iOS and Android users: You’re getting these new Google Docs, Sheets, Slides features

Google has announced a slew of new features coming to G Suite apps on iOS and Android in the next weeks and months.

The updates for Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides mobile apps include a new and easier way to edit Microsoft Office files within a Google app without converting them. 

Google brought its Microsoft Office editing feature to its G Suite apps for the web last year, allowing users to edit, comment, and collaborate on Microsoft Office files using Google’s apps.

Google will roll out Office editing to our Docs, Sheets, and Slides on Android in the coming weeks and for iOS later this year.

AI-powered Smart Compose in Docs, which helps users write better sentences, is also making the leap from the web to Docs on mobile. It will roll out to G Suite customers over the next few weeks on Android and iOS. 

G Suite on Android recently gained dark-theme support and this should come to the apps iOS in the next few months, according to Google.  

To reduce distractions caused by clicking a link in a document and opening a new web page, in the next few weeks Google will bring link previews to Docs on Android.

The feature is already available on iOS and the web. Instead of opening a new app or web page, link previews presents a card with information about the content and a visual thumbnail.  

An upcoming update to Slides presentations aims to cater to the rise of virtual meetings in the pandemic. Google has created a vertically scrollable stream of slides that users can pinch-to-zoom, helping to review slides faster whether when editing or presenting content. It’s coming to Android over the next few weeks and is due for iOS in coming months. 

Google is also tweaking the comments and action items in Docs, Sheets, and Slides on mobile to improve collaboration. There’ll be a larger area for comments on screen that should make it easier for users to scroll through and respond. This is already available on Android and will reach iOS in the next few months. 

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Hidden iOS 13.6 feature lets you take control over updates

Do you want iOS to download and install future iOS updates automatically, or just download them in the background so you can install them when the time suits you? iOS 13.6 allows you to take control over this with a couple of taps.

As usual, finding where the settings are takes longer than making the changes.

Must read: iPhone iOS 13.6 battery draining fast for no obvious reason? Try this fix

These new settings live in a new entry in Settings > General > Software Update called Customize Automatic Updates. This replaces the previous Automatic Updates option.

Click on this and you are presented with options.

Customize Automatic Updates

Customize Automatic Updates

Here you have two options:

  • Download iOS Updates: This downloads new iOS updates over Wi-Fi and then allows you to choose a convenient time to install them.
  • Install iOS Updates: This installs downloaded updates automatically overnight, but your iPhone must be connected to Wi-Fi and charging for this to work.

If you’re not the sort of person who needs their iPhone at night, you can have both options enabled and never again need to worry about updates as they will be applied for you as you sleep. If you need a bit more granularity, then the options are there.

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Phablets are so pre-pandemic: Pair a smaller phone with a tablet instead

At its Unpacked event next week, Samsung is expected to unveil an updated line of Note phablets — namely the Note 20 Ultra, which will have a gigantic 6.87-inch Ultra-HD resolution screen. Samsung, however, is not alone in the ever-enlarging-phone department. In the fall, when Apple is slated to refresh the iPhone line, the 12 Pro Max is expected to gain an additional 0.2 inches (5.1mm) of diameter, bringing it to 6.7 inches.

Large phablet-type devices such as these —  merging the functions of a smartphone and a small tablet — were initially designed for a very mobile crowd needing an all-in-one device for content consumption and creation when on the road. Over the years, these devices have become more expensive because of the complexity of the technology required to produce such large screens with high pixel density and high refresh rates.

But now that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many workers — and students — to do their jobs at home, rather than travel and commute to work or to school, the need for $1,000+ super phablets may no longer be necessary. Inexpensive, regular tablets such as the base level iPad, the iPad Pro, and other Android devices may be more effective solutions when a larger screen is needed for content consumption and creation on a mobile device. 

And if you or your student are due for a smartphone refresh, should you consider a less-expensive device with a smaller screen, but paired with a regular tablet that offers more cost-effective and optimized use of screen real estate for the apps you use most?

Phones + Tablets Pricing Decision Matrix  

 * = Price not verified. ? = Best guess  
Manufacturer Model Screen Base Price Type
Apple iPhone SE 4.7 $399 Compact phone
Google Pixel 4A 5.81 $399 Compact phone
Samsung S10e 5.8 $599 Compact phone
Apple iPhone 12 5.4? $699 * Compact phone
Google Pixel 5 5.7? $699 Compact phone
Google Pixel 4 5.7 $799 Compact phone
Apple iPhone 11 Pro 5.8 $999 Compact phone
Motorola G Fast 6.4 $199 Jumbo phone
Samsung A50 6.4 $299 Jumbo phone
Google Pixel 4XL 6.3 $899 Jumbo phone
Samsung Note 10 6.3 $949 Jumbo phone
Samsung Note 10+ 6.3 $1099 Jumbo phone
Motorola E 6.2 $149 Medium phone
Apple iPhone 11 6.1 $699 Medium phone
Samsung S10 6.1 $749 Medium phone
Apple iPhone 12 Max 6.1? $799 * Medium phone
Google Pixel 5XL 6.3? $799* Medium phone
Samsung S20 6.2 $999 Medium phone
Apple iPhone 12 Pro 6.1? $1049 * Medium phone
OnePlus 7T 6.55 $499 Phablet
OnePlus 8 6.55 $699 Phablet
Samsung Note 20 6.42 $999 * Phablet
Motorola Edge + 6.7 $999 Phablet
OnePlus 8 Pro 6.78 $999 Phablet
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max 6.5 $1099 Phablet
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 6.7? $1149 Phablet
Samsung S20+ 6.7 $1199 Phablet
Samsung Note 20 Ultra 6.87 $1299 * Phablet
Samsung S20 Ultra 6.9 $1399 Phablet
Lenovo Smart Tab M10 FHD 10.3 $229 Tablet
Samsung Tab A 2020 8.4 $264 Tablet
Apple iPad Gen 7 10.2 $329 Tablet
Apple iPad Mini 7.9 $399 Tablet
Samsung Tab S6 10.1 $629 Tablet
Apple iPad Air 10.5 $649 Tablet
Apple iPad Pro 11 11 $799 Tablet
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 12.9 $999 Tablet

Sir Screen-a-Lot: I used to like big iPhones and cannot lie  

Look, I’ve been a customer of big phones for at least the past five years. I purchased them primarily because I was a mobile employee who needed a device with a larger screen when traveling, in addition to my corporate-issued laptop. Like everyone else currently stuck in the social distancing rut, I am not doing a lot of traveling now, and I’m currently using an iPhone 11 Pro Max. 

Given that I am on the iPhone Upgrade Program and locked into a monthly payment of around $60 a month, I’m inclined to shift toward using a smaller device the next time around, which should be September or October. 

Because I own an iPad Pro already, which I am now using as my primary content consumption device — I am strongly considering switching to the regular iPhone 12 Pro, which is expected to have a 6.1-inch screen. This year, the rumor mill has it that Apple is making some strategic changes, by introducing four — rather than three — new devices. The smallest screen, on the iPhone 12, is said to be a 5.4-inch display, which is a reduction from 6.1 inches in the base iPhone 11. The next step up is a 6.1-inch OLED, which will be shared by the iPhone 12 Max and the iPhone 12 Pro. The 12 Pro Max is expected to have a 6.7-inch display, which is yet even larger than the 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max I carry now — which I now find to be cumbersome.

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Relative expected dimensions of 2020 Apple iPhone lineup


Komiya (@komiya_kj)

However, if I were someone on a tight budget and had no existing payment commitments, I might be inclined to go with the base-level iPhone 11 or iPhone 12, when pricing is announced. Many students may also find that the smaller, 4.7-inch iPhone SE, which has a base price of $399, is more than perfectly adequate for their use as a smartphone, given that it has the same powerful A13 processor as the iPhone 11. 

Apple Phones + Tablets Pricing Decision Matrix  

Model Screen Base Price Type
Option 1: iPhone SE 4.7 $399 Compact phone
Paired with: iPad Gen 7 10.2 $329 Tablet
Total Cost $728
Option 2: iPhone SE 4.7 $399 Compact phone
Paired with: iPad Pro 11 11 $799 Tablet
Total Cost $1198
Option 3: iPhone 11 6.1 $699 Medium phone
Paired with: iPad Gen 7 10.2 $329 Tablet
Total Cost $1028
Option 4: iPhone 11 6.1 $699 Medium phone
Paired with: iPad Pro 11 11 $799 Tablet
Total Cost $1498

When paired with an iPad 10.1 Generation 7, which is frequently available on sale for under $300, that’s quite a reasonable setup. The single-lens camera on the iPhone SE is no match for the iPhone 11 Pro, but it and the selfie camera on that device are far more than the average user needs in the current stay-home climate. I don’t know anyone with an iPhone 11 Pro, let alone the base iPhone 11, who is making full use of its camera capabilities while social distancing. It’s complete overkill. 

Apple mobile products also have a key advantage in the use of Handoff. When browsing and using a supported app on one device, it is easy to transfer over to the other if the larger screen is needed. Thus, a lower-end iPhone and iPad combo make much more sense than a more expensive, larger-screen iPhone by itself, from a cost-effective and content consumption perspective.

Must read:

Android alternatives

As stated above, not only have Apple’s prices ballooned in the last several years with phablet-sized devices and their multiple cameras and high pixel density OLED screens, but so have the major Android players. But just like going with a cheaper iPhone and iPad combo makes more sense for someone who wants to stay within that ecosystem, the same can be applied to Android.

Samsung Phones + Tablets Pricing Decision Matrix  

Model Screen Base Price Type
Option 1: A50 6.4 $299 Jumbo phone
Paired with: Tab A 2020 8.4 $264 Tablet
Total Cost $563
Option 2: A50 6.4 $299 Jumbo phone
Paried with: Tab S6 10.1 $629 Tablet
Total Cost $928
Option 3: S10e 5.8 $599 Compact phone
Paired with: Tab A 2020 8.4 $264 Tablet
Total Cost $863

Instead of a $1,000 Note 10+ or S20+, why not look into the previous year’s S10e for $599, which is still an excellent phone? Are you really going to use all the new capabilities of the new devices when you stuck at home? You can save money further still by going with the A50, at $299, and pairing this with an Android tablet such as the Galaxy Tab A 8.4 at $264 or the Galaxy Tab S6 10.1 for $629.  

Must read:

And, no, there’s no reason to stick with Samsung if you’re on a budget. OnePlus has some excellent phones, especially the 7T, a 6.5-inch device at $499 that has a light UX, with a snappy Qualcomm 855+ processor. And it’s a vendor that has been especially diligent with Android updates; it’s already on Android 10 and eligible for Android 11. Motorola has even lower-cost devices, with the G Fast 6.4 at $199 and the E 6.2 at $149. Neither of these two are rocketships, but they perform more than adequately, and if the intention is to pair them with a tablet from Samsung, or even Lenovo (such as the new M10 FHD with a 10.3-inch screen, $229), then there’s no need for your phone to be a high-performance device.

Are you looking to downsize your smartphone and upsize with a tablet? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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Preparing for the next hurricane: Storm trackers and other survival tools

ipad-hurricane.jpg

I live in South Florida. And while I have no desire to live anywhere else, tropical storms, hurricanes, and otherwise lousy weather are a seasonal fact of life here.

Not even 20 years ago, most people would not have been able to make informed decisions about preparing for tropical storms. But today we have portable GPS, our laptops, our smartphones, and my favorite tool as part of our storm-chaser arsenal — iPad.

While many of the same types of tools can still be used on a PC or Mac desktop or laptop, I discovered a newfound and real appreciation for iPad and the iOS for this type of application.

The iPad is a particularly good visualization tool for analyzing hurricane tracks because of the device’s multi-touch and human-oriented interface and how quickly you can get updated reports on the storm’s progress with the different apps out there.

Here’s my list of essential apps and websites that I recommend the next time a big storm starts heading your way, so you too can make more informed decisions about whether you stay in place or evacuate.

With hurricanes bearing down, you’ll want to be prepared.

NOAA National Hurricane Center (Website)

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NHC Hurricane Dorian Wind Speed Projections


Image:ZDNet

If you’re going to have one application or website that you use for relying on projected storm tracks, then the NOAA National Hurricane Center Website is the one you should have bookmarked on your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or other smartphone devices. It costs you absolutely nothing, and if you want to learn about hurricanes, this is the place to go.

The National Hurricane Center is the central source of information that just about every other application listed in this article uses as a data source.

The NHC website contains a massive wealth of up-to-date information. You can track and monitor the progress of every single storm in the Eastern Pacific and the Atlantic, read various types of graphical computer models, and watch animated satellite and radar maps.

Unfortunately, the NHC site looks like it was designed in the early 1990s — there’s no cool Web 2.0 point-and-click GUI, but all the data is there if you want it. They’ve got a PDA rendered version of the site which you could use on an iPhone or an Android device, but unless you’re the type that likes to page through raw data, it probably won’t be of much use to you.

However, the basic charts and storm projections should be enough to give you a very good idea of where the hurricane is heading and to give you up-to-date and reliable information on how its behavior might change.

While NOAA has a huge wealth of information, you want to make sure your browser has popup blocking disabled, otherwise you will not be able to click on any of the links which spawn new tabs or new browser windows.

University of Wisconsin Space Science and Engineering Center (Websites)

I was recently turned on to the University of Wisconsin’s SSEC by Tech Broiler reader and professional storm chaser/photographer Jim Edds.

Jim uses many tools to do his job, but when he wants real-time hurricane data, he heads to the SSEC.

tropic-infrared.jpg

SSEC IR Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Dorian

The data above comes from the SSEC’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) TROPIC website, which you can access on any PC or tablet. Jim likes this site because frequently he is using only 3G service, and he can access a large amount of data quickly without a large download payload.

Like NOAA, TROPIC has a vast wealth of information and you want to make sure your browser has pop-up blocking disabled, otherwise, you will not be able to click on any of the links which spawn new tabs or new browser windows.

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TROPIC Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Dorian

Jim is also very impressed with the SSEC’s Geostationary Satellite Images site, which shows high-resolution animated satellite images from several different weather satellites in Flash or Javascript, depending on what type of device you are using.

Radarscope (iOS, Android $9.99)

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Image:ZDNet

Described by Jim as “The ultimate radar application for the iPad” Radarscope is an extremely sophisticated, real-time Doppler radar app for iOS that completely exploits the capabilities of Retina displays on current-generation iPads and iPhones.

It features the ability to select from dozens of long-range doppler radar stations and get data in real-time and also gives you severe weather alerts which you can click on and focus on a particularly dangerous weather area.

Radarscope doesn’t do hurricane tracking, but what it does do, it does exceptionally well. If you live in an area where storms are frequent, there isn’t another app out there that provides as sophisticated Doppler data that this program has.

MyRadar NOAA Weather Radar

While not as sophisticated radar by default as RadarScope, MyRadar is an excellent all-in-one weather app because it has the ability to composite multiple Doppler radars at once, showing a complete picture of weather patterns for an entire region.

The basic version of the app is advertising supported, but there are in-app upgrades that allow you to open more features, such as a hurricane tracker ($2.99), professional radar ($6.99) and Apple Watch functionality ($.99). Ads can be disabled for an additional fee of $1.99.

myradar.png

Image: ZDNet

NOAA Radar Pro by Apalon Apps

Similar in function to MyRadar, NOAA Radar Pro ($4.99) uses the product data feeds from NOAA to produce composite weather visualizations you can view on your mobile device.

While not as sophisticated as MyRadar with all of the add-ons, I happen to like it because of the clean and straightforward user interface. Hurricane tracking is built in, without needing to add other subscription products, which is a nice plus.

noaaradar.png

Image:ZDNet

Stormpulse/Riskpulse (Basic storm tracking free, real-time subscription website)

stormpulse.jpg

Stormpulse Hurricane Dorian Risk Projections


Image:ZDNet

Stormpulse (and Riskpulse) is probably the most advanced of all of the tools mentioned here, but it’s likely overkill for the average end-user.

It’s more of a professional-level suite intended for businesses to do risk assessments that have facilities in hurricane-prone areas, or for companies that are dependent on shipping and transportation.

The basic tracker is free with LinkedIn login credentials, and the visualizations are very cool.

What other proper hurricane tracking and forecasting apps and websites do you like to use? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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Google’s Project Zero team won’t be applying for Apple’s SRD program

Apple SRD

Image: Apple

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Securing Your Mobile Enterprise

Securing Your Mobile Enterprise

Mobile devices continue their march toward becoming powerful productivity machines. But they are also major security risks if they aren’t managed properly. We look at the latest wisdom and best practices for securing the mobile workforce.

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Some of the biggest names in the iPhone vulnerability research field have announced plans today to skip Apple’s new Security Research Device (SRD) program due to Apple’s restrictive rules surrounding the vulnerability disclosure process that effectively muzzles security researchers.

The list includes Project Zero (Google’s elite bug-hunting team), Will Strafach (CEO of mobile security company Guardian), ZecOps (mobile security firm who recently discovered a series of iOS attacks), and Axi0mX (iOS vulnerability researcher and the author of the Checkm8 iOS exploit).

What is the Apple SRD program

The Security Research Device (SRD) program is unique among smartphone makers. Through the SRD program, Apple has promised to provide pre-sale iPhones to security researchers.

These iPhones are modified to have fewer restrictions and allow deeper access to the iOS operating system and the device’s hardware, so security researchers can probe for bugs that they normally wouldn’t be able to discover on standard iPhones where the phone’s default security features prevent security tools from seeing deeper into the phone.

Apple officially announced the SRD program in December 2019, when the company also expanded its bug bounty program to include more of its operating systems and platforms.

However, while the company teased the program last year, it wasn’t until today that Apple actually launched it by publishing an official SRD website and emailing selected security researchers and bug hunters to invite them to apply for the vetting process needed to receive an untethered iPhone.

Restrictive new rule

This new website also contained the SRD program’s official rules, which security researchers haven’t had a chance to review in great detail.

But while the security community greeted Apple’s SRD announcement last year with joy, considering it a first step in the right direction, they weren’t very happy with Apple today.

According to complaints shared on social media, it was one particular clause that rubbed most security researchers the wrong way:

“If you report a vulnerability affecting Apple products, Apple will provide you with a publication date (usually the date on which Apple releases the update to resolve the issue). Apple will work in good faith to resolve each vulnerability as soon as practical. Until the publication date, you cannot discuss the vulnerability with others.”

The clause effectively allows Apple to muzzle security researchers.

The clause gives Apple full control of the vulnerability disclosure process. It allows the iPhone maker to set the publication date when security researchers are allowed to talk or publish anything about vulnerabilities they discover in iOS and the iPhone, while part of the SRD program.

Many security researchers are now afraid that Apple will abuse this clause to delay important patches and drag its feet on delivering much-needed security updates by postponing the publication date after which they’re allowed to talk about iOS bugs.

Others are afraid that Apple will use this clause to silence their work and prevent them from even publishing about their work.

Project Zero and others decide not to apply

The first to notice this clause and understand its implications was Ben Hawkers, the Google Project Zero team lead.

“It looks like we won’t be able to use the Apple ‘Security Research Device’ due to the vulnerability disclosure restrictions, which seem specifically designed to exclude Project Zero and other researchers who use a 90-day policy,” Hawkes said on Twitter today.

Hawkes tweet garnered a lot of attention in the infosec community, and other security researchers soon followed the team’s decision. Speaking to ZDNet sister-site CNET, Will Strafach also said he won’t be joining the program because of this very same clause.

On Twitter, cyber-security firm ZecOps also announced it would skip the SRD program and continue hacking iPhones the old fashion way.

In a conversation with ZDNet, security researcher Axi0mX said they were thinking about not participating as well.

“Disclosure deadlines are standard practice in the industry. They are necessary,” the researcher said.

“Apple is requiring researchers to wait for an unlimited amount of time, at Apple’s discretion, before they can disclose any bugs found with Security Research Device Program. There is no deadline. This is a poison pill,” he added.

Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former Chief Information Security Officers, also criticized Apple’s move, which was part of a larger set of decisions the company has taken in recent months against the cyber-security and vulnerability research community — which also included a lawsuit against a mobile device virtualization company that aided security researchers track down iOS bugs.

It’s one thing to see no-name security researchers talk down a security program, but it’s another thing to see the biggest names in the industry attacking one.

Apple’s security programs are not well viewed

The fears that Apple might abuse the SRD program rules to bury important iOS bugs and research are justified, for those who followed Apple’s security programs. Apple has been accused of the exact same practice before.

In a series of tweets posted in April, macOS and iOS developer Jeff Johnson attacked the company for not being serious enough about its security work.

“I’m thinking about withdrawing from the Apple Security Bounty program,” Johnson said. “I see no evidence that Apple is serious about the program. I’ve heard of only 1 bounty payment, and the bug wasn’t even Mac-specific. Also, Apple Product Security has ignored my last email to them for weeks.

“Apple announced the program in August, didn’t open it until a few days before Christmas, and now still have not paid a single Mac security researcher to my knowledge. It’s a joke. I think the goal is just to keep researchers quiet about bugs for as long as possible,” Johnson said.



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Privacy settings: How to secure your iPhone and Android device

Your mobile devices, including your iPhone or Android phone, contain a treasure trove of information about you. From personal details like where you bank to private messages and other confidential information like medication reminders or your location history, our phones know everything there is to know about us.

In recent years, Apple and Google have improved the privacy controls baked into iOS and Android. These can be used to limit the amount of personal data an app has access to at any given time. However, it can be daunting to understand how to use and manage them. Let’s quickly review the main controls now, so you can get the most out of security and privacy on your mobile device.

iOS and iPadOS

Application Privacy is accessed in iOS (and iPadOS) by going into Settings > Privacy

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Settings Menu in iOS with Privacy section.


Image: ZDNet

Privacy in iOS is grouped under Location Services or Tracking (which is a new addition in iOS 14). There are also specific application privileges assigned to specific System Services.

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Location, Tracking, and System Services Settings.


Image: ZDNet

Location services use GPS, Bluetooth, crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspots, and cell tower locations to determine your approximate location. Many apps can query any or all these things and send this data back to the application’s cloud servers. For some applications, you need this to function at a basic level, such as for navigation or transportation apps like Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, Uber, and Lyft. Others such as Yelp and food delivery apps like Postmates or Grubhub need this data to serve you relevant businesses in your proximity. Yet others, like Facebook, use this data not just to serve you geo-relevant information but also to monetize it for their own gain.

Location services can be enabled on an app-by-app basis, or it can be disabled entirely. For each application, you can select:

  • Never prohibits applications from using Location services.
  • Ask Next Time requires applications to prompt every time they need to use location services, and permits you to choose “allow once” when the app requests location data.
  • While Using the App allows applications to use location services when the program itself is in use in the foreground.
  • Always allows the app to have access to location services if it is in the background or quiesced.

Tracking (which is a new feature as of iOS 14) is either enabled or disabled via “Allow Apps to Request to Track.” This lets them use an identifier, which can be used to combine your activity across apps and websites that an application developer may use. If you disable this, some functionality and integration might not work.

System Service level privileges are also assigned on an application basis for your contacts list, calendar, reminders, Photo Stream, Bluetooth, network, microphone, speech recognition, camera, Health counters, research sensors, Homekit, media, files, and motion/fitness. All the specific system services that are accessible for each app can be found within the settings menu for each app in the Settings application/icon itself. So, for example, Facebook’s access settings are under Settings > Facebook. 

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System services access toggles for Facebook within Settings.


Image: ZDNet

Additionally, new in iOS 14, precise location can be toggled on or off in an application’s access settings. If you only want Facebook to have a more generalized understanding of where you are located (such as at a town or city level), versus precise GPS coordinates, it can be done in the settings for that app, as shown in this screen, located in Settings > Facebook > Location.

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Precise Location setting toggle for Facebook in iOS 14, located in Settings > Facebook > Location.


Image: ZDNet

Most of the access to system services work using a toggle of allowing/disallow — except Photostream, which, under iOS 14, can now be Selected Photos, All Photos, or None. Selected Photos permit you to choose specific images that an application has access to, and if you want to add more photos, you’ll need to restart the App to select more.

Additionally, the list of Health counters, which applications can have access to, are listed under Privacy > Health. In this menu, you can find a list of apps that query specific health counters, and you can permit or deny each of these as needed. This menu also lists various Research studies that you may be subscribed to by Apple Research if you are participating in any and what specific Health counters are being read.

There are also settings for Analytics and Improvements and also Apple Advertising.

There are multiple toggles under Analytics and Improvements, which are all telemetry type settings for Apple itself so that it can improve its products. Turning these off does not degrade your personal experience; the metadata that is collected is anonymized for such things as improving Siri’s accuracy and understanding how you use Apple’s products so it can prioritize its software development. Similarly, Apple Advertising is used to personalize ad suggestions when using the App Store or other Apple apps that can serve you ad content from its advertising network.

Android 

Privacy settings for Android are typically found in Settings, usually under a Privacy section, similar to the way it is implemented in iOS. The location of this menu varies because each Android device maker makes its own UX tweaks. Normally, you can just search the Settings app for “Privacy” to find the right spot. You’ll notice in the screenshot below Location is a separate menu from Privacy.

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Privacy section on an Android device (Huawei P40 Pro Plus). Note that Location is directly below it.


Image: ZDNet

The Permissions Manager section is where you’ll find every system service that an application can request access to and that you have to approve access to — this includes location, camera, storage, phone, microphone, contacts, SMS, call logs, calendar, and others. You can go through each section to view which apps have requested access to that particular data and view whether or not you approved or denied its access. 

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Permission manager on an Android device (Huawei P40 Pro Plus).


Image: ZDNet

Some apps on Android ask for Accessibility Special Access, giving them broader access to your data. For example, using 1Password and its ability to fill in passwords or forms in apps means you’ll need to grant it full accessibility special access. This also includes apps that need to do video overlays on top of other applications, such as the Chat Heads feature of Facebook Messenger. 

Depending on which Android device manufacturer you have, the Special Access menu may be located in any number of areas on your device, but it can frequently be found in Settings > Apps > Menu > Special Access (especially on Samsung devices). On the Pixel’s implementation of Android 11, it is located in Settings > Apps and Notifications > Special app access. On other devices and older versions of Android, it might be located in Settings > Apps > Apps > Triple Dot menu button > Special access. It can also be found if you search on “Special” in the Settings menu and choose Special access.

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The location of the Special access settings can be found in the Apps settings menu.


Image: ZDNet

The first time you open an app, you’re almost immediately asked to grant several different permissions. Pay close attention to these requests! You don’t have to grant any of them, and for things like location, you can select to allow the app only to have access: 

  • All the Time
  • Only when using the App
  • Never

If you’d rather view your permissions for each app, open Settings > Apps (on some devices, there’s another layer of Apps below that, or it might be under Settings > App Management > App List or similar). Tap on the app you want to view, then change any of its privacy category settings. 

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Specific Android permissions set for Facebook, located under Settings > Apps > Apps > Facebook (Huawei P40 Pro Plus).


Image: ZDNet

As with iOS 14, Android 11 is adding new privacy controls, too. Specifically, users will have more control over their data and can even grant one-time access to your microphone, camera, and location. Another cool privacy feature in Android 11 is that, if the phone detects you haven’t used an app for a while, it will automatically reset all of its permissions. The next time you open the app, you’ll need to approve its permission requests once again. 

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iPhone iOS 13.6 battery draining fast for no obvious reason? Try this fix

Over the weekend, a reader, Keith, got in touch with me with what is these days with a common problem — rapid battery drain. And this was really rapid. So fast that a fully-charged iPhone drained almost completely overnight doing pretty much nothing.

Take a look at this scary screenshot showing the battery drain over a few hours.

Overnight iPhone battery drain - pre-fix

Overnight iPhone battery drain – pre-fix

That’s some scary usage. It seems this problem had been ongoing for a while, and the reader had already upgraded, without any relief, to iOS 13.6.

This was one of those interesting yet annoying problems because iOS didn’t offer much in the way of insight into what was going on. The battery was in OK condition, and there wasn’t any sign that an app had gone rogue and was doing donuts in the background.

What do you do in this situation?

Must read: The real reason Apple is warning users about MacBook camera covers

The reader decided to try something — carry out a reset of the iPhones settings (Settings > General > Reset All Settings). This is not the complete nuclear option of wiping the whole handset and starting from scratch, but it’s still quite a reset.

Here’s Apple’s description of what it does:

Reset All Settings: All settings—including network settings, the keyboard dictionary, the Home screen layout, location settings, privacy settings, and Apple Pay cards—are removed or reset to their defaults. No data or media are deleted.

Did it work?

Yes.

Here’s a screenshot showing battery performance overnight following the wipe showing that the iPhone lost some 1 percent overnight.

Overnight iPhone battery drain - post-fix

Overnight iPhone battery drain – post-fix

What’s going on here? It’s hard to say, but a likely culprit is a network or Bluetooth setting gone bad.

Another similar fix I’ve come across is to do a full reset and then recovery from a backup.

If you’re suffering poor battery performance, it’s worth a try.

Must read: Bad iPhone battery life? Here’s how to diagnose and fix battery drain issues

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iOS 13.6 out for iPhone bringing support for digital car keys

Apple users, it’s time to update, again, as Apple releases iOS 13.6 for the iPhone and iPod touch and iPadOS 13.6 for the iPad.

This update includes CarKey digital keys support for the upcoming BMW 5 Series which was demoed during the WWDC 2020 keynote, allowing owners to use their iPhone to unlock and start their car. 

Car owners can also share keys with others, as well as deactivate them remotely.

The health app also includes new categories for symptoms logged from the Cycle Tracking and ECG app, as well as the ability to log new symptoms such as fever, chills, sore throat, or coughing, and share them with third-party apps.

This update also gives the user better control over automatic OS updates and how they are applied. Users can now choose to only download OS updates but not install them, or to download them and install them overnight (this only works if the device is charging and connected to the internet). You can find this new setting at Settings > General > Software Update > Customize Automatic Updates.

The iPhone and iPad updates also introduces a new Apple News audio component for Apple News+ subscribers.

Must read: The real reason Apple is warning users about MacBook camera covers

There are also a huge raft of security updates.

It is unclear at present if this update fixes the myriad of bugs affecting iPhone users, from battery drain issues to MP4 playback issues.

To grab this update, which is about 500MB, depending on your device, head over to Settings > General > Software Update, or wait for the update to be applied automatically overnight. 

Also out is macOS Catalina 10.15.5 update for Mac users and watchOS 6.2.8 for the Apple Watch.

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Has your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch been hacked? Here’s how to find out

Has youriPhone, iPad, or iPod touch been hacked? Probably not, but there’s so much information on a smartphone — not to mention the fact that it can also be used to precisely pinpoint its owner — that more and more tools exist to help unscrupulous people get a foot in the door of your digital fortress.

The good news is that tools exist to help you determine whether your device has been compromised. One such tool that I’ve been testing is Certo AntiSpy.

Certo AntiSpy is not an app. Instead, it is a utility that you download and install on a Windows or Mac, and you use that to scan a backup of your iOS or iPadOS for subtle signs of intrusion.

You do need a local backup of your device — which under macOS Catalina no longer uses iTunes but instead Finder — but having a local backup of your device is not a bad thing, so this tool can also help you prevent data loss.

Must read: Five iPhone security settings you should check today

Certo AntiSpy

How Certo AntiSpy works is easy. You make a local backup of your device, and then you let it loose on it. It scans for jailbreaks, looks for spyware, and will warn you if known tracking apps are installed.

Additionally, it also carries out a privacy audit on the apps you have installed, giving you an at-a-glance view of which apps have access to your location, microphone, or camera.

It’s quick too, with a scan of a packed iPhone taking a few minutes.

As with most good things in life, Certo AntiSpy is not free. It’s offered as a yearly subscription package in three tiers — Basic is aimed at home users for $29.95 per year, Pro for $49.95 per year, and Ultimate is for at businesses or customers with many devices for $89.95 pear year.

View Now at Certo AntiSpy

Don’t want to spend money on a tool to scan your iPhone? Then one of the best security measures you can take with an iPhone or iPad is to reboot it regularly — hacks and jailbreaks don’t survive that.

More iPhone security tips here.

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