Difference between revisions of "Telephony"

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== choosing a cellular phone type ==
 
== choosing a cellular phone type ==
  
There are two major types of cellular telephones: [[wikipedia:feature phones|"feature" phones]] and [[wikipedia:smartphones|"smart" phones]].  The main difference between these two is that a smartphone will have a computer operating system (OS) that will allow you to easily install third-party applications, whereas a feature phone will typically be limited to just the features that come with the phone (feature phones are also sometimes called "dumbphones," in contrast to "smartphones").  I never really wanted a smartphone (I still prefer to use my phone as just a phone), but AT&T offered me a discount on my monthly service if I upgraded, and I figured at the time that the additional cost of a smartphone would eventually pay for itself (and then some) with a monthly discount on my prepaid phone service.  I learned later that this isn't true since Google Android devices have to be replaced every three to five years, but the best reason to get a smartphone is for security.  At least for AT&T, and presumably for most other major phone providers, you cannot get phone service without also getting bundled internet service.  Even feature phones will often have a way to check email or the weather using mobile internet data.  Part of the reason for this is that mobile telephony is completely digital (there are no analog phone connections), so it is impossible to separate the phone signal from the internet signal (they are the same signal). <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Mobile telephony#Cellular systems]]</code></ref>  The problem then is that the limited operating system on a feature phone means that you cannot install antimalware software onto the device, and this is a huge security risk for any internet-connected device.  Even if you never use the internet on the device, the phone is still connected and vulnerable.  Ideally, you should have antimalware available for every single device that can connect to the internet.  This is especially true for mobile devices that can't always be sitting behind a firewalled home router.  So if you want a secure cellular telephone, you need to get a smartphone that supports running live antimalware protection (i.e., a device running either Google Android Linux OS or Apple iPhone OS [iOS]).  Note that mobile viruses can also be spread by [[wikipedia:Short Message Service|Short Message Service]] (SMS) text messages, making antimalware necessary on all devices that can send or receive text messages, not just those that can access the internet. <ref><code>[[wikipedia:mobile malware]]</code></ref>  Text messages are still digital data being sent and received from the device, but so are phonecalls (mobile phonecalls use digital audio), and malware can be transmitted by audio signals as well. <ref><code>https://www.extremetech.com/computing/171949-new-type-of-audio-malware-transmits-through-speakers-and-microphones/</code></ref>
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There are two major types of cellular telephones: [[wikipedia:feature phones|"feature" phones]] and [[wikipedia:smartphones|"smart" phones]].  The main difference between these two is that a smartphone will have a computer operating system (OS) that will allow you to easily install third-party applications, whereas a feature phone will typically be limited to just the features that come with the phone (feature phones are also sometimes called "dumbphones," in contrast to "smartphones").  I never really wanted a smartphone (I still prefer to use my phone as just a phone), but AT&T offered me a discount on my monthly service if I upgraded, and I figured at the time that the additional cost of a smartphone would eventually pay for itself (and then some) with a monthly discount on my prepaid phone service.  I learned later that this isn't true since Google Android devices have to be replaced every three to five years, but the best reason to get a smartphone is for security.  At least for AT&T, and presumably for most other major phone providers, you cannot get phone service without also getting bundled internet service.  Even feature phones will often have a way to check email or the weather using mobile internet data.  Part of the reason for this is that mobile telephony is completely digital (there are no analog phone connections), so it is impossible to separate the phone signal from the internet signal (they are the same signal). <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Mobile telephony#Cellular systems]]</code></ref>  The problem then is that the limited operating system on a feature phone means that you cannot install antimalware software onto the device, and this is a huge security risk for any internet-connected device.  Even if you never use the internet on the device, the phone is still connected and vulnerable.  Ideally, you should have antimalware available for every single device that can connect to the internet.  This is especially true for mobile devices that can't always be sitting behind a firewalled home router.  So if you want a secure cellular telephone, you need to get a smartphone that supports running live antimalware protection (i.e., a device running either Google Android Linux OS or Apple iPhone OS [iOS]).  Note that mobile malware can also be spread by [[wikipedia:Short Message Service|Short Message Service]] (SMS) text messages, making antimalware necessary on all devices that can send or receive text messages, not just those that can access the internet. <ref><code>[[wikipedia:mobile malware]]</code></ref>  Text messages are still digital data being sent and received from the device, but so are phonecalls (mobile phonecalls use digital audio), and malware can be transmitted by audio signals as well. <ref><code>https://www.extremetech.com/computing/171949-new-type-of-audio-malware-transmits-through-speakers-and-microphones/</code></ref>
  
== choosing a mobile operating system ==
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== choosing mobile antimalware ==
  
From a security perspective, you pretty much have only two choices for a mobile operating system: either [[wikipedia:Google Android|Google Android Linux OS]] or [[wikipedia:Apple iOS|Apple iPhone OS]] (iOS)These are the only two mobile operating systems supported by [https://www.bitdefender.com/ Bitdefender] Mobile Security, which I highly recommend that you get (preferably bundled with Netgear Armor).  Most other mobile antimalware developers will typically only support either Android or iOS as well.  Regarding whether Apple iOS or Google Android is better overall for security, Apple iOS devices technically do provide better security than Google Android or [[wikipedia:Android One|Android One]] devices do.  However, Apple iPhone OS is a terrible environment to use if you want any decent smartphone features, especially for items such as storage capacity and music playback (you cannot natively use storage cards or headphones with Apple iPhones).  If you actually want to use your smartphone for anything other than making phonecalls (and eventually you're gonna wanna), then you should get a [https://www.android.com/ Google Android] device instead.
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I cannot stress this enough, but every device connected to the internet should have active antimalware software running on it at all timesIf you have a phone without antimalware, you should perform a complete factory reset of the phone (including erasing and reformatting any attached storage cards), install active antimalware software, and then change all of your passwordsNever enter a password on an unsecure device.
  
While there do still exist manufacturers of MP3 players, the market for portable MP3 players has largely been replaced by smartphones, which can also portably play MP3 files. If you trace the history of the Microsoft Zune MP3 player, the official replacement for the Zune after it was discontinued was the Microsoft Windows PhoneWhen Windows Phone was also discontinued, Microsoft endorsed Google Android (over their competitor Apple) as the mobile platform of choice for both telephony and music playback for Windows users. <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Microsoft Zune]]</code></ref> <ref><code>https://www.microsoft.com/store/collections/mobilelist/</code></ref>  If you use Linux or Microsoft Windows as your desktop operating system, then an Android Linux mobile device will likely be more intercompatible with your desktop files and software than an Apple device will, though I have never used an Apple deviceSomething else to consider is that Apple iOS is a proprietary closed-source operating system whereas Google Android Linux is free and open-source (being free and open-source is nearly always better for everything). <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Google Android]]</code></ref> Plus, Google Android Linux is the number-one most popular operating system in the world (for all devices, not just mobile devices), so there is a lot of support for it.
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I use and recommend [https://www.netgear.com/landings/armor/ Netgear Armor] Bitdefender Mobile Security for AndroidThe Netgear Armor version is only available bundled with a Netgear Armor [[wikipedia:router (computing)|router]], but it's a good investment if you value information security and want to protect your home network.  Otherwise, you can get Bitdefender Mobile Security bundled with [https://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/total-security.html Bitdefender Total Security], or just get the [https://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/mobile-security-android.html mobile app] by itselfBitdefender consistently gets the highest rankings for multi-device antimalware protection if you are using both Google Android and Microsoft Windows devices. <ref><code>https://www.av-test.org/en/antivirus/</code></ref>
  
An incredibly poor decision on Apple's part is that Apple phones do not allow storage cards, so you are stuck with whatever storage capacity is provided by the phone's limited internal storage.  By contrast, any modern Android phone will often allow over two terabytes (2 TB) of integrated storage capacity by adding a storage card.  That's oodles of potential space for photos, music, movies, books, and a lot more.  Two terabytes is about equivalent to the total number of books held in a research library for a major university, or about five million books. <ref><code>https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2012/03/how-many-libraries-of-congress-does-it-take/</code></ref> <ref><code>[[wikipedia:List of unusual units of measurement#Data volume]]</code></ref> <ref><code>http://www2.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info/how-much-info.pdf#page=110</code></ref> <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Library of Congress#Holdings]]</code></ref>  Note that while two terabytes is the maximum capacity supported by [[wikipedia:SD cards|SDXC]] (Secure Digital XC) flash storage cards (and phones with SDXC support), trying to purchase an SDXC card with such a high capacity would be very expensive. <ref><code>[[wikipedia:SD card]]</code></ref>  As of 2020-04-24, Western Digital SanDisk only manufactures MicroSDXC cards with capacities of up to one terabyte (1 TB), but it costs more per gigabyte than getting a lower-capacity MicroSDXC card. <ref><code>https://shop.westerndigital.com/products/memory-cards/sandisk-extreme-uhs-i-microsd/</code></ref>
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* best antimalware applications for Google Android: <code>https://www.av-test.org/en/antivirus/mobile-devices/</code>
  
== choosing mobile antimalware ==
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== choosing a mobile operating system ==
  
I cannot stress this enough, but every device connected to the internet should have active antimalware software running on it at all timesIf you have a phone without antimalware, you should perform a complete factory reset of the phone (including erasing and reformatting any attached storage cards), install active antimalware software, and then change all of your passwords. Never enter a password on an unsecure device.
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From a security perspective, you pretty much have only two choices for a mobile operating system: either [[wikipedia:Apple iOS|Apple iPhone OS]] (iOS) or [[wikipedia:Google Android|Google Android Linux OS]]These are the only two mobile operating systems supported by [https://www.bitdefender.com/ Bitdefender] Mobile Security, which I highly recommend that you get (preferably bundled with Netgear Armor).  Most other mobile antimalware developers will typically only support either Apple iOS or Google Android.  Regarding whether Apple iOS or Google Android is better overall for security, Apple iOS devices technically do provide better security than Google Android or [[wikipedia:Android One|Android One]] devices do.  However, Apple iPhone OS is a terrible environment to use if you want any decent smartphone features, especially for items such as storage capacity and music playback (you cannot natively use storage cards or headphones with Apple iPhones).  If you actually want to use your smartphone for anything other than making phonecalls (and eventually you're gonna wanna), then you should get a [https://www.android.com/ Google Android] device instead.
  
I use and recommend [https://www.netgear.com/landings/armor/ Netgear Armor] Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android. The Netgear Armor version is only available bundled with a Netgear Armor [[wikipedia:router (computing)|router]], but it's a good investment if you value information security and want to protect your home network.  Otherwise, you can get Bitdefender Mobile Security bundled with [https://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/total-security.html Bitdefender Total Security], or just get the [https://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/mobile-security-android.html mobile app] by itselfBitdefender consistently gets the highest rankings for multi-device antimalware protection if you are using both Google Android and Microsoft Windows devices. <ref><code>https://www.av-test.org/en/antivirus/</code></ref>
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While there do still exist manufacturers of portable MP3 players, the market for portable MP3 players has largely been replaced by smartphones, which can also portably play MP3 files. If you trace the history of the Microsoft Zune MP3 player, the official replacement for the Zune after it was discontinued was the Microsoft Windows Phone. When Windows Phone was also discontinued, Microsoft endorsed Google Android (over their competitor Apple) as the mobile platform of choice for both telephony and music playback for Windows users. <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Microsoft Zune]]</code></ref> <ref><code>https://www.microsoft.com/store/collections/mobilelist/</code></ref>  If you use Linux or Microsoft Windows as your desktop operating system, then an Android Linux mobile device will likely be more intercompatible with your desktop files and software than an Apple device will, though I have never used an Apple deviceSomething else to consider is that Apple iOS is a proprietary closed-source operating system whereas Google Android Linux is free and open-source (being free and open-source is nearly always better for everything). <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Google Android]]</code></ref> Plus, Google Android Linux is the number-one most popular operating system in the world (for all devices, not just mobile devices), so there is a lot of support for it.
  
* best antimalware applications for Google Android: <code>https://www.av-test.org/en/antivirus/mobile-devices/</code>
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An incredibly poor decision on Apple's part is that Apple smartphones do not allow storage cards, so you are stuck with whatever storage capacity is provided by the phone's limited internal storage.  Not being able to use internal storage cards on Apple smartphones is pretty much a deal-breaker, since you're likely going to need that extra storage capacity.  By contrast, any modern Android phone will often allow over two terabytes (2 TB) of integrated storage capacity by adding a storage card.  That's oodles of potential space for photos, music, movies, books, and a lot more.  Two terabytes is about equivalent to the total number of books held in a research library for a major university, or about five million books. <ref><code>https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2012/03/how-many-libraries-of-congress-does-it-take/</code></ref> <ref><code>[[wikipedia:List of unusual units of measurement#Data volume]]</code></ref> <ref><code>http://www2.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info/how-much-info.pdf#page=110</code></ref> <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Library of Congress#Holdings]]</code></ref>  Note that while two terabytes is the maximum capacity supported by [[wikipedia:SD cards|SDXC]] (Secure Digital XC) flash storage cards (and phones with SDXC support), trying to purchase an SDXC card with such a high capacity can be very expensive. <ref><code>[[wikipedia:SD card]]</code></ref>  As of April 2020, Western Digital SanDisk only manufactures MicroSDXC cards with capacities of up to one terabyte (1 TB), but a one-terabyte card costs more per gigabyte than getting a lower-capacity MicroSDXC card. <ref><code>https://shop.westerndigital.com/products/memory-cards/sandisk-extreme-uhs-i-microsd/</code></ref>
  
 
== choosing an Android device ==
 
== choosing an Android device ==
  
With regard to cybersecurity, there are two major problems with Google Android Linux.  The first issue is that Android has a short support cycle of only three (3) years.  After three years from whenever a new version of Android is released, that version of Android is no longer supported.  If the Android device cannot be upgraded to a newer version of Android before then, then the device has to be replaced, even if it is still otherwise in perfect working order.  You can use an unsupported Android device (e.g. as a point-and-shoot camera, a offline ebook reader, or an offline music player), but it should never be used as a phone or connected to any kind of network (including the cellular telephone network, or any other mobile or wireless networks).  This is a serious problem with the way Google conducts business, and a terrible waste of otherwise good phones by creating artificial obsolescence, but if you want security, you should always make sure that your device is fully supported.
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With regard to cybersecurity, there are two major problems with Google Android Linux.  The first issue is that Android has a short support cycle of only three (3) years.  After three years from whenever a new version of Android is released, that version of Android is no longer supported.  If the Android device cannot be upgraded to a newer version of Android before then, then the device has to be replaced, even if it is still in otherwise perfect working order.  While there are technical challenges with continuing support beyond three years, this is a serious problem with the way Google manages Android, and a terrible waste of otherwise good phones by creating artificial obsolescence.  But if you want security, you should always make sure that your device is fully supported.  You can refurbish an unsupported Android device as, for example, a point-and-shoot camera, an offline ebook reader, or an offline music player, but it should never be used as a phone or connected to any kind of network (including the cellular telephone network, or any other mobile or wireless networks).
  
To make matters worse, the second problem is the way that Android devices are designed and built.  Google Android Linux is a free open-source operating system.  This means that anyone can freely download, modify, redistribute, and sell the Android Linux source code, more or less however they wish.  This is usually a good thing.  But what happens with phones is that third-party companies will modify the free open-source code with proprietary components to make it suit their particular needs and wants.  So while the base operating system that is created by Google is open-source, the modified version of the Linux operating system distributed by most phone manufacturers in their phones is proprietary and no longer open-source.  What this means then is that when Google releases a patch or update for their open-source code, the phone manufacturers who modified the code have to in turn modify the patches and updates to work with their particular proprietary versions of Android Linux.  Unfortunately, this takes time and effort, and security updates can take weeks or even months to make it downstream from Google to the user when the updates have to be processed and modified by the phone manufacturer first.  This makes most Android phones not directly manufactured by Google a lot less secure than they should be.  This also means that when a new Android version is available, if you have a phone not manufactured by Google, you cannot easily upgrade it until the phone manufacturer has modified the source code from Google to work with the third-party proprietary modifications made for that particular model of phone.  To make matters even worse, the phone manufacturers have little to no incentive to offer any software upgrades at all.  They want you to buy a brand-new phone every single year, and not even wait the three years given by Google.  It's also important to note that just because Google is releasing security updates for a supported version of Android, most phone manufacturers are under no obligation to pass those security updates to their customers.  Phone manufacturers often release a new phone model every single year, and may choose to abandon providing security updates even after as short a period as twelve months from the phone's initial release.
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To make matters worse, the second problem is the way that Android devices are designed and built.  Google Android Linux is a free open-source operating system.  This means that anyone can freely download, modify, redistribute, and sell the Android Linux source code, more or less however they wish.  This is usually a good thing.  But what happens with phones is that third-party companies will modify the free open-source code with proprietary components to make it suit their particular needs and wants.  So while the Android Linux operating system that is created by Google is open-source, the modified version of Linux distributed by most phone manufacturers in their phones is proprietary and no longer open-source.  What this means then is that when Google releases a patch or update for their open-source code, the phone manufacturers who modified the code have to in turn modify the patches and updates to work with their particular proprietary versions of Android Linux.  Unfortunately, this takes time and effort, and security updates can take weeks or even months to make it downstream from Google to the user when the updates have to be processed and modified by the phone manufacturer first.  This makes most Android phones not directly manufactured by Google a lot less secure than they should be.  This also means that when a new Android version is available, if you have a phone not manufactured by Google, you cannot easily upgrade it until the phone manufacturer has modified the source code from Google to work with the third-party proprietary modifications made for that particular model of phone.  To make matters even worse, the phone manufacturers have little to no incentive to offer any software upgrades at all.  They want you to buy a brand-new phone every single year, and not even wait the three years given by Google.  It's also important to note that just because Google is releasing security updates for a supported version of Android, most phone manufacturers are under no legal obligation to pass those security updates to their customers.  Phone manufacturers often release a new phone model every single year, and can choose to abandon providing security updates for a particular phone model at any time.
  
So what to do?  Fortunately, Google is responsible enough to see some of the problems with this type of software ecosystem, and in particular the major security risks presented to the Android community by not getting security patches out quickly enough when the phone operating systems have been modified by third parties.  Google's solution is [https://www.android.com/one/ Android One], which is the result of an agreement between Google and third-party phone manufacturers to make phones with Google-only software and no proprietary modifications to the open-source software that might impede the ability to apply security patches as quickly as Google can release them.  In addition to always receiving the latest security updates before other phones get them, an Android One device is guaranteed to be provided a minimum of two version upgrades from whatever version of Android it is initially released with. <ref><code>https://www.android.com/one/</code></ref>  That means that you can keep your phone for up to five years instead of less than three years.  Since all Android devices have a limited lifetime (unlike a Microsoft Windows 10 device), the best deal is to get the cheapest possible Android One device you can, and then replace it every five years (or whenever it is getting close to end of support).
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So what to do?  Fortunately, Google is responsible enough to see some of the problems with this type of software ecosystem, and in particular the major security risks presented to the Android community by not getting security patches out quickly enough when the phone operating systems have been modified by third parties.  Google's solution is [https://www.android.com/one/ Android One], which is the result of an agreement between Google and third-party phone manufacturers to make phones with Google-only software and no proprietary modifications to the open-source software that might impede the ability to apply security patches as quickly as Google can release them.  In addition to always receiving the latest security updates before other phones get them, an Android One device is guaranteed to be provided a minimum of two version upgrades from whatever version of Android it is initially released with. <ref><code>https://www.android.com/one/</code></ref>  That means that you can keep your phone for up to five years instead of less than three years.  Since all Android devices have a limited lifetime (unlike a Microsoft Windows Ten [10] device), the best deal is to get the cheapest possible Android One device you can, and then replace it every five years (or whenever it is getting close to its end of support).  I would recommend to replace your Android device three months before it reaches its end of support.
  
I decided on the [[wikipedia:Lenovo Motorola Moto X4|Lenovo Motorola Moto X4]] Android One Edition as the cheapest phone for my needs.  The camera zoom and video autofocus are not very good, but you can use the money saved compared to getting a more expensive (and less secure) phone to get a decent point-and-shoot camera instead.  And you can continue using the point-and-shoot camera for a much longer time than you can use the phone for.  I do miss the advanced features on my former (now unsupported) phone, a [[wikipedia:Samsung Galaxy Note 3|Samsung Galaxy Note 3]] (which was also my very first smartphone), but I am comforted by the facts that I am saving money and am also much more secure now with an Android One device instead.  I will say though that if you can afford a brand-new latest-model Samsung Galaxy Note, it really is the cream of the crop in terms of smartphone features available.  However, Galaxy Note phones are not very cost-effective, since they have to be replaced more often than Android One phones (in addition to being less secure), and they also cost more for each replacement (you're literally throwing money away if the phone still works but you can no longer use it after it reaches end of support).  If you just need something with an active stylus, get a Microsoft Windows 10 tablet instead, which can be a lot cheaper, and will be supported forever (Microsoft Windows is now under a continuous-development model, so under the current development model, you will never need to upgrade a Windows 10 device to Windows 11, since Windows 10 is planned to be supported forever). The Moto X4 was the very first Android One device to be released in the USA, in September 2017. <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Moto X4]]</code></ref>  It currently runs on Android 9.0 Pie (after the promised two version upgrades from its initial release with Android 7.1 Nougat), and unless it gets an upgrade to Android 10, will become obsolete in August 2021 (3 years from the release of Android 9.0). <ref><code>https://www.gsmarena.com/motorola_moto_x4-8634.php</code></ref> <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Android version history#Overview]]</code></ref>
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I decided on the [[wikipedia:Lenovo Motorola Moto X4|Lenovo Motorola Moto X4]] Android One Edition as the cheapest phone for my needs. The Moto X4 was the very first Android One device to be released in the USA, in September 2017. <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Moto X4]]</code></ref>  It currently runs on Android 9.0 Pie (after the Android One promise of two version upgrades from its initial release with Android 7.1 Nougat), and unless it gets an upgrade to Android 10, will become obsolete in August 2021 (three years from the release of Android 9). <ref><code>https://www.gsmarena.com/motorola_moto_x4-8634.php</code></ref> <ref><code>[[wikipedia:Android version history#Overview]]</code></ref> The camera zoom and video autofocus are not very good, but you can use the money saved compared to getting a more expensive (and less secure) smartphone to get a decent point-and-shoot camera instead of trying to use your phone as a camera.  And you can continue using the point-and-shoot camera for a much longer time than you can use the phone for.  I do miss the advanced features on my former (now unsupported) phone, a [[wikipedia:Samsung Galaxy Note 3|Samsung Galaxy Note 3]] (which was also my very first smartphone), but I am comforted by the facts that I am saving money and am also much more secure now with an Android One device instead.  I will say though that if you can afford a latest-model [[wikipedia:Samsung Galaxy Note|Samsung Galaxy Note]], it really is the cream of the crop in terms of smartphone features available.  However, in addition to having poorer security than Android One phones, Galaxy Note phones are not cost-effective, since they have to be replaced more often than Android One phones, and they also cost more for each replacement.  You're literally throwing money away if the phone still works but you can no longer use it after it reaches its end of support, so the amortized cost per year of an Android One device is nearly always lower than a similarly-priced Android phone without Android One.  If you want something with an [[wikipedia:active stylus|active stylus]], get a Microsoft Windows 10 tablet instead, which can be a lot cheaper, and will be supported forever (Microsoft Windows is now under a continuous development model, so that Windows 10 is currently planned to be supported forever by Microsoft).
  
One other thing you definitely should keep an eye on, is if you plan to use the phone for any navigational or astronomical functions (such as Celestron SkyPortal), you need a magnetic compass in the phone.  A lot of phones do not include a compass or magnetometer in them.  So you need to check for this specifically.  The Global Positioning System (GPS) will only provide the phone's location; it cannot provide any directional information to determine in which direction the phone is facing.  A compass is needed for that.
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One other thing you definitely should keep an eye on, is if you plan to use the phone for any navigational or astronomical functions (such as Celestron SkyPortal), you need a magnetic compass in the phone.  A lot of smartphones do not include a magnetic compass in them.  So you need to check for this specifically.  The Global Positioning System (GPS) will only provide the phone's location; it cannot provide any directional information to determine in which direction the phone is facing.  A compass is needed for that.
  
For finding a specific smartphone to purchase, my recommendations are that it should be no more than one Android version out of date, have Android One, use GSM, have a screen resolution of 1920*1080 pixels or greater, be capable of recording video with a resolution of 1920*1080 pixels or greater at a framerate of 60 frames per second or greater, and have a magnetic compass.  Sites like [https://www.gsmarena.com/ GSM Arena] and [https://www.phonearena.com/ Phone Arena] have advanced phone finder tools that can help you to find the best device for your price range.
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For finding a specific smartphone to purchase, my recommendations are that it should be no more than one Android version out of date, have Android One, use GSM, have a screen resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels or greater, be capable of recording video with a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels or greater at a framerate of 60 frames per second or greater, and have a magnetic compass.  You don't need to worry too much about <u>[[computing]]</u> hardware specifications, since Android is optimized for low resource utilization, particularly by running applications only one at a time, unlike in a desktop environment.  1.824 gigabytes (GB) of random access memory (RAM) is the minimum recommended by Google to run Android 10, so don't get anything with less than 2 GB of RAM. <ref><code>https://source.android.com/compatibility/android-cdd/</code></ref>  I have never had any problems with my Moto X4 Android One Edition running Android 9 with 3 GB of RAM.  Sites like [https://www.gsmarena.com/ GSM Arena] and [https://www.phonearena.com/ Phone Arena] have advanced phone finder tools that can help you to find the best device for your price range.
  
 
* GSM Arena Phone Finder: <code>https://www.gsmarena.com/search.php3?</code>
 
* GSM Arena Phone Finder: <code>https://www.gsmarena.com/search.php3?</code>
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== when to replace an Android device ==
 
== when to replace an Android device ==
  
All Android devices should be replaced within three years of the release date for their Android version.  As of 2020-04-22, all devices running Android 7 or earlier are no longer supported and should be replaced.  Devices running Android 8 need to be replaced by August 2020, devices running Android 9 need to be replaced by August 2021, and devices running Android 10 need to be replaced by September 2022.  The most recent version of Android as of 2020-04-22 is Android 10, which was released in September 2019.
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All Android devices should be replaced within three years of the release date for their Android version.  As of April 2020, all devices running Android Seven (7) or earlier are no longer supported and should be replaced.  Devices running Android Eight (8) need to be replaced by August 2020, devices running Android Nine (9) need to be replaced by August 2021, and devices running Android Ten (10) need to be replaced by September 2022.  The most recent version of Android as of April 2020 is Android 10, which was released in September 2019.
  
 
* Android version release dates: <code>[[wikipedia:Android version history#Overview]]</code>
 
* Android version release dates: <code>[[wikipedia:Android version history#Overview]]</code>
  
If you can't afford to replace your Android smartphone but need to continue using it as a phone, then you should take every step possible to reduce the risk of using an unsupported device.  This means that you should not use the phone for anything other than audio phonecalling and Short Message Service (SMS) via text only (no multimedia messaging and no internet access).  Remove all applications, including factory-installed applications, except for your antimalware app.  Never use the device to access the internet (other than for antimalware updates), and leave wifi, Bluetooth, and near-field communication (NFC) permanently disabled.  Do not connect it to your computer or any other devices, including Bluetooth devices.  If possible, lock your phone into Safe Mode.  For access to the Google Play Store in order to install antimalware software, you should create a second Google Account solely for use with your unsupported Android device (do not use your primary Google Account).  For additional security, change your Netgear and Google passwords every month (remember to always use long complex random passwords and never reuse passwords), and perform a factory reset on the device once a year (reinstalling your antimalware).
+
If you can't afford to replace your Android smartphone but need to continue using it as a phone, then you should take every step possible to reduce the risk of using an unsupported device.  This means that you should not use the phone for anything other than audio phonecalling and Short Message Service (SMS) via text only (no multimedia messaging and no internet access).  Remove all applications, including factory-installed applications, except for your antimalware app.  Never use the device to access the internet (other than for antimalware updates), and leave wifi, Bluetooth, and near-field communication (NFC) permanently disabled.  Do not connect it to your computer or any other devices, including Bluetooth devices (pull your vehicle over if you need to make or receive a phonecall on the road).  If possible, lock your phone into Safe Mode.  For access to the Google Play Store in order to install antimalware software, you should create a second Google Account solely for use with your unsupported Android device (do not use your primary Google Account).  For additional security, change your Google and Netgear (or Bitdefender) passwords every month (remember to always use long complex random passwords and never reuse passwords), and perform a factory reset on the device once a year (reinstalling your antimalware).
  
Unsupported Android devices can still be useful though if the proper precautions are made.  I was able to refurbish my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 into a pretty good point-and-shoot camera (better than my Moto X4 camera).  Having an old cameraphone around can be useful for certain types of photography that would be too dangerous to attempt with a newer or more expensive camera (such as [https://www.nicolesharp.net/gallery/index.php?/category/album-2020-02-22-dan-s-rock-overlook unfiltered Solar imaging]).  After a factory reset, I removed all applications from the smartphone except for the factory-supplied offline-use-only apps (such as the camera app).  It is permanently locked into Safe Mode, with wifi, Bluetooth, and NFC permanently disabled.  It has never been connected to any networks since the factory reset, including the cellular telephone network.  I use it for offline use only, by taking photos, and then uploading them to the computer by universal serial bus (USB).  Remember that you cannot install any apps to the device without internet access (and it would not be safe to try).  Another use for keeping old phones without phone service is that they should still be able to dial 911 for emergencies (in the USA), though I have never tested this (and you should not, unless there is an actual emergency).  Keeping an old cellphone in the car could be life-saving to be able to reach emergency services if you accidentally leave your primary cellphone at home.
+
Unsupported Android devices can still be useful though if the proper precautions are made.  I was able to refurbish my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 into a pretty good point-and-shoot camera (better than my Moto X4 camera).  Having an old cameraphone around can be useful for certain types of photography that would be too dangerous to attempt with a newer or more expensive camera (such as [https://www.nicolesharp.net/gallery/index.php?/category/album-2020-02-22-dan-s-rock-overlook unfiltered Solar imaging]).  After a factory reset, I removed all applications from the smartphone except for the factory-supplied offline-use-only apps (such as the camera app).  It is permanently locked into Safe Mode, with wifi, Bluetooth, and NFC permanently disabled.  It has never been connected to any networks since the factory reset, including the cellular telephone network (the phone does not have a subscriber identification module [SIM]).  I use it for offline use only, by taking photos, and then uploading them to the computer by universal serial bus (USB).  Remember that you cannot install any apps to the device without internet access (and it would not be safe to try).  Another use for keeping old phones without phone service is that they should still be able to dial 911 for emergencies (in the USA), though I have never tested this (and you should not, unless there is an actual emergency). <ref><code>https://www.911.gov/frequently_asked_questions.html</code></ref> Keeping an old cellphone in your vehicle could be life-saving to be able to reach emergency services if you accidentally leave your primary cellphone at home.
  
 
== phone accessories ==
 
== phone accessories ==
  
Every smartphone should have both a protective case and a screenprotector for it.  Even if you are planning to replace it in three years, you want to protect your investment and not have to replace it sooner than that.  I recommend a matte antiglare screenprotector, which is what I use, which not only protects the screen but also makes it easier to read especially under bright light.  Don't forget a car charger as well.
+
Every smartphone should have both a protective case and a screenprotector for it.  Even if you are planning to replace it in three years, you want to protect your investment and not have to replace it sooner than that.  I recommend a matte film antiglare screenprotector, which is what I use (from [https://www.supershieldz.com/ Supershieldz]), which not only protects the screen but also makes it easier to read under bright light.  Tempered-glass screenprotectors provide better protection than film screenprotectors, but you want a protector that has antiglare for the best visibility.  Don't forget a car charger as well.
  
 
== phone software ==
 
== phone software ==
  
I recommend to not install any applications on your Android device unless they are absolutely necessary.  A lot of businesses will pressure you into installing their apps.  Don't fall for it.  For many such apps, everything you can do from the app you can also do directly from the mobile web browser instead.  If you are using Bitdefender Mobile Security (and I recommend that you do), your antimalware protection is going to work best by only entering or accessing sensitive information (such as passwords or bank accounts) through HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) on a Bitdefender-supported mobile web browser (such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Opera).  This is exactly how you would enter or access the same information on your desktop computer, and it is much safer than using a third-party app.  You do not need to install apps to do things you can already do from a web browser.  If you are browsing on Chrome, and you see a pop-up asking you to install an app instead of using the website, don't do it.  If you do think you need to install an app, first take some time to investigate who developed the application.  Is the developer reputable?  What other applications have they developed?  Does the developer have contact information listed?
+
I recommend to not install any applications on your Android device unless they are absolutely necessary.  A lot of businesses will pressure you into installing their apps.  Don't fall for it.  For many such apps, everything you can do from the app you can also do directly from the mobile web browser instead.  If you are using Bitdefender Mobile Security (and I recommend that you do), your antimalware protection is going to work best by only entering or accessing sensitive information (such as passwords or bank accounts) through [[wikipedia:HTTPS|HTTPS]] (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) on a Bitdefender-supported mobile web browser (such as [https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.android.chrome Google Chrome], [https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.mozilla.firefox Mozilla Firefox], or [https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.opera.browser Opera]).  This is exactly how you would enter or access the same information on your desktop computer, and it is much safer than using a third-party app.  You do not need to install apps to do things you can already do from a web browser.  If you are browsing on Chrome, and you see a pop-up asking you to install an app instead of using the website, don't do it.  If you do think you need to install an app, first take some time to investigate who developed the application.  Is the developer reputable?  What other applications have they developed?  Does the developer have a website and contact information available?
  
 
Remember also to never connect to untrusted wifi networks.  In general, using your mobile data will be more secure than attempting to connect to an untrusted wifi network.  Most public wifi access points should be considered as untrustworthy, especially if you don't know who set up the network, what kind of security they have, etcetera.
 
Remember also to never connect to untrusted wifi networks.  In general, using your mobile data will be more secure than attempting to connect to an untrusted wifi network.  Most public wifi access points should be considered as untrustworthy, especially if you don't know who set up the network, what kind of security they have, etcetera.
  
If you want to install just one app (after Bitdefender Mobile Security), I highly recommend the [https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.celestron.skyportal Celestron SkyPortal App for Android].
+
If you want to install just one app (after Bitdefender Mobile Security), I highly recommend the [https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.celestron.skyportal Celestron SkyPortal App for Android].  This works best with a smartphone that has a magnetic compass, and will enable you to identify most celestial objects (with or without a telescope).
  
 
== disclaimer ==
 
== disclaimer ==

Revision as of 2020-04-30T16:05:38

My recommendations on how to choose a phone and phone plan in the contiguous United States of America (USA).

choosing a phone service

For a typical consumer based in the contiguous USA, there are at least four major types of phones available: internet telephones, landline telephones, cellular telephones, and satellite telephones. Of these four types of phones, a cellular telephone (cellphone) is going to be the safest, most practical, and cheapest option for the typical user in the contiguous USA. Most critically, an internet telephone or landline telephone cannot be used outside the home or during any number of emergencies such as a car accident. The first and most important function of a telephone should be the ability to access emergency services whenever and wherever they are needed. Cellular telephones are also the easiest to use with a hands-free vehicular speakerphone while driving, as required by law in many jurisdictions. [1] [2] [3] [4] Remember to never text and drive. A satellite telephone has the widest possible geographic range (though there are locations where a cellular telephone will have service when a satellite telephone will not), but a satellite telephone will be much more expensive than a cellular telephone. Cellular telephony is the most popular type of telephone service in the USA, so cellular phones are well-established to have widespread support for both devices and service. [5] [6] [7]

choosing a phone network

There have traditionally been two major cellular telephone networking technologies in the USA: CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications). Without going into all the technical details, you do not want to get a CDMA phone, and if possible you should always get a GSM phone on a GSM network. Some phone companies may only allow CDMA phones, and you should avoid using any phone company that does not allow GSM phones on their network. The majority of all cellular telephones in the world are GSM phones. [8] [9] Popular phone companies in the USA that use CDMA include the Telephone and Data Systems United States Cellular Corporation (US Cellular), T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom [German: German Telecom] Mobile, who purchased the Sprint Corporation in 2020), and Verizon Wireless. [10] [11] [12] Individual phones can be built to use either CDMA or GSM, so if you are buying a phone, you should ask to make sure that you are getting the GSM version.

choosing a phone company

Who is the best cellular telephone service provider depends on where you live. One indicator of the level of service can be determined by reviewing how much "bricks" presence does the phone company have near your home. See who has the largest phone store or the most phone stores with local employees available to help you in person with your phone needs. However, a better indicator of service quality can be determined by checking what phone companies own the cellular towers in your area. For some areas, cellular towers will be predominantly owned by just one or two companies, and then other phone companies will lease the use of the towers from whatever companies own the physical towers. Typically this makes no difference and you should still get good service even if your phone provider does not own the cellular tower. However, who owns the local towers can make a big difference when a tower is damaged (such as after a storm or during a disaster). This means more calls are being routed through fewer towers, and then typically the customers with the companies who own the working towers will get priority over the customers with companies who do not own local working towers. This could mean poorer phone quality and/or slower internet service, possibly when you need it the most. If you make the majority of your telephone calls from home, simply choosing whatever phone company owns the closest cellular telephone tower to your home address will likely give you the best quality phone service for the majority of your calls.

In the linked map, you will see that (as of August 2019) all cellular towers in Allegany County (Maryland) are owned by just two companies: either "USCOC OF CUMBERLAND, LLC" (Telephone and Data Systems United States Cellular Corporation [US Cellular], with eight towers) or "NEW CINGULAR WIRELESS PCS, LLC" (American Telephone and Telegraph Company [AT&T], with six towers). [13] [14] [15] Cellular tower ownership in neighboring Garrett County (Maryland) is more evenly divided between these two competitors, with five towers belonging to US Cellular and five towers belonging to AT&T (out of ten towers total in Garrett County, including two on the Allegany-Garrett border). However, US Cellular does not have as wide of a coverage network nationwide as AT&T does, so if you ever need to travel outside of the US Cellular coverage zone, you will be much better off with AT&T versus US Cellular. [16] [17]

I personally use AT&T (Prepaid). Before switching to AT&T though, I also tried using both Verizon Wireless (from 2006 to 2009) and US Cellular (from 2010 to 2011), and had considerably worse phone quality in Allegany County than I get now with AT&T. With the exception of some of the large mountainous state parks and forests in Garrett County, I have never not been able to use my AT&T phone due to location, even when traveling. I have also always received excellent customer service from AT&T, both in person and over the telephone.

choosing a phone plan

You should always get a contractless or prepaid plan if possible. If you are signing up for a phone plan, and are asked for any personal information such as a driver's license number or Social Security Number, do not give it out! That type of information is typically only needed for phone contracts, which can lock you into paying higher rates than you need to, and affect your credit score. Additionally, if you are under a contract with the phone company, it can be very difficult to change your telephone provider if you ever need to. You should be able to be in charge of deciding what phone you want to use and what phone company you want to get service from, and have the freedom to change your mind any time you like, without being under the provisions of a legal contract that only benefits the phone company. Often the phone company will try to seduce you into signing a contract with them by offering you a "free" phone, but typically the higher rates you pay on a phone contract will end up costing you more than just buying your own phone (out of pocket) and then getting a contractless plan for it.

I would also add that you shouldn't have to live with caps on your service. Try to get an unlimited-everything plan if you can such as AT&T Prepaid. With my AT&T Prepaid plan, I get unlimited calling, texting, and internet data so I never have to worry about being out of contact (in AT&T's coverage zones). Even from deep within the woods of the state parks of Allegany (Maryland), I can still livestream video and internet radio. For AT&T Prepaid, note that while total mobile internet data is unlimited, high-speed mobile bandwidth is not. You get a set amount of high-speed mobile data each month (which carries over to the next month if you don't use it), but if you hit the high-speed mobile data cap, the low-speed mobile bandwidth of 128 kilobits per second should still be fast enough to check your email, use social media, browse the web, stream internet radio, and make internet audiocalls. [18] For reference, a typical medium-quality MP3 audio stream has a bandwidth of 128 kilobits per second, and many internet radio stations and internet audiocalls (such as Microsoft Skype) use bandwidths even lower than that. [19] [20] Checking email or browsing websites with static text and images (such as Wikipedia or NikkiWiki) generally uses much less data than streaming audio or video. And if you still think 128 kilobits per second is slow, remember that the maximum bandwidth allowed by dial-up internet is 56 kilobits per second. [21] However, AT&T Prepaid provides enough high-speed mobile data that I have never hit the high-speed mobile data cap. I get six gigabytes of high-speed mobile data per month (up to twelve gigabytes per month with rollover data), though I use much less than this since most of my smartphone use is on wifi. Remember to enable data-saving features on your mobile device such as only doing software updates or file uploads/downloads on wifi to save your mobile data.

choosing a cellular phone type

There are two major types of cellular telephones: "feature" phones and "smart" phones. The main difference between these two is that a smartphone will have a computer operating system (OS) that will allow you to easily install third-party applications, whereas a feature phone will typically be limited to just the features that come with the phone (feature phones are also sometimes called "dumbphones," in contrast to "smartphones"). I never really wanted a smartphone (I still prefer to use my phone as just a phone), but AT&T offered me a discount on my monthly service if I upgraded, and I figured at the time that the additional cost of a smartphone would eventually pay for itself (and then some) with a monthly discount on my prepaid phone service. I learned later that this isn't true since Google Android devices have to be replaced every three to five years, but the best reason to get a smartphone is for security. At least for AT&T, and presumably for most other major phone providers, you cannot get phone service without also getting bundled internet service. Even feature phones will often have a way to check email or the weather using mobile internet data. Part of the reason for this is that mobile telephony is completely digital (there are no analog phone connections), so it is impossible to separate the phone signal from the internet signal (they are the same signal). [22] The problem then is that the limited operating system on a feature phone means that you cannot install antimalware software onto the device, and this is a huge security risk for any internet-connected device. Even if you never use the internet on the device, the phone is still connected and vulnerable. Ideally, you should have antimalware available for every single device that can connect to the internet. This is especially true for mobile devices that can't always be sitting behind a firewalled home router. So if you want a secure cellular telephone, you need to get a smartphone that supports running live antimalware protection (i.e., a device running either Google Android Linux OS or Apple iPhone OS [iOS]). Note that mobile malware can also be spread by Short Message Service (SMS) text messages, making antimalware necessary on all devices that can send or receive text messages, not just those that can access the internet. [23] Text messages are still digital data being sent and received from the device, but so are phonecalls (mobile phonecalls use digital audio), and malware can be transmitted by audio signals as well. [24]

choosing mobile antimalware

I cannot stress this enough, but every device connected to the internet should have active antimalware software running on it at all times. If you have a phone without antimalware, you should perform a complete factory reset of the phone (including erasing and reformatting any attached storage cards), install active antimalware software, and then change all of your passwords. Never enter a password on an unsecure device.

I use and recommend Netgear Armor Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android. The Netgear Armor version is only available bundled with a Netgear Armor router, but it's a good investment if you value information security and want to protect your home network. Otherwise, you can get Bitdefender Mobile Security bundled with Bitdefender Total Security, or just get the mobile app by itself. Bitdefender consistently gets the highest rankings for multi-device antimalware protection if you are using both Google Android and Microsoft Windows devices. [25]

choosing a mobile operating system

From a security perspective, you pretty much have only two choices for a mobile operating system: either Apple iPhone OS (iOS) or Google Android Linux OS. These are the only two mobile operating systems supported by Bitdefender Mobile Security, which I highly recommend that you get (preferably bundled with Netgear Armor). Most other mobile antimalware developers will typically only support either Apple iOS or Google Android. Regarding whether Apple iOS or Google Android is better overall for security, Apple iOS devices technically do provide better security than Google Android or Android One devices do. However, Apple iPhone OS is a terrible environment to use if you want any decent smartphone features, especially for items such as storage capacity and music playback (you cannot natively use storage cards or headphones with Apple iPhones). If you actually want to use your smartphone for anything other than making phonecalls (and eventually you're gonna wanna), then you should get a Google Android device instead.

While there do still exist manufacturers of portable MP3 players, the market for portable MP3 players has largely been replaced by smartphones, which can also portably play MP3 files. If you trace the history of the Microsoft Zune MP3 player, the official replacement for the Zune after it was discontinued was the Microsoft Windows Phone. When Windows Phone was also discontinued, Microsoft endorsed Google Android (over their competitor Apple) as the mobile platform of choice for both telephony and music playback for Windows users. [26] [27] If you use Linux or Microsoft Windows as your desktop operating system, then an Android Linux mobile device will likely be more intercompatible with your desktop files and software than an Apple device will, though I have never used an Apple device. Something else to consider is that Apple iOS is a proprietary closed-source operating system whereas Google Android Linux is free and open-source (being free and open-source is nearly always better for everything). [28] Plus, Google Android Linux is the number-one most popular operating system in the world (for all devices, not just mobile devices), so there is a lot of support for it.

An incredibly poor decision on Apple's part is that Apple smartphones do not allow storage cards, so you are stuck with whatever storage capacity is provided by the phone's limited internal storage. Not being able to use internal storage cards on Apple smartphones is pretty much a deal-breaker, since you're likely going to need that extra storage capacity. By contrast, any modern Android phone will often allow over two terabytes (2 TB) of integrated storage capacity by adding a storage card. That's oodles of potential space for photos, music, movies, books, and a lot more. Two terabytes is about equivalent to the total number of books held in a research library for a major university, or about five million books. [29] [30] [31] [32] Note that while two terabytes is the maximum capacity supported by SDXC (Secure Digital XC) flash storage cards (and phones with SDXC support), trying to purchase an SDXC card with such a high capacity can be very expensive. [33] As of April 2020, Western Digital SanDisk only manufactures MicroSDXC cards with capacities of up to one terabyte (1 TB), but a one-terabyte card costs more per gigabyte than getting a lower-capacity MicroSDXC card. [34]

choosing an Android device

With regard to cybersecurity, there are two major problems with Google Android Linux. The first issue is that Android has a short support cycle of only three (3) years. After three years from whenever a new version of Android is released, that version of Android is no longer supported. If the Android device cannot be upgraded to a newer version of Android before then, then the device has to be replaced, even if it is still in otherwise perfect working order. While there are technical challenges with continuing support beyond three years, this is a serious problem with the way Google manages Android, and a terrible waste of otherwise good phones by creating artificial obsolescence. But if you want security, you should always make sure that your device is fully supported. You can refurbish an unsupported Android device as, for example, a point-and-shoot camera, an offline ebook reader, or an offline music player, but it should never be used as a phone or connected to any kind of network (including the cellular telephone network, or any other mobile or wireless networks).

To make matters worse, the second problem is the way that Android devices are designed and built. Google Android Linux is a free open-source operating system. This means that anyone can freely download, modify, redistribute, and sell the Android Linux source code, more or less however they wish. This is usually a good thing. But what happens with phones is that third-party companies will modify the free open-source code with proprietary components to make it suit their particular needs and wants. So while the Android Linux operating system that is created by Google is open-source, the modified version of Linux distributed by most phone manufacturers in their phones is proprietary and no longer open-source. What this means then is that when Google releases a patch or update for their open-source code, the phone manufacturers who modified the code have to in turn modify the patches and updates to work with their particular proprietary versions of Android Linux. Unfortunately, this takes time and effort, and security updates can take weeks or even months to make it downstream from Google to the user when the updates have to be processed and modified by the phone manufacturer first. This makes most Android phones not directly manufactured by Google a lot less secure than they should be. This also means that when a new Android version is available, if you have a phone not manufactured by Google, you cannot easily upgrade it until the phone manufacturer has modified the source code from Google to work with the third-party proprietary modifications made for that particular model of phone. To make matters even worse, the phone manufacturers have little to no incentive to offer any software upgrades at all. They want you to buy a brand-new phone every single year, and not even wait the three years given by Google. It's also important to note that just because Google is releasing security updates for a supported version of Android, most phone manufacturers are under no legal obligation to pass those security updates to their customers. Phone manufacturers often release a new phone model every single year, and can choose to abandon providing security updates for a particular phone model at any time.

So what to do? Fortunately, Google is responsible enough to see some of the problems with this type of software ecosystem, and in particular the major security risks presented to the Android community by not getting security patches out quickly enough when the phone operating systems have been modified by third parties. Google's solution is Android One, which is the result of an agreement between Google and third-party phone manufacturers to make phones with Google-only software and no proprietary modifications to the open-source software that might impede the ability to apply security patches as quickly as Google can release them. In addition to always receiving the latest security updates before other phones get them, an Android One device is guaranteed to be provided a minimum of two version upgrades from whatever version of Android it is initially released with. [35] That means that you can keep your phone for up to five years instead of less than three years. Since all Android devices have a limited lifetime (unlike a Microsoft Windows Ten [10] device), the best deal is to get the cheapest possible Android One device you can, and then replace it every five years (or whenever it is getting close to its end of support). I would recommend to replace your Android device three months before it reaches its end of support.

I decided on the Lenovo Motorola Moto X4 Android One Edition as the cheapest phone for my needs. The Moto X4 was the very first Android One device to be released in the USA, in September 2017. [36] It currently runs on Android 9.0 Pie (after the Android One promise of two version upgrades from its initial release with Android 7.1 Nougat), and unless it gets an upgrade to Android 10, will become obsolete in August 2021 (three years from the release of Android 9). [37] [38] The camera zoom and video autofocus are not very good, but you can use the money saved compared to getting a more expensive (and less secure) smartphone to get a decent point-and-shoot camera instead of trying to use your phone as a camera. And you can continue using the point-and-shoot camera for a much longer time than you can use the phone for. I do miss the advanced features on my former (now unsupported) phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (which was also my very first smartphone), but I am comforted by the facts that I am saving money and am also much more secure now with an Android One device instead. I will say though that if you can afford a latest-model Samsung Galaxy Note, it really is the cream of the crop in terms of smartphone features available. However, in addition to having poorer security than Android One phones, Galaxy Note phones are not cost-effective, since they have to be replaced more often than Android One phones, and they also cost more for each replacement. You're literally throwing money away if the phone still works but you can no longer use it after it reaches its end of support, so the amortized cost per year of an Android One device is nearly always lower than a similarly-priced Android phone without Android One. If you want something with an active stylus, get a Microsoft Windows 10 tablet instead, which can be a lot cheaper, and will be supported forever (Microsoft Windows is now under a continuous development model, so that Windows 10 is currently planned to be supported forever by Microsoft).

One other thing you definitely should keep an eye on, is if you plan to use the phone for any navigational or astronomical functions (such as Celestron SkyPortal), you need a magnetic compass in the phone. A lot of smartphones do not include a magnetic compass in them. So you need to check for this specifically. The Global Positioning System (GPS) will only provide the phone's location; it cannot provide any directional information to determine in which direction the phone is facing. A compass is needed for that.

For finding a specific smartphone to purchase, my recommendations are that it should be no more than one Android version out of date, have Android One, use GSM, have a screen resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels or greater, be capable of recording video with a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels or greater at a framerate of 60 frames per second or greater, and have a magnetic compass. You don't need to worry too much about computing hardware specifications, since Android is optimized for low resource utilization, particularly by running applications only one at a time, unlike in a desktop environment. 1.824 gigabytes (GB) of random access memory (RAM) is the minimum recommended by Google to run Android 10, so don't get anything with less than 2 GB of RAM. [39] I have never had any problems with my Moto X4 Android One Edition running Android 9 with 3 GB of RAM. Sites like GSM Arena and Phone Arena have advanced phone finder tools that can help you to find the best device for your price range.

when to replace an Android device

All Android devices should be replaced within three years of the release date for their Android version. As of April 2020, all devices running Android Seven (7) or earlier are no longer supported and should be replaced. Devices running Android Eight (8) need to be replaced by August 2020, devices running Android Nine (9) need to be replaced by August 2021, and devices running Android Ten (10) need to be replaced by September 2022. The most recent version of Android as of April 2020 is Android 10, which was released in September 2019.

If you can't afford to replace your Android smartphone but need to continue using it as a phone, then you should take every step possible to reduce the risk of using an unsupported device. This means that you should not use the phone for anything other than audio phonecalling and Short Message Service (SMS) via text only (no multimedia messaging and no internet access). Remove all applications, including factory-installed applications, except for your antimalware app. Never use the device to access the internet (other than for antimalware updates), and leave wifi, Bluetooth, and near-field communication (NFC) permanently disabled. Do not connect it to your computer or any other devices, including Bluetooth devices (pull your vehicle over if you need to make or receive a phonecall on the road). If possible, lock your phone into Safe Mode. For access to the Google Play Store in order to install antimalware software, you should create a second Google Account solely for use with your unsupported Android device (do not use your primary Google Account). For additional security, change your Google and Netgear (or Bitdefender) passwords every month (remember to always use long complex random passwords and never reuse passwords), and perform a factory reset on the device once a year (reinstalling your antimalware).

Unsupported Android devices can still be useful though if the proper precautions are made. I was able to refurbish my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 into a pretty good point-and-shoot camera (better than my Moto X4 camera). Having an old cameraphone around can be useful for certain types of photography that would be too dangerous to attempt with a newer or more expensive camera (such as unfiltered Solar imaging). After a factory reset, I removed all applications from the smartphone except for the factory-supplied offline-use-only apps (such as the camera app). It is permanently locked into Safe Mode, with wifi, Bluetooth, and NFC permanently disabled. It has never been connected to any networks since the factory reset, including the cellular telephone network (the phone does not have a subscriber identification module [SIM]). I use it for offline use only, by taking photos, and then uploading them to the computer by universal serial bus (USB). Remember that you cannot install any apps to the device without internet access (and it would not be safe to try). Another use for keeping old phones without phone service is that they should still be able to dial 911 for emergencies (in the USA), though I have never tested this (and you should not, unless there is an actual emergency). [40] Keeping an old cellphone in your vehicle could be life-saving to be able to reach emergency services if you accidentally leave your primary cellphone at home.

phone accessories

Every smartphone should have both a protective case and a screenprotector for it. Even if you are planning to replace it in three years, you want to protect your investment and not have to replace it sooner than that. I recommend a matte film antiglare screenprotector, which is what I use (from Supershieldz), which not only protects the screen but also makes it easier to read under bright light. Tempered-glass screenprotectors provide better protection than film screenprotectors, but you want a protector that has antiglare for the best visibility. Don't forget a car charger as well.

phone software

I recommend to not install any applications on your Android device unless they are absolutely necessary. A lot of businesses will pressure you into installing their apps. Don't fall for it. For many such apps, everything you can do from the app you can also do directly from the mobile web browser instead. If you are using Bitdefender Mobile Security (and I recommend that you do), your antimalware protection is going to work best by only entering or accessing sensitive information (such as passwords or bank accounts) through HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) on a Bitdefender-supported mobile web browser (such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Opera). This is exactly how you would enter or access the same information on your desktop computer, and it is much safer than using a third-party app. You do not need to install apps to do things you can already do from a web browser. If you are browsing on Chrome, and you see a pop-up asking you to install an app instead of using the website, don't do it. If you do think you need to install an app, first take some time to investigate who developed the application. Is the developer reputable? What other applications have they developed? Does the developer have a website and contact information available?

Remember also to never connect to untrusted wifi networks. In general, using your mobile data will be more secure than attempting to connect to an untrusted wifi network. Most public wifi access points should be considered as untrustworthy, especially if you don't know who set up the network, what kind of security they have, etcetera.

If you want to install just one app (after Bitdefender Mobile Security), I highly recommend the Celestron SkyPortal App for Android. This works best with a smartphone that has a magnetic compass, and will enable you to identify most celestial objects (with or without a telescope).

disclaimer

I am not a phone expert, and some of the information presented here are my personal opinions based on my personal experiences, and so your experiences may be different. What may be best for me may not be best for you, so remember to do your own independent research before making any big decisions on what products or services to use. This is intended as a personal blog-style guide that presents a combination of both facts and opinions and is not an academic or journalistic work. Other than being an ordinary customer, I have no relationships with any companies or individuals in the telecom or cybersecurity industries.

references

  1. wikipedia:mobile phones and driving safety
  2. wikipedia:Restrictions on cell phone use while driving in the United States#Laws by state
  3. http://mva.maryland.gov/safety/distracteddriving.htm
  4. http://mva.maryland.gov/safety/fy19_distracted_programareabrief%20final.pdf
  5. https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/12/03/458225197/
  6. https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-8/pdf/are-most-americans-cutting-the-cord-on-landlines.pdf
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/wireless201906.pdf
  8. wikipedia:comparison of mobile phone standards
  9. wikipedia:GSM
  10. wikipedia:List of CDMA2000 networks#Active_networks
  11. wikipedia:United States Cellular Corporation
  12. wikipedia:Sprint Corporation
  13. https://hifld-geoplatform.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/0835ba2ed38f494196c14af8407454fb_0/
  14. https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp
  15. wikipedia:AT&T
  16. https://www.uscellular.com/coverage-map
  17. https://www.att.com/maps/wireless-coverage.html
  18. https://www.att.com/buy/wireless/prepaid/
  19. wikipedia:BBC 1Xtra
  20. https://support.skype.com/faq/fa1417/
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  23. wikipedia:mobile malware
  24. https://www.extremetech.com/computing/171949-new-type-of-audio-malware-transmits-through-speakers-and-microphones/
  25. https://www.av-test.org/en/antivirus/
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  27. https://www.microsoft.com/store/collections/mobilelist/
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  30. wikipedia:List of unusual units of measurement#Data volume
  31. http://www2.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info/how-much-info.pdf#page=110
  32. wikipedia:Library of Congress#Holdings
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  34. https://shop.westerndigital.com/products/memory-cards/sandisk-extreme-uhs-i-microsd/
  35. https://www.android.com/one/
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  38. wikipedia:Android version history#Overview
  39. https://source.android.com/compatibility/android-cdd/
  40. https://www.911.gov/frequently_asked_questions.html