Was an Android device waiting for you under the tree this year? Google’s in-house operating system ignited a smartphone revolution across the world. And now, the handsets are so advanced they’re putting Apple’s top tier products to shame.
Naturally, new Android users are bound to have questions. The operating system is extremely flexible and customizable, so mastering it can feel a bit like learning a new language — and in-person support options are limited. Tap or click to see how Microsoft Stores are the new home for Samsung Galaxy support.
To help our readers with new Android devices get the most out of their gifts, we’ve put together a list of essential security settings you need to activate right out of the box. Not only will your Android be more secure, you’ll be setting yourself up for cybersecurity success. Here’s what you need to change.
Smart Lock is your new best friend
Is a passcode or biometric setting not robust enough security for you? Tired of having to unlock your phone every time you use it? On other brands of phone, asking for both is a tall order. But Android allows its users to have their cake and eat it too with Smart Lock.
To sum it up, Smart Lock automatically keeps your phone locked or unlocked, depending on its location and position. Things like body detection, familiar device detection, and location services add up to allow your phone to unlock with ease.
To activate Smart Lock, you’ll need to have already set up a passcode or biometric lock for yourself. Once you have done so, go to device Settings and tap on Lock screen. Tap on Smart Lock, enter your password or PIN, and select from the following options:
- On-body detection: This keeps your phone unlocked as long as it’s in motion. Just unlock it once and it’ll remain open until you set it down. While this is useful, it shouldn’t be used alone, as it can’t tell the difference between you or someone else moving it around.
- Trusted Places: This lets you set a specific location as “trusted” for your phone to be unlocked. Entering this zone will automatically unlock your phone and leaving will lock it. You must have location services turned on to use this feature and it pairs excellently with on-body detection as well.
- Trusted Devices: This one is probably the most useful (especially for drivers). If you have a trusted Bluetooth device in range, you can have your phone automatically unlock. This is perfect if you connect your phone to your car, and can save you from having to look down at your screen to unlock it while driving.
Pin apps to restrict access
Need to hand your phone to someone else? Afraid of being snooped on? Once again, Android caters to its users by providing a feature that lets you have it both ways.
App Pinning is a way of restricting access to a specific app when the phone is unlocked. This is very useful for people who tend to share their device with others but may not want their private text messages or voicemails viewed.
To pin an app, go to device Settings and tap Biometrics and security. Scroll down to Other security settings and tap it. Locate Pin windows and open the menu to toggle the option to on.
To get past the pinned app, all you’ll need to do is authenticate your passcode, PIN or biometrics. When your phone is inside a pinned app, calls and texts are disabled, so keep that in mind when you hand your phone over to show off your pics.
Stop Google from tracking your frequent locations
Google Maps is handy for navigating and finding your way home. But Google doesn’t always need to know everywhere you go.
To clear your frequent locations, open Google Maps and click on the Menu tab in the upper left corner. Tap Your Places. Under the Labeled tab, you can set, edit or remove home information.
To hide regular route data and delete your location history, click on Settings in the upper right corner within the Your places setting. Under Personal content, disable Regular routes to hide and tap on Delete all Location History, agree and click delete when the warning pop-up appears.
This will stop Google from knowing your full location history, which may alter some of the ads you see.
Apps you install from Google Play to your device will ask permission before accessing your data. This tends to happen in the background, but Android requires certain functions to ask for your consent before continuing. These are the pop-ups you see about “permission to access the camera and microphone.”
Malicious apps ask for permission, too. Usually, they’re very subtle about it, with some only hinting about what they ask for on the download page. Again, you need to pay attention. Read permissions requests carefully when they appear.
Too many unusual requests for features not relevant to the app is a red flag, like a calculator app asking for camera access. Tap or click here to see how thousands of fake apps on Google Play required unusual permissions when installing.
See which apps have which permissions:
- Open the Settings app and visit the Apps & notifications menu.
- Tap on the app you want to examine.
- If you don’t see the one you’re looking for, tap See all.
- From this page, tap Permissions to see everything the app has access to.
You can disable specific permissions for apps in this menu. If an app requires too many unusual permissions, you may want to delete it to be on the safe side. It’s also worth checking app permissions even if you haven’t installed any third party apps. Not everyone feels comfortable with YouTube knowing their location.
Tell Google to forget what it heard and saw you do!
One of the most popular apps used by every Android user is YouTube. In fact, it’s one of the most frequently visited websites on Earth, and the Android mobile app is no exception to this rule.
But Google takes great interest in the viewing habits of its users, which it collects in order to serve you ads more effectively. If you’re not fully comfortable with YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, you can thankfully clear your YouTube viewing history. In the coming months, you’ll even be able to autodelete.
To access your YouTube search and watch history, you’ll need a desktop computer or laptop. Tap or click here to visit the My Activity page, log in with your Google account and click on Other Google activity.
Scroll down to YouTube Watch History and YouTube Search History. You can scroll through and delete your individual activity items, as well as change settings for YouTube search and watch activity so no future data is collected.
In the coming month, a new feature will even let you ask your phone to forget your search and watch history. Simply say, “Hey Google, delete the last thing I said” or “Hey Google, delete everything I said in the past week,” using the Google Assistant and you’ll have cleared your history out completely.
You can specify time frames to your liking, as well as simply purge everything if you prefer.
This feature isn’t completely finished rolling out just yet, but expect it to appear in Google Assistant in the coming months. You won’t even have to make any additional changes to your software to access the features. Just stay on top of updates and the new commands will be enabled automatically.
With these settings, your new Android should be in top shape. Just steer clear of dangerous apps from the Google Play store and you should be fine.