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11 months ago

What does rooting your phone actually mean?

49

Rooting your phone? Have questions? We have a few answers that explain how root works and what exactly it is.

We love getting your questions. It's always a good thing when we can help each other, and we learn stuff ourselves when looking for the answers. While we can't find time to answer all of them, sometimes a certain question comes up enough that it deserves a detailed answer.

"What does root mean?" is one of those questions. The concept may be simple for some of us, but for many folks who haven't spent time fiddling around with Android or any other permissions-based operating system, it's something to ask questions about. I'm going to try and answer them all as best I can.

Permissions

Before we define root, it's important to understand why it exists and how it works. It's because Android uses permissions (Linux-based permissions, to be exact) in the file structure. Every file, every folder and every partition has a set of permissions. These permissions decide who can read a file (look at or access the contents without changing them), write to a file (be able to change the contents of that file, or create a new file inside a folder or partition) and execute a file (run the file if it's a type that can run, like an app). This is done based on users and permissions — certain users have access, while users who don't have the right permissions are blocked from having access.

When you first set up your phone and turn it on for the first time, you are assigned a user ID. If another user logs in via Google, they are assigned a different user ID. When an app is installed on your phone, it's also assigned a user ID of its own. The system itself is a user and other processes that need to run on your phone may have their own user ID. Everything that can do anything to any files on your Android is a user.

A system of users and permissions is how Android keeps track of who can do what.

Let's say you install a messaging app. It gets assigned a user ID when you install it. It also gets a spot on your data partition of it's own, that only it has access to. You have permissions to execute the app, and when the app runs it has permission to access its own data folder and files. The app may also request permission to access things like your address book or SD card or photo library. If you say yes to these requests (or if you agree to the permissions on older versions of Android) the app's user ID is granted permission to the data files of those things, meaning it can look at the data folder and its contents and possibly change them or add new files. The app can't access any data files it doesn't have permission to "look" at. That means (in our example) it can't do things like look at the settings database, or access the data folder of another application. The term sandbox is often used for this — apps are sandboxed and can only play in the sandboxes they have permission to be in.

For files that are programs and can run (like apps), the same permission model applies. Your user ID has permission to run the apps you installed while you are signed in. The system user has permission to run them and other system-level users may have access to the apps or certain processes the apps use. Other apps can't start up apps they don't have permission to start. If you added a secondary user, they don't have access to your apps or files and vice-versa. There are files, folders and apps on your phone that your user ID doesn't have permission to see, alter or run. Usually those parts of Android require system-level permissions (the system user ID) to do anything with, and you aren't the system user or a user that has system-level permissions.

Switching permissions

While it's technically possibly to change the way your phone boots up and the files it uses to start the running system and assign your user ID elevated permissions, that's neither safe nor practical. But Android (and most Unix or Linux based systems) have what's called a root user, and support the SubstituteUser binary (think of a binary as a small app) to change user IDs. Those are used to administrate the system at the core level.

Because the people who made your phone don't want you to have easy access to the root user ID — and not all the reasons are selfish because it also protects you and your private data — the SubstituteUser binary isn't included in most builds of Android. Without SubstituteUser, we can't switch our user ID. Most system level things in Android have similar easy names, by the way. The core security (files in the bootloader and/or the kernel itself) are also built in a way to prevent you from switching user IDs as part of the SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux — told you the names are easy) kernel module. Some phones (Samsung's Knox comes to mind) have further protections, and nearly all the companies who make Androids require that, in order to make changes, the bootloader would need to be unlocked so these files can be changed and allow you to switch user IDs. Some phones, like the BlackBerry Priv even go a step further and aren't going to boot if we change anything (even if we could).

To become root, you need a way to change your user ID.

Once we get past all that — either by unlocking the bootloader through authorized means or using some sort of exploit — we can place the SU binary (SubstituteUser) in a spot that it can run when it's called to run — that's called a PATH. If any app is in your user ID's PATH it will run without telling the system exactly where it is. You also need to make sure the SU binary is in a spot that your user ID has permission to execute (run) files. Any other app (Google Play has plenty of apps that need root permissions) will also need the same access. When you use a method to root your phone, all this is sorted out by the folks who built the root method.

Once all that is in place, we can run the SU binary (or another app can run the SU binary).

Getting root access

This is where root comes in. The SU binary uses flags when it's run to tell the system what user ID you want to switch to. For example, if I run the SU binary on my Ubuntu computer like this "su Jim -c nano" I will run the nano command as the user Jim (after supplying Jim's password). If you run the SU binary with no flags or arguments, it switches you to the root user. Normally you would need to supply a password, but since "root" is an unused user on Android it has no password. Running the command "su" will switch you to the user root, and assign you the user ID of 0, and put you in the root group. You are now the Super User.

As the Super User you can do anything to any file, folder or partition on your Android. By anything, we mean literally anything. You can remove bloatware apps and you can also remove essential system files that break your phone. You can also do things to the hardware like change the CPU frequency and ruin your phone forever.

Root is the super user, who can do anything. And we mean anything.

Apps can do the same thing. SU is placed where it's in the application PATH and any app can call it and run it. That app then has Super User permissions, and can do anything it likes to any file any place on your phone. This is why the people who made your phone really don't want you to have this level of access, and the companies who allow you to unlock the bootloader and change things still don't place the SU binary on your phone by default. Having root access with no way to control who or what can use it is dangerous to your phone's software and your personal data.

That's why you need to install an app that forces you to allow root access any time you or another app tries to invoke the Super User permissions. Most times when you use a root method for your phone one will be included, along with some other useful binaries like the BusyBox toolset. If you did things by hand, you'll need to install one yourself. SuperSU by Chainfire in Google Play is a good one to start with.

Odds and ends

Many phones and some root methods do things a little differently (Android 4.3 brought a lot of changes) and require scripts or a daemon (you'll see words like daemonsu or su.d mentioned) instead of just dropping the SU binary in place. These are used to call SubstituteUser so you can switch to the root user just like the raw binary method. The people who figured out how to root your phone have sorted all this out and it will work the same on the user-facing side.

It's also possible to "temp-root" some Androids. This means you can have Super User permissions and do a few things you need to do, but a reboot takes root access away. Likewise, you can have a "shell-root" where you can only access the root user through adb from your computer.

Finally, I want to stress that if you had these questions, you need to consider if you're ready to have a rooted Android. We weren't kidding when we said it's easy to ruin your phone with SuperUser access. There's no reason to be ashamed that you need to do a little reading or ask a few more questions before you do things that can break your phone or give some random rouge app access to all your data.

That's what we're here for.

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11 months ago

How to give your Android phone a Microsoft makeover

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Bringing the look, feel and functionality of Microsoft's ecosystem to your Android phone.

Windows Phone is in an odd place right now — an argument could be made Windows Phone's been in a weird place for a few years now — and whether you have come to Android for more apps, or more consistent experiences, or better hardware, you're here in the Android ecosystem now. But that doesn't mean you have to kiss all your Microsoft and Windows services goodbye.

Whether you're looking to recreate as much of your Windows Phone experience as you can, or you just want to see what Redmond can offer Mountain View, we've got the guide for you. Some devices offer more Microsoft services out of the box, from Cyanogen OS on the OnePlus One to Microsoft productivity suite on the Samsung Galaxy S7 — but there's plenty out there besides.

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11 months ago

How to set up and secure your phone using Samsung's My Knox

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Keep your work and personal data safe and secure without even having to send your phone to Kentucky.

Samsung's My KNOX is a free security platform that essentially partitions your phone's storage so that your business and work data are kept separate and secure.

It's totally free; all you need is an email address.

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How does it work?

The idea is that you would use My KNOX's "virtual sandbox" to store your work data, leaving the "main area" of your phone for personal use. For example, when taking photos in your My KNOX Camera app (same camera app, just used within the My KNOX portion) the photos will only show up in your My KNOX Gallery and not in the regular Gallery. It's basically like having two phones in one.

This is done through the use of containers or "sandboxes" at the software level. These are means of isolating bits of code, which is how your My KNOX apps and regular apps keep from intertwining. My KNOX now has the container support that IT departments would normally have to contract other companies for. This sandbox is know as the KNOX Workspace.

Within the "KNOX Workspace," security is heightened, so certain processes, like taking screenshots within apps, aren't allowed. This advanced security app is ideal for those working in a BYOD (bring your own device) environment and ideal for companies who want to protect their data as well as their employees' data. There's no mixing and mingling of accounts, which lowers the chances of data leakage and cyber attacks.

My KNOX doesn't just split up your work and personal data; it also acts as a multi-layered security system that protects your phone all the way from the hardware up to the application level. Even if your phone is attacked by malware, the data within My KNOX is still protected. Because of these security measures, you will only be able to use the default KNOX launcher within the KNOX app.

If your device is lost or stolen, you can remotely find, lock, or wipe it, so there's no worry of losing work or personal data. So, if you're wanting to (or have to) use your own device for work, downloading the My KNOX app is a great way to maintain your personal privacy while keeping your work data, documents, and emails safe.

How to find and download Samsung My KNOX for Android

You'll first want to download and install the app. There are already a bunch of apps that will be automatically added to your My KNOX folder and you can add more as you please.

  1. Launch the Google Play Store from your Home screen or from the app drawer.
  2. Tap the search button on the top right of your screen. It's the magnifying glass.
  3. Type My KNOX into the search field.
  4. Tap the search button on the bottom right of your screen. It's the magnifying glass.

  5. Tap Samsung My KNOX. It should be the first result. If not, make sure that it's by Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
  6. Tap Install.

My KNOX is now installed on your device and will be available from either your Home screen or from the app drawer.

How to set up Samsung My KNOX for Android

  1. Launch My KNOX from your Home screen or from the app drawer.
  2. Tap Get Started in the bottom righthand corner of your screen.
  3. Tap Allow to be able to make and receive calls via My KNOX. If you Deny, the app will just quit.

  4. Tap the checkbox to agree to the terms and conditions.
  5. Tap Confirm.
  6. Tap Add account.

  7. Enter your email address.
  8. Tap Done.
  9. Tap Next. A security PIN will be sent to the email address you provided.
  10. Enter the PIN that you received in the email.

  11. Tap Done.
  12. Tap OK.
  13. Tap the checkboxes next to the apps that you'd like to add to your My KNOX folder.
  14. Tap Next.

  15. Tap Try it to use the Find your phone feature. Tap No Thanks if you don't want to.
  16. Choose a lock method:
    • Password
    • PIN
    • Pattern
    • Fingerprint
    • Two-step verification – You'll have to execute two of the above-mentioned lock methods.
  17. Tap KNOX timeout to choose how long before you'll have to re-enter your My KNOX password to access your My KNOX folder.
  18. Tap Next.
  19. Set the lock method that you chose by entering a password, PIN, pattern, scanning your fingerprint, or a combination of two of these methods.
  20. Tap Continue.
  21. Perform the lock method again to confirm,
  22. Tap Confirm.
  23. Tap Set up.

Note: Screenshots unavailable for steps 15 to 23, due to security restrictions within My KNOX.



KNOX mode will now be created, along with a Home screen shortcut. Each time you want to access apps in the My KNOX folder, you just need to launch the My KNOX app and then use the apps within as you would normally.

You'll be able to tell you're in your KNOX Workspace by the yellow keyhole in the bottom right corner of whichever app you're using.

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How to manually lock your Samsung My KNOX folder for Android

If you don't want to wait for your KNOX Workspace to time out, you can manually lock it so that your lock method will need to be used to access it again.

  1. Launch My KNOX from your Home screen or from the app drawer.
  2. Tap the More button.
  3. Tap Lock.

The next time you try to access an app within your My KNOX folder/Workspace, you'll have to input your password, PIN, or pattern, or scan your fingerprint or two of these methods, depending on which one you selected during setup.

Note: If you uninstall My KNOX, all of the data that was stored within your KNOX Workspace will be deleted.

How to add apps to your My KNOX folder for Android

  1. Launch My KNOX from your Home screen or from the app drawer.
  2. Tap More.
  3. Tap Add apps.
  4. Tap each app that you'd like to add to your My KNOX folder. You won't be able to add every app you download.
  5. Tap Add.

The apps you add will now be available in your My KNOX folder; you might just have to scroll down to see them.

How to remove apps from your My KNOX folder for Android

  1. Launch My KNOX from your Home screen or from the app drawer.
  2. Tap More.
  3. Tap Remove apps.

  4. Tap the app you'd like to remove.
  5. Tap Disable.
  6. Tap Done once you've removed all the apps you wanted to.



How to add My KNOX apps to the Home screen

Rather than constantly opening your My KNOX folder, you can add secure apps to the Home screen. They'll appear the same as other apps, but will have a yellow keyhole on their bottom right corner.

  1. Launch My KNOX from your Home screen or from the app drawer.
  2. Tap More.
  3. Tap Add to home.
  4. Tap the apps you'd like to add to your Home screen.
  5. Tap Add.

These apps will now appear on your Home screen.

Note: Unless you manually lock your My KNOX folder, the My KNOX apps on your Home screen will not be locked until KNOX times out.

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11 months ago

How to use Trusted Devices in Android

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Using Smart Lock is an easy way to mix security with convenience — keep your Android locked unless you want it unlocked.

Introduced with Android 5.0 Lollipop, Smart Lock includes the addition of what's called a Trusted Device. A trusted device is anything — from an Android Wear smartwatch to a smart luggage tag to your car's stereo — that can be connected to your phone via Bluetooth, or a programmable NFC tag that's been set up to unlock your phone when the two are close enough to communicate.

While folks who are truly security-focused won't use any of the Smart Lock options (if someone steals your phone they will probably steal your smart watch, too) they are one of those good things that get more people to lock their phone because it's more convenient to unlock it — just like a fingerprint scanner. Anything that causes more people to protect their data and keep things locked away, the better we say.

This post was previously published. It has been updated with more current information and instructions.

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11 months ago

Making your Android look and feel like a Nexus

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Theming is about customization and creativity; it's about making things different.

Despite the overwhelming urge to be "not the same" a great amount of time, tech, and talent goes into making 'stock' themes. And many a loving Android nerd proudly rock 'stock' or 'pure' setups. These adjectives aren't quite accurate, so we're not going to use them for the rest of the article. The look we're aiming for in this guide emulates Android as Google intended, so we shall call it Nexus, after the devices that come with this experience out of the box.

It's not hard to understand why Google's visual approach to Android is a popular one, as it's a cohesive look and it's got a wonderful simplicity to it without straying into bland vanilla. The Nexus look has evolved over the years, but now that we've settled into the Material Design era, it's gotten easier and easier to achieve the Nexus look on other devices. Here's how we do it.

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11 months ago

How to cancel service with Rogers

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Everything you need to know about cancelling your Rogers wireless service

Whether you are unhappy with their service, feel you need to get out of your current contract, or just looking for a change, cancelling your Rogers wireless plan may be the right choice for you.

The good news is all carriers in Canada have to follow the same rules when it comes to cancelling contracts. It's not always the easiest information to find but, we are here to help!

What kind of fees will I have to pay when I cancel my service?

As of June 2015, The Wireless Code created by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's (CRTC) laid out universal rules for all cell carriers across Canada. The highlights you need to know about when cancelling a cell contract include:

  • No more three-year contracts (even if you signed a deal before June 2015).
  • No more 30-day notice required before cancelling your contract.
  • No more cancellation fees (just device subsidy fees).

Whether you are on Rogers, their subsidiary Fido, or any other Canadian carrier, these rules apply. The only thing you will have to pay when you cancel is the remaining balance of your phone's device subsidy if you have had it for less than 24 months.

What is a device subsidy?

That's a good question and the easiest way to explain is with math.

  • Device subsidy = phone cost - initial payment

For example, you decide you want to buy a new Samsung Galaxy S7 but, the phone costs $1,000. Rogers will sell you a brand new Galaxy S7 for a $500 initial payment and give you a $500 subsidy to make up the rest of the cost of the phone if you sign a two-year wireless plan. In this case, the device subsidy would be $500 dollars.

Does the subsidy always stay the same?

No. As per the CRTC rules, the device subsidy needs to go down in equal increments every month up to 24 months. After two years time, the device subsidy must be $0. That means you can figure out exactly how much your device subsidy will go down each month.

  • Subsidy per month = device subsidy / 24

Using the numbers from before you would get something like this:

  • $20.83 = $500 / 24

How much will I have to pay in order to cancel my service with Rogers?

Knowing that you will have to pay the remaining device subsidy on your phone, you can use this equation to figure out exactly how much you should have to pay.

  • Remaining device subsidy = subsidy per month x number of months left on contract

Using the same numbers from the example above, let's say you are trying to cancel your plan after six months which mean you still have 18 months left on your contract.

  • $374.94 = 20.83 x 18

Is there any way I can avoid paying these fees?

Chances are slim that you can avoid paying these fees but there are a few things you can try.

Poor service

The contract you signed also holds Rogers accountable to the service they have promised you. If you are cancelling your Rogers service because you think they breached the terms of your contract, you can always try to point on what the company failed to deliver on.

New provider pays your fees

This is probably a long shot, but if you were to go to Bell or Telus and tell them you want to leave Rogers, they may be willing to buy out your contract for you.

What is the easiest way to get out of a contract?

If you are desperate to get out of Rogers and they seem to be making you jump through a few hoops or keep offering you special deals and incentives in order to make you stay, tell them you are leaving the country. If they don't have service where you are going, they will probably just ask you to pay the fees you owe and thank you for your patronage.

The bottom line

Cancelling your Rogers service is always going to be easier and cheaper the longer you wait because you will have paid more of the balance owing on your phone. Remember, if it's been longer than 24 months, Rogers can't charge you anything in order to cancel their service.

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11 months ago

How to cancel service with TELUS

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How to cancel TELUS

If it's time to cancel service with TELUS, our guide is here to help.

Whatever your reasons are for leaving your service provider, you should know in advance how to cancel your contract with minimal damage. Time and money are things you don't want to waste when the time comes to leave your service term. All Canadian carriers are required to follow the same rules when it comes to contract cancellations, so here's a breakdown of what to expect if and when you decide to cancel TELUS.

What kind of fees will I have to pay when I cancel my service?

In June 2015, The Wireless Code, created by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), spelled out the rules for wireless carriers across Canada. According to this document, here's what you need to know when cancelling a cell contract:

  • Three-year contracts are a thing of the past (even if you signed one before June 2015).
  • The 30-day notice to cancel your contract is gone.
  • Cancellation fees cannot be charged (just device subsidy fees).

These rules apply to major Canadian carriers like TELUS, as well as their subsidiary, Koodo. If you've had your device for less than 24 months, the only payment you will owe your carrier at the time of cancellation is your phone's device subsidy.

What is a device subsidy?

A device subsidy can be explained through a simple equation:

  • Device subsidy = phone cost - initial payment

Let's say you want to get a new HTC 10, and the phone costs $1,000. TELUS will sell it to you for a $500 initial payment. Then, they will give you a $500 subsidy to make up the rest of the cost of the phone if you sign a two-year wireless plan. In the case of this example, the device subsidy would be $500.

Does the subsidy always stay the same?

No, it does not. As per the CRTC rules, your device subsidy needs to go down in equal increments every month up to 24 months. After two years, the device subsidy must be $0. You can now figure out exactly how much your device subsidy will go down each month.

  • Subsidy per month = device subsidy / 24

If we use the previous example, the equation looks like this:

  • $20.83 = $500 / 24

How much will I have to pay in order to cancel my service with Telus?

If you are leaving your contract before the two-year mark, use this formula to figure out how much your remaining device subsidy will be.

  • Remaining device subsidy = subsidy per month x number of months left on contract

Staying with our example digits, let's say you want to cancel your contract with TELUS after six months. This means you have 18 months remaining for your device subsidy.

  • $374.94 = 20.83 x 18

Is there a way I can avoid paying these fees?

While there aren't any definitive guarantees, you might try a few of these suggestions:

Poor service

If you have some examples of instances where TELUS failed you, or you had consistent issues during your service term, now would be the time to bring them up. Remember that a contract also holds your carrier accountable, and it's possible that they have breached it and are willing to compensate you.

New provider pays the fees

When you're shopping around for your next carrier, ask if they would be prepared to pay any of your remaining balance with TELUS.

What is the easiest way to get out of a contract?

It's possible that when you call to cancel your contract, the TELUS representative will try to offer you some incentives to stay with them. if you're determined to go to another carrier, tell TELUS that you are leaving the country, or moving to a region where their service won't be available. This will put a stop to their attempts to keep you as a customer, and let you pay your subsidy balance without further hassle.

The bottom line

Ultimately, the way to leave your contract with the least financial damage is to wait it out, if you can. The fewer the months remaining on your two-year contract, the lower your device subsidy balance will be. It's also important to remember that, if it's been more than 24 months, TELUS can't charge you anything when you cancel their service.

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11 months ago

How to cancel service with Bell

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Learn how to cancel your contract with Bell Mobility.

It's no secret that canceling your phone contract can be a nuisance. Carriers want to keep your business, so they'll often try to negotiate a reason to stay. But if you're intent on leaving for another carrier, or just to get off the grid completely, here's how you can do it with Bell.

Let's break down how you can cancel your contract with Bell without a potential migraine!

Do I cancel my account over the phone or online?

According to Bell's terms of service you can either call or go online to cancel your contract or give them a call depending on your region. It's easier to give them a call.

If you're from Ontario or Québec, the phone number is 310-BELL (2355) to cancel. If you're from anywhere else, the number is 1-800-668-6878. If you're looking to cancel online, visit bell.ca. While the technical support desk is available 24/7, Bell's contact information is only available weekdays between 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., weekends between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Holidays: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What kind of fees will I have to pay when I cancel my service?

Since June 2015, The Wireless Code created by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's (CRTC) laid out rules for all cell carriers across Canada. The most important parts you need to know about when cancelling a cell contract include:

  • No more cancellation fees (just device subsidy fees).
  • No more three-year contracts (even if you signed a deal before June 2015).
  • No more 30-day notice required before cancelling your contract.

Whether you are with Bell, or any other Canadian carrier, these rules will always apply. The only thing you will have to pay when you cancel is the remaining balance of your phone's device subsidy– but this is only if you have had it for less than 24 months.

What is a device subsidy?

Awesome question! The simplest way to explain it would be with some math:

  • Device subsidy = phone cost - initial payment

For example, you decide that you would like to buy a new Samsung Galaxy S7 for $1,000– that's a bit pricey! Bell will sell you a brand new Galaxy S7 for a $500 initial payment and give you a $500 subsidy to make up the rest of the cost of the phone if you sign a two-year wireless plan. In this case, the device subsidy would be $500 dollars.

Does the subsidy always stay the same?

Nope.

As per the CRTC rules, the device subsidy needs to go down in equal increments every month up to 24 months. After two years time, the device subsidy must be $0. That means you can figure out exactly how much your device subsidy will go down each month.

  • Subsidy per month = device subsidy / 24

Using the numbers from before you would get something like this:

  • $20.83 = $500 / 24

How much will I have to pay in order to cancel my service with Bell?

Knowing that you will have to pay the remaining device subsidy on your phone, you can use this equation to figure out exactly how much you should have to pay.

  • Remaining device subsidy = subsidy per month x number of months left on contract

Using the same numbers from the example above, let's say you are trying to cancel your plan after six months which mean you still have 18 months left on your contract.

  • $374.94 = 20.83 x 18

Is there any way that I can avoid paying these fees?

Chances are slim that you can avoid paying these fees but there are a few things you can try.

Billing charges

After deactivation, a final bill will be sent out, but some charges like long distance and international roaming may take longer to process. This means a separate bill would be sent out, too.

Poor Customer Service?

If you're having troubles cancelling your contract over the phone, some people have recommended calling the office of Wade Oosterman, Bell's President of Mobility and Brand Recognition at (905) 282-4944 or emailing wade.oosterman@bell.ca for much smoother, much less frustrating help.

Within a day, you should get a call from an executive customer service department representative who will hopefully help you a bit better!

Can a new provider pay your fees?

While there is no evidence that leaving Bell and heading to, let's say, Telus, would entitle you to have Telus pay for your remaining Bell bill, asking a customer service rep if there's a chance it could happen never hurts! You may get lucky and they could offer you a deal.

What is the easiest way to get out of a contract?

Some people have used the whole 'I can't pay if I'm dead or in a coma!' excuse before. This will backfire on you, as the company will ask for a death certificate or an obituary.

The easiest way to get customer service to stop hounding you and pressuring you to stay with them is to tell them you're moving to another country. They won't push if they know you're leaving Canada for Madagascar.

At the end of the day...

No matter what route you take to try and cancel your contract with Bell, don't expect for it to take two seconds, or for your to simply send in an email, or check a box online. Companies have customer retention services for a reason, but don't get frustrated! Those people are just doing their jobs by trying to get you to stay on. If the person on the other end of the phone is pushy or unnecessarily rude, don't be afraid to ask for their name and their employee number– it could help your case for cancellation!

Good luck!

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11 months ago

Everything you need to know about rooting your Android

While your Android isn't in the same sort of jail an iPhone lives in, rooting can help you break out.

If you've researched anything about Android on the internet, you've probably seen and read about "rooting" one. There was a time when many of the Android phones available didn't live up to their potential, and root was the answer. Horrible software was the norm, applications that you would never use ran amok and wasted data and battery life, and the experience was bad all around.

Because every Android phone is running the Linux kernel and middleware very similar to a Linux distribution you would install on a computer under the hood, rooting them was the way to allow us to try and fix them our own way. Rooting is how you get complete access to everything in the operating system, and those permissions allow you to change it all. Modern Androids are quite a bit better than they used to be. Even the most inexpensive phone or tablet you can buy in 2016 will do more and perform better that the best Android phone available just a few years ago. But many of us still want to root our phones and are looking for more information.

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11 months ago

How to stream Copa America Centenario on your Android phone, tablet and TV

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Fox Sports GO

It's time for Copa America Centenario to kick off — here's how you can keep up with the matches on your Android devices.

Whether you're trying to follow just one country or keep up with every single game, chances are you won't be able to be sitting in front of your preferred TV connected to a cable service for the next three weeks catching all of the Copa America matches.

That means you're going to have to get access to them while you're on the go on your phone or tablet, or maybe in another room or on the road with Android TV. If you're trying to watch Copa America Centenario in the U.S. this year using an Android device, we have you covered right here.

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12 months ago

How to add the Copa America Centenario schedule to Google Calendar

20

If you're a fan of soccer, you're looking at a great three weeks with Copa America.

The prestigious Copa America tournament puts 16 nations from the Americas against one another in a fantastic tournament that will play out across the country, with some of the biggest names in world soccer (or, as most would say, football) playing for their country.

In the 100th rendition of Copa America (that's where the "Centenario" part comes from), it's actually being held right here in the United States, and that means not only will you be able to go watch a game in person if you so desire, but for the rest of us it'll also be broadcast on U.S. television and played in familiar stadiums across the country.

Whether you want to follow a specific country's climb through the tournament — which kicks off June 3 with the United States versus Colombia — or revel in the entire event, adding the schedule to your Google Calendar is a great way to keep up with it. This is how you do it.

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12 months ago

How to make your Android look and feel like an iPhone

186

Apple has one look, and it's quite a distinctive one. If you really want to make your Android look like an iPhone, you can.

There's no single Android "look." Sure, we've got Material Design, and it's great. But Android can and often does look like anything under the sun: pretty, ugly, clean, busy, Material, Holo, retro, futuristic, and at times, even Apple-y. If you can make your phone look like anything, it makes sense that some might want their phone to look like one of Cupertino's devices.

Now making your phone look and behave exactly like an iPhone is impossible without a specialized ROM, or a phone that was designed to look and feel like an iPhone — think Xiaomi, Huawei, or a few other Chinese manufacturers. But between these apps and a little patience, we can make your new phone behave and feel a lot more like your old one … in a good way.

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1 year ago

U.S. prepaid phones guide 2016

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Prepaid SIMs

Sick of committing to annual contracts? Enjoy the flexibility of a prepaid wireless plan.

The days of being locked into a lengthy wireless contract are over, as there is a plethora of prepaid options that allow you to pay for your phone service on a month-to-month basis. We've taken the liberty of breaking down the top prepaid wireless options for you in this handy guide.

Check your coverage

One of the first things you should consider when deciding on a prepaid carrier is the coverage provided in your area. Prepaid carriers often have a smaller coverage map than postpaid carriers because of their limited roaming agreements, so it's good to re-check your area, even if you've used the carrier before. Here are the coverage maps for the carriers we will be looking at:

  • MetroPCS — Map
  • AT&T GoPhone — Map (make sure to check the GoPhone map)
  • Boost Mobile — Map
  • T-Mobile Prepaid — Map
  • Straight Talk — Map (requires Zip Code, and preferred phone/carrier)
  • Cricket Wireless — Map
  • Virgin Mobile — Map
  • Simple Mobile — Map
  • GoSmart Mobile — Map
  • Project Fi — Map

MetroPCS

MetroPCS

MetroPCS uses T-Mobile's HSPA+ and LTE network, as it is owned entirely by the larger carrier. You have the option to purchase a phone through MetroPCS, or bring your own device that's compatible with the T-Mobile network.

Price

Plan pricing is based on how much high-speed data (LTE) you think you'll use on a monthly basis. There are no annual contracts, and taxes and fees are included in the price.

  • 1GB of high speed data — $30/month
  • 3GB of high-speed data — $40/month
  • 5GB of high-speed data — $50/month
  • Unlimited LTE data — $60/month

All plans come with unlimited talk, text, data, LTE mobile hotspot, Wi-Fi calling, caller ID, call waiting, 3-way calling, and Data Maximizer, a feature that helps optimize your high-speed data usage when streaming videos.

Music Unlimited is included on $40 and higher-rate plans, which allows you to stream from over 40 streaming music services including Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify, and more, without dipping into your monthly high-speed data allotment.

Note that once you've burned through your allotted LTE data, you'll notice your data speeds fall to 2G.

How to reload

Log into the MetroPCS website to make a payment or set up Auto Pay. You also have the option to pay in person at a MetroPCS store.

AT&T GoPhone

AT&T GoPhone

AT&T's prepaid option lets you choose from a selection of phones specifically for their GoPhone plans, or you can purchase a GoPhone SIM card kit if you'd prefer to bring your own device.

Price

AT&T prepaid plans include unlimited talk and text in the U.S., as well as unlimited messaging to Mexico, Canada, and over 100 countries. For data, AT&T offers three types of GoPhone plans:

  • Pay-as-you-go ($5 per 100MB) LTE data — $30/month
  • 2GB of LTE data, with rollover data — $45/month
  • 5GB of LTE data, with rollover data — $60/month

The 5GB plan also includes unlimited talk and text within and between U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and allows you to use your high-speed data allotment from your plan when in Mexico or Canada. You can also save $5 per month by signing up for Auto Refill.

You can also pay $2 per day for unlimited nationwide talk and text or pay $0.25 per minute and $0.20 per text message. Data is available at $2 per MB (based on their stated $0.01 per 5KB rate), or you can add on a data package that gives you 100MB for an extra $1 a day.

How to reload

Pay online via myAT&T using a credit/debit card or eCheck, buy a Refill card (available online, at AT&T wireless stores, and at more than 200,000 retail locations), or call 611 anytime from your GoPhone (or 1-800-901-9878) and follow the prompts for Refill.

Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile uses Sprint's nationwide LTE network. You have the option of buying a phone through Boost or bringing your own Sprint-compatible device.

Price

Boost Mobile offers three types of monthly prepaid phone plans featuring LTE high-speed data. Once your plan's data allotment has been reached, speeds are reduced to 2G for the remainder of the plan cycle.

  • 2GB of LTE high-speed data — $35/month
  • 5GB of LTE high-speed data — $45/month
  • Unlimited LTE high-speed data — $60/month

One neat feature with Boost is the ability to increase your monthly data allotment. You get an additional 500MB of high-speed data per month when you make three on-time payments (up to 3GB after 18 on-time payments). You can also save $5 on your plan by signing up for Auto Re-Boost.

All plans come with unlimited domestic talk and text (available even if you haven't paid for up to 60 days), unlimited music streaming with select music partners, call waiting, voicemail, 3-way calling, as well as the ability to turn your phone into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot (draws from your applicable data allotment). With Unlimited pans, hotspot data is capped at 8GB.

How to reload

Pay online via My Account on the Boost Mobile site or sign up for Auto Re-Boost. Pay by phone by dialing #-A-D-D (#-2-3-3) and following the prompts to pay with your credit, debit, or Re-Boost card, text ADD and the pin on the back of your Re-Boost card to 7225 (ex. ADD 12345678912345), or text "PAY," the dollar amount, and the last four digits of the credit or debit card associated with the account to 7225 (ex. PAY 50 1234).

Alternatively, you can pay in-store at any Boost Mobile location.

T-Mobile Prepaid

T-Mobile Prepaid

T-Mobile's prepaid service gives you access to T-Mobile's nationwide network without signing up for an annual contract. You have the option to buy a prepaid T-Mobile phone, or bring your own device for only the cost of the SIM card.

Price

T-Mobile offers prepaid plans for individuals and families, as well as a pay-as-you-go option.

Individual plans include:

  • 3GB of LTE high-speed data — $40/month
  • 5GB of LTE high-speed data — $50/month
  • 10GB of LTE high-speed data — $60/month

All plans include unlimited talk, text, and data on T-Mobile's nationwide LTE network, with data speeds slowing to 2G upon reaching your monthly data allotment.

If you're the type who rarely makes calls with their phone, T-Mobile also offers a text and web prepaid plan that includes unlimited text and data (4G speeds for the first 5GB; speeds reduced thereafter) and just 100 minutes of talk. It's the perfect plan for those who'd rather tweet or text than talk but only available for first-time T-Mobile customers.

Family plans start at $50/month for the first line, an additional $30/month for the second line, and $10/month for any additional lines. Each line comes standard with 2GB of LTE data with options to upgrade to 6GB for an extra $15/month, 10GB for an extra $30/month, or unlimited for $45/month. Family plans include Unlimited talk, text, and data, unlimited music streaming on select music services, free video streaming via T-Mobile's Binge On service, and more.

If you'd rather pay as you go, T-Mobile offers a plan that starts at $3/month for any combination of 30 minutes of talk or 30 texts, with options to add a high-speed data pass with daily ($5/day for up to 500MB of LTE data) and weekly ($10/week for up to 1GB of LTE data).

How to reload

To reload your account online, go to T-Mobile's website, either through one-time payments or by setting up recurring payments. You can also call -A-D-D (-2-3-3) from your T-Mobile phone to reload your account via credit, chequing account or T-Mobile Refill card. Refill cards are available to be purchased online or in-store at a T-Mobile location.

Straight Talk

Straight Talk Mobile

Straight Talk is a prepaid carrier that doesn't rely on just one wireless network to provide services to it's customers. It purchases the right to use other the towers of the four major carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint.

Straight Talk offers prepaid phones for purchase, and also lets you bring your own device. But just because it offers service from four carriers, that doesn't mean you get access to all four at the same time — you get to choose between T-Mobile or AT&T if you bring your own phone, or Straight Talk may choose the right carrier based on your location when you buy a phone from it.

Price

Straight Talk has seven tiers of wireless plans available for your smartphone, starting as low as a dollar a day up to a one-year unlimited plan for $495.

  • All You Need Plan: 1500 minutes of nationwide talk, unlimited texting, and 100 MB of data for 30 days — $30
  • 30-Day Unlimited Plan (5GB): Unlimited nationwide talk, text, and data (5GB of high-speed data, then 2G) for 30 days — $45
  • 30-Day Unlimited plan (10GB): Unlimited nationwide talk, text, and data (10GB of high-speed data, then 2G) for 30 days — $55
  • Unlimited International Plan: Unlimited nationwide talk, text, and data (5G of high speed-data, then 2G), as well as unlimited mobile-to-mobile to Mexico, China, India and canada, as well as unlimited calls to select international landline destinations for 30 days— $60
  • 3-Month Unlimited Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and data (5GB of high-speed data, then 2G) for 90 days — $130
  • 6-Month Unlimited Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and data (5GB of high-speed data, then 2G) for 180 days — $255
  • 1-Year Unlimited Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and data (5GB of high-speed data, then 2G) for 365 days — $495

How to reload

Go to the Straight Talk site to reload your account via service card, setting up recurring automatic payments, or downloading the Straight Talk My Account app for Android or iOS.

Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless

After being acquired by AT&T, Cricket Wireless has supported devices that use AT&T's HSPA+ and LTE network. You can purchase a phone from Cricket, or BYOD.

Price

Cricket Wireless offers four plan levels, from Basic to Unlimited.

  • Basic Plan: Unlimited nationwide talk, text, and data (2.5GB of high-speed LTE data before speed is reduced) — $40/month
  • Smart Plan: Unlimited nationwide talk, text, and data (5GB of high-speed LTE data before speed is reduced), unlimited international texting (MMS not included), data access plus unlimited talk and text to and from Mexico, Canada and the U.S. — $50/month
  • Pro Plan: Unlimited nationwide talk, text, and data (10GB of high-speed LTE data before speed is reduced), unlimited international texting (MMS not included), data access plus unlimited talk and text to and from Mexico, Canada and the U.S. — $60/month
  • Unlimited Plan: Unlimited nationwide talk, text, and high-speed LTE data, unlimited international texting (MMS not included), data access plus unlimited talk and text to and from Mexico, Canada and the U.S. — $70/month

All plans are eligible for a Group Save Discount when you add additional lines to your account. Save $10 when adding a second line, $20 off your third line, $30 off your fourth line, and $40 off your fifth line for a total eligible savings of $100.

Receive a $5 credit on your monthly bill by signing up for Auto Pay (not available with the Group Save Discount).

There's also a bunch of add-on features available for each plan.

How to reload

Log in to My Account on the Cricket Wireless site to pay your bill or sign up for Auto Pay, or download the My Cricket app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile uses Sprint's CDMA and LTE networks. You have the option of buying a phone through Virgin or bringing your own Sprint-compatible device.

Price

Virgin Mobile features a number of no-contract plans, including unlimited talk, text, and data starting at $30/month. All plans come with unlimited music streaming from Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker Radio, 8tracks, and Samsung Milk Music without it counting against your high-speed data allotment.

  • 500MB of high-speed data, unlimited talk, text, and data (2G after high-speed allotment) — $30
  • 4GB of high-speed data, unlimited talk, text, and data (2G after high-speed allotment) — $40
  • 6GB of high-speed data, unlimited talk, text, and data (2G after high-speed allotment) — $50

You can add more high-speed data to your account ($5 for 1GB, $10 for 2GB), and all plans come with international talk, text, and Visual Voicemail

Virgin also features Data Sharing plans for families with up to four lines able to share 16GB of data for $110/month.

How to reload

You can top up your Virgin Mobile account by buying a Virgin Mobile Top-Up card and entering it along with your Virgin Mobile number online, or simply pay online with your credit/debit Card or PayPal.

Verizon

Verizon Wireless

Verizon's prepaid option gives you full-access to Verizon's nationwide network without locking you into a lengthy contract. You have the option of buying a prepaid phone from Verizon or BYOD.

Price

Verizon offers monthly smartphone plans, featuring no annual contract, no activation fee, and no credit checks.

Unlimited talk and text with no data (Wi-Fi only) — $30/month Unlimited talk and text with 2GB of data — $45/month Unlimited talk and text with 5GB of data — $60/month

With no unlimited data plans available, expect to pay overage charges if you go over your data allotment for the month. Sign up for My Verizon Auto Pay for your $45-$60/month plan and get an extra 1GB of monthly data.

How to reload

Reload your Verizon account online, buy refill cards, or pay in-store at a Verizon Wireless location.

Simple Mobile

Simple Mobile

Simple Mobile uses T-Mobile's HSPA+ and LTE network and offers options to purchase a new phone or bring your own T-Mobile-compatible GSM phone (850 and 1900 MHz bands)

Price

Simple Mobile offers five prepaid plans, which all feature no contract or credit check, unlimited talk and text, unlimited international texting, unlimited calling to mobile phones in Mexico, Canada, India, China and 16 other countries and no roaming charges when in Mexico.

  • Basic talk and text plan (no data included) — $25/month
  • 4GB of up to LTE speeds, slows to 2G after data allotment — $40/month
  • 5GB of up to LTE speeds, slows to 2G after data allotment — $50/month
  • 10GB of up to LTE speeds (slows to 2G after data allotment) — $55/month
  • Unlimited LTE speed data$60/month

How to reload

ReUp through the Simple Mobile website via credit card or pin. You also have the option to pay in advance with Stash, allowing you to add money to your plan when you have it, so you don't have to worry about re-upping when your service runs out.

GoSmart

GoSmart Mobile

GoSmart is a subsidiary of T-Mobile and uses their nationwide network. You have the option of purchasing a device from GoSmart or BYOD.

Price

GoSmart offers four no-contract wireless plans to fit your needs. All plans come with unlimited talk and text, unlimited international texting to over 200 countries, unlimited LTE Facebook access and access to a nationwide 3G network.

  • Basic talk and text plan (no data included) — $25/month
  • 4GB of 3G web data per month— $35/month, or $30/month with auto pay
  • 12GB of 3G web data per month — $45/month
  • 20GB of 3G web data per month — $50/month

With the unlimited plans, speeds will slow after you've surpassed your 3G data allotment.

How to reload

Refill your account online via the GoSmart website, or pay by phone by dialing -A-D-D (-2-3-3) from your GoSmart phone, or call a GoSmart Mobile Refill Center Specialist at 1-877-569-0321

Project Fi

Project Fi

Google's first foray as a wireless carrier includes revolutionary pricing and flexible data usage rules. Sounds great, huh? The only unfortunate bit is that the service is currently limited to Google-designed devices — the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6. You can bring your own phone if you already have one of the approved devices, or you can buy one from Project Fi with some attractive pricing incentives and financing options.

Price

Google's Project Fi features one flexible pricing plan, which starts with Fi Basics. For $20 per month, you get unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts, the ability to turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot, and coverage in 120+ countries.

You pay for data as you use it. Featuring LTE speeds, you set your own custom data budget at $10 for every GB of data you use — but you're refunded if you don't reach that limit. So, if you pay for 8GB of data at the beginning of the month but only end up using 5GB, you'll receive a credit of $30 for your unused data. This is calculated down to the megabyte. If you go over your data budget, you pay for the extra used data based on the same $10 per GB rate — so 350MB of data overage would only end up costing you $3.50.

Set your data budget based on the amount you actually use and never worry about overages or overpaying again.

How to reload

Everything is controlled through the Project Fi app and website.

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1 year ago

Devil in the details: Nova Settings and what you do (and don't) need to know

38

Nova Launcher is a fairly easy launcher to pick up.

In fact, Nova was the very first third-party launcher I tried, and it's held a special place in my heart ever since. But Nova Launcher can get overwhelming at times, and most of those times have to do with Nova Settings. Because Nova Launcher has such an amazing amount of customization, it also has a lot of settings that those customizations rely on. So how do you find what you need among the rest? Never fear! We're here to help you through Nova Settings and help you find what you were looking for — plus a few cool features you probably didn't even know were there.

Let's customize!

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1 year ago

How to pair Bluetooth headphones on Android

0
How to pair Bluetooth headphones on Android

How do I pair Bluetooth headphones with my Android phone?

Whether you already have Bluetooth headphones lying around, or you are planning on purchasing a pair, you can easily pair them with your Android device to enjoy all of your favorite sounds.

How to turn on Bluetooth on Android

Before you can pair anything, you will need to make sure your Android device has Bluetooth on.

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal the Notification Shade. Depending on which Android phone you have, you may have to swipe twice.
  2. Tap on the Bluetooth symbol.

    Swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal the Notification Shade and then tap on the Bluetooth symbol.

You can turn off Bluetooth at any time by following the same steps. If the Bluetooth symbol is grayed out, as pictured in the middle screenshot above, that means Bluetooth is currently off. If the symbol is colored in (usually white or green) — like the right screenshot displayed above — that means it's on.

How to pair Bluetooth headphones on Android

Before you get started, make sure your Bluetooth headphones are turned on and in pairing mode. Each pair of headphones will probably be a little bit different, so consult the information that came with your pair before you proceed.

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal the Notification Shade. Depending on which Android phone you have, you may have to swipe twice.
  2. Tap on the word Bluetooth.

    Swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal the Notification Shade and then tap on the word Bluetooth.

  3. Tap on More Settings button.
  4. Tap on the name of your Bluetooth headphones.

    Tap on More Settings button and then tap on the name of your Bluetooth headphones.

Your headphones should now pair with your phone automatically.

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