The OnePlus 5T is not only a bargain, it’s the best Android phone you can buy at any price

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The new OnePlus 5T is an excellent smartphone, but thing about it stands out from the rest – its $500 price.That amount is actually near the top of what OnePlus has charged for its past smartphones. But the price is hundreds of dollars cheaper than that of many other top-of-the-line devices. Indeed, many of the latest flagship smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone X and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, cost more than $900.

Given that, you could be forgiven for thinking OnePlus made some serious compromises with the 5T to get its price so comparatively low. But you would be wrong. While the 5T does pose some trade-offs, they aren’t truly meaningful. And I’d recommend the new phone even if it cost as much as its rivals.

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But because of its low price, I’m willing to make an exception for the 5T.

But because of its low price, I'm willing to make an exception for the 5T.

For me, the two features an Android phone needs to have is that it should run an unmodified  version of the operating system and it should be able to get the latest Android updates as soon as Google releases them.Those requirements have always limited me to Google’s own devices — first its Nexus line and now its Pixel phones. Good thing, then, that Google’s devices were always among the best Android phones you could buy.

The 5T essentially meets my first requirement. Its version of Android is about 99% the same as what you’ll find on the Pixel phones. The only notable thing missing is the Pixel Launcher, which is an extra layer of features that Google reserves for its phones.

But the 5T doesn’t meet my second requirement; OnePlus devices generally don’t get the latest versions of Android as soon as Google releases them. As a case in point, the 5T runs Android 7.1; Google’s new Pixel 2 devices run Android 8.0.

However, for the 5T, I’m willing to bend my rules. It is just such a good smartphone for such a good price that I’m not going to rule it out just because it can’t get the latest Android updates right away.

In fact, I’d go farther and say that if you’re in the market for an Android phone, you should buy the 5T. There’s little reason to get any other device, unless you absolutely have to have the latest Android updates immediately — or you simply enjoy spending more money than you need to.

There is one big caveat I should note, though. The 5T doesn’t work on Verizon’s network. So, if you’re wedded to Verizon, like I am, you’ll have to get a different phone.

The OnePlus 5T went on sale on Wednesday, and it’s available from OnePlus’ site.

For less than $600, something’s got to give …

So what’s the catch?There are at least two notable features you’ll find on other top devices but not on the 5T: It doesn’t support wireless charging, and it’s not “officially” water resistant.

For me, the lack of those features isn’t a deal-breaker, especially because of the 5T’s relatively low price. Wireless charging is slow and is more of an extra convenience than a necessity. Fast charging — particularly via OnePlus’ Dash Charging system — is much more important.

And while the 5T isn’t certified to be water resistant, OnePlus is comfortable saying it will handle light sprinkles. It could potentially handle a lot more than that; some courageous OnePlus owners have posted YouTube videos showing that previous OnePlus phones can handle water pretty darn well.

And look! A headphone jack in 2017!

And look! A headphone jack in 2017!

The 5T’s fast-charging feature works better than those of its rivals

The 5T's fast-charging feature works better than those of its rivals

OnePlus’ Dash Charge fast-charging feature should be the standard for all smartphones. It essentially keeps all the heat-emitting elements of charging in the adapter itself, so the phone doesn’t get hot when it’s plugged in.In addition to keeping the 5T cool, the feature allows it to charge faster than rival devices. Other Android phones with fast charging will slow down their charging when they get hot to prevent overheating.

Additionally, I have no complaints with the 5T’s battery life.

And its portrait mode works well too.

And its portrait mode works well too.

The 5T’s portrait mode, which blurs out the background behind a subject, is very good.Like that on the Pixel 2 — but in contrast to the same feature on the latest iPhones — the 5T’s portrait mode does a great job of keeping the entire subject in focus.

It has a very good camera.

It has a very good camera.

The 5T’s camera compares favorably to that of other top phones. The pictures it makes are similar to those of Apple’s iPhones; the color palette is warm in tone compared to the pictures shot with Google’s Pixel 2 devices, which yield photos with more neutral tones. Its HDR — high dynamic range — feature works very well, bringing out great details in the shadows of brightly lit shots.The 5T has a 16-megapixel primary camera. Nominally, that’s superior to the cameras in other top Android phones, which typically are 12-megapixel shooters. But I didn’t see much of a benefit in terms of added sharpness from those additional pixels.

Like many other recent phones, the OnePlus has a dual-lens camera system. Its secondary camera is a 20-megapixel one. Instead of using the secondary camera to offer an optical zoom feature, like the latest iPhones do and the previous OnePlus phone did, the 5T uses it to improve photos shot in dim light.

The result is pretty good. Low-light photos shot with the 5T are sharper than those taken with previous OnePlus phones. However, both Samsung’s Galaxy phones and the Pixel 2 do a better job in low light.

A low light photo taken with the OnePlus 5T.

But the phone’s fingerprint sensor can be finicky and frustrating to use.

But the phone's fingerprint sensor can be finicky and frustrating to use.

To make room for the 5T’s larger display and to offer thinner borders around its screen, OnePlus moved its fingerprint sensor to the phone’s back. Unfortunately, that makes it hard to use.The sensor is flush with the case, so it can be difficult to find without looking at it. And it’s not very forgiving. It wouldn’t unlock my phone unless I put my finger squarely on it right from the start. It didn’t like it when, while blindly hunting for the sensor, I slid my finger over to the middle of it after discovering its edge.

In this way, the 5T’s fingerprint sensor is similar to that on Samsung’s Galaxy S8, which is equally unforgiving. By contrast, the fingerprint sensor on the Pixel 2 XL is a lot less picky, and the sensors on previous OnePlus phones were easier to use, because they were on their fronts.

Overall, the 5T’s facial recognition is much easier to use.

The 5T has a facial recognition feature — and it works almost too well.

The 5T is the first OnePlus phone that comes with facial recognition. The company nailed the feature, but it works almost too well.When I press the power button on the 5T, the phone immediately unlocks and goes straight to my home screen. There’s no indication that it’s trying to recognize my face first. It works so fast, it’s almost disconcerting. It feels like the feature isn’t even turned on, and I don’t have any security measures in place.

In fact, the facial recognition feature works so well I hardly ever see the lock screen on the 5T or the notifications it displays there. The only time I tend to see the lock screen is when I’m in a very dark area and the phone has trouble recognizing my face.

Because the facial recognition feature works so well, I had to change how I check notifications. At first, I started angling the 5T away from my face, so it wouldn’t unlock while I was going through my lock-screen alerts. Realizing that was ridiculous, I now check my alerts by pulling down the Android notifications shade after my phone unlocks and view them there.

To be sure, as good as the 5T’s facial recognition system is, it’s not on par with Apple’s Face ID technology that’s on the iPhone X. The 5T didn’t recognize my face when I was wearing sunglasses, for example. That made me doubt whether it would recognize users when they got haircuts or were wearing makeup.

Still, the 5T has one big advantage over the iPhone X — it has a fingerprint sensor also. So if its facial recognition system doesn’t work for you, you can always use your fingers to unlock it.

The phone’s performance is stellar.

The phone's performance is stellar.

Hiding underneath the 5T’s minimalist outer shell you’ll find specs that are as good or better than those of most of its rivals.Like many of its newest competitors, the 5T includes Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 835 processor. But it has more memory than most of its rivals. Most top Android smartphones come with 4GB of RAM. By contrast, the base model of the 5T has 6GB and the top model has a whopping 8GB.

The more memory a device has, the faster it can typically switch between apps. And the 5T’s extra RAM may make a difference if you customize your phone with software that offers a greater range of Android design and setting options.

I’ve been testing the higher-end model of the 5T, which costs $560 and comes with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. I actually haven’t noticed much of a difference in performance between it and the Pixel 2 XL, which has the same processor and half the RAM.

But I’m not going to complain about the extra memory, especially given that it’s included in the 5T’s sub-$600 price.

The 5T’s screen is great, especially considering the device’s price.

The 5T's screen is great, especially considering the device's price.

The 5T’s display is on par with those of other top Android smartphones. It has a 6-inch AMOLED screen with a 18:9 aspect ratio. That’s more elongated than the typical smartphone screen from as recently as last year.Some spec-scrutinizers may think the 1080p resolution on the 5T’s display doesn’t match up well with the 1440p resolution offered on most other Android flagship devices. But you’d be hard-pressed to notice much of a difference when actually comparing the phones side-by-side.

The 5T’s display is beautiful. Its vibrant colors, and brightness and contrast levels equal those of displays on phones that cost $350 more.

The OnePlus 5T looks great.

The OnePlus 5T looks great.

Design-wise, the 5T doesn’t out. But that’s a good thing. It includes most of the latest design features of other contemporary phones, including narrow top and bottom borders around its screen and a metallic back. Combined, those elements make for a minimalistic, almost generic, design. It’s functional, not flashy.What is noticeable, though, is just how thin the 5T is compared to other top Android phones. On paper, the 7.3mm thick 5T may not seem that much thinner than Google’s 7.9mm Pixel 2 XL or Samsung’s 8.6mm Galaxy Note 8. But those fractions of a millimeter do make a noticeable difference.

That thinness combined with its light weight make the 5T supremely comfortable to use.

Source: Business Insider


Apple and LG Working Together To Develop the First Foldable iPhone

An Apple store is seen in Los Angeles, California, United States, April 22, 2016.


An Apple store is seen in Los Angeles, California, United States, April 22, 2016.

The current competition in the smartphone market has reached an all-time high, as tech giants have been working hard to gain the attention and support of the consumers. Apple just recently released their iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, with the iPhone X coming soon to stores.

While the team is busy organizing everything for the upcoming release of the iPhone X, it seems that the tech giant is also preoccupied with something else. Recent reports have revealed that Apple might be planning to release a foldable phone as part of their partnership with LG.

According to The Bell, LG Display recently assembled a team to handle the task of developing a foldable OLED screen, while their sister company, LG Innotek has been reportedly figuring out how to develop the rigid-flexible printed circuit board. Considering fans were expecting them to work with Samsung Display, who is the sole supplier of the iPhone X’s OLED, rumors speculate that the partnership was dropped due to tech leaks.

It is unclear as to when fans will see and own the first foldable iPhone, but many believe that it will arrive by 2020. On the other hand, Samsung is expected to debut their foldable smartphone version by next year. Reports of Apple’s partnership with LG is working to develop the upcoming technology first surfaced last year. Fans say that there is a reason to believe the rumor, as it was legitimate enough to drive their attention away from the iPhone X.

Further reports on Apple and LG’s relationship have also revealed that the former may be investing the latter’s products. No details were revealed about this, but many are curious to soo as to how these corporate developments will play out, and how it will affect that smartphone competition. In the meantime, fans are reminded that the iPhone X is well on its way, as it is scheduled to be released on Nov. 3.

Source: The Christian Post


Latest report of Apple Pencil compatibility for iPhone goes a step further…

There have been a number of indications that Apple plans to add Pencil compatibility to a future iPhone, starting with an apparent slip of the tongue by Tim Cook, in which he talked of having used the two together.

There are also multiple patents for the idea, the most recent one specifically referencing the iPhone. And a new report goes even further, suggesting that the Apple Pencil – or some similar device – may be bundled with a 2019 iPhone …

The report in The Investor claims that Apple plans to offer an iPhone with a ‘digital pen’ in 2019.

Sources say Apple engineers have recently been working on a new iPhone that comes with a digital pen.

“Apple is preparing to launch the phone as early as 2019,” an industry source told The Investor on condition of anonymity. “It is also in talks with a couple of stylus makers for a partnership.”

The report also says that Apple plans to ‘drastically upgrade’ the A-series chip to better support handwriting recognition. It claims that Apple was not able to do this on the upcoming iPhone X.

The report seems a little dubious in at least one respect. The idea of Apple bundling an expensive accessory with the iPhone, rather than selling it separately, would be out of character.

But the most recent patent report did appear to illustrate a smaller version of the Pencil which might be easier to use with an iPhone. Focusing on handwriting recognition also seems logical for a screen size better suited to writing and annotation than to drawing.

In a poll we ran, a third of you said that you would definitely use an Apple Pencil with a compatible iPhone, while even more thought that they might do so.

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:


Riskier Loans Spike As Indian Banks Chase Credit Growth

As corporate borrowing growth remains low and competition increases in home and auto lending, large Indian banks have turned to a riskier bet: unsecured loans to individuals.

Outstanding credit card debt rose over 30 percent year-on-year in July and personal loans increased by around 35 percent, according to data available with the Reserve Bank of India. That’s twice the 15 percent growth in total retail loans, and the gap has widened over the last one year. In comparison, overall bank credit grew 7 percent.

Credit cards and personal loans together contribute 30 percent of the total Rs 16.65 lakh crore outstanding retail loans of scheduled commercial banks. To be sure, it’s just 7 percent of the total loans. Probably why bankers are not worried.

“Stress does not appear overnight. We can see where it is building up and take appropriate measures in time,” Arvind Kapil, country head-unsecured loans and mortgages at HDFC Bank, told BloombergQuint. “Personal loans are also granular and the end use is well diversified, which gives us comfort while lending.”

In 2008-09, when Indian companies where reeling under the impact of a global financial crisis, banks saw delinquencies build up in credit card and personal loan book. That made them cautious.

And Credit information company TransUnion CIBIL’s latest survey of 1,088 urban respondents found that 29 percent spent more than the budgeted amount on their credit cards over the past 12 months. Around 20 percent took longer than planned to pay back their card outstanding, according to the survey results released on Tuesday.

Personal loans carry interest rates of 11-15 percent on an average and credit cards charge around 25 percent annually, given the risks involved. Banks believe these are good reasons for them to grow at a slightly faster pace in the unsecured segment without affecting the quality of their loan book.

Lenders have rolled out products and initiatives to gain customers. HDFC Bank uses social media analytics to determine whether it can give out credit cards to first-time customers. And it’s been pushing personal loans. Its credit card portfolio rose by 37 percent year-on-year to Rs 29,101 crore at the end of June, while personal loans rose 36.5 percent to Rs 56,067 crore.

We are growing at a healthy pace. We have risk policies which are well placed to advise the customers accurately on the amount of loan they can avail. Also, structurally credit bureaus have added immense value to the industry.

Arvind Kapil, Country Head-Unsecured Loans And Mortgages, HDFC Bank

ICICI Bank entered the payday loan market to offer short-term loans to customers at a high interest rate, according to a report in the Times of India. Credit card loans and personal loans rose 37 percent and 40 percent year-on-year, respectively, in the April-June period, its investor presentation said.

Its private sector peer Axis Bank Ltd. too aims to increase its credit card users from within its customer base and source a small portion of the personal loan book from outside.

We are largely targeting our own customers. We have advanced assessment tools and analytics, which is helping us maintain the book quality. Customers are also better aware of the importance of maintaining a good credit score, which ensures that they repay on time.

Rajiv Anand, Executive Director, Axis Bank

Credit cards and personal loans together account for about 12 percent of the total retail credit for Axis Bank. Anand said the low concentration of unsecured loans gives banks the headroom to grow the category without worrying about over-exposure.

India’s largest lender, State Bank of India, too will be give out pre-approved credit cards to its own customers. Through its subsidiary SBI Cards, the lender has 49.75 lakh cards, according to RBI’s July data.

Vijay Jasuja, chief executive officer at SBI Cards, said the increase in credit card loans is not worrying since it’s keeping up with the increase in card spends, which are growing at around 40 percent year-on-year every month.

“Unless the pace of growth in outstanding credit card loans is much higher than spends, there is no danger of customers rolling over credit and defaulting. The delinquency rates are around 1.75-2.4 percent, which is very healthy,” Jasuja said.

Only about 35 percent of our credit card customers are from SBI. We are improving synergies with the bank using pre-approved credit cards as a tool. Using this, we should be able to double our card base within a year.

Vijay Jasuja, Chief Executive Officer, SBI Cards

Bank of Baroda, earlier this month, announced a special lending programme with Amazon India to provide unsecured loans ranging between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 25 lakh to select small business owners.

Bankers said mostly such loans are targeted salaried customers, who have secured jobs and are seeing healthy increase in wages. These factors are likely to ensure that banks do not run into a crisis anytime soon.

Stay updated with Business news on BloombergQuint

How To Stop Boring Students When Teaching Personal Finance – 2

Continued from page 1

The Daily Show: This clip pokes fun at the use of credit cards and is a great way to discuss buying habits using cash, debit, and credit.


The Simpsons, the longest-running American sitcom, satirizes many elements of American culture.  One of my favorite clips is about the Town of Springfield—and Homer specifically—struggling to complete and submit tax returns on time. It is a terrific way to introduce taxes and insights around deductions and penalties (and teach students that, yes, they do need to file their taxes every year).


Jerry Seinfeld (the comedian, not the show): There’s a short but effective clip from Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up act about “Morning Guy” and “Night Guy.” The clip highlights the consequences of overvaluing our present selves and not thinking about the consequences that our actions today will have on our future selves. This clip can help set the stage for discussions about starting to invest for retirement early or about some of the pitfalls of credit cards.

Seinfeld: To demonstrate the time value of money, I use my favorite clip of Jerry’s dad doing the calculation of what a $50 debt would be worth 52 years later.  I use this clip with college seniors, graduate students, and new employees as a helpful complement to demonstrate how important putting money away early is to their long-term financial success.

Last Week Tonight: While in school, most students will interact with people – professors, administrators, advisors – who will have their best interests at heart; however, this is not the case after they graduate. John Oliver tackles one of the most important overarching lessons to instill in students, which is that they are ultimately responsible for their own financial destiny. The end of the clip is an effective way to introduce students to the importance of fiduciary duty.

One word of caution. Copyright law carves out fair use exceptions for using clips in educational settings, but there are limits. Before using any clips, please make sure you are abiding by copyright and fair use guidelines.

What other media clips have you used to engage students when teaching personal finance?  Which have been the most effective?

Shahar Ziv is the Founder of Acing Your Finances, which helps individuals develop healthy financial habits. Follow him on Twitter @ziv_shahar

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How To Stop Boring Students When Teaching Personal Finance – 1

Deposit Photos/wavebreakmedia

Is your personal finance lesson spongeworthy?

In one of the most memorable Seinfeld episodes of all-time, Elaine’s preferred contraceptive sponge is pulled off the market, causing her to hoard her existing stash. With a limited supply, Elaine agonizes over whether the man she’s dating is “spongeworthy” or if she should wait for a better catch.

Elaine’s dilemma is not only entertainment, but also a humorous method to analyze more mundane and humdrum economic topics like opportunity cost, scarcity, and option-value pricing. Princeton Professor Avinash Dixit applied Elaine’s predicament in a paper, An Option Value Problem from Seinfeld, “to quantify [the value of] this concept of spongeworthiness.” The paper went viral, at least by academic journal standards, and helps reinforce how Seinfeld can be used to teach economics. Similarly, I have found the use of clips from Seinfeld and other popular television shows to be an essential tool when teaching financial literacy, not only to reinforce important concepts, but also to drive student engagement.

My mission for the past seven years has been to help students and recent graduates develop healthy money habits and build the foundation for a lifetime of financial wellness. As the co-founder of the Harvard University Personal Financial Management Wintersession Program who has also had the privilege of working with students at Columbia and Wharton as well as resident physicians at Mount Sinai Hospital, I’ve encountered the challenge of commanding student’s attention firsthand. Who would have thought that cash flow management and the importance of renter’s insurance wouldn’t instantly and effortlessly enrapture students?

Suggested: Check Your Eligibility For Personal Loan

Despite many universities now recognizing the benefits of financial wellness instruction, it is often not incorporated into the curriculum as a for-credit course (Annamaria Lusardi, one of the top experts on financial literacy, has a new course at George Washington University that is a notable exception). Positioned as an optional extracurricular, personal finance runs up against many competing demands, making it harder to attract students and keep their attention during sessions. While students do come craving information, many who I have spoken to have also said they don’t want to feel like they are sitting in just another boring lecture.

Deposit Photos/monkeybusiness

Videos help bring alive dry concepts and make insights more memorable

Treating personal finance sessions as a combination of education and entertainment has helped me maintain student engagement and effectively convey important concepts. While this involves a variety of techniques, the use of pop-culture references and videos to draw out insights has proven particularly handy in an era of shortened attention spans. Videos help bring alive otherwise dry concepts like compound interest and simplify academic jargon like hyperbolic discounting. They make insights more memorable and practical.

If you’re trying to explain the time value of money, why not show Jerry Seinfeld’s dad calculate how winnings from a bet 50 years ago would have compounded? If you’re striving to teach the importance of building and maintaining one’s financial reputation, why not show the humiliation Jerry suffers after he bounces a check at the local bodega and the owner puts it up on the cash register for all to see.

Seinfeld is such a great teacher of economics that a group of professors created a website – The Economics of Seinfeld – that indexes clips based on topics ranging from compound interest to variable costs. “It is the simplicity of Seinfeld that makes it so appropriate for use in economics courses,” the site proclaims. “Using these clips (as well as clips from other television shows or movies) makes economic concepts come alive, making them more real for students. Ultimately, students will start seeing economics everywhere – in other TV shows, in popular music, and most importantly, in their own lives.

Jerry Seinfeld performs on stage as The New York Comedy Festival(Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Bob Woodruff Foundation)

While Seinfeld references may soon start falling flat on Generation Z, newer shows, like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, have fortuitously filled the gap.

If you are looking to add some entertainment into your personal finance lessons and capture student’s attention in a way that a PowerPoint slide or lecture cannot do on their own, below are a few favorite clips, old and new, organized by concept.


Saturday Night Live’s ratings surged in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. This classic segment featuring Steve Martin and Amy Poehler and narrated by Chris Parnell is a funny way to introduce budgeting, needs vs. wants, and the concept of financial debt.

The Cosby Show offers one of the best budgeting lessons of all time in this clip, when he teaches his son, Theo, about budgeting with Monopoly money. However, Bill Cosby has become a controversial figure given recent allegations, so use at your own discretion.


John Oliver is my new favorite personal finance celebrity. He’s popular, relevant with today’s audience, and blisteringly funny in his take down of various companies and financial practices. I love his Last Week Tonight segment on Credit Reports (use sections from the start to 0:50 and then from 1:01 to 1:50 to avoid foul language).

Seinfeld has a short but great clip about the backlash against Jerry when one of his checks bounces. I use this as a cheeky way to talk about the importance of safeguarding your financial reputation, which segues nicely to a discussion about building credit and watching over your credit report.

Shahar Ziv is the Founder of Acing Your Finances, which helps individuals develop healthy financial habits. Follow him on Twitter @ziv_shahar


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How to Tell if Your Phone Has Been Hacked

How to Tell if Your Phone Has Been Hacked

image credit: hacker smartphone concept via BigStockPhoto

By now, government spying is such a common refrain that we may have become desensitized to the notion that the NSA taps our phone calls or the FBI can hack our computers whenever it wants. Yet there are other technological means – and motives – for hackers, criminals and even the people we know, such as a spouse or employer, to hack into our phones and invade our privacy.

From targeted breaches and vendetta-fueled snooping to opportunistic land grabs for the data of the unsuspecting, here are seven ways someone could be spying on your cell phone – and what you can do about it.

1. Spy apps

There is a glut of phone monitoring apps designed to covertly track someone’s location and snoop on their communications. Many are advertised to suspicious partners or distrustful employers, but still more are marketed as a legitimate tool for safety-concerned parents to keep tabs on their kids. Such apps can be used to remotely view text messages, emails, internet history, and photos; log phone calls and GPS locations; some may even hijack the phone’s mic to record conversations made in person. Basically, almost anything a hacker could possible want to do with your phone, these apps would allow.

And this isn’t just empty rhetoric. When we studied cell phone spying apps back in 2013, we found they could do everything they promised. Worse, they were easy for anyone to install, and the person who was being spied on would be none the wiser that there every move was being tracked.

“There aren’t too many indicators of a hidden spy app – you might see more internet traffic on your bill, or your battery life may be shorter than usual because the app is reporting back to a third-party,” says Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at security firm Sophos.


Spy apps are available on Google Play, as well as non-official stores for iOS and Android apps, making it pretty easy for anyone with access to your phone (and a motive) to download one.

How to protect yourself

  • Since installing spy apps require physical access to your device, putting a passcode on your phone greatly reduces the chances of someone being able to access your phone in the first place. And since spy apps are often installed by someone close to you (think spouse or significant other), pick a code that won’t be guessed by anyone else.
  • Go through your apps list for ones you don’t recognize.
  • Don’t jailbreak your iPhone. “If a device isn’t jailbroken, all apps show up,” says Wisniewski. “If it is jailbroken, spy apps are able to hide deep in the device, and whether security software can find it depends on the sophistication of the spy app [because security software scans for known malware].”
  • For iPhones, ensuring you phone isn’t jailbroken also prevents anyone from downloading a spy app to your phone, since such software – which tampers with system-level functions – doesn’t make it onto the App Store.
  • Android users can download a mobile security app that will flag malicious programs. There isn’t the same type of mobile security apps for iOS, due to App Store restrictions, though Lookout Security and Sophos will alert you if your iPhone has been jailbroken.

2. Phishing by message

Whether it’s a text claiming to be from your financial institution, or a friend exhorting you to check out this photo of you last night, SMSes containing deceptive links that aim to scrape sensitive information (otherwise known as phishing or “smishing”) continue to make the rounds.

Android phones may also fall prey to messages with links to download malicious apps. (The same scam isn’t prevalent for iPhones, which are commonly non-jailbroken and therefore can’t download apps from anywhere except the App Store.)

Such malicious apps may expose a user’s phone data, or contain a phishing overlay designed to steal login information from targeted apps – for example, a user’s bank or email app.


Quite likely. Though people have learned to be skeptical of emails asking them to “click to see this funny video!”, security lab Kaspersky notes that they tend to be less wary on their phones.

How to protect yourself

  • Keep in mind how you usually verify your identity with various accounts – for example, your bank will never ask you to input your full password or PIN.
  • Avoid clicking links from numbers you don’t know, or in curiously vague messages from friends, especially if you can’t see the full URL.
  • If you do click on the link and end up downloading an app, your Android phone should notify you. Delete the app and/or run a mobile security scan.

3. SS7 global phone network vulnerability

Nearly two years ago, it was discovered that a communication protocol for mobile networks across the world, Signalling System No 7 (SS7), has a vulnerability that lets hackers spy on text messages, phone calls and locations, armed only with someone’s mobile phone number. An added concern is that text message is a common means to receive two-factor authentication codes from, say, email services or financial institutions – if these are intercepted, an enterprising hacker could access protected accounts, wrecking financial and personal havoc.

According to security researcher Karsten Nohl, law enforcement and intelligence agencies use the exploit to intercept cell phone data, and hence don’t necessarily have great incentive to seeing that it gets patched.


Extremely unlikely, unless you’re a political leader, CEO or other person whose communications could hold high worth for criminals. Journalists or dissidents travelling in politically restless countries may be at an elevated risk for phone tapping.

How to protect yourself

  • Use an end-to-end encrypted message service that works over the internet (thus bypassing the SS7 protocol), says Wisniewski. WhatsApp (free, iOS/Android), Signal (free, iOS/Android) and Wickr Me (free, iOS/Android) all encrypt messages and calls, preventing anyone from intercepting or interfering with your communications.
  • Be aware that if you are in a potentially targeted group your phone conversations could be monitored and act accordingly.

4. Snooping via open Wi-Fi networks

Thought that password-free Wi-Fi network with full signal bars was too good to be true? It might just be. Eavesdroppers on an unsecured Wi-Fi network can view all its unencrypted traffic. And nefarious public hotspots can redirect you to lookalike banking or email sites designed to capture your username and password. And it’s not necessarily a shifty manager of the establishment you’re frequenting. For example, someone physically across the road from a popular coffee chain could set up a login-free Wi-Fi network named after the café, in hopes of catching useful login details for sale or identity theft.


Any tech-savvy person could potentially download the necessary software to intercept and analyze Wi-Fi traffic – including your neighbor having a laugh at your expense (you weren’t browsing NSFW websites again, were you?).

How to protect yourself

  • Only use secured networks where all traffic is encrypted by default during transmission to prevent others from snooping on your Wi-Fi signal.
  • Download a VPN app to encrypt your smartphone traffic. SurfEasy VPN (iOS, Android) provides 500MB of traffic free, after which it’s $2.99/month.
  • If you must connect to a public network and don’t have a VPN app, avoid entering in login details for banking sites or email. If you can’t avoid it, ensure the URL in your browser address bar is the correct one. And never enter private information unless you have a secure connection to the other site (look for “https” in the URL and a green lock icon in the address bar).

5. Unauthorized access to iCloud or Google account

Hacked iCloud and Google accounts offer access to an astounding amount of information backed up from your smartphone – photos, phonebooks, current location, messages, call logs and in the case of the iCloud Keychain, saved passwords to email accounts, browsers and other apps. And there are spyware sellers out there who specifically market their products against these vulnerabilities.

Online criminals may not find much value in the photos of regular folk – unlike nude pictures of celebrities that are quickly leaked– but they know the owners of the photos do, says Wisniewski, which can lead to accounts and their content being held digitally hostage unless victims pay a ransom.

Additionally, a cracked Google account means a cracked Gmail, the primary email for many users.

Having access to a primary email can lead to domino-effect hacking of all the accounts that email is linked to – from your Facebook account to your mobile carrier account, paving the way for a depth of identity theft that would seriously compromise your credit.


“This is a big risk. All an attacker needs is an email address; not access to the phone, nor the phone number,” Wisniewski says. If you happen to use your name in your email address, your primary email address to sign up for iCloud/Google, and a weak password that incorporates personally identifiable information, it wouldn’t be difficult for a hacker who can easily glean such information from social networks or search engines.

How to protect yourself

  • Create a strong password for these key accounts (and as always, your email).
  • Enable login notifications so you’re aware of sign-ins from new computers or locations.
  • Enable two-factor authentication so that even if someone discovers your password they can’t access your account without access to your phone.
  • To prevent someone resetting your password, lie when setting up password security questions. You would be amazed how many security questions rely on information that is easily available on the Internet or is widely known by your family and friends.

6. Malicious charging stations

Well-chosen for a time when smartphones barely last the day and Google is the main way to not get lost, this hack leverages our ubiquitous need for juicing our phone battery, malware be damned. Malicious charging stations – including malware-loaded computers – take advantage of the fact that standard USB cables transfer data as well as charge battery. Older Android phones may even automatically mount the hard drive upon connection to any computer, exposing its data to an unscrupulous owner.

Security researchers have also shown it’s possible to hijack the video-out feature on most recent phones so that when plugged into a malicious charge hub, a hacker can monitor every keystroke, including passwords and sensitive data.


Low. There are no widely known instances of hackers exploiting the video-out function, while newer Android phones ask for permission to load their hard drive when plugged into a new computer; iPhones request a PIN. However, new vulnerabilities may be discovered.

How to protect yourself

  • Don’t plug into unknown devices; bring a wall charger. You might want to invest in a charge-only USB cable like PortaPow ($6.99 on Amazon)
  • If a public computer is your only option to revive a dead battery, select the “Charge only” option (Android phones) if you get a pop-up when you plug in, or deny access from the other computer (iPhone).

7. FBI’s StingRay (and other fake cellular towers)

An ongoing initiative by the FBI to tap phones in the course of criminal investigations (or indeed, peaceful protests) involves the use of cellular surveillance devices (the eponymous StingRays) that mimic bona fide network towers.

StingRays, and similar pretender wireless carrier towers, force nearby cell phones to drop their existing carrier connection to connect to the StingRay instead, allowing the device’s operators to monitor calls and texts made by these phones, their movements, and the numbers of who they text and call.

As StingRays have a radius of about 1km, an attempt to monitor a suspect’s phone in a crowded city center could amount to tens of thousands of phones being tapped.

Until late 2015, warrants weren’t required for StingRay-enabled cellphone tracking; currently, around a dozen states outlaw the use of eavesdropping tech unless in criminal investigations, yet many agencies don’t obtain warrants for their use.


While the average citizen isn’t the target of a StingRay operation, it’s impossible to know what is done with extraneous data captured from non-targets, thanks to tight-lipped federal agencies.

How to protect yourself

  • Use encrypted messaging and voice call apps, particularly if you enter a situation that could be of government interest, such as a protest. Signal (free, iOS/Android) and Wickr Me (free, iOS/Android) both encrypt messages and calls, preventing anyone from intercepting or interfering with your communications. Most encryption in use today isn’t breakable, says Wisniewski, and a single phone call would take 10-15 years to decrypt.

“The challenging thing is, what the police have legal power to do, hackers can do the same,” Wisniewski says. “We’re no longer in the realm of technology that costs millions and which only the military have access to. Individuals with intent to interfere with communications have the ability to do so.”

From security insiders to less tech-savvy folk, many are already moving away from traditional, unencrypted communications – and perhaps in several years, it’ll be unthinkable that we ever allowed our private conversations and information to fly through the ether unprotected.


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