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How to keep your Android smartphone safe

I used to own an iPhone for several years. It worked great, but it had several serious limitations. I was unable to add an external memory card to it, for example. I was unable to access most of its data without using the cumbersome iTunes application. And the list could go on and on. Actually, there are several people who compare iPhones and Android phones, highlighting their pros and cons right here.

The bottom line is that I have switched to Android, and I've never looked back. Actually, I can still remember those great-looking iPhone apps and the improved device security. Yeah, Android isn't the most secure mobile OS. Not yet! Still, there are several things that you can do to keep your smartphone safe. Here they are.

1. Only download apps from Google Play. I know that you may be inclined to download pirated apps from other sources, but trust me: at least some of them are infected with nasty viruses. And if an application isn't available in the much safer Google app store, I guarantee that you can live without it.

This doesn't mean that all the Google Play apps are 100% safe! Make sure to check out the requested permissions for each app, before installing it. Why would an online radio application need the permission to dial phone numbers and/or send & receive messages, for example? As a general rule, keep the number of installed apps to a minimum, and don't forget to verify their permissions.

2. Lock your screen. You don't want your colleagues or so-called friends to get into your phone, and then start browsing through your files and private information. For best results, use a long password; screen lock patterns can be easily cracked.

3. Install and use an antivirus. There are several free products, but if you pay a dollar per month or so, you will be able to choose one of the top mobile antiviruses from AVG, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and so on.

4. Don't root your device. Yeah, I remember the times when rooting your device was a cool thing to do, but nowadays Android can do lots of cool things without being rooted. So, keep the OS intact and update it regularly.

5. Don't click links in emails which come from unknown senders. In fact, you should never click an email link, even if it comes from a person you know, unless you have requested it. Why? Because your friend's account may have been hacked, and a cyber criminal is now using it to send dangerous emails to all his contacts.

6. Don't connect to unknown wireless networks. Yes, resist the temptation to connect to free Wi-Fi! All the data that flows through that network can be intercepted by villains. This means that your passwords and credit card information can easily fall into other people's hands.

7. Turn off all the connections that aren't used. Yes, turn off GPS if you don't need any directions. Turn off Wi-Fi if you aren't going to connect to a wireless network anytime soon. Turn off Bluetooth if you don't plan to listen to music wirelessly. You will save quite a bit of battery power, and most of all you will reduce the amount of sensitive data that may be broadcasted by your smartphone.

8. If your phone gets lost, be sure to use Find My Device. It's an app which helps you in case that your phone is stolen, allowing you to lock it remotely, and even erase all the data on it.

The good news is that Android devices are getting safer with each new O.S. version. Who knows? Maybe someday their security will be as tight as (or even better than) Apple's. Yeah, I still miss my iPhone every now and then...