Nothing today is made to last forever. This is especially so with smartphones. And although people keep their smartphones for longer, their manufacturers update them so quickly that today's new model is obsolete after a few years. When it is time to update, most people address the problem in the way they would do with anything outdated: with the old and the new.
But smartphones are not that simple. Unlike an old refrigerator or microwave, a discarded smartphone contains valuable personal data such as names, phone numbers, addresses and social media accounts. With enough knowledge, an ambitious garbage collector could easily open the device and, with readily available software, access the contents of his life.
When it's time to get rid of your smartphone, whether that means getting rid of it, exchanging it or selling it, there are some steps you can take to make sure your personal data is as safe as possible. Here is our guide on how to lock your phone before you get rid of it, so you don't chase it again later.
Be sure to erase your data from your previous phone
It is worth repeating because of the critical nature of this problem, but never, under any circumstances, discard or exchange a phone without cleaning. Doing so means giving someone your house keys (or throwing your house keys in the trash, at least).
Deleting your phone is, fortunately, a conventional option for exchanges and recycling at this time. Many stores such as the Apple Retail Store will only accept a used device if it has been completely erased, and will guide you through the process to help you. However, you will want to make sure that your device is fully backed up on your computer or in the cloud before continuing.
But it is easy to do on your own, regardless of whether you are using iOS or Android. On iOS, simply open the Configurations application, navigate to generaland scroll to the end until you see Restart. Tap this, and on the next screen, you will see several options to erase or reset your phone. As you are getting rid of your current device, you will want to select Clear all content and settings. You may be asked to enter your Apple ID and password at this time if you have an activation lock enabled. This option completely reformats your device and removes all the data it contains.
Since Android devices vary by manufacturer, the steps are a bit different for each one. Here is our summary of the most popular models:
On a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, go to Setchings and so General Administration. Then select Restart. Select Factory data reset and then touch Restart device.
In a Google Pixel, open Configurations followed by System. Then select Advanced, so Reset options followed by Clear all data (factory reset). Then touch Restart Phone.
On a Huawei phone, go to Configurations followed by System and touches Restart. Then select Factory data reset and touches Restart phone.
As with iOS, if you have an activation lock enabled (called Factory Reset Protection on Android), you must remove it before you can completely erase your phone. We will review this process in the next section.
Disable iCloud, activation lock and any tracking device you can log in to
Activation locks are designed to attach a specific account profile with a device. This prevents a thief from simply deleting a phone and loading it with new software so it cannot be tracked. With an activation lock, only your username and password can make the phone work properly, which makes it totally useless for thieves. Of course, if you are selling or disposing of your phone, you must deactivate it in order to actually erase all data. That is how:
On iOS, you will automatically be asked to enter your Apple ID and password if you try to erase the phone. However, you can also delete "Search my iPhone", as it is called, by visiting the Account area (where is your profile picture) and playing iCloudand then turning Find my iphone option of off.
On Android, as in the previous case, the process differs between different brands and models. However, for each one, you will be asked for your Google account and password, so make sure you have that information at hand. Here is the process for the manufacturer's examples we used earlier:
On a Samsung Galaxy phone, go to Setchings and so Lock screen Then select Type of screen lock. Then touch Any. Then go to Settings, so Accounts and backup followed by Accounts and touches Google Then touch Delete account. You must also delete your Samsung account, which you can access at Settings, so Biometrics and Security followed by Find my phone Enter your password, then tap your account at the top and select Plus, followed by Delete account.
In a Google Pixel, phone, go to Setchings and so Security. Then select Screen lock and touches Any. Then go to Settings, so Accounts followed by Google Then touch Delete account.
On a Huawei phone, go to Setchings and so Security and privacy Then select Screen lock and passwords. Then touch Disable screen lock password. Then go to Settings, so Users and accounts followed by Google and touches Remove.
Remove your SD and SIM cards for more privacy.
This is an often forgotten but equally important part of disposing of any smartphone. Many people are not aware that their phone's SIM card, which allows the phone to connect to their provider, contains some personal information that would be better in their hands. In fact, some phones even save contacts on their SIM card by default, and we also don't want other people's private phone numbers to fall into the wrong hands.
As for SD cards, these devices are used to expand the memory of a phone. Most often, they are the place where your photos are saved by default, although not all devices come with a MicroSD card reader these days.
Depending on the device you have, the methods to remove the SIM and SD will vary. Generally, you should remove any housing that is in your phone and inspect the frame to see if there are small ports or holes. Sometimes, the SD and SIM card ports are labeled. Other times, as in iPhones, they are hidden behind a small panel flush with the cabinet, which requires a small peg like a clip to open.
In order not to ruin any potential resale value of your device, we recommend that you visit your provider and ask for help with the removal of your SIM and SD cards. They take frequently used phones and are likely to have the right tools to open all the ports of your device. They can even help you upgrade to a new phone, if that is the reason you are getting rid of your current device.
Bonus: don't forget to log out and disconnect from all your accounts
This should be evident, but as we have covered previously, simply deleting data is not enough these days. In many cases, you may have to delete your accounts to actually delete your information from a device. Click or tap here to get our guide on how to remove your accounts from applications.
The biggest mistake people make when getting rid of old computers, equipment and printers
If you ever gave an old device to a friend, donated one to a charity or sold one to another person, you may have compromised your personal information. If you don't clean that device 100%, no matter how safe or secure you feel, there may still be recoverable data there. These are the best ways to make sure you don't provide the information on your device.
Click or tap to make sure your device is completely deleted.
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