November 2014

Accessories: Selfie Sticks and Tempered Glass Screen Protectors

The holiday season is rapidly approaching.  It is almost gift giving time of year.

Looking for a great holiday gift? 

Need a stocking stuffer? 

Don’t know what to get for secret Santa?

Look no further than Tech Armor!

Our two favorite smartphone accessories make the perfect gifts!

Selfie StickI’m sure you have probably seen or heard of the “selfie stick”.  I know I have seen them everywhere from the restaurants of Waikiki to the top of Diamond Head to the beaches of the North Shore.  The selfie stick, or monopod, lets you take the perfect selfie or group shot.  Never again leave anyone out of the photo so they can snap the pic.  Always get the perfect shot without having to rely on others.  Get shots from those hard to reach angles.  The selfie stick extends from 9-40 inches (235-1005mm), and connects to your iOS or Android device over Bluetooth.  Simply clamp your phone to one end and press the button on the handle to capture the perfect pic.  Take advantage of those great smartphone cameras and capture that perfect moment.  Your Instagram followers will thank you.

Tempered GlassOur other favorite accessory is our new Tech Armor tempered glass screen protectors.  If you have not tried these screen protectors now is the time.  It is the perfect addition to that new iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy.  The tempered glass screen protectors are custom fit to your device.  They are thin (0.33mm) and are practically undetectable.  Made of Gorilla Glass, these screen protectors are shock absorbent, anti-shatter, anti-scratch, sensitive to touch, and completely transparent.  Protect your cellphone without loosing the look and feel of the touch screen.  Let’s face it we all drop our phones (some more than others).  Add an extra layer of protection.  Because with all our phones do for us today, we are lost without them.  Check out the hammer test here!

So if you are looking for a great holiday gift or just looking to treat yourself,

head over to Tech Armor for a Selfie Stick or Tempered Glass Screen Protector today!

October 2014

App Discovery: Mobile Security with 1U

As more and more systems and personal data becomes digital, internet security becomes a big concern.  You want to make sure your information is protected with a secure password, but it is getting harder and harder to remember all those different logins.  Was there a capital letter in this or a number?  Did I end it with an exclamation point?  How many characters do I need?  Add all that to the fact that the best way to avoid a hack is to have a different password for each site and it becomes almost impossible to keep track of it all.  Hoyos Labs has found a quick, easy way for you to login to websites with their new 1U application (available on Android and iOS November 7).

1U LogoThe 1U app uses biometrics to grant you secure access to accounts, websites, and apps, while eliminating the need to type and remember usernames, passwords, and PINs.  What are biometrics exactly?  Biometrics measure or analyze the unique physical or behavioral characteristics of an individual.  Often, this data is used to verify someone’s identity.  Fingerprints, voice patterns, and retina scans are examples of these unique characteristics.  A practical example would be the fingerprint scanners on the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, and Samsung Galaxy S5.  1U uses the front facing camera on your device and combines a biometric scan of your face with a “Liveness Detection” system to verify your identity.  The Liveness Detection recognizes gestures and prevents anyone from using a photo of you to access your account.

1U is not just about convenience.  It also makes signing into websites more secure and accounts harder to hack.  1U eliminates the need to type your password – no one can look over your shoulder and watch you enter your password and there are no keystrokes that could possible be recorded by malicious software.  Your personal data (usernames and passwords) are encrypted and stored on your device, not a server.  Even if someone hacked the system, there is no access to your information.  If you do happen to lose your device or have it stolen, 1U offers a remote wipe feature, allowing you to clear any saved data from your device.  The app also requires biometric verification to open and offers an auto-lock feature.

I got the chance to try out the 1U app and here is what I found:

It’s quick and easy to use.  Tap the + to add a website.  Choose from a list of common sites or add a custom site.  Next add the site name, URL, username, and password.  During this step you can also change the level of security.

Security Level

There are five levels:

  • no authentication
  • biometric only
  • convenient liveness (requires 1 gesture)
  • convenient and secure liveness (requires 2 gestures)
  • convenient and more secure liveness (requires 3 gestures).

You can also choose to add TouchID and a Liveness Signature (a custom gesture set).  I was not very good at a left to right head gesture or left and right gazes, so I personalized a gesture set combo of raised eyebrows followed by a smile.

1U Setup

Once you set up a website you can Remove, Share, or Edit by swiping left.  To open the site, just tap on it in you list.  Once the 1U app verifies you it enters your user name and password and signs you in.  One tap and you are in! How easy is that?  You know we love the fast and convenient here at Tech Armor, and this app is certainly that.

So, if you have trouble keeping track of usernames and passwords or if you are looking for a secure login for data sensitive sites on your mobile device, I would recommend the 1U app.

For more information and the latest updates on the 1U app, visit www.1unews.com.

 

 

October 2014

Smartphone Accessories: Cases

The greatest cell phone debate in history: To buy a case or not to buy a case.

The way I see it, there are three basic reasons people use cell phone cases, for Protection, Functionality, or Style.  When shopping for a case, consider which or these is most important to you.  Don’t worry if you cannot decide.  There are plenty of cases that cover two or even all three of these basic features. To begin your search for the perfect case you must first take a good, long look at yourself.  Ask yourself some questions:  Am I a dropper?  Am I prone to cup-holder accidents? Do I need something easy to spot?  Do I lose everything not attached to my body?  Am I a battery hog?  Do I take my phone swimming?

Now that we have done some soul searching, let’s take a closer look at the protection, functionality, and style side of things.

Spigen Tough Armor and Spigen Ultra Hybrid

Spigen Tough Armor and Spigen Ultra Hybrid

Protection: Keep your phone safe.

  • Prevent scratches, chips, dents, and dings.
  • Keep your phone looking new.
  • Protect from the impact of drops.
  • Keep out dust and moisture.

If you have a physically demanding lifestyle or if you are prone to accidents focus on this category of cases. Look for:  reinforced corners, grips, screen protectors, dust filters, button and port covers, impact absorption, anti-scratch coating….

Lifeproof Fre and Lifeproof Nuud

Lifeproof Fre and Lifeproof Nuud

Otterbox Defender Series

Otterbox Defender Series

Puregear DualTek

Puregear DualTek

Functionality: Make your life easier.

  • Increase your battery life.
  • Carry your phone in a belt-clip or holster.
  • Prop your phone up with a kickstand.
  • Carry less.  Keep the contents of your wallet in your phone case.

If you are always on the go, use your phone for everything, or need to up your phone’s efficiency and ease-of-use focus on this category of cases.  Look for:  kickstands, belt-clips, anti-microbial materials, wallets, bottle openers…

Puregear Kickstand Case + Holster

Puregear Kickstand Case + Holster

Puregear FabFolio

Puregear FabFolio

Silicone

Silicone Cases

Style: Express yourself.

  • Be unique.
  • Personalize your phone.
  • Show off your sense of style.
  • Have fun.

If you are about form over function, you want to accessorize, or just want to choose your phone’s look and feel focus on this category of cases.  Look for: patterns, colors, textures, unique materials, designs, pictures, shapes, jewels, lights…Style

Now that you have an idea of the type of case you are looking for, let’s take a closer look at the cases themselves.  How do you choose between the different styles and materials? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of different case materials.

Case MaterialsIn my experience, the best cases use multiple materials to balance out the pros and cons.  If you are looking for great protection try something with both silicone and polycarbonate layers.  Get the tough durable shell of the hard case along with the grip and impact absorption of the silicone.

Now that you know how to find the perfect case, come to Tech Armor to pick one out.  Don’t worry if you were case-less before and need a repair.  We have you covered on that too, give us a call at 808-955-7470.

 

September 2014

Computer Repairs: Malware

computer virus

You have probably heard about computer viruses.  You may have even been victim to one of their attacks.  Computer viruses are just one type of harmful computer software known as Malware.   Malware – short for malicious software – is used to disrupt computer operations by causing damage or performing unwanted tasks.  But what is the point?  Malware can be used to corrupt files, gather personal data, or access private systems.  It can be used to manipulate you in to purchasing fake software.  Sometimes malware is simply just a way for hackers to brag about their skills.

How do you know if your computer is infected?

How can you protect against malware?

What do you do if your computer is infected?

Let’s first take a look at some of the different types of malware.

  • Probably the most well know is the computer virus.  A virus attaches to files and spreads through storage devices.  Viruses self-replicate and are intended to cause damage.  They can corrupt or delete files, reformat disks, and cause a system crash or failure.  E-mail attachments, internet downloads and illicit software are common virus sources.
  • Worms are self-replicating and spread through network connections.  Unlike viruses, worms do not need to attach to a file to spread.  Worms cause network performance and stability problems, consuming bandwidth and slowing internet speeds.  The worm often begins as an e-mail attachment.  Its code scans files collecting e-mail addresses to help it spread.   The worm spoofs e-mail addresses gathered from your computer, posing as an e-mail from one of your contacts.  Worms can encrypt files and send documents over e-mail that help hackers gain “backdoor” access to a system.
  • Trojan horses can be disguised as useful or legitimate programs, or can be hidden within other software.  Trojan horses cannot self-replicate.  These files are usually downloaded and installed by the user, or they can be spread with the help of viruses or worms.  This type of malicious software places code in the computer’s operating system which allows hackers to access the infected computer.  This access can be used to disrupt operation, steal data, download or upload files, delete files, view the user’s screen and monitor keyboard strokes to collect sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and PINs.
  • Spyware gathers and transmits information such as web history, browser information, system information, IP addresses,  and personal data.  It can change computer configurations, collect advertising data, track frequent internet searches, and cause your browser to redirect to other websites.
  • Adware and browser hacking software are malware geared toward advertising.  Adware can cause ads to pop-up whenever the computer connects to the internet, whether the browser is open or not.  Browser hacking software can reconfigure the internet browser changing the default homepage or search engine, add search bars or toolbars, create desktop shortcuts, cause pop-ups, and redirect to sites that advertise or collect internet usage information.
  • Rogue security software is a type of malware intended to mislead you into believing your computer is infected and then offer downloads to remove the virus.  This malware often appears as a pop-up warning notification or message.  It can prevent applications from opening and misrepresent important operating system files as viruses.rogue securitry software
  • Ransomware will lock down your computer and display a message (often claiming to be from a law enforcement agency) requesting payment to restore computer functionality.  Like its name suggests, ransomware blackmails the user demanding money to release control of the system.ransomware
  • Rootkits are software that conceal malicious programs and hacks.  They can keep malware code from being read or removed.

How can you tell if you have malware on your computer?

Here are a few common symptoms that may indicate the presence of a virus or other malicious software:

  • Your computer or internet is suddenly running slower than normal.
  • Programs unexpectedly open or shut down.
  • Your computer frequently freezes or suddenly shuts down.
  • The hard drive is running more than normal or non-stop.
  • The computer’s hardware is functioning on its own (i.e. CD tray randomly opens self).
  • You receive unexpected warning, pop-up, or error messages.
  • You are suddenly locked out of your computer.
  • Programs become inaccessible.
  • Files or folders disappear.
  • Settings have been changed and cannot be adjusted or restored.
  • There are messages in your e-mail sent folder that you did not send.
  • You find posts on social media that you did not make.

How can you keep your computer from being infected?

The symptoms may not always be obvious.  So make sure you protect yourself from malicious software.

  • First, familiarize yourself with the types of malware and common sources.  The more you know the less likely you are to become a victim of malicious software.  Lucky for you, you have done just that while reading this blog!
  • Use protection.  Install anti-virus software and keep it up to date.
  • Update your computer regularly.  Operating system updates can fix bugs that may be exploited by hackers.
  • Back up your computer regularly in case you need to reset or recover it.
  • Be cautious of third-party software or applications requesting access to programs or system info.  If it seems fishy it probably is.
  • Do not open unexpected e-mail attachments or attachments from unknown sources – especially any computer command files that could possible run a program (files ending in .exe, .com, .bat).
  • Do not click links in e-mails.  Especially avoid links for banking or other websites with personal data.  Use a link you have bookmarked or retype the website into the address bar.
  • Do not click on links in unexpected instant messages.
  • Do not open documents or run programs from unknown sources (i.e. file sharing sites, pirated software or media).

What do you do if your computer becomes infected with malware?

Although these tips will help prevent infections, nothing is completely foolproof.  If a virus or malware happens to slip into your system, come see us at Tech Armor.  We can have your computer cleaned up and running again in no time!

September 2014

Smartphone Quick Tips: Google Now

Do you ever wish you had a personal assistant? 

Someone to mark your appointments in your calendar, make sure you arrive at work on time, or remind you to grab AAA batteries for your TV remote next time you go to the store?

Google NowGoogle Now can do all of this and more.  Goggle Now works with any Android phone running version 4.1 or later.  If you phone does not already have it installed, just download the Google Search App (this app works on iPhones too!).  If your phone has Google Now built in just say “Okay, Google” and ask away.  If it is not built into the phone’s software, you will need to open the Google Search App first.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to speak like a robot for Google Now to understand you.  It responds to a more conversational tone and can even built on previous questions.  What does that mean?  Let’s say you ask Google “Who created Batman?”.  You can then follow that question with “When?” without the need to restate specifics.  Google automatically fills in the blanks changing your search from “When?” to “When was Batman Created?”.

Google Now does more than searches. Works in the background organizing information that is important to you.  It presents this info in “card” form.  Google Now personalizes “cards” for you with info on your interests, important calendar dates, reminders, weather, traffic updates for your daily commute, and more.  You can give Google hints as to what info you value by entering personal data such as your home and work addresses, favorite sports teams, schedule, etc… Or you can set Google Now to collect this data through your phone’s GPS and web history.Cards

On Android phones, Google Now uses GPS to learn your routine.  It recognizes frequented locations like work and home.  Once this info is gathered Google Now will create a card with the best route to work and provide navigation, traffic conditions, alternate routes, and let know when you need to leave to be on time.  It can even remember where you parked your car.  Google Now uses your phone’s accelerometer to recognize when you have changed from driving to walking and remembers the location.  If you frequently search for scores for your favorite sports teams, Google will recognize this and create cards with upcoming game dates and times, live game scores with a link to play-by-play, and the most recent game’s final score.

photo 3 (2)Other cards you may see:  Looking for info on public transit?  Google Now has a card that will show upcoming bus/train arrivals for the nearest stop/station. Create a card to update you on when online orders are shipped and delivered.  Use cards to help you keep track of friend’s birthdays.  Locations based cards can show you nearby events and attractions, as well as spots for great photo opportunities.  Do a Google search for a movie, TV show, or album and click “Get Updates” for notifications cards on the latest info and reminders on release dates.  Sync your Chrome browser history for update cards on your favorite website or blog.  Check your Google Now settings to turn on and off different types of cards.Card settings

But it is not just about the cards.  You can use Google Now to dictate texts and emails, get directions, hear your daily schedule, search the internet, open apps, set alarms, create reminders, and so much more.  Below are a few examples of what you can ask Google Now, feel free to adjust the portions in parentheses to fit your needs.   The best part, there are no rules on how you ask.  No phrasing formulas that need to be followed.  So experiment, see what Google Now has to offer.

  • Show me a video of (a dog in a Superman costume).
  • Show me pictures of (cute cats).
  • Define (octothorpe).
  • When does (Tech Armor) close?
  • What is the status of (Hawaiian Airlines) flight (123)?
  • What is the weather like tomorrow?
  • What is a good (sushi restaurant) near me?
  • Text (mom) “(Have you seen my math book?)”
  • Create new calendar event (BBQ) at (2pm Sunday).
  • Note to self “(Return library books)”.
  • Set an alarm for (30 minutes) from now, label (game time).
  • Remind me to (get my phone fixed) when I am at (Ala Moana Shopping Center).
  • Call (Tech Armor).
  • Navigate me to (Tech Armor).   [Google will search for addresses and phone numbers.]
  • Listen to (song/artist/album).
  • What is this song? [Google will listen to the song and search for the name/artist/album.]
  • Open (Pandora).
  • What is (8+4+5+10+9+4)?
August 2014

Repairs: Water Damage

Phone in the surfWe are in Hawaii, let’s face it, phones are going to get wet.  Whether from ocean water or pool water, the chance of a liquid damaged phone is pretty high.

What happens when you get you phone wet?

How do you keep it from happening? If it happens, how do you fix it?

The first step is prevention. If possible don’t even get your cell phone near water! Keep it away from the ocean or pool.  Take it out of your pocket before using the bathroom or doing laundry.  Keep it off of the kitchen sink.  Remember, not all liquid damage comes from submersion.  Rain, sweat, humidity or any exposure to moisture can cause damage.   So don’t have your phone in the bathroom while you take a hot shower – your phone will get the same treatment as that foggy mirror.  Keep it out of your pocket or waistband when exercising – try an armband.

Waterproofing

I know, I know.  It is hard to leave your phone behind.  Especially with the great cameras they have these days.  Can’t miss that beach selfie for Instagram.  So if you bring your phone near water, protect it!  Buy a waterproof pouch or case.  Or, worst case scenario use a zip-lock bag.  Just do something.  But remember, these methods are not fool proof.  Always test your waterproofing first.  Put a dry paper towel in the case, seal it, and drop it in water.  If the towel comes out dry it passes the test.  Also make sure you dry off a wet case before removing the phone.

Headphone Jack SealMost waterproof cases are intended to protect, not to make your phone SCUBA ready.  Be sure to read the instructions.  Check to see what the case is tested for and intended to do.  Make sure to seal all openings.  I have seen quite a few phones that were soaked while in waterproof cases because the seal was broken or the case was not properly closed.  Many cases are no longer waterproof after being dropped.  Impact can damage the seals.  So be sure to re-check the case if it suffers trauma.  And be sure to check that seal over the headphone jack on your Lifeproof case before you go jumping into any swimming pools.

What can you do in those unfortunate situations where your phone does get wet?

First turn it off and remove the battery if possible.  Remove any SIM or memory cards.  Water plus electricity can equal a short or fried parts.  If it was dropped in salt water rinse it in fresh water.  The salt can damage the electronic components.

eDryNext, dry it out.  Try a vacuum hose to suck out water.  Avoid heat (hair drier) which can damage electronics.  Put the phone in a sealed bag or container with dry, uncooked rice.  Wrap it in a paper towel to keep grains of rice out of ports.  Or use packets of silica gel (you know the “Do Not Eat” packets that come with your new shoes or purse).  Leave the phone here for at least 24 hours.  There are also products made specifically for drying out wet electronics.  At Tech Armor we carry the eDry Bags.

Next, only once the phone is dry (so check ports for any signs of moisture) power the phone on.  If the phone comes you, woo-hoo it worked.  If not it could be the battery, try turning it on plugged into the charger without the battery.  If it comes on, you need a new battery.  This is pretty common with water damage.  If not, come in to Tech Armor, it could be your screen or other parts.  We can check and replace any damaged parts for you.

Just remember, although your phone may be working there are no guarantees after liquid damage.  There may be corrosion in places that cannot be reached or minor damage that can worsen over time. We do what we can by cleaning the device and replacing damaged parts, but you may still see problems in the future.  I have seen water damaged phones last days and I have seen them last years.

What exactly happens on the inside of the phone when it gets wet?

Why does liquid damage it?

You have probably heard people talk about the water sensors in phones.  They are little white stickers that turn red when exposed to water.  A few can be seen without opening the phone, they are in places like the headphone jack or charging port.  Knowing which sensors were “tripped” can help you determine how deep into the phone the water reached.  More water equals more chance of damage.Water Sensor

Corrosion Collage

Like I mentioned earlier water + electricity = bad.  Water conducts electricity and any power running through a wet phone can cause electrical connections that were not meant to happen.  This can short circuit the device’s components causing malfunctions or damage.  The phone can also corrode or rust.  Corrosion is especially a risk with saltwater damage.  Corrosion eats away at the metal in the phone and prevents proper connections from being made.  If you notice any white, green, or orange dust in or around the ports, that is corrosion.  Any corrosion will need to be removed and cleaned off.

Now our “don’t try this at home” or “attempt at your own risk” section.  You can take the phone apart and attempt to remove the corrosion.  The best method I have found is using a toothbrush and Isopropyl alcohol with a minimum 70% alcohol concentration.  If you do attempt this make sure the phone is 100% dry before attempting to restart it.  But hey, if I were you I would just take it to Tech Armor.

So to recap, when it comes to water and phones:

  • Step 1 – avoid water
  • Step 2 – waterproof
  • Step 3 – power down and dry it out
  • Step 4 – Tech Armor
August 2014

iPhone Quick Tips: Guided Access and Restrictions

Do you want your child to be able to use an iPod, iPhone, or iPad

but you are concerned about what they might access?

Looking for a way to make your iPhone more kid friendly?

How can you be sure they are not accessing inappropriate content on their mobile devices?

How do you insure they only do what you have given them permission to do?

Kids on iPad

To all the parents out there, like most people these days you have a lot going on.  You want to keep your kids safe but cannot supervise their every move.  Technology is becoming a large part of children’s lives.  Kids use smartphones and tablets like they were born computer programmers, and internet access is everywhere.  But not everything that can be accessed is suitable for children.

Don’t worry, Apple has built into its operating system a couple great features that help you control your mobile device’s access levels.  Guided Access and Restrictions are two simple methods to create restrictions, disallow changes, and take a little more control of your device.

Want to let your kid play Angry Birds but you need to make sure they wont get into anything else?  I know from experience it is quite easy for tiny people to grab your phone and start pushing buttons.  The next thing you know your contacts are gone and you have been locked out of your phone by a 2 year old!

Guided Access OnGuided Access keeps the device on a single app and allows you to control which features are available.  First you will need to turn on the guided access feature.  Go to Settings>General>Accessibility>Guided Access.  Here you can enable the feature and chose whether or not to set a passcode.  Once the feature is enabled, open the app you want to use and triple-click the home button.  From here you can adjust the settings.  At the bottom of the screen you can choose to turn on or off the Sleep/Wake Button and Volume Buttons, turn on or off the touch screen function or motion function (to prevent the screen from rotating).

Guided AccessOnce you have chosen your settings, hit Start on the top-right corner of the screen.  The device is now in guided access mode.  The user will only have access to the current app and cannot leave using the home button.  Triple-clicking the home button again will bring you back to the settings menu where you can make modifications or End guided access.  If you chose to add a passcode you will need it to exit or modify settings.

This was always a favorite of mine to keep my toddler nephew from accidentally pausing his favorite Mickey Mouse show or leaving the app with the home button.  It is also a great way to keep a movie running on an iPad in the car, when little fingers get curious and you can’t take your eyes off the road.

Ok, Guided Access is great but limiting.  What can you when more access is required but you want to remain in control? 

Restrictions: Allow

For more precise and individualized control you can enable Restrictions.  Go to Settings>General>Restrictions.  You will be prompted to enter a passcode that will be required to enable, disable, or change the restrictions.  Restrictions are similar to parental controls.  Here you can allow or disallow access to various aspects and features of the device while retaining much of the functionality.

The Allow section lets you enable or disable access to specific apps and functions:  Safari, Camera, FaceTime, iTunes Store, Installing Apps, Deleting Apps, In-App Purchases, Siri, AirDrop, and CarPlay.  Practical application: Restrict downloads and purchases without having to keep an Apple ID password secret.

The Privacy section lets you decide whether or not to allow changes to specific services.  You can also choose which apps have access to those services.  Selecting “Don’t Allow Changes” will lock in the current settings and prevent future apps from access.  Practical application: Use a location app to track the phone while preventing the user from disabling locations services.Restrictions: Privacy

The Allowed Content section lets you filter content by what is age appropriate.  You can restrict music and podcasts with explicit content, select allowed movie and TV show ratings ranging from none to all, restrict apps base on age rating, or decide if Siri can perform web searches or accept explicit language.  You can also choose websites that can be accessed, either from a list of suggestions provided by Apple or by adding your own.

Restrictions: Allowed Content

Restrictions

The Allow Changes section lets you determine if changes can be made to Cellular Data Use, Background App Refresh, Volume Limit, and Account – which prevents adding, removing or modifying accounts under “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”.

The Game Center, lets you turn on or off multiplayer game function and the ability to add friends.

Although both Guided Access and Restrictions are great tools for parents, they are not just for kids.  

Guided Access can be used in a number of ways:  Keep your iPad locked on a document or slideshow during a meeting or presentation.  Lock in one app in a classroom setting.

Restrictions can also be useful to anyone.  If you are not the most technology savvy person and you are worried about accidentally making changes or deleting important information, set some Restrictions.  It is a great way to lock in settings or prevent accidental purchases.  Block “Cellular Data Use” and “Background App Refresh” to help avoid data overages.  Or if you are easily distracted like I am, lock yourself out of Facebook and the internet to remind yourself to stay on task!

August 2014

iPhone Quick Tips: Jailbreaking

Love your iPhone but wish you could personalize and customize?  

Should you jailbreak your iPhone? Maybe add a few features?

iphone chains

Let’s explore the what, why, and how of iPhone jailbreakingalong with the risks and rewards. 

 

 

What does it mean to “jailbreak” an iPhone?

Jailbreaking allows the user root access to the phone.  It allows for full control of the device’s operating system permitting the download and installation of apps, themes, tweaks, extensions and other files beyond those officially available through the App Store, whether unavailable or unauthorized.

So why would you want to jailbreak your phone?

Many reasons.  Some of the most common: customization or personalization, add new apps or games, free tethering, custom looks, sounds, gestures, button press, etc…  Some specific examples of available tweaks: Default to non-Safari browser for internet links.  Have map links open in Google Maps instead of Apple Maps.  Use any song as a ringtone.  Password protect and app or folder.  Hide unused stock apps.  Change your font.  Have video or slideshow wallpaper.  Use Wi-Fi only apps on cellular data.  The possibilities are endless!

Sounds amazing!  So what are the drawbacks?

There are many risks associated with bypassing Apple’s software restrictions.  The restrictions are not just in place to limit the user, they also protect the user.  Negative results range from minor to extreme.  You may jailbreak your phone and never have an issue, or you may encounter an issue that “bricks” your iPhone rendering it useless.  On the most basic level, the software has not been tested by Apple and may not be compatible with the device.  A software bypass may weaken the phone’s security, leaving it open to malware or viruses.  Unauthorized programs can cause battery drain, performance issues, glitches, and system instability.

Remember if you chose to jailbreak your iPhone, your warranty with Apple will be void, and any software updates will remove the jailbreak and any modifications or custom software.

So you have decided jailbreaking is for you.  Now how do you do it?

Head over to Tech Armor for a quick, easy jailbreak.  We will jailbreak the phone and install Cydia. What is Cydia?  As best described by the app itself:

Cydia app“Cydia is a software installer that helps you exercise the freedom of your jailbroken device – letting you install any kind of software you want, and helping you make your device even more useful and fun by customizing it to look and work the way you like it.  Most of the packages available through Cydia are not exactly “apps”.  Instead, they are a more flexible kind of software: tweaks (extensions and modifications) and themes for your existing apps, or for the whole experience of using your device.”

Once the Cydia software is installed, open the app and start to play.  Customize your phone’s look, change the settings, download new apps, add tweaks, and experiment to make your perfect device.

Don’t expect it to be as simple as using a non-jailbroken iPhone.  It does take a little time, energy, and computer savvy.  Downloading apps may require a computer and special software.  I found the easiest place to start was exploring the Cydia app and doing a simple Google search for tweaks and extensions.  Once you discover a tweak you want to try, just search for it through the Cydia app and install.  Although there are modifications available for free, there are many that cost a little money as well.  For example, average price for custom themes seemed to range from $0.99 to around $3.99.

So what did I do while exploring the jailbreak world?

First I changed my look.  I customized my lock screen and later added quick launch app shortcuts (CustomLS, JellyLock7).   Next, I added a theme called Benzene which I loaded using the Winterboard app.  I then added an extra column of apps on my home screen, giving me more apps per page (Five-Column SB).  I swapped my carrier name for a Superman icon (Zeppeline).  Customized my control center (FlipControl, CCMeter, CCloader).  Personalized my message app (Messages Customiser). Hid my battery icon (Bolt), and added lowercase letter display to my keyboard (ShowCase).  All with free apps and tweaks.  Thanks and a shout out to the developers for the free tweaks and modifications.My Tweaks

If you decide jailbreaking is for you,

head over to Tech Armor for our quick, easy jailbreaking service!

August 2014

Smartphone Quick Tips: The Unlock

Unlocked CellphoneTwo years ago the decision was made by the Library of Congress to make unlocking cellphones illegal without the service provider’s permission.  This week a bill was signed into law that will allow consumers to more easily swap cell phone providers without needing to buy a new device. Although the law may be only temporary as the Library of Congress has a vote next year that may result in the reinstatement of the ban, let’s celebrate a little more cell phone freedom while we can.

So in honor of the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act let’s talk about unlocking cellphones.

To begin, a little background on the jargon.  A “locked” phone has software installed by the service provider that restricts the phone to use on their network.  For example, and AT&T locked phone will not work with T-Mobile’s service.  There are however certain phones that can be “unlocked”, allowing the owner to switch between networks and service providers.

How can you tell if a phone is unlockable?

First it has to be a GSM or SIM card phone.  In the US there are two types of cellular networks: GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).  GSM is the standard network used worldwide.  In the US there are four major cell phone carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile run on GSM networks, while Sprint and Verizon run on CDMA networks.  OK, so what?  What does this mean to the average consumer?  Well, while GSM providers attach your phone number to a SIM card, CDMA providers attach your number to the device itself.  In terms of unlocking: GSM phones can be unlocked, CDMA phones cannot.  Why, you ask?  To break unlocking down to its simplest form: an unlocked phone allows you to use a SIM card from any network.  Since CDMA phones do not use SIM cards they cannot be unlocked.  So no SIM slot equals no unlock.

SIM cards

But wait, my Verizon or Sprint phone has a SIM card, and you said CDMA phones don’t use SIMs and cannot be unlocked.  While there are custom software programs, hacks, and other methods of bypassing locks on CDMA phones with SIM cards, these phones were not intended for use on local GSM frequencies.  The SIM card slots in CDMA phones are either meant to run LTE data or to allow the phone to run on global frequencies – making the phone what is often referred to as global capable or a world phone.

Network frequencies vary around the world.  If you do find a way to bypass a CDMA phone’s locking software, do not expect it to function to its full capacity.  For example, you may be able to make a call but you will not have data service.  For the most part Sprint phones cannot be unlocked for use on local GSM networks.  There are some newer Verizon devices out there that come unlocked, but again this is intended for global use and may not function properly or to its full capabilities on the GSM networks in the United States.  On the reverse side CDMA carriers like Sprint and Verizon do not use SIM cards for their service.  No SIMs means no CDMA service on a GSM phone.  While you may find a CDMA phone that also supports GSM connection, you will never be able to operate CDMA service on a GSM phone.  So unlocked or not an AT&T or T-Mobile phone will never work with Sprint or Verizon’s service.

So now that we have a little background on locked vs. unlocked phones, let’s talk about how the unlocking process works

While there are programs that unlock phones through software manipulation, the most common unlocking process results in what is called a “factory unlock”.  A phone that has been factory unlocked remains unlocked even if the phone’s software is updated, customized, or restored to default.  This process require obtaining an unlock code direct from the phone’s service provider.

At Tech Armor, we send a request to the carrier on behalf of the customer.  If it is possible for the phone to be unlocked, the carrier responds with an unlock code.  The new SIM card is inserted into the phone and when powered on the phone will request the unlock code.  Once the code is entered the phone will run with any installed SIM.  If the phone uses data the internet settings must be adjusted in order for the phone to connect to the internet.  The APN (Access Point Name) must be changed.  The APN identifies which network the device should access for data use.  Once these steps are complete the phone will be up and running on its new network.

So now that you know basic what, why, and how of cell phone unlocking,

remember to head over to the experts at Tech Armor

for all you unlocking needs.

July 2014

Smartphone Quick Tips: Buying Used Phones

cash and cell

Too often you hear about people buying a used phone only to find they are unable to use it.

 What a waste of time and money!

If you decide to buy a used phone follow these tips to keep yourself from being scammed.

Above all be cautious.

When buying online, find a well-known and reputable website.  There is a huge market for buying and selling cellphones online and there are many websites offering this service.  Do your research.  Make sure the site regulates what is sold.  Look for companies with a return policy.  Use websites that hold their sellers responsible for their products and how they are presented.  Stick to the big names if you are unsure, like Amazon and eBay.  One of my favorite sites is Swappa.com.  This site closely regulates how the phones are presented and sold, and only deals with clean devices that can be activated.

When using Craigslist, meet in a public place.  One of the best places to meet is at a cell phone store.  The store can check to make sure the device can be activated and help you do so.

One of the most important parts of buying a used phone is to insure you will be able to use the phone. 

So, what do you need to look for?

First, make sure it is compatible with your service provider.  For example you cannot use a Sprint phone with AT&T service.  Most cellphones are locked to a phone carrier/service provider.  Some phones can be unlocked to be used on different networks.  Phones that use the GSM network or SIM cards, such as AT&T and T-Mobile, can be unlocked to work with any SIM card.  [For questions about unlocking phones and help doing so come to Tech Armor, Hawaii’s Top Rated Cellphone Unlock and Repair Center.]

Next you need to make sure the phone has a clean ESN or IMEI.  I am sure you have seen the term “bad ESN” while shopping for used phones.  What exactly does this mean? Bad, Clean, Blacklisted?  Cellphone providers and law enforcement agencies have created a “Blacklist” to identify stolen device and keep them from being activated.  The hope is that if a stolen phone cannot be used, then phones will be less likely to be stolen.  When a phone has been reported lost or stolen the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) or ESN (Electronic Serial Number) is flagged.  These numbers are your mobile device’s unique identifier.  If that number is flagged in the system the phone cannot be activated.  There are several reasons a IMEI or ESN may be flagged: it has been reported missing or stolen, the service provider has blocked it due to outstanding balance on a phone bill, or the device is financed and the original owner is still responsible for payments.

How do you know if a phone’s ESN is clean?

First step, find the ESN.  You can do this in a few different ways.  Most phones are marked with it either on the phone itself or with a sticker.  For iPhone 4/4s you can find the IMEI on the SIM tray and iPhone 5/5c/5s on the back of the phone.  (You may want to double check these with another method as both parts can potentially be non-original.)  For non-iPhones check for a sticker under the battery.  If the battery is not removable, check for a sticker on the back of the device.

imei locations

You can also find this information in the phone’s software.  One quick, easy method to try – open the dialer and type *#06#, this will display the IMEI number.  Or you can check the phone’s settings.  On iPhone go to Settings > General > About and scroll down to IMEI.  On Android devices go to Settings > About Phone > Status and scroll down to IMEI.

So you have the phone’s IMEI, now what?

Now you need to make sure it is clean and ready to activate.  To do this you can check with the carrier by phone, website, or in person.  Also, many websites that buy and sell phones have ESN checkers.  Or you can head over to CheckESNfree.com.  Here you can check the IMEI against the USIMEI  Blacklist database.  If the results come back as blacklisted, blocked, or financed, don’t buy the phone, it cannot be activated.

checkesnfree

Here are a few other things you might want to check. 

If you are buying an iPhone check to make sure the phone does not have an Apple ID active on it and that Find My iPhone and iCloud are turned off.  Apple’s latest iOS uses the Apple ID, iCloud, and Find My iPhone to prevent access and activation by anyone other than the owner (for more details check out the Find My iPhone blog entry).  Trying to restore or activate the iPhone will cause it to become “activation locked“, rendering it useless without the original Apple ID and password.  If the phone belongs to the person selling it they should be able to remove this for you.  If they cannot, don’t buy.  It cannot be activated and you will find yourself the proud owner of a fancy, new iPhone shaped paperweight.

You should also check to make sure the phone is not passcode locked.  A safe thing to do is have the seller reset the phone with you.  This will prevent any unforeseen problems like software locks, passcodes, or spyware.

Above all, if anything seems shady or off about a potential buying situation, don’t buy!  Your gut instinct is probably right and it is not worth the time or hassle.  Possession of a blacklisted phone can get you in legal trouble even if you purchased it unknowingly.

Happy hunting and stop in to your neighborhood Tech Armor

to unlock your new phone or activate prepaid service.

July 2014

iPhone Quick Tips: Paid Apps for Free

app store iconOne common misconception about the iPhone is that you have to pay for most of the apps.  While many apps do have a price tag, there are legitimate ways to find paid apps for free.

Many developers will list their apps for free or discounted prices for  short period of time.  This helps them to get the word out on their app.  It encourages people to try the app and review it.  I know I like to see some reviews and comments about an app before I purchase it.  I also like to see that there are numerous reviews, giving it a balanced rating.

So how do you find these free apps?

  • There’s an app for that!  A few popular examples: Apps Gone Free, Appody: Free App Deal of the Day, and Free Game of the Day.  These, and others like them, monitor and report on paid apps that have temporarily gone free.Free app apps
  • Search the web and check out sites like App_Advice.com, AppPicker.com. and AppSaga.com.  Just like their app counterparts, these web sites monitor apps gone free and offer other insights: reviews, recommendations, sales, and promo codes.apppicker screenshot
  • Next time you visit Starbucks, check the counter for the “Pick of the Week”.  Every week they offer a new free app or download code card.starbucks pick of the week
  • Check out the App Store.  It features the “App of the Week” on their main page, spotlighting a paid app that has gone free for the week.app of the week
  • Or just browse the App Store under the category of your choosing.  The temporarily free apps show up in the “Top Charts” as everyone rushes to download them.

But above all, remember to thank the developers for the free app

with a review or some constructive feedback.

July 2014

Smartphone Quick Tips: Data Usage


How much data do you 
need? and How to Avoid Overages 

These days almost every smartphone plan has a data usage limit or usage speed-cap.  Going over your data limit can mean overage charges, snail-paced data speeds, or loss of service, depending on your mobile plan.

frustrated_cellphone

Here are a few quick tips on understanding, monitoring, and managing your cellular data use.

Understanding Data Usage

200MB, 1 GB, Unlimited 4G speeds up to 2 GB – What does it all mean?  Measuring minutes spent on the phone or text sent and received is one thing; but data usage is an abstract and confusing concept for most.  Let’s break it down in to a little simpler terms.

First, 1GB (gigabyte) = 1024 MB (megabytes) and 1 MB = 1024 KB (kilobytes)

Here are a few estimates of 1 GB of smartphone data use:

          11,000 set/received emails

          33 hours of music streaming

          66 hours of web browsing or 1000 web pages viewed

          2800 social media posts with pictures

          8 hours of SD video streaming (standard definition)

          3 hours of HD video streaming (high definition)

Remember to consider all usage when determining how much data you need.  Your usage is a total of all online cellular activity; email, internet browsing, streaming music and video, games, social media, etc.

So now that you know how data usage is measured, how do you keep track of personal usage?

Monitoring Data Usage

iPhone users: Tap on Settings and then Cellular.  This will give you a breakdown of your data usage by app.  It will even allow you to dictate which apps have permission to run on cellular data.  You can also Reset Statistics and see the last reset data.  Tap System Services for more usage information.  When downloading apps, their size is visible under details and information.

iPhone data usage

Android users:  Go to your Settings Menu and tap on Data Usage.  This will show your usage and allow you to set a data limit.  Once your limit is reached, cellular data will shut off, helping you avoid overages. There are also free apps available that monitor data usage.  A few popular free Android apps are 3G Watch Dogs, Data Usage Defender, My Data Manager (also on iPhone) and Onavo Count – Data Usage (also on iPhone).

android data usage

Windows Phone users: Go to your App List and tap on Data Sense.  Here you can see detailed data usage and set limits.  You can even set certain tasks to operate only over a Wi-Fi connection.  Pin the app to your start menu for live tile updates and monitoring.

windows data usage

Here are a few tips to avoid data overages and overage charges.

Managing Data Usage

Top data hogs to avoid:

  • Streaming video: i.e. Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, YouTube, Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, Video Chat…
  • Streaming music: i.e. Pandora, Spotify, I Heart Radio…
  • Location based services: i.e. map apps, Google Maps, navigation apps, GPS tracking services and apps…
  • Games: i.e. online games, graphic heavy games, multiplayer games, free games with pop-up ads…
  • Picture and video posts: i.e. uploading media to YouTube, Instagram, Facebook…

Save downloads and uploads for when you are connected to Wi-Fi.  Wait to download apps, music, or videos and to upload videos and pictures.

Keep an eye on apps that show data usage in MB or GB.  These use the most data.  For the most part apps measuring usage in KB will not be the source of overages.

When setting up a mobile plan, start with a larger data limit.  Monitor your usage and adjust the plan if you find you are consistently below you data limit.

July 2014

iOS 7 Quick Tips: Find My iPhone

Have you ever misplaced your iPhone?

Did you suspect it had been lost or even stolen? 

Have no fear “Find My iPhone” can help you track down your missing device. 

(Also works for iPod Touch, iPad, and Macs with iCloud.)

So, you need to make a phone call and suddenly realize your phone is missing.  What should you do?  Well, luckily you have iCloud and Find My iPhone set up on your phone.  You read the earlier blog on auto backup and setup iCloud and while you were there you turned on you “Find My iPhone”  feature. You are prepared.  So now what? Don’t worry there are a lot of great people out there who want to get your phone back to you.  Gotta get that positive lost phone Karma saved up, right?

Step 1: Go to icloud.com/find on your computer or login to the Find My iPhone app on your mobile device.  Once you are logged on you will see a list of your devices along with their current position on a map

find my iphonefind my iphone map

  Step 2: You notice that your phone is at your location.  Hit the “Play Sound” button so your phone will reveal its hiding spot. [Skip to Step 6]

play sound button

OR You notice your phone is not where you are and you hit the Lost Mode button.lost mode button

Step 3: Turn on Lost Mode and follow the few easy steps.  Here you can enter a contact number and short message for anyone who finds your phone.  Your phone is now locked and shows your custom message.  When it is found a simple push of the “call” button will help the finder reunite you with your phone.  [Skip to Step 6]

lock mode step 1 Found Phone

Let’s say no one finds your phone.

Step 4:  In Lost Mode your phone is locked down and Find My iPhone will track its location over a 24 hour period.  If the phone is off or disconnected from the internet you will see its last known location.  If you want to retrieve it you can tap on the car icon for map directions to this current location.  [Skip to Step 6]car button

But what if you fear the worst?  -  that your phone has fallen into the hands of an evil super villain with nefarious intentions.  No problem  proceed to

Step 5: Push the “Erase iPhone” button to remote wipe your device.  Your information is now cleared from the phone and your secret identity is once again safe.

erase iphone button To top it all off your phone can not be reactivated without your consent.  iOS 7 implemented an “Activation Lock” feature.  What does that mean?  For your protection you phone cannot be reset, Find My iPhone cannot be turned off, and if erased the phone cannot be reactivated without your Apple ID and password.  So the super villain has been thwarted twice! Not only is your info gone, but he can’t even use the phone.   And if you were hasty and wiped the phone unnecessarily don’t worry, it will continue to show your Lost Mode message.  So it can still find its way back to you.activation lock

Step 6:  Once you have your phone back enter your passcode to deactivate Lost Mode.  If the phone was erased, login to your Apple ID and restore from iCloud (remember you set up auto backup when you created you icloud account).

Finally,

Step 7:  Return to your normal everyday life and try to keep better track of your phone.

  • Remember, above all, please be safe.  If you suspect your phone has been stolen, DO NOT confront the person who has it.  Call the police and provide them with the location of the phone.
June 2014

Smartphone Quick Tips: Auto Backup

 Have you ever broken a phone, gotten it wet, lost it, locked yourself out or had to factory restore your phone and you lost everything on it?  Did you lose your photos, the vacation pictures, family moments, and once-in-a-lifetime shots?  Here are a few simple ways to insure you never lose your pictures again.

There are many apps and programs out there designed to backup your mobile devices, but the simplest method is built right into your phone’s software.  Did you know most smart phones and mobile devices have a built-in backup system?

Here are the quick and easy steps to configuring your phone’s automatic backup:

iPhone userssign-up for and login to iCloud and turn on Photo Stream.  Photo Stream will store up to 1000 pictures for 30 days, allowing you to access them from the web, or other iOS devices.  You can even set your computer to automatically download photos from photo stream.Photo Stream Backup

Set up: Go to your Settings.  Select iCloud. Login or sign up with your Apple ID. 

Select Photos and turn on My Photo Stream.

 Android userssign-up for and login to Google+.  Google+ gives you 15GB of free storage for photos, videos, and documents – any photos under 2048×2048 pixels and videos under 15 minutes don’t even count against your storage limit.  Google+ is available on the computer, web, iOS, and Android devices.

Google+ Backup

Set up: Open your Google Photos app.  Tap the menu icon. 

Select Settings followed by Auto Backup.  Check Back up local folders.

Windows Phone userssign-up for and login to any Microsoft account for access to OneDrive (formally SkyDrive).  OneDrive gives you 15GB of free storage for photos, videos, and documents.  OneDrive is available through desktop apps, the web, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Xbox.

OneDrive Backup

Set up: Go to your Photo app.  Tap for Settings

Turn on Auto Upload and select OneDrive.

  • Remember, backing up or uploading photos uses data.  So, if you have a limited data plan you may want to choose an upload/backup over wi-fi only option if possible. 
  • Many popular could storage programs give you a free storage limit.  If you need more storage you can upgrade for a monthly or yearly fee.
June 2014

Smartphone Quick Tips: Battery Life

Want to get the most out of your cellphone battery?  

Want to extend your battery’s lifespan?  

Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts to help you maintain a healthy battery.

 (This advice also applies to tablets and other mobile devices with lithium-ion batteries.)

Battery Percentage

DO use the charger that came with your device  These chargers are specifically designed for your phone.  They provide the proper voltage and many even cut off the charge once your battery is full. 

DO charge your battery when it gets below 50%, and optimally no lower than 20%.  Charging from 0% stresses your battery and reduces its lifespan.  Optimal battery range is 40% to 80%.

DO unplug your battery when it reaches 100% or even right before to avoid overcharging.

DO charge your battery in airplane mode for the fastest charge.   

DO store unused devices with 50% battery life.  This will keep the battery ready for when you use the device again. 

DO relax, the average lithium-ion battery has a lifespan of 3 to 5 years.  Doing a don’t once or twice wont kill your battery.

                                      DON’T use cheap chargers.  It’s true that you get what you pay for.  Many cheap chargers have unregulated voltage and can pump too much electricity into your battery, damaging it. 

DON’T let your battery die completely.  Every complete discharge shortens your battery life. a once-a-month complete discharge helps calibrate the battery’s memory, but anymore often can shorten the lifespan.

DON’T leave device plugged in overnight or for extended periods of time.

DON’T let your device get too hot or cold.    Extreme temperatures can damage the battery, decreasing its lifespan.

DON’T leave your battery at 0%.  Leaving   a battery completely dead for and extended period can render it unable to hold a charge.

DON’T use your phone while it is charging.  This can put stress on the battery as well as cause the battery to overhead.

And remember, if your battery fails you DON’T panic and

DO head over to Tech Armor where we can replace your battery in no time!

 

 
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