Ryne Hager of Android Police

There are a lot of shopping list apps out there, and that’s an understatement. Back in the early days of app development, shopping lists were one of the most popular simple projects, and even now people learning the ropes typically toss one together. But Out of Milk has stood the test of time for the last seven years. And now managing your shopping list is getting just a bit more convenient via the new Out of Milk voice assistant, which works with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant.

There are a couple of steps you’ll have to make to get things working as they should. The full instructions for Google Home are here (and Alexa instructions are here), but remember that the Out of Milk voice assistant requires you to use an account created on the Out of Milk app or website. Once it’s set up you’ll be able to yell at your assistant of choice and make use of the following features:

• Add and remove items to a list (e.g. “Add rice to my list.”)
• Include the quantity of an item on a list (e.g. “Add two gallons of milk to my list.”)
• Add multiple items at once to a list ( “Add bananas, cereal, & butter to my list.”)
• Check which list their editing (e.g. “Which list am I in?”)
• Switch between existing lists (e.g. “Switch to my ‘Walmart’ list.”)
• Read off items on a list (e.g. “What is on my current list?”)
• Read off all lists (e.g. “What lists do I have?”)

If you haven’t used Out of Milk, it’s pretty nifty. It allows you to add items to lists synced with other devices as well as friends or family. And you don’t just have to type or dictate, it can also scan barcodes. So the next time you toss out an empty bottle or box, you can quickly make sure you’ll grab it on your next shopping trip.

 

 

Ready to give things a try?

You can download Out of Milk at Google Play and iTunes.

Do you have a favorite App for Grocery Shopping? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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