Your cell phone is packed with computer power, apps, and many other settings that help optimize its performance and manage permissions. What your phone offers likely goes beyond your everyday needs, but there are a handful of settings that, if used properly, could save you money, improve your phone’s function, increase your privacy, and even save your life. Here’s how to turn them on for both Android and Apple smartphones:
1. Stop web tracking
Many websites and cell phone apps can identify users and their preferences and collect information about them, including location data and buying habits. You can limit or stop this tracking by following these steps in your phone settings:
It’s not enough to turn off Location History in your settings. While that prevents Google from visualizing your daily travels, it doesn’t stop the company from collecting other information. To completely turn off web tracking, you need to change a setting called “Web & App Activity.”
Go to Settings > Google account > Data & Personalization tab > Web & App Activity. Toggle it to “off.” You can also scroll down to be sure that Location History is turned off in the same place.
If you access a browser on your phone, you may be opening yourself up to advertisers that can track your activity across multiple websites. The latest version of Safari for iOS 11 lets you prevent this kind of activity. To enable this feature, go to Settings > Safari > Prevent Cross-Site Tracking. Toggle to the “on” option. You will also see “Block Pop-ups” and “Ask Websites Not to Track Me”. Toggle both to “on.”
Some apps, such as ride-sharing or map-based ones, need to know your location — but not when they’re not in use. Change your settings so that these apps access your location only when required. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Select each app and change the setting from “Always” to “While Using the App.”
2. Optimize WiFi use
When you’re out and about, your phone constantly searches for a WiFi signal, and unless you take advantage of a trusted network, such as one of Xfinity’s WiFi hotspots, it will slowly drain the battery. It could also log you into an unsecure WiFi signal you’ve used before but wished you hadn’t. So how can you optimize your WiFi use to ensure you are only logging onto networks you trust? You have a couple of options:
Android 8.0 Oreo can automatically turn your phone’s WiFi on when you’re near a trusted signal. To do this, go to Settings > Network & Internet > WiFi > WiFi Preferences > Turn on WiFi Automatically. Toggle to “on.”
Is it worth the aggravation and battery-drain to connect to a weak WiFi signal? Use this trick to avoid networks that are slow and less reliable than your phone’s data connection. Go to Settings > Cellular > WiFi Assist. Toggle to “on.” This setting works best if you have a decent LTE connection and a plan that can handle the extra data usage.
3. Reduce data usage
Speaking of data usage, you can change your phone’s settings to prevent apps from hogging too much data — and maybe even save some money on your phone bill along the way.
The Data Saver mode in Android phones prevents apps from getting background data from the cellular network and only allows them to get it from WiFi. To switch it on, open Settings > Network & Internet > Data Usage > Data Saver. Toggle to “on.” When it’s on, you’ll see the Data Saver icon in the status bar and a notification will appear at the top of Settings.
There are several different phone settings you can adjust on an iPhone to reduce data usage. For starters, be sure that anything you purchase from iTunes is only downloaded over WiFi. To make this happen, go to Settings > iTunes & App Stores > Use Cellular Data. Toggle it to “off.”
Next, prevent apps you’re not using from pulling data in the background. Go to Settings > Background App Refresh. Toggle to “off” to apply the setting to all apps, or select specific apps below. Lastly, make sure your phone and iCloud only sync over WiFi. Go to Settings > Cellular > iCloud Drive. Toggle to “off” here, as well.
4. In case of emergency
If you ever find yourself in a dire situation — medical or otherwise — your cell phone can be a huge help. Today’s smartphones have capabilities beyond calling 911, and these settings can help keep you safe in the event of an emergency.
Android phones can be configured to display key medical information — such as allergies, vital medications, and emergency contacts — on your phone’s lock screen. To enable it, go to Settings > Users & Accounts > Emergency Information. Type in the crucial details.
In emergency situations, you may want to activate the SOS feature, which will call emergency services and send an alert to any contacts you add. To add people as emergency contacts, go to Settings > Advanced Features > Send SOS Messages. Toggle from “off” to “on.” Here, you’ll be asked to add a contact name and number. You can add as many names as you’d like. When you’re done, press “save.”
You can also attach pictures and audio if you’re in a circumstance where speaking out loud is too risky. Return to the SOS Message menu and select the “Attach Pictures” and “Attach Audio Recording options”. To activate the emergency SOS feature, rapidly press the power button three times and a silent SOS Message will be sent.
If you edit the Medical ID on your iPhone’s Health app, crucial information, such as emergency contacts and medical requirements, will be displayed on your phone even when it’s locked. Launch the Health app, tap the Medical ID tab, then fill in the necessary fields, including whether you have a medical condition or are allergic to any medications. Enter your blood type, weight, and height. At the bottom, add emergency contacts.
To activate the Emergency SOS feature, quickly press the power button five times in a row. This will call local authorities, then alert a predetermined emergency contact via text message.
You may not need all the features your phone has to offer, but changing a few settings can help you save money, improve your phone’s function, increase your privacy, and even call for help when you need it.