Something you might not know about smartphones

By | August 28, 2017
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Confusing messages. Computer people seem to love creating them.

And if you use Yahoo, you might have seen one recently, headed “Yahoo is now part of Oath”, complete with a long page of detail about what that means.

You might have wondered what it meant, and read it… and you might still be wondering what it meant and whether you should worry about it… or even if it’s genuine.

Well, yes, it’s genuine. And in practice I’d say it’s not really anything to worry about.

Yahoo as a company has been bought by another company, called Oath, which owns a few other companies (Verizon for example). But as far as I can tell it won’t really affect what they do, at least in the short term.

What the message is really about is making sure you know that it means that the new company will now have access to the information Yahoo have about you. And any of that information Yahoo used might now be used by the rest of this company.

So if for example Yahoo used to show you adverts about fishing rods because they knew you were into fishing, now the other companies owned by Oath might show you adverts for fishing rods. Or Yahoo might start showing you adverts for things from the other companies owned by Oath.

In practice I don’t think this will bother many people because if you were bothered about (say) Verizon showing these adverts, you would probably already have been bothered by Yahoo showing these adverts.

If you do decide you’re not happy with them sharing this information with their new owners, though, there is an option – you can delete your Yahoo account. (Yahoo’s information on how to do that is here.)

Wi-fi vs 3G/4G
Most people using PCs or laptops nowadays use wifi to connect to the internet. The same goes for most tablets and most smartphones.

But with smartphones (and even a few tablets) it’s a little bit more complicated. And it’s worth knowing why.

Most smartphones can connect to the internet in two different ways.
Wi-fi is the same was a laptop would connect. You might use it at home, if you have broadband at home or you could use it in a cafe or hotel that has wi-fi.

In a nutshell your phone connects to a gadget called a router, that’s plugged into the wall. That router connects to the internet, so when your smartphone wants to look at a webpage, download an email or whatever, it sends that request to the router, which fetches whatever the phone wants and sends it across the air to the phone.

You don’t usually pay for each request your phone sends, though you do have to pay to have the router set up and connected in your house and if you’re in a hotel you might get your wi-fi free or you might have to pay to use it.

The disadvantage is you can only use wifi when you’re reasonably close to a router – whether that’s in your house, a cafe or even outside – some parks, buses and trains have them now!

The other way a phone can connect to the internet is through the mobile phone signal – the same kind of signal it uses to make calls or send texts.

You’ll often hear this called 3G or 4G or sometimes 2G. The higher the number, the faster the signal.

As I say, this is the same signal your phone is using for calls, so it’s the same kind of thing you pay your mobile phone company for. The advantage is that you can use it almost anywhere – you’re not limited to somewhere that has a router.

The disadvantage is that you have to pay for it – often depending on how much you use it.

In practice most phone contracts include a certain amount of use of it before you have to pay and you might never “run out”.

But it’s worth understanding the difference because then you can make sure you don’t use up your allowance of this kind of connection by making sure that when you have lots of things to do, you use wifi.

For things like downloading big updates that’ll use up lots of the allowance, most phones will automatically be set to wait until they’re on wifi, so it doesn’t affect your allowance.

But if for example you want to download a new app or game, watch a video a friend or relation has put on Facebook or make lots of Skype video phone calls, you might want to wait until you’re on wi fi.

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