Features

6 tips to make your phone more private and secure

Exercise caution during these times

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Your smartphone is capable of gathering and collecting personal information. As such, malicious hackers are always looking for ways to break into your phone to gain that valuable information. Meanwhile, big tech companies and governments are actively developing discrete methods of tracking you through your smartphone.

Thus, it is important to protect your smartphone’s privacy and security. However, it can be daunting to do that if you don’t know where to begin. With many privacy and security guidelines out there, it can be confusing where to look for protection.

Luckily, it’s easy to make your phone more private and secure. These tips are easy to do, and can be accomplished in an hour. Remember though, that the level of protection varies for different people.

These tips aren’t intended for the privacy paranoid. Instead, they act as tips on ensuring that you have the baseline privacy and security protection for your smartphone.

1. Change your device’s privacy settings

“It starts with you,” so the saying goes. The same tip also applies to making your device more private and secure. You have to start by changing your device’s setting.

Unfortunately for you, some default settings actually harm your device’s privacy and security. For example, your device may have analytics turned on by default — this violates privacy by sending data to third-party companies without your consent.

Changing the default privacy settings in iOS is simple and intuitive. All you need to do is to head over to the Settings app and scroll to the Privacy menu down below. Here, you’ll see a lot of things that you can change.

On the Android side, you’ll usually find the privacy settings for your device on the list of menus under your phone’s settings app. Like in iOS, you’ll see a lot of things that you can change to make your device more private.

These include limiting or opting out of ad personalization, turning off analytics, and changing notifications to display only the app name.

2. Review individual app permissions

Most apps that you use every day ask for permissions. These act as barriers that stop apps from mindlessly retrieving sensitive data.

Treat permissions as a powerful tool for safeguarding your privacy and security. Likewise, most permissions are important enough that you need to be more mindful of what apps you’re allowing and not allowing.

Common permissions include access to the camera, microphone, contacts, SMS, and location. There’s no exact rule to determining what permission should be allowed for an app.

However, as a general rule of thumb, know first the advertised function of a certain app. A calculator app shouldn’t ask for your microphone if, in the first place, it doesn’t tout voice input as a function.

For messaging apps, you’ll obviously need to allow contacts and SMS access. These apps will also need the camera and microphone access for video calling purposes.

Social media apps commonly require access to contacts, camera, and location. Meanwhile, utility apps should have minimum permissions from the get-go.

3. Use a VPN

You may have heard about someone using a VPN to unblock shows from Netflix or view restricted websites. Basically, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) routes your connection to multiple servers around the world. As such, you also end up with an IP address that hides your real location.

This is a huge deal especially for some websites or services that hide content depending on a user’s location. It’s also a boon for your privacy and security.

VPNs also protect your privacy by feeding false location information to most advertisers on the web. Most websites today have ads that track users wherever they go. Companies have sophisticated methods of tracking and building user profiles. This violates users’ privacy and security.

There are a lot of VPN services to choose from in this day and age. However, some VPN services actually leak sensitive information. On top of that, some of them have monthly data allocation and speed caps.

Some of the reputable VPN services out there include ProtonVPN, Private Internet Access, TunnelBear, and NordVPN. It’s also worth checking out Mullvad, SurfShark, and IPVanish.

Configuring VPNs is easy. You just have to follow the instructions given by your selected VPN provider.

4. Install messaging apps with encryption.

We use messaging apps to stay connected with our friends and families. However, not all messaging apps are built equally.

Some messaging apps don’t implement end-to-end encryption (E2E encryption), allowing malicious hackers and third-party companies to access your valuable information without your permission.

End-to-end encryption protects your valuable data by making your messages hard to read for hackers and companies. That means that even if a company that owns a messaging app gets hacked, they will only see random blobs of data instead of other people’s messages.

By now, most messaging apps in the market use end-to-end encryption. However, most apps only encrypt your data while in transit, which means that your message is safe while it travels across servers.

The messages that reside in your device aren’t encrypted at all, so hackers and companies can retrieve any information using sophisticated methods such as apps that harvest data in the background.

There are quite a good number of messaging apps that offer full E2E encryption. One of the most popular is Signal — a messaging app used by the famous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. You only use a mobile number to create a Signal account, mitigating the need for emails and passwords. It also has quite an extensive list of features that even rival Facebook Messenger.

Other apps that offer full E2E encryption includes ThreeMa, WhatsApp, Wire and Viber.

5. Consider using a secure browser

Chances are, the browser that you’re using today is Google Chrome. Many people use Chrome since its fast, simple, and just works.

However, it’s also one of the worst browsers to use for safeguarding personal privacy and security. After all, it is owned by Google. It’s common knowledge by now that Google thrives on a business that doesn’t totally safeguard your privacy and security.

There are other browsers out there that offer a better private browsing mode. Among them is Mozilla Firefox, which offers tracking prevention by default. Firefox’s tracking prevention blocks ads and other web elements that try to gather personal information as you browse the web.

Other browsers that have tracking prevention includes Microsoft Edge and Brave Browser. Safari also blocks trackers now, and you’ll see privacy reports in the future as part of macOS Big Sur.

You may have also heard of Tor Browser. Using Tor Browser is recommended if you want your browsing activity to be more private and secure. Keep in mind though, that browsing is much slower since it routes your network connection to different servers all around the world.

6. Store passwords with a password manager.

In this day and age, you should be using a password manager to manage your website logins. After using one, you’ll wonder why you haven’t used one sooner.

Password managers are convenient. Most of them feature one-click autofill which automatically fills in your username and password in the corresponding field. You’ll no longer have to enter your information manually. On top of that, you protect your privacy against snoopers.

Most password managers can also generate strong passwords for you. You don’t have to think about what unique word you’ll use when asked for a password.

More importantly, you no longer have to reuse an old password which just increases the chances of a hacker gaining access to your accounts. Some even have a password monitor feature, which alerts you if the password you used was retrieved by hackers.

Some of the best password managers out there include LastPass, Dashlane, and Bitwarden.

BONUS: Don’t give your personal info in an instant

This sounds simple but it’s something that we need to share with everyone. Especially our loved ones who don’t know better about giving out their personal information.

This not only applies in the digital world but also in the real world. After all, someone is bound to mishandle or abuse your personal data. The best course of action is to always ask if sensitive information is needed at all.

In digital terms, that means checking out an app or a website’s privacy policy for any mention of what data is needed to gain access to their service. However, privacy policies tend to get long, so we might be lazy enough to know why a piece of data is needed.

As a rule of thumb, always exercise caution when giving out personal information. If possible, limit any personal information to your name, email address, mobile number, and approximate location.

Making your device more secure and private doesn’t have to be tedious. These simple tips are easy enough to follow but will ensure a more private experience for you and your device.

These tips, however, only scratch the surface. Ensuring your device is private and secure is a proactive approach that requires one to be cautious of their data at all times.

First Look

realme GT Master Edition: Unboxing and First Impressions

Does it remind you of a suitcase?

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realme GT Master Edition

realme has a new phone — the realme GT Master Edition — and we’re gonna take it out of the box. We’ll also tell you what we initially think because these are the only things we’re allowed to do. For now.

The company is using all their favorite buzzwords again to generate… well… buzz for the phone. Words like disruptive, game changer, flagship experience — the works. It gets too hypey, but that’s what you gotta do to standout in an industry dominated by the likes of Apple and Samsung. I digress.

Take a look at the realme GT Master Edition specs before we proceed with the unboxing:

  • Display — 6.43″ AMOLED, 120Hz refresh rate
  • Processor — Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G
  • RAM — 8GB + up to 5GB DRE (Dynamic RAM Extension)
  • Storage — 128GB and 256GB
  • Battery — 4,300mAh, Dual-cell design, 65W SuperDart charging
  • Rear Cameras — 64MP f/1.8 main camera, 8MP f/2.3 119° ultra-wide lens, 2MP f/2.4 macro lens
  • Selfie Camera — 32MP
  • OS — Android 11, realme UI 2.0
  • Color Options — Voyager Grey, Daybreak Blue

It came in this cool tiny travel suitcase. It’ll be a recurring theme.

realme GT Master Edition

Opening it reveals two boxes safely tucked in between foams for shock absorption.

realme GT Master Edition

The left box, as you can see, is just black with the trademark yellow realme logo. On the right side is the box of the actual phone itself.

The left box is filled with different realme items.

Some stickers, keychains, and more.

It also has printed pictures of shots taken using the realme GT Master Edition.

Now, onto the main event — the box of the phone itself.

realme GT Master Edition

Opening the box, you’ll see this warm welcoming message.

realme GT Master Edition

Inside this, you’ll find the usual documentation — warranty, manual, all that good stuff.

Lift that and you’ll be greeted by the realme GT Master Edition.

realme GT Master Edition

Wrapped in plastic with an indicator of where the in-display fingerprint sensor is located.

Lift that layer where the phones and you’ll find the plasticky case.

realme GT Master Edition

It looks exactly like the back of the phone except it’s a shade lighter and doesn’t feel quite as good.

Underneath it is the USB Type-C cable.

realme GT Master Edition

And as you may have gleaned from the photo above, the SIM tray ejector tool lies under it.

 

 

realme GT Master Edition

When you life the case, you’ll see the 65W SuperDart power brick.

realme GT Master Edition

That’s it for everything inside the box. Now let’s look at the phone.

Here’s a good look at the back of the realme GT Master Edition.

realme GT Master Edition

As mentioned earlier, the whole suitcase and travel thing is the main theme of this phone’s design. The horizontal grids were meant to replicate the look of a suitcase to trigger the thought of travel. It’s kind of cruel given the general travel restrictions still imposed on us because of the pandemic. But maybe that’s just me.

Signed by Naoto Fukasawa.

realme GT Master Edition

Responsible for the design is Naoto Fukasawa. He even signed the thing on the back. It’s a puzzling move to say the least. I’m fairly certain 90 percent of the people who will end up purchasing this phone will have zero idea who Fukasawa is. But congrats, you have his autograph now!

Fukasawa is a Japanese industrial designer. He is most known for his works with retail company MUJI. Now, I’m sure a lot of you will be familiar with MUJI. Even then, I don’t think the idea of a renowned designer’s signature being on your phone’s back is something you’ll find thrilling or enticing.

realme continues to make these wild choices for back designs. It’s brave and bold which is in keeping with their whole approach. Personally, these aren’t things I find appealing. Then again, an oldie like me is likely not their target market. I just wanted to get that off my chest.

Looks aside, that back feels great

realme says it’s called the concave vegan leather — the first of its kind in the smartphone industry. I’m not gonna pretend to understand the whole process so here’s an excerpt from realme’s infosheet explaining the thing:

“realme has adopted a more challenging way – the polymer material is turned into an initial three-dimensional shape through the injection molding process, and then use the hot pressing process to synthesize the vegan leather with the substrate, and finally achieve the integrated concave vegan leather shape.

Did you get that? Basically, all of that was needed to achieve the uneven finish with the feel of leather. It’s a lot to take in but all you need to know is that it feels great to touch and isn’t slippery at all.

Bottom: Speaker grille, USB-C port, and suprise — 3.5mm headphone jack.

realme GT Master Edition

Button placements are your usual. Power button on the right side and the volume buttons as well as the SIM card tray on the left side.

Here’s the realme GT Master Edition with the case on.

realme GT Master Edition

It mimics the look of concave vegan leather but feels nowhere near it. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend using this case if you want to preserve that leather feeling. Really wish realme came up with vegan leather case too.

The phone’s wallpaper looks like a pavement.

realme GT Master Edition

Points for consistency, I guess? It’s running Android 11 with a coat of realme UI 2.0. If you’re an OPPO user, this UI going to feel familiar. It’s almost like ColorOS which isn’t a bad thing. The whole UI feels clean and easy to navigate.

What’s surprising are the overwhelming number of apps pre-installed. Sure, you have ones that you’ll likely install like Facebook, Messenger, and Netflix. But for every one of those useful apps, there’s a couple more that’s just flat out bloatware. There are also incessant notifications about apps you can download from their App Market. I know “disrupting” is their thing but maybe not like this?

Cameras to die for?

realme GT Master Edition

realme made a big deal about the back design and just as much as they did, they also said the cameras on this thing are fantastic. Hence, the inclusion of printed photos taken with it in this special unboxing package. We have no samples to show you just yet. We’ll take a step outside, observing health and safety protocols of course, to see if we can come up with stunning images ourselves.

The realme GT Master Edition (that’s a mouthful) is a decently-sized smartphone with concave vegan leather for its back that feels absolutely fantastic. It has an overall clean UI that’s bogged down a little bit by bloatware. We’ll explore its performance and camera prowess in the review. By that time, we’ll also know how its price so watch out for it.

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Accessories

Should you buy the Sony WF-1000XM4?

Here’s a quick guide

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Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony is back again with another top-of-the-line pair of true wireless (TWS) earbuds and it’s one that’s worthy of your consideration. Roughly a couple of years after the launch of the Sony WF-1000XM4, we now have the Sony WF-1000XM4. Should you spend your hard earned cash on it? That’s what we’ll try to answer.

We do have a pretty comprehensive review of the WF-1000XM4. But if that’s a little too long for you, consider this article the TLDR. Let’s dive right in.

It’s within your budget

It should go without saying but in hard times such as now, one shouldn’t mindlessly splurge on the shiniest new tech out there. That said, if you can shell out PhP 13,999 (US$ 280 / SG$ 379 / MYR 1099) then by all means, grab this pair. It’s easily one of the best devices in its category and is definitely worth every penny.

You’re an Android user

Sony WF-1000XM4

STAYC’s “Stereotype” is bop. Give it a listen.

Sony has this tech called LDAC. While it’s not exactly hi-res audio, it’s likely the closest thing to it. Here’s an entire explainer from the SoundGuys if you want a deep dive on it. And sadly, this format isn’t supported by any iPhone as of writing. To experience the absolute best audio quality that the WF-1000XM4 has to offer, you’re better off being on Android.

Now, that’s not to say it’s terrible on iPhones or any other device. In fact, we’ve used this on both an iPhone and a Mac and the audio quality is still a blessing to the ears. You’re not getting the ‘absolute best’ but it’s still better than most others.

You care about the environment

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony moved away from the usual box you expect from devices of this caliber. Instead, they’re using recycled packaging for the WF-1000XM4. It’s plastic free and is made from a special blend of paper.

It’s a move to the more sustainable side of things and it’s one we’re totally down with. Besides, if you’re looking for that premier feeling, there’s no shortage of that on the device itself.

You’re not a fan of the AirPods design

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony WF-1000XM4 with the Huawei Freebuds Pro. Don’t have AirPods on hand, sorry.

Pretty much every other manufacturer who jumped on the TWS market followed Apple’s cue. That means TWS earbuds that have a stem. While we’ve gotten used to the look over the years, the general perception is still that if it has a stem, it’s an AirPods copycat. This despite other brands giving their own spin on it.

The stem isn’t just for show though. For most of these earbuds, they serve as a mic. During our tests, they’ve generally performed better in call situations over ones that don’t have them.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 is still pretty decent for voice and video calls, so if you can live with that and want something that doesn’t stick out of your ear too much, then this is the choice for you.

You want something for multiple uses

Multiple uses in every kind of sense. The WF-1000XM4 promises up to eight hours of music playback with noise cancellation switched on, and the case can supply an additional 16 hours of battery life via charging. That’s pretty consistent with our usage.

Trust us, you’re not gonna have these on for eight hours straight anyway. With its IPX4 rating, it’s water resistant enough to take with you for workouts. After freshening up from exercise, you can use it for a few work meetings here and there. And then you can cap your day by listening to your favorite podcast or music — for us, it’s been a heavy dose of TWICE tracks, STAYC’s “Stereotype” and some Slow Jams to put us to bed.

That’s what regular daily use looks like. And we’ve only had to charge the device after two to three days. Of course, that’ll vary depending on your usage — which, no matter what that may be, the WF-1000XM4 can handle mightily.

SEE ALSO: Sony WF-1000XM4 review: Simply the best

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Features

This kid-friendly podcast is a cool way to teach Philippine history

It’s called ‘Habilin’ and is a 12-part podcast

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Habilin

There are a handful of key events and highlights throughout Philippine history that our kids should be mindful of as they grow up and begin to become more socially aware and involved.

Martial Law is one of them. It’s one of the most discussed historical topics until now, even just in a casual setting, 49 years after it was declared.

Nowadays, people still find themselves confused or have trouble talking about a keystone moment in Filipino history. It is no secret that the Marcos dictatorship, which spanned over a decade, affected millions of Filipinos.

It plunged the country into overwhelming debt, countless human rights violations, and consequences that are still being paid for today and will continue to be paid for by generations to come — as all verified and fact-checked by sources.

Yes, it’s a topic that’s serious, but we’d also want the next generation to be in the know and encourage them to take a stand as they look back at an important piece of collective history.

So one might ask: how do we begin to talk to kids about Martial Law?

Enter “Habilin,” a 12-part podcast and animated series about the heroes who fought for our freedom, produced by The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Sandigan Para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan (SAMASA), and the Give a Hoot podcast.

The unsung heroes

Going with a unique approach with its production and story angles, the podcast project showcases the lives of ordinary Filipinos who stood up for their rights and empowered citizens, providing different point of views for its young audience.

Through thoughtful storytelling, eye-catching animation, and immersive sound design in its episodes available in both video and podcast forms, “Habilin” is able to cater to the more techy youth and share with them powerful stories they may have never heard of before.

Sister Mariani Dimaranan, Lazaro Silva, and Lumbaya Gayudan

Sister Mariani Dimaranan, Lazaro Silva, and Lumbaya Gayudan — these are all names kids might not be familiar with, but in just a few minutes, they will be hooked to their inspiring stories of heroism.

Habilin” has a feature on Elma Tangente, a “binukot”, or a young Visayan noblewoman chosen by her tribe to be sheltered from the public eye. But after they were forced out of their land by the military, she joined the guerilla movement and organized different communities, bringing them together to fight against the dictatorship.

She gave up her binukot status and went to a school run by student activists, where she learned to read and write and became interested in social issues. This is where she realized what being a “chosen one” truly means: to empower her community.

Nestor Principe

Another episode features Nestor Principe, a karate instructor and community organizer. Nestor and his brothers learned martial arts to defend their community against gangs and rogue policemen. After becoming a karate champion, he toured the world as a bodyguard for a Malaysian official until he learned about the First Quarter Storm.

When he went back to school, he absorbed more knowledge about national issues. Upon the declaration of Martial Law, he fled to Cordilleras. Despite not speaking the local language, he found ways to discuss the state of the nation and convinced more people to fight the dictatorship. Principe, who was martyred in 1973, exchanged fighting with fists to using his words to defend others.

Armando Palabay

Armando Palabay, meanwhile, tells the story of an Ilocano local living in a society that was devoted to the Marcoses. When Palabay and his brother saw that it was important to help people see the truth behind the propaganda, they told their classmates about the injustices, and staged protests as poems, plays, and songs.

Palabay’s story teaches kids the importance of standing for what is right, even if it’s difficult under the circumstances he was in.

Lights of hope

Habilin” features Filipinos from all walks of life: unsung heroes, which include a beauty queen and a nun. The courage of these unlikely heroes shows that no matter where they come from, anyone can carry a light of hope for a new future.

“I hope young Filipinos understand that they, too, can use their voice to stand up against injustice and oppression,” says Tricia Aquino, producer of Give A Hoot and chief content officer at PumaPodcast, the award-winning podcast production company behind the series’ sound design. “I hope ‘Habilin’ helps them learn our history, so that they can, in turn, tell the stories of those who fought for democracy.”

The “Habilin” series reminds us that everyone has the capacity to be a source of light in dark times, and that we have a responsibility to remember our history. Like them, you, too, can inspire the next generation to what’s right and what’s good for the rest of the country — in your own little ways.

There is no doubt that innovations in technology have made our lives easier and more comfortable in the modern times. But it’s also led to the age of disinformation and fake news.

The is why it’s all the more vital for kids to hear the real-life stories of everyday heroes that inspire and lead. Like the producers of “Habilin”, it’s only necessary for these history stories to be part of our regular conversations so we may #NeverForget and protect the freedom that we’ve gallantly fought for.


Give A Hoot is a podcast on communication for social change. Listen to the “Habilin” podcast series on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. The animated version is also available on the Commission on Human Rights’ of the Philippines’ Facebook and Youtube pages.

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