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Fixing your phone: here is the hidden risk

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A mobile phone is a very private device and when we take it in for repair we have no idea what happens to our personal information. ASHARAF ROGERS, Technical Manager at weFix, gives some tips to make sure our private data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Nearly one in five South Africans don’t have a password on their smartphone. With almost 9 million South Africans reportedly victims of cyber crime in the last year, according to a 2016 study by internet security company Norton, the need for heightened security measures for tech devices becomes abundantly clear.

As the consumer’s desire for convenience continues to grow, devices such as mobile phones become increasingly indispensable. Most people can barely recall a time when the functioning of a mobile phone was limited to making and receiving calls and text messages. Today, mobile phones are our bank teller, our PA, our work and personal email accounts and our family photo album. As a result, they are also our entire life laid open to unscrupulous individuals looking to steal our identity or commit fraud.

One of the most common ways that people render themselves vulnerable to such crime is when taking their mobile device in for repair. While you might think that the phone’s lock screen pin is secure enough to be in the repair shop for a few days, there are in fact data recovery applications that can be used to extract your phone data even when the screen is locked.

Asharaf Rogers, Technical Manager at weFix explains, “Mobile phones, as with most tech devices nowadays, are incredibly private in terms of the volume of personal information they contain. In fact what most people fail to remember is that regardless of how new their mobile phone is, the information stored in their smartphone is way more valuable than the actual device.”

Rogers warns that customers need to be very careful about who they hand their phone to for repair. Many new repair kiosks are popping up in South Africa and customers need to ensure that the technician is both adequately qualified to do necessary repairs and also trustworthy in terms of the data they can access on the device. Rogers suggests these four key steps to consider before handing a phone over:

·       Are you using a reputable technician? An expert will be certified, will fully understand ESD safety requirements and know how to handle dangerous situations such as a swollen or exploding battery. On the other hand, use someone without the requisite skills and you run the risk of a completely different problem appearing on the device, as well as misaligned screens or frames, or a device that was working before (think cracked screen but still functioning) that is now completely unusable.

·       Even though a surprising 30% of people have never backed up (according to Cloudwards), ensure you back up your device to iCloud, Google Sync or to a harddrive. This not only minimizes the risk of complete data loss as a result of an unsuccessful repair or intermittent problem on the device, but it means your private and prized data – including family photos – can be removed from the device for the duration of the repair and then uploaded once you have your device back.

·       Research conducted by Protect Your Bubble shows that 57% of men are responsible for dropping their smartphones down a toilet! A device going in for a camera or battery repair could get substantially worse if information, such as liquid damage, is withheld. So ensure you give accurate and true details to the technician about what’s happened to the device to avoid the exact faults or worse, returning after the repair.

·       Be prepared to surrender your passcode. If needed, you might have to turn off security features to ensure comprehensive diagnosis or repair of your device. This allows a technician to test all functions before and after repair. For example, disabling ‘find your phone’ assists in accurate testing so be comfortable with the technician with whom you’re leaving it.

67% of South Africans surveyed by Norton said they felt it was easier to control personal information before smartphones and the internet. Now more than ever, trust is everything when it comes to getting devices repaired so take the necessary precautions before giving your phone to anyone and avoid becoming a victim of crime.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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