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Smartphone Tips: Customizable Settings, Security Features & More (Part 1)

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Add a website to your home screen

If you regularly visit your company web­site or have any other sites that you visit often, BlackBerry's OS gives you the option of adding an icon to your Home screen for quicker access. In your smartphone's browser, type a website URL into the ad­dress bar and wait until the site loads. Press the BlackBerry Menu key until a list of sug­gestions pops up and then select Add To Home Screen. Here you'll have the oppor­tunity to change the name of the shortcut and decide where you want the icon to appear. Give the shortcut a brief and easily recognizable name for quicker reference. Click Add and the website shortcut should show up on your home screen.

BlackBerry's OS gives you the option of adding an icon to your Home screen for quicker access

BlackBerry's OS gives you the option of adding an icon to your Home screen for quicker access

Adjust your backlight settings

It's tempting to turn your BlackBerry backlight up as high as it will go and leave it there, but doing so can drain the battery life of your mo­bile device and limit the amount of time you'll actually be able to use it. Some smartphones have a dimming function that automatically senses the amount of light in a given environment and then adjusts bright­ness accordingly. But if you prefer to change the settings manually, the BlackBerry OS includes an easy-to-use tool for that purpose.

Find your Options icon, usually on the home screen unless you placed it in a folder, and select it. Click Display and then Screen Display. This menu has a variety of options related to your smartphone's display, including a few backlight options. To dim or brighten your backlight, adjust the Backlight Brightness level. To adjust the amount of time your backlight stays on, change the Backlight Timeout field. Make sure that after you make the appropriate adjustments, you click the BlackBerry Menu key and save your changes. You can go back to this menu at any time to adjust backlight settings to fit your specific situation and help boost your battery life in the process.

Android

Set up face unlock

People often store sensitive infor­mation on their smartphones and these devices are also gateways to email messages, internal company data, and more. It's important to put as many security measures in place as possible to prevent unwanted access to your smartphone and protect that sensitive data. Android offers a variety of security options, including simple passcodes, but the recent Android 4.1 (aka Jelly Bean) update provides a new security fea­ture called Face Unlock that uses fa­cial recognition software to allow or deny access to your Android device.

Go to the Settings menu on your smartphone and then select Personal, Security, and Screen Lock. From this menu, you can choose which type of lock you'd prefer, including the aforementioned password option or a swipe to un­lock option. Choose Face Unlock and follow the steps to add your facial information into the lock's system. You can also adjust the face matching capabilities from the Security menu to make Face Unlock as accurate as possible. Note that even with such a security measure in place, it's important to remember you shouldn't store sensitive data on your phone if at all possible.

Face Unlock is a new screen-lock option that lets you unlock your device with your face

Face Unlock is a new screen-lock option that lets you unlock your device with your face

Turn location tracking on/off

By default, there are a few applications that track and record your loca­tion data. And while many of them request permission from the outset, you may decide at a later date that you want to turn this feature off. On your Android device, go to Menu, Settings, Privacy And Accounts, and Manage Location Settings. From this menu, you can turn off the location settings of Google Maps and also turn off location reporting to prevent your data from being sent to (and stored by) the company. But if had location services turned on, that means there is still some data stored on Google's servers. You can go to the Google Latitude history page (www.google.com/latitude/b/0/history/dashboard) on your computer to delete your location history and also disable the further collection of location data.

Check battery level & optimize battery life

For most smartphones, the default battery indicator doesn't provide much more information than a general idea of how much power remains. But for those who would like to see a little more data or even analyze just how much battery life individual applications are eating up, Android provides a way. Go to Settings, Device, and then Battery. This menu will not only show you how much battery you currently have left, but also the amount of battery life each app is taking. This information should give you a solid foundation for where to cut down on power hogging apps.

For instance, if you leave your Bluetooth or GPS features turned on 100% of the time, it's going to drain your battery much faster than if you only turn them on when you need them. You should also consider con­necting to a Wi-Fi network when possible, but not leaving the feature turned on when you're out of Wi-Fi range. Make sure you don't leave apps running unnecessarily in the background and try dimming the brightness of your display. All of these small changes can often lead up to big improvements in overall battery life.

Manage VPN network access

VPN networks are great for allowing mobile users to access internal com­pany resources safely and securely and Android makes it easy to set up and manage VPN access. Go to Settings, Wireless & Networks, More, and VPN. This will be the main menu for managing your VPN network access. You can add a VPN network from here; connect to or disconnect from a VPN net­work, as well as check the status of the connection; edit the VPN if your IT department updates or changes the network information; and delete a VPN if you no longer need access to it. Keep in mind that it's a good idea to have an IT administrator help you set up the VPN initially to make sure it is secure and working correctly.

iOS

Turn off access to private information

You can turn off location services for specific apps on your iPhone by going to Settings, Privacy, and Location Services. With iOS you can also turn off application access to personal information. Press the Settings icon and go to Privacy. You'll see a list of applications that have access to your personal data. You can choose to turn off each app's access to your information. Depending on the amount of infor­mation an app is accessing, you may want to consider deleting it entirely.

The iPhone has many security and privacy settings to be aware of and this Privacy menu, specifically, lets you see what types of informa¬tion apps have access to and then gives you the option to limit or completely deny access.

The iPhone has many security and privacy settings to be aware of and this Privacy menu, specifically, lets you see what types of informa­tion apps have access to and then gives you the option to limit or completely deny access.

Use your iPhone as a mobile hotspot

If the office-wide Internet goes down suddenly and you need a quick con­nection, or you simply want to connect multiple devices to the Internet when you're away from a Wi-Fi network, it may be beneficial to know that you can turn your iPhone into a mobile hotspot. For most carriers, you'll need to invest in an additional data plan that allows mobile hotspots, but if you have that plan in place, then providing Internet access to multiple devices is relatively simple.

Tap the Settings icon and then select General, Cellular, and Personal Hotspot. From here, you'll need to set up the service and turn the feature on. After the hotspot is initiated, other devices can find your iPhone as a Wi-Fi network and con­nect to it; you can attach your iPhone to your computer via USB for access, or you can pair phones using Bluetooth and gain Internet access that way. It's also a good idea to set up a password for the hotspot, so go to Settings, Personal Hotspot, and Wi-Fi Password to do so.

Customize the do not disturb feature

The newest iOS update added quite a few new features to the iPhone, but one feature that wasn't widely spotlighted is Do Not Disturb. This feature not only prevents calls from coming through, it also stops all notifications except for alarms. Tap the Settings icon and look for the Do Not Disturb setting. You can switch the setting on or off from here, but there are additional features housed deeper in the menus that let you customize your Do Not Disturb options.

Go to Settings, Notifications, and Do Not Disturb. From here you can change the default settings to meet your specific needs. You can set Do Not Disturb to au­tomatically turn on during a certain time period. So, for instance, if you eat dinner with your family from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. every evening, you can make sure your meal won't be interrupted. You can also set it so that certain numbers ring through. Just add a few numbers to your Favorites list, go the Do Not Disturb settings menu, and select Allow Calls From. And if you're worried about emergency situations, you can choose to Turn On Repeated Calls to make sure determined callers get through.

Set up your Microsoft exchange account

If you just bought a new iPhone or want to use your personal smartphone for business, one of the first things you'll want to do is add access to your Microsoft Exchange account, which is very simple to do. Press the Settings icon on your home screen and then select Mail, Contacts, Calendars. From here you can choose to set up your Microsoft Exchange account as well as accounts associated with a variety of other email services, including Gmail and Hotmail. There's a good chance you'll need to speak to your IT department or network administrator to get all of the infor­mation you need, but once everything is set up, you'll be able to use your Microsoft Exchange account to check, send, and receive messages.

Windows Phone

Windows Phone 8 features customizable tiles, so you can change the size and configuration of Live Tiles based on your personal preference. Most tiles have three different size options ranging from small to large.

Windows Phone 8 features customizable tiles, so you can change the size and configuration of Live Tiles based on your personal preference. Most tiles have three different size options ranging from small to large.

Set up find my phone

Whether your Windows Phone 8 smartphone falls between the seat cushions at home or gets lost or stolen while you're in an airport, the newest version of the OS includes a Find My Phone feature that has you covered. Rather than set this service up on your phone, you must visit www.windowsphone.com, create an ac­count (if you don't already have one), and then follow the steps to activate the service.

When you visit the website, click the phone icon in the upper right corner, and select Find My Phone. After you ac­tivate the service, this is the same place you can go to make remote changes to your device. You can map your phone's lo­cation, lock the phone and show a message on the lock screen, or completely erase the data from your phone if you believe the phone has become permanently lost or stolen. Regardless of how careful you are with your Windows Phone 8 device, it's a good idea to set up Find My Phone just in case.

Resize live tiles

With Windows Phone 8, as with the previous Windows Phone 7 Mango update, you get Microsoft's Live Tiles, which are customizable. Windows Phone 8 now gives you three sizing options for each tile. All you have to do is press a tile and hold it for a moment. From here, you will have two op­tions; you can either resize the tile or unpin it from the home screen. Also, similar as in iOS and Android, you can reposition tiles in whatever configuration you prefer. And perhaps the most interesting feature of resizable tiles is that the rest of the tiles on the Home screen will automatically expand or contract based on the changes you make to fill the screen properly.

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