Six Questions You Should Ask Before Choosing A New Cellphone Company

Thinking about switching wireless providers? We highlighted some of the most important things to consider while making your decision.

Whether you’re looking for a cheaper phone plan, a great deal on a new phone or just better coverage where you live, switching cellphone providers presents a great chance to step up your phone game.  

Unfortunately, wading through all the marketing buzzwords in cellphone plans can feel like the least fun kind of homework. To make things simple, we broke down the process into the six most important questions you should consider before switching.

Should I go with a prepaid plan?

If you’re looking to save money with your new carrier, prepaid carriers have some of the cheapest phone plans you’ll find anywhere. This means that you’ll pay for your monthly bill upfront instead of after the fact. Many carriers also offer some decent discounts if you prepay for multiple months at a time. 

This is one of the best ways to save money on a cellphone plan. Here are a few popular phone plans, along with the money you’d save by switching to a cheaper prepaid plan:

PlanMajor carrier planCheaper planYearly savings
Four lines of unlimited dataVerizon Get More Unlimited ($220/mo.)Total Wireless ($100/mo.)$1,440
One line of unlimited dataT-Mobile Magenta Plus ($85/mo.)Mint Mobile ($30/mo.)$660
One line of 2GBAT&T ($35/mo.)Tello ($14/mo.)$252
One line of 5GBVerizon ($40/mo.)Boost Mobile ($25/mo.)$180

All plans include unlimited talk and text. Pricing per month plus taxes. Additional fees and terms may apply. Auto-pay discounts not included. As of 11/24/20.

These companies are called mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs. That means they piggyback off the major networks — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — rather than use their own cellular towers. 

The conventional wisdom says that MVNOs have worse coverage than the companies who operate their own networks. But in practice, customers have often been more satisfied with their service. According to a Consumer Reports survey of their 103,000 members, MVNOs almost always scored higher than carriers that operate their own network. (T-Mobile was the lone exception.) Learn more about prepaid phone plans

Do I need a new phone?

One of the best perks of switching to a new cellphone company is that you can usually pick up a free phone in the process. Unfortunately, these phone deals are mostly confined to the major carriers. If you go with a prepaid plan, you’ll probably have to go with an older phone if you want to get one for free. Here are some of the best deals available through the “big three” carriers right now: 

To get deals on new phones from these companies, you’ll have to commit to a two-year contract and open a new unlimited data line. Many times, you’ll also have to trade in an eligible phone. But those steps are usually worth the hassle. Right now, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are all offering free iPhone 12 models when you switch.  Learn more about phone deals

Which carrier has the best coverage in my area?

While most people switch carriers because of price, it can also be a good opportunity to improve your coverage, too. In most third-party tests, T-Mobile and Verizon usually take first place, with AT&T coming in last. Here’s how some of the major analyses rank the networks:

SourceAT&TT-MobileVerizon
Ookla Speed Score™41.6533.4931.40
Ookla Consistency Score™81.4%80.8%76.9%
RootMetrics Overall Performance94.186.795.2
OpenSignal Download Speed Experience32.6 Mbps28.2 Mbps27.4 Mbps
OpenSignal 4G Coverage Experience9.58.89.8
Consumer Reports Data ScoreFairVery goodGood
Consumer Reports Reception ScorePoorGoodGood
Allconnect Score7.507.897.85

Data as reported by Ookla, Root Metrics, OpenSignal, Consumer Reports

Of course, just because one carrier scores well overall doesn’t mean it will be the strongest in your specific area. We recommend checking out each of their coverage maps to find one that has a strong network where you live.

Keep in mind, if you go with a prepaid carrier, it will use one or more of the networks above, so it’s still a good idea to check its coverage before you sign up.  Learn more about cellphone coverage

Is it time to get a 5G phone?

If you’ve turned on a TV in the past year, you’ve probably been inundated with commercials telling you that the “best 5G network” is already right in your backyard. The truth is a little more complicated. 

While AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have all made great strides on their 5G networks, the next generation of wireless technology is still not available everywhere. According to tests from Ookla, T-Mobile users in the U.S. connected to 5G 54% of the time in October, compared 18% for AT&T and less than 1% for Verizon.

But wherever we currently are in the 5G race, there’s no debating that it’s the future. If you’re looking to switch cellphone providers, it’s worth factoring into your decision. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon include 5G coverage in all of their unlimited plans, and you can also get good deals on 5G phones when you open a new line.  Learn more about 5G plans and coverage

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology. Just like the 4G rollout a decade ago increased data speeds — the internet connection your phone uses when you’re away from Wi-Fi — 5G promises an even faster connection. Right now, average 5G speeds in the U.S. are 52 Mbps, which is about twice as fast as 4G, but they should rise much higher. Verizon’s average 5G speeds are a whopping 494.7 Mbps already, although its network is much more limited than that of AT&T and T-Mobile.

Should I open a family plan?

If you’re already on a family plan with your current cellphone company, it’s a no-brainer to open another one with your new carrier. But if you’ve only been looking at one-line accounts for your new plan, it’s worth getting a few people together who might also be interested in switching. The savings can be enormous.  

For AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, the price per line on family plans is half the price of a single line.

What’s more, phone deals for new customers are typically available for each line that’s opened. So, if four people open a new family plan, all four would likely be able to get significantly discounted phones in the move. 

You don’t always need to have one account-holder handle the bill every month, either. Carriers like Visible Wireless let each line manage their own account, so you can skip the frantic Venmo requests at bill time every month.   Learn more about family plans

Which streaming services do I want?

All of the major cellphone companies tie in perks like free streaming subscriptions to their plans. Here’s what you can get right now:

  • AT&T: HBO Max included with $85/mo. plan (one line)
  • Boost Mobile: TIDAL HiFi included for six months
  • T-Mobile: Netflix included with two or more lines ($60/mo. plans and up)
  • Verizon: Apple Music, Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN+ included 

But while these are certainly enticing, they shouldn’t be the only factor when deciding where to switch. In some cases, these plans are so much pricier than cheaper options that you could subscribe to the services separately and still save money with another carrier.

FactorAT&T Unlimited EliteT-Mobile Magenta PlusVerizon Play More Unlimited
Price$85/mo. (one line)$140/mo. (two lines)$80/mo. (one line)
Streaming perksHBO MaxNetflix StandardApple Music, Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN+
Streaming value$15/mo.$14/mo.$23/mo.
Price minus streaming perks$70/mo.$126/mo.$57/mo.

All plans include unlimited talk and text. Pricing per month plus taxes. Additional fees and terms may apply. As of 11/24/20.

That’s certainly the case with AT&T and T-Mobile — after the value of the streaming services is factored in, their plans are still pretty pricey — but Verizon’s perks actually add up to a whopping $23/mo. Granted, you might not even want each of Apple Music, Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN+. But if these promotions catch your eye, it’s worth doing a little math before making a decision based solely on these.

By: Joe Supan

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What cell phone provider (or network) should you go with? We have a full review on that at https://www.reviews.org/mobile/best-c… but… We think choosing a cell phone provider comes down a combination of price, data, coverage, and what your needs are. We’ll discuss it all in this video review. Related reviews: Best Cell Phone Plans For Seniors — https://www.reviews.org/mobile/best-c… Best Cell Phone Plans For families — https://www.reviews.org/mobile/best-f… Best Cell Phone Plan Coverage — https://www.reviews.org/mobile/best-c…

WhatsApp Users Beware: This Stupidly Simple New Hack Puts You At Risk—Here’s What You Do

 

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Whether or not Jeff Bezos was hacked over WhatsApp, and whether or not the culprit was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Facebook-owned messaging platform has been compromised by security issues this year. And now there is another WhatsApp attack doing the rounds. But this one has nothing to do with nation state cyberattacks or the platform’s integrity, and everything to do with our susceptibility to social engineering and our complacency when it comes to securing our devices.

This new social-engineering hack is stupidly simple to execute and just as easy to prevent. There’s a basic security setting in WhatsApp that you have likely not set up, but which you should—it takes less than a minute. As soon as you finish reading this article, please check your app’s settings and make the fix if required.

When it comes to the hacking of WhatsApp or other messaging platforms, it is important to separate out the various types of risks. Last year we saw nation-state attacks infecting targeted users with spyware, we saw the a potential risk from crafted media files sent over the platform, and we saw a backdoor where bad actors could lock targeted individuals out of the messaging app.

All of these issues were fixed by WhatsApp—software patches plugged security gaps and ensured users were kept safe. The latest issue, though, was fixed before it even hit. But that fix requires users to take action, which means it’s almost certain that many if not most of you have not yet done so.

This weekend, a friend in a group chat warned the rest of us not to open a message from her—she had been hacked, she said, and we should not “give away any six-digit numbers.” Attackers, it seems, had gained access to her WhatsApp account and captured the phone numbers of members of the group. They were then able to send WhatsApps to the other group members, telling them they were about to receive an SMS message and could they please send it back to her. Social engineering at its best. Who would question the simple request of a trusted friend?

Behind the scenes, though, the SMS message was a WhatsApp verification code for the account of the person receiving the text. And in sending it back to the “friend,” they were sending it to the attackers. With a fresh WhatsApp install, those attackers could then complete an account take over and progress their scam another turn. This is much simpler than porting the SIM to a new device. The effect, though, is the same. This same scam prompted a raft of police warnings in Singapore last summer.

With the account taken over, the attackers could then message the rest of the group as if from the account holder, as well as any other contacts whose WhatsApp messages were received after the take over. No legacy data is compromised. The target device remains untouched. WhatsApp has simply been ghosted onto an illegitimate device.

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This can easily be prevented. In WhatsApp you can set up a PIN of your own choosing, and even an email address to use if you forget that PIN. This is separate to the six-digit code that WhatsApp will send by SMS to verify a new install. It’s easy to see the verification code as the two-factor authentication. That can be defeated, as recent headlines on SMS security have shown. Another security layer with your own password is materially harder to beat. So even if you send the code to the attackers, they would still not have your own PIN. Clearly, you should not send the SMS code, but it makes absolute sense to set up this additional security layer anyway.

WhatsApp’s “Two-Step Verification” process can be found under the Settings-Account from within the app. it takes less than a minute to set up.

The direct risk is not to you if you’re attacked, but to your contacts. They can expect to receive requests for data or even emergency funds. Again, social engineering at its best. An end-to-end encrypted platform, a message from a trusted friend. We are coded to have our guards down in these circumstances.

If you have been the victim of this scam, you can clearly reactivate your device with a new SMS and transfer everything back. The attackers are banking on it taking time for you to realise what’s happened and they may even send you additional SMS codes to confuse you as you look to repair the situation.

It is surprising how many people have not yet enabled the PIN in WhatsApp—almost everyone I have asked has yet to set it up. If you’re the same, then please take that minute and set it up now. I know you won’t send that verification SMS to a “friend” if asked, but do it just in case.

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I am the Founder/CEO of Digital Barriers—developing advanced surveillance solutions for defence, national security and counter-terrorism. I write about the intersection of geopolitics and cybersecurity, as well as breaking security and surveillance stories. Contact me at zakd@me.com.

Source: WhatsApp Users Beware: This Stupidly Simple New Hack Puts You At Risk—Here’s What You Do

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Smartphones Have Led to a Spike in Head and Neck Injuries As People Walk, Drive, Text and Play Games

The number of people who have injured their necks or heads while using using cell phones has spiked over the past two decades, with a sharp increase following the release of the iPhone, research has revealed.

Most people got hurt because they were distracted by their cell phones, and while in the home according, to the study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

The researchers used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database on emergency room visits from approximately 100 U.S. hospitals to carry out the study.

Of the 2,501 incidents occurring between January 1998 and December 2017, 37.6 percent involved patients aged between 13 to 29-years-old, with pre-teens most at risk. Of the total, 55 percent were female, 38.8 percent white.

The majority of patients hurt their head, followed by the face, including the eye and nose area, and lastly the neck. Lacerations were the most common injury, followed by contusions or abrasions and internal organ injuries—mostly traumatic brain injuries. For instance, some were hit in the face, or were harmed when batteries exploded. Some suffered concussion.

Head and neck injuries related to phones were relatively rare up until 2007, when rates shot up following the release of the Apple iPhone, followed by a much steeper rise to a peak in 2016, the researchers found.

Based on the 2,501 cases, the team estimated a total of 76,043 such injuries likely occurred across the U.S. between 1998 and 2017. Of those, an estimated 14,150 involved people who were distracted. That included 90 playing Pokémon Go.

A further 7,240 people were driving, 1,022 texting, and 5,080 patients were walking and using a smartphone.

Around 96 percent of Americans own a cell phone, according to the researchers.

Despina Stavrinos, associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who did not work on the study told Newsweek she wasn’t surprised by the findings “given how pervasive cell phones are in our everyday lives.”

She said as the numbers were taken from a database on medical settings, the findings could be an underestimate of the problem.

“A significant portion of the injuries were to children and adolescents, suggesting parents play an important role in educating their children on safe phone practices. Policy and behavioral interventions should continue to consider ways to prevent cell phone use in transportation settings,” said Stavrinos.

“Most of the injuries in this study occurred at home; however, a smaller yet significant portion occurred in traffic environments. Distracted walking, bicycling, and driving are common and extremely dangerous activities among youth that increases their risk of injury,” said Stavrinos, who co-authored a paper on that topic.

“Cell phones offer many advantages, but also pose risks if they are not used properly. This is definitely the case when it comes to using phones while driving or walking.”

By

Source: Smartphones Have Led to a Spike in Head and Neck Injuries As People Walk, Drive, Text and Play Games

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Bending and staring down at our phones for several hours, increases the stress on our neck and spine, leading to neck and back pain. Experts refer to this condition as text neck and it can eventually lead to serious consequences. Also, at night, when we stare at our smartphones, the light emitted from their screens makes our brain think that it is still daytime. So, our brain does not produce the sleep hormone melatonin, causing us to stay awake for long hours and thus, disturbing our circadian rhythm which regulates our every day bodily functions. This can lead to obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc. An interesting fact is that smartphone addiction has given rise to a new phobia called Nomophobia, short for no mobile phone phobia. It is basically the fear or anxiety of being without our phone.

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Study of Cellphone Risks Finds ‘Some Evidence’ of Link to Cancer, at Least in Male Rats – William J. Broad

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For decades, health experts have struggled to determine whether or not cellphones can cause cancer. On Thursday, a federal agency released the final results of what experts call the world’s largest and most costly experiment to look into the question. The study originated in the Clinton administration, cost $30 million and involved some 3,000 rodents. The experiment, by the National Toxicology Program, found positive but relatively modest evidence that radio waves from some types of cellphones could raise the risk that male rats develop brain cancer……..

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/01/health/cellphone-radiation-cancer.html

 

 

 

 

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