8 smartphone hacks for the non-tech savvy

(Photo from Japanexperterna.se/Flickr)
(Photo from Japanexperterna.se/Flickr)

A recent Chinese government report shows that 90% of Chinese access the internet via mobile devices, which means they probably own a smartphone. This is also a worldwide trend, with many netizens in emerging markets skipping PCs to access information.

Many consumers are not sure how to quickly troubleshoot their devices.

Steve Castro, a veteran graphic and web designer based in Long Island, NY, shared with AllChinaTech a few hacks on security and saving data, which can turn you into a savvier consumer.

1. Add contact info to your smartphone’s lock screen image.

This could be a long shot, but in case a good samaritan wants to return your lost phone, the person can easily find a way to contact you via your lockscreen image. Castro suggests either taking a picture after scribbling your contact details on a piece of paper or taking a screenshot after typing the information in your preferred note-taking app.

2. Find out which apps are data hogs on your device.

Most consumers sign up for a fixed monthly data package, with an option to pay their wireless carriers in certain countries for more data if their usage exceeds the monthly limit. If you constantly hit your data limit and unsure why, Castro says Apple devices running iOS 8 and above provide a breakdown of how much data the apps have used in Settings. See this Yahoo story for detailed instructions. For Android users, Castro recommends using third-party apps such as Onavo Count and My Data Manager to monitor the data usage on your devices.

3. Live GPS is a huge data hog.

To beat the game and save data consumption, Castro has two must-dos before you hit the road. The first is to screenshot your travel directions and refer to them rather than relying on live turn-by-turn instructions. Secondly, many maps apps including Google Maps allow users to download maps of the city you are searching for. Castro says you can always save the maps ahead of time from a wifi zone, and it’s a good practice to do so, in case your travel destination has limited cell reception. Here are instructions on how to download Google Maps.

4. Activate airplane mode when you are stuck with no signal.

Yes, you can use airplane mode when you’re not flying around the world in a metal tube. Castro recommends turning on airplane mode for a minute or so to let your device reconnect to the nearest cell tower, instead of clinging on to the weaker one.

5. Charging your phone with airplane mode on takes less time, but only a tiny bit.

Well, this one is not earth-shattering because Castro says it only boosts the charging rate 2-5%. Also you will temporarily be unable to receive calls, texts, browse the web or refresh apps that require data while airplane mode is on, since your phone is dedicated to being charged up. Therefore my advice is to deploy this tactic when you need to quickly add juice and when you’re not worried about missing out.

6. Try dialing 112 in emergency situations.

When you are traveling to a new country and unfamiliar with the local emergency hotline, try calling 112. It’s not universal for all phones or available in all countries, since this is mostly a European emergency number which directs you to a local emergency operator for assistance. AllChinaTech tested it in Beijing and it went to a voice message in Mandarin with instructions to call various service departments. Here is a list of countries that 112 will work for. Castro says in most instances, dialing 112 will allow your phone to use any available service, even if it’s not from your wireless service provider or the phone is locked.

7. Spend money on paid apps.

Yes, we like free apps. Like most free things in life, they always come with a price. Castro recommends paying for premium version of apps that won’t show you ads. He says free apps constantly use your data to deliver you different commercials! Besides saving your data consumption that way, Castro says it can also save some battery power on your device.

8. Your Android phone is also a hard drive.

Most Android users forget the fact that you can switch on “disk drive” mode when connecting the device to a computer. Here are how-to instructions. Castro reminds users to do this when you need to save a large presentation or video file. iOS users, don’t worry, you can also try saving files from your Mac to your iPhone via third-party apps. The instructions for this USB & Wi-Fi Flash Drive app say you can reverse the saving process, too.

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