Category: Smartphones

5G Is Not the Same as 5G

Tech jargon is confusing enough as it is. But then some geniuses had to go and name two completely different technologies the same thing. Not helpful….

I’m referring to the label “5G”, which can be used regarding your home Wi-Fi or with cellphones. I continue to find that people conflate the two technologies when they have absolutely nothing to do with each other! So I’m going to try and clear this up:

5G Stands for Fifth Generation

When talking about telecommunications, 5G refers to the latest technology that makes your cellphones work. Right now, the fifth generation (5G) of technology is being rolled out in our country. The fourth generation (4G) is the existing cellular communications technology used in much of the country, and 3G & 2G technology is on its way out. The old 3rd gen and 2nd gen antennae and other hardware is being decommissioned and dismantled to make way for the new hotness that is 5G.

5G Stands for 5 Gigahertz (GHz)

By now, most households have Wi-Fi to spread your internet connection around to laptops, tablets and smartphones. And many of you may notice that your Wi-Fi router offers two network names, one that may end in “-5G”. This is merely to distinguish the two bands of frequency emanating from your device. Those two bands are 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, the latter can be referred to as the “5G band.” If you want to read more on Wi-Fi frequency bands, this site has you covered.

Back Tap on Smartphones

iPhones

Most iPhones have a largely unknown feature called Back Tap. If you turn on this special ability, Back Tap will let you trigger an app or function when you tap the back of your iPhone. Back Tap can open Settings, or the Facebook app, or your Camera, whatever you yoke it to.

It’s like you have an invisible button back there that can do anything! Back Tap can be setup on any iPhone 8 and up that is running iOS 14 or newer. For detailed steps, check out these articles for how to set yours up.

First-time users of Back Tap are recommended to keep an eye on it for the first week or so, in case of accidental triggers. If you notice any misfires with Back Tap, you can modify the settings (Double or Triple Tap) or turn it off.

Android Phones

This feature is called Quick Tap on Android phones, but is not widely available yet. So far, it’s showing up only on select Google Pixel phones. Other manufacturers are slow to incorporate this into their phones, but you can always check your phone for this feature under: Settings -> System -> Gestures. If your phone supports Quick Tap, it will be at the top of the Gestures options list.

A warning: internet searches for “Android Quick Tap” will quickly reveal a workaround app called Tap Tap. BlueScreen Computer does not recommend this app. It does not come from the Google Play Store. It has not been vetted by Google. Installing Tap Tap requires you to hamstring & bypass your phone’s security. Please don’t risk it! If your Android phone doesn’t offer Quick Tap, you’re better off waiting to get it on a future phone.

Creating QR Codes

Once you see how easy it is to use QR codes, you may want to make your own. Good news! There are plenty of sites where you can make your own QR code for free, and download/save/print it immediately:

QR Code Generator

QR Code Monkey

My WiFi Sign

Explore these sites and learn all the possibilities for QR codes. You can make a WiFi poster for your coffeeshop. A graphic for your business card that links to your FB Page. A sign that connects your clients to your online menu.

And if you just need a quick QR code for a website, just load it in Chrome. Click the Share icon at the end of the address bar, and then choose QR Code. Google will give you a QR code on the spot!

Contactless Payments

You’ve probably seen people paying with their phones or watches, instead of using cards or cash. This type of payment is called a “contactless payment”. But despite the boring name, this is a great convenience and security upgrade that I think more people should try.

The Basics

To make a contactless payment, you generally need a smartphone that features NFC. (Smartwatches and tablets may also allow for this!) On your phone, you’ll need to choose and install your contactless payment app. You have 3 choices:

Once you’ve chosen and installed your app, you’ll need to add at least one of your payment card’s info. Many cards are accepted into these apps, but there are some exceptions. If you find your credit card isn’t compatible with contactless payment apps, you can use a different card or talk to the card issuer for other options.

With a card accepted into your Pay app, you are ready to use it at any stores offering contactless payments. Keep an eye out for the universal symbol on storefront doors, windows and payment terminals to know where contactless payments are accepted.

The Security Benefit

I understand that some folks dismiss contactless payments as just a convenience item. “I don’t mind taking a card out of my pocket to pay!” is a common remark. But these Contactless Payments apps protect your account information in a significant way.

When you enroll a payment card into one of these Pay apps, your account number is not stored on your phone. The app builds a secure relationship with your bank, and every time you wave your phone at a reader to make a payment, a unique account number is created for that purchase only. That one-time number makes the transaction go through, and then can never be used again.

The benefit to this is that your true card number is never out in the wild. Criminals have all kinds of tactics for learning your card information, so they can place fraudulent charges. Contactless payment apps defeat a lot of them:

  • If you use Android Pay at a compromised gas pump, the hidden credit card skimmer captures a useless number from you.
  • Let’s say you use Apple Pay at the grocery store, and their servers are hacked the following week. The criminals may get other people’s credit card information, but not yours.
  • If you’re on public Wi-Fi and need to buy something over the internet, using Google Pay or Apple Pay (through your computer) would prevent your true card number from being seen in transmission.

It is true that bank cards in your wallet could still be skimmed and stolen, wirelessly. To help prevent that, I can recommend you also use a RFID-blocking wallet. You can find them as low as $20 on Amazon!

Some Cautions

If you use Contactless Payments, you’ll have to have a screen-lock on your phone. Because otherwise, someone could steal your phone and start buying things with it! As you set up a contactless payment app, it will check and tell you if your phone’s security needs to be improved.

Contactless Payments are not universally accepted (yet). Some stores may not accept them, because it requires newer card-reading equipment, or because it would increase their card-processing fees. But over time, this technology should become more and more widely adopted. Just keep an eye out for the payment symbols:

Preserving a Voicemail Message

Let’s say you have a special voicemail message. Maybe it’s critical to a lawsuit you’re involved with. Or perhaps it’s a precious memory from a long-lost friend. If it’s important to you, then it needs to be protected! Don’t take your voicemail for granted, as it can be deleted or lost, like computer data.

If you have a valuable voicemail on your smartphone, please know that you can copy it to other locations, and then back it up. Here are some possibilities:

iPhone users: Tap on a voicemail, and then look for the Share button (looks like a box with an arrow pointing out of it). Tap that Share button to find a wealth of options. You should be able to copy the voicemail to Notes, Voice memos, or even attach it to an email message.

Android users: Tap on a voicemail and look down low for a Send To… option. Tap this to reveal choices for saving the recording to Google Drive, attaching it to a text message or sending it along in an email.

If you don’t see a Send To… option on your Android device, play the voicemail all the way through to the end, and then check again. If your phone still doesn’t offer that option, tap or tap-and-hold on the voicemail and look for pop-up options like Save or Save to Phone.

My preference is to email the audio message as an attachment. Creating an email is an easily-saved item, but also, the attachment is usually a universal MP3 file, which can later be downloaded, saved to a computer, backed up to another drive or shared with any other computer user.

Safeguarding a voicemail sent to a landline is a different ball of wax. Every telephone company is different from the next. Comcast, for example, allows for voicemail web access if you are an Xfinity Voice customer, and you can download/save voicemail files from their website. Shentel, on the other hand, offers no voicemail backup tools. If this becomes important to you, contact your specific provider to ask what is possible with their phone service. Or consider making a re-recording using another device, as described in this article.

Prevent an App from Using Background Data

Recently, I got a warning from my cellphone provider that I’d crossed a data usage threshold. My smartphone had consumed almost 2GB of data in a single day. This was exceptional for me, so I did the detective work to figure out what happened.

As it turns out, the Amazon Shopping app was the culprit. It consumed a copious amount of data, during a time when I was outside of my home and away from Wi-Fi. I had not opened the app that day! Since I do not have unlimited data on my cellular plan, this was a concern to me. (Google Fi typically charges $10/GB.)

Amazon Support failed to support me in this matter. Repeated attempts to reach qualified support were fruitless. While they compensated me for the mistake, it was more important that I make sure the app didn’t devour data like this again!

The solution was this: I needed to prevent the app from using Background Data. This would allow the app to continue to function, but only when it was open and in the foreground.

If an app is closed or minimized or left behind for another app, it is considered to be “running in the background.” So in case you ever have a problem with an app using too much data when you are not using it, here’s what to do:

Android users would go to Settings -> Apps & Notifications -> See All Apps. Tap the data-hungry app, then tap Mobile Data & Wi-Fi. Use the slider to turn off “Background Data”.

Apple users would go to Settings -> General -> Background App Refresh. Once there, you can turn off background usage for any app, or ALL apps.

If your cellular plan allows for unlimited data, then this tip may not be a money-saver for you. Except that data-hungry apps may also deplete your phone’s battery faster! So if you ever take background data away from a greedy app, you may also notice your phone stays powered for longer.

Wet Electronics & The Rice Myth

When your phone gets wet, many people immediately rush to get a bag of rice. Please don’t do this. Resting a soaked phone among dry grains of rice does very little to draw out moisture. And it can encourage starch to get up inside your device, worsening its condition.

I know this may hard to swallow. The Rice Myth has been passed along for many years now, and by well-respected tech publications, but it doesn’t hold up with pragmatic technicians. Look into the history of the myth and check out how some people have run tests with dunked phones and you may gain some new perspective.

What should you do or not do, if you’ve had a water-emergency with your phone?

  • Do NOT power on the device. Do NOT connect the phone to its power cable.
  • Turn the phone off and keep it off.
  • Remove the battery (if possible).
  • Do NOT heat the device. Do NOT put the device in the freezer.
  • Do NOT shake the device.
  • Gently wipe or blot away excess water.

OK, so what next? I see two ways forward:

  1. You can pack your cellphone in a bag with desiccant packets. Or park your device next to a dehumidifier. And wait. After some days, you can take your chances at a power-on. But if moisture remains trapped in the tight confines of the phone chassis, it may short out and die anyway. Your main tool here is Hope, and she is just as fickle as her sister, Luck.
  2. Call a company that specializes in saving wet technology. If you choose this option, waste no time in calling them, as they say that internal corrosion may set in quickly. Depending on your brand of device, your preferences and service availability, consider contacting:

Companies like those listed above really know what they’re doing with wet devices. They may use vacuum & heating techniques to wick away water, or they may displace the H²O with alcohol solutions, after disassembling the device. Your chances with one of their methods are much better than a home-remedy. And many of them offer a No-Charge-Unless-It’s-Fixed policy!

Lastly, please know that cellphones have hidden sensors that show if they’ve gotten wet. And most warranties are void once the wetness sensor has been tripped. So don’t make a warranty claim on a cellphone that went swimming. They’ll call you on it, and leave you wishing you’d been honest about it.

Locate Your Device

If your smartphone or tablet is lost or stolen, you should know how to locate it. Android and Apple devices have tracking tools, built-in to their accounts and devices, and they are free for all to use.

The Tools

On a computer, open your browser and use the appropriate website for your type of phone:

Android (Google) phones: www.google.com/android/find
(Apple) iPhones: www.icloud.com/find

If you are using a different mobile device, download and/or open the appropriate app:

Google’s Find My Device app
Apple’s Find My app

The Details

With either type of locator tool, you’ll need to sign in to the account associated with the missing device, and once you do, you’ll see a wealth of options:

  • Locate your device(s) on a GPS-style map (or its last-known location before it was powered off).
  • Cause your device to make a loud sound. Your ringtone will play at full-volume, even if you have your phone set to Do Not Disturb!
  • Lock/erase your device.

Whether your phone has been stolen, left at the grocery or just hidden between the couch cushions, I hope you can appreciate these tools’ usefulness. I recommend you try them out now to get familiar with them, as well as bookmark the site you use, so you can quickly return to it when needed.

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