For many, it’s their worst nightmare: A moment’s distraction, and uh-oh – the phone is gone. In an instant, everything’s gone. From contact details, family photos, to personal info and notes… Everything is now in the hands of a complete and utter stranger. Not a nice feeling at all.
So, what can you do to protect yourself if the worst of the worst happens so that you don’t lose your data with it?
The first step is a must: Set up a lock screen. Depending on the device, this can include a pattern, a PIN code, a fingerprint, or even a facial scan on the latest devices. Make sure you don’t use a simple combination, like 1234, and never keep a written copy of the unlock code with the phone. At least this makes it slightly more difficult for a thief to access your information, and you gain a bit more time.
Another important step is to make regular backups. Doing so means that at least you still have access to your information even if your smartphone goes missing. Most brands now offer their own cloud solutions: Apple has iCloud; Android devices typically backup using Google Drive and Google Photos. The key difference between them is that Apple makes practically a 1:1 backup of your iPhone which can be transferred to a new phone. Things currently aren’t as easy as that with Android.
However, you must make sure you’ve enabled the backup option as no device backs up everything by itself.
Apple offers a very detailed explanation on its Support pages on how to configure automatic backups:
- Tap Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup and make sure that iCloud Backup is enabled. If you’re running iOS 10.2 or earlier, tap Settings > iCloud > Backup.
- Connect your device to a power source.
- Connect your device to Wi-Fi.
- Make sure your device’s screen is locked.
- Check whether you have sufficient iCloud storage space for the backup. When you sign up to iCloud, you’re given 5 GB of iCloud storage for free. If you need more iCloud storage, you can buy it on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac. Storage plans start at 50 GB for €0.99 a month. Click here to learn more about plans and pricing in your region.
With Android, how you configure the setting differs depending on the device. Typically, you’ll find the option in the Settings under “Backup and reset”. You can also enable automatic backups under this option. Google then stores your information in Google Drive. Following that, you can view your information on any computer once you’ve signed in to Google. Google doesn’t just save your contact data and calendar entries, but also many other useful information too. So, if you ever lose your smartphone this makes it a breeze to restore all your old data to your new phone.
On top of making regular backups, it’s worthwhile storing a separate copy of the photos stored on your smartphone. Thankfully, there are a range of options available to help you do this. Arguably the most popular and easiest, particularly for Android devices, is Google Photos. It stores all your photos automatically in Google Drive under the Photos section. Google also adds the date and time to your photos, and even creates small collections and animations. And best of all, you get unlimited storage – really handy if you simply want to free up more space on your smartphone by shifting your photos to the cloud.
Other options include Dropbox and OneDrive. These services also make it really easy to store all your photos in the cloud automatically. That said, remember that storage is limited – and the backup process will stop when you’ve run out of space. Apple offers its own solution in the form of iCloud. The backup settings can be configured on any device via the Photos app.
Find my Phone
If you’ve already lost your smartphone, you should definitely think about trying to locate it and, if possible, wiping it remotely.
Google offers a simple, but very comprehensive solution for any Android device which lets you do precisely that. You can use it to locate your smartphone, make it ring, try calling it, or perform a factory data reset. This is definitely worthwhile doing if you don’t know who’s now got hold of your phone.
Apple offers a similar service, but you need to enable it. The first step is to download the Find My iPhone app. There are instructions in the app’s description on how to configure it. In an emergency, you can then use it – just like Google’s solution – to access your smartphone, locate it, and wipe it from any computer.
Alternatively, you can use other services such as our Avira Connect solution. The advantage with this is that you can manage all your devices in one place.
Duplex started testing in four US cities at the end of 2018, and will most likely be be rolled out further this year. Google’s AI, available as beta software on Pixel smartphones, promises to revolutionize the services an assistant can provide on cellphones (and other devices), going way beyond what they can currently do. In May last year, Sundar Pichai unveiled this artificial intelligence aimed at consumers, which is presented as a platform for managing everyday activities such as booking restaurants and hair salon appointments, with the challenge of creating the appropriate ethical relationship between man and machine, which is increasingly under threat in the society of the future.
he issue was highly controversial at the time, because the Assistant could deceive interlocutors into believing they were talking to a real person at the other end of the line. Google later confirmed that Duplex would announce itself at the beginning of every call and again, more recently, that it would be more transparent and more flexible.
Duplex is a fully-automated system that makes calls on behalf of the user, complete with a synthesized voice that sounds very much like a person speaking. The software is also able to understand complex sentences, fast talking, pauses and interruptions, just as we do in conventional, natural speech. Activities that it can simplify by doing them automatically include diary planning, managing appointments and requesting holiday leave from companies and sick leave from doctors. For Duplex to work, the person it’s calling must have given their consent to talking to an AI.
This is the essential requirement for establishing communication between people and the AI of the future. Google Duplex centers on a neural network built around a machine learning platform called TensorFlow Extend (TFX). This recurring neural network (RNN), as it‘s known, allows the AI to process sequential and contextual information, and this is what makes it suitable for machine learning, linguistic modeling and speech recognition.
At the moment, digital personal assistants are only able to carry out limited requests, to do with what happens on the cellphone. They are not so much dedicated assistants in the way we normally understand it. You can ask them to turn on the lights or tune in the radio, but they can’t cancel an appointment or go beyond what is possible with just a handful of bits. We certainly expect Duplex to supplant the AIs that are currently available in terms of quality and scope of support they offer, although this won’t happen in the short term.
The advantages are clear, and could potentially overcome linguistic barriers and personal disabilities; people with a hearing impairment, tourists in foreign countries, and many others would benefit from software that can do the job on their behalf, and only when they want it to. It also promises to free up some of your time. When you’re spending too much of your time online or are busy with other things, Duplex would be able to perform certain activities at given times, without consulting you and just following a command it was given even several days earlier.
Such as? “Duplex, order two margaritas tomorrow night at 8 o’clock.” Hold on, we don’t have to worry about tomorrow night’s dinner anymore. Or: “Duplex, if I’m not home by 12, cancel my appointment at the dentist.” And these are just a few examples; we could go on a lot longer. A far distant future? Not at all. New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and San Francisco are already getting a taste of it, and the really smart Assistant is ready to conquer the world.