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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, and Wire. Telegram and Viber also offer E2E encryption by default.

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.

Best Smartphones

Best Budget Smartphones below $200

August 2020 Edition

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Welcome to GadgetMatch’s list of the best smartphones priced below US$ 200! Each month, we update our selection with the budget-friendly phones we believe are most deserving of your hard-earned savings.

Even though the spotlight has been on high-end smartphones this entire year, there have been a few surprisingly good entry-level handsets coming out lately, as well. So good, in fact, that we had to reassess our entire list.

Here they are in no particular order

Redmi 9 (PhP 6,990 / US$ 141)

Quality build with baseline specs that can handle, well, the basics. This is what the Redmi line has been offering and that remains true with the Redmi 9. You’ll have to be bit creative with some of the apps you install (always go for the Lite versions), but the pre-installed Google apps run smoothly and should be more than enough to power you through.

Hands-On: Redmi 9

Redmi Note 9 (US$ 200)

This is a routine appearance for the Redmi Note line. Xiaomi continues to lord over the budget segment by offering fairly capable smartphones at such an affordable price.

Review: Redmi Note 9

Realme 6i (US$ 196)

Realme finally releases a budget phone with a USB-C port! That aside, everything here is standard Realme — which is great. Its cameras leave much to be desired but what this is a budget phone after all. It does pretty well everywhere else — can game, handle your usual daily things, and has an impressive battery life.

READ: Realme6i 

OPPO A5s (US$ 117)

The OPPO A5s perhaps is best looked at as a transition device more than anything else. It does what you expect out of budget smartphones. It’s good to have “for now” but you might look elsewhere for a more reliable daily driver.

REVIEW: OPPO A5s

Samsung Galaxy A20 (US$ 190)

Samsung’s revived Galaxy A-series proves that the company cares about every price segment. The Galaxy A20, in particular, is the most well-rounded below US$ 200 thanks to its ultra-wide camera, AMOLED display, and hefty battery.

REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy A20

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Best Smartphones

Best Midrange Smartphones from $200 to $400

August 2020 Edition

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When premium phones are out of financial reach and entry-level handsets just don’t make your cut, something in between is the next best thing. This is our updated list of the best midrange smartphones retailing from US$ 200 to US$ 400.

Formulating this category was tricky, since you can’t set an exact price and some of these devices are, in fact, the flagship phones of their respective brands. To simplify things, we chose a price range that simply sits between our other lists for best budget, upper-midrange, and premium smartphones.

Here they are in no particular order:

realme 6 Pro (PhP 16,990/ US$ 339)

This is the only smartphone in this segment that offers a 90Hz screen refresh rate. It’s one thing if that’s the only thing it’s good at, but the realme 6 Pro has a 64MP quad-camera setup, a really clean UI, and Snapdragon 720G along with 30W VOOC charging. We’re convinced this is the best Android phone in this segment.

Review: realme 6 Pro

realme 6 (PhP 13,990/ US$ 280)

It’s pretty much everything its “pro” sibling is except it’s instead powered by a Helio G90T processor made for gaming. the RAM and storage combo is no slouch too (8GB/128GB) and yes, it also has a 90Hz screen refresh rate. Solid. Value.

Review. realme 6

iPhone SE (US$ 399)

One of the world’s fastest processors, a fantastic camera, at a midranger’s price. If we told you, we’re talking about an iPhone you probably wouldn’t believe us but here we are. The iPhone SE’s design is dated, but everything about its performance is near-flagship or flagship 2020 levels.

REVIEW: iPhone SE

Huawei Nova 7 SE (PhP 19,990/ US$ 399)

Barely making the price point, Huawei phones are facing a unique problem with the lack of Google Mobile Services. That said, Huawei Mobile Services is making a headway. But the reason the phone lands on this list is because of its 5G capabilities. This is one of the most affordable phones to support 5G and that has to count for something.

Hands-On: Huawei Nova 7 SE

Samsung Galaxy A51 (US$ 320)

Samsung’s on a roll with their Galaxy A-series. The Galaxy A51 builds on everything that was already great with the Galaxy A50 and A50s and just makes it even better. Much like everything on the Galaxy lineup this year, the Galaxy A51 sports a look that as of posting is still undeniably Samsung.

Pixel 3a (US$399)

The Pixel 3a barely makes this price range by being just a hair under $400. The camera alone easily makes this crème de la crème of this bunch. Add to that the vanilla Android experience and of course being in the priority list of Android updates, this is the Pixel to get for Android purists.

HANDS-ON: Pixel 3a

POCO X2 (INR 19,99/ US$ 279)

The future of Pocophone was up in the air for a while, but all of that was finally put to rest when the brand finally released the POCO X2. This isn’t exactly the successor to the POCO F1. In fact, this is just a rebranded Redmi K30 Pro. But it’s still a step in the right direction for a brand that quickly captured everyone’s attention only to go completely silent for over a year.

REVIEW: POCO X2

Samsung Galaxy M31 (INR 15,99/US$ 224)

This battery-powerhouse of a smartphone has never quite made it to more markets, but it has gotten a significant amount of attention thanks to its 6,000mAh battery. Something this long-lasting appears to still be one of the priorities of smartphone buyers.

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Best Smartphones

Best Upper-Midrange Smartphones from $400 to $600

August 2020 Edition

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When premium phones are out of financial reach and entry-level handsets just don’t make your cut, something in between is the next best thing. This is our updated list of the best upper-midrange smartphones retailing from US$ 400 to US$ 600.

Formulating this category was tricky, since you can’t set an exact price and some of these devices are, in fact, the flagship phones of their respective brands. To simplify things, we chose a price range that simply sits between our other lists for best budget, midrange, and premium smartphones.

Here they are in no particular order:

OnePlus Nord (EUR 499 / US$ 570)

The OnePlus Nord launched with plenty of fanfare from OnePlus fans. After a few phones that veered away from providing flagship-level phones for less, OnePlus is back in that game. What we have is almost all the necessities you can want from any really capable phone.

Review: OnePlus Nord

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite (EUR 349/ US$ 448)

Xiaomi’s here with yet another fantastic value-for-money device. While we found this phone’s cameras to be less than ideal, that doesn’t mean they’re bad at all. And this can easily be addressed in a software update. The Mi Note 10 Lite is stellar at this price point, hitting most of what you’ll need on a smartphone.

Review: Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite

OPPO Reno3 (PhP 28,990 / US$ 575)

The design of the Reno3 feels like a departure from the journey that OPPO took when they launched the first Reno phone. That said, this is still a solid all-around smartphone at this price point. It does about everything well enough to merit this inclusion. It’s not stellar, but it’s solid.

REVIEW: OPPO Reno3

POCO F2 Pro [6GB/128GB] (EUR 499/ US$ 560)

It feels premature adding this here but if the previous POCO phone was any indication, we probably have another worthy option at this price point. Worth noting though that the higher configuration (8GB/256GB) breached premium space — which is uncharted territory for the POCO brand.

LAUNCH: POCO F2 Pro

Samsung Galaxy A71 5G (US$ 599)

Awesome screen, awesome camera, long-lasting battery life — that’s the LSS-inducing theme of the Galaxy A71 as it was being teased. Lo and behold, Samsung wasn’t lying. The phone certainly lives up to the hype and while specs-wise there may be cheaper options out there, the package that Samsung has put together is quite enticing. And in the US, it’s the most affordable phone with support for 5G.

REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy A71

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite (US$ 449)

Finally. A Galaxy Note sans the gimmicks. The Galaxy Note line has always been a premium offering. And while this isn’t exactly budget, it’s still a lot more affordable than the usual stylus-paired smartphone from Samsung.

WATCH HANDS-ON: Samsung Galaxy Note 10

realme X3 SuperZoom (Php 24,990 / US$ 509)

The realme X3 SuperZoom is equipped with late 2019 flagship specs — Snapdragon 855+, 64MP main camera, 120Hz screen refresh rate — while being priced at just a little over half the price of phones with comparable specs. realme is playing in that flagship killer territory and certainly deserves more attention.

Review: realme X3 SuperZoom

OnePlus 7T (US$ 499)

With the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro going the premium flagship route in terms of pricing, this leaves the OnePlus 7T as the last remaining remnant of their flagship killing ways. There is news of a One Plus Z looming in the horizon. However, until it arrives, the OnePlus 7T is the phone to get at this price point

UNBOXING & HANDS-ON: OnePlus 7

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