Not too long ago I hosted two #Verizon55Plus workshops for seniors and others to learn about using their smartphones to the fullest. They were full of information helping senior citizens on smartphone use and tips. But, we had quite a few younger folks in attendance, too. And everyone learned something.
First a bit about the Verizon 55 Plus plan. I am a huge fan of unlimited plans. I do not ever want to think about going over my limit, or having to watch what I'm doing because I'm afraid of additional charges. So, I keep an unlimited plan for the whole family. You should not have to tell your mom that she needs to be careful about watching Netflix, or she might go over the limit either. The Verizon 55 Plus plan includes…
- Unlimited 4G LTE Data
- Unlimited Talk & Text
- DVD-Quality Streaming
- Unlimited Mobile Hotspot (600 Kbps)
- Verizon Up Rewards
- Mexico & Canada Included
Priced at $60 for one line, or only $40/each for 2 lines, it is perfect for the senior on the go.
While technology and smartphones may be 2nd nature to many of us, it is often harder for older individuals to grasp. Because of this, many people may be missing out on important features that they should be utilizing on their smartphones. When Verizon reached out and asked me to participate in their Verizon 55 Plus program including hosting workshops, my eyes lit up and my mind started working. For years (no exaggeration) I have wanted to host such a workshop. I just never got around to planning it and doing it myself. This was my chance. My ex-MIL (we are still very close) lives in a mostly senior community. We put the word out and packed the room with 20+ seniors who wanted to learn how to use their phones.
I didn't want to overwhelm the crowd, so I picked what I thought were the most important topics to cover. Things like protecting your data, backing up your contacts, and taking better photos are things that we should all be doing.
Below are tips that I shared along with a few others that may have come up as questions during that workshop, and the one hosted at the Verizon store in Orland Park, IL a few days after.
Protecting Your Phone From Physical Damage
When I see someone carrying around an expensive smartphone without a case, I cringe! In some cases, you have may have paid $1000 for your phone (although in monthly payments). In some cases, you may not have the extra insurance that would replace or repair the phone no matter what. And in most cases, replacing or repairing the phone is very expensive. Why wouldn't you take care of your phone? I know that you think your new phone is pretty, and that you want people to see it. But… what is more important? People seeing your phone, or protecting your phone from damage? If you are carrying around a pricey phone, please invest in a good case.
Protecting Your Personal Data
In the unfortunate event that you lose your phone, or someone steals it, what would they be able to do? Hopefully the answer is nothing. However, if you have not taken the time to protect your phone data, you may have just given them a key to your life. Our phones these days hold our email, social media accounts, bank accounts, maybe even work email, and insurance apps. With all of this on your phone, you need to make sure that a stranger picking up your phone cannot access your data. Options will depend on phone model, but all phones have some type of security available. Choose one of the following, or use them all. These options can be found under Settings–>Lock Screen (or Security) on your Android Device.
- PIN Number: At the very least, you should require a PIN number to unlock your device
- Face Recognition
Add Your Contact Info to the Lock Screen
I recently found a student's iPhone in the restroom at work. Since all phones should be locked down, finding the owner may not have been an easy thing. But, she was smart. She included her name right in the lock screen settings on her phone. Since I had her name I was able to look her up in the campus directory and email her right away that I had her phone. She came to get it that same day. I was able to add this info to my Note 9 phone by going to Settings–>Lock Screen–>Contact Information. On my Google Pixel 2 XL, it is located at Settings–>Security & location–>Lock Screen Preferences–>Lock Screen Message. Yours may be located in a slightly different place, but it should be there. I recommend adding your name and email address, or a spouses phone #. This way if an honest person finds your phone, they can reach you to return it.
How to Keep Your Contacts in Sync & Backed Up
Ages ago I wrote How to Never Lose Your Smartphone Contacts Again. This was prompted by seeing many friends post on social media that they got new phones and lost their contacts. Well, in 2018 that does not need to happen. And making sure that it does not happen is very easy.
Step 1: If you do not already have one, create a Gmail (Google) account. You can do this right on your smartphone, or on your computer at Gmail.com.
Step 2: Add your new account to your smartphone. If you got a brand new phone, it will ask you for your account information during setup. Or, you can add it at any time. On an Android, go into Settings (usually the gear icon at the top of your notifications screen) —> Accounts. If you are using an iPhone, go to Settings–>Accounts & Passwords. Add a new account, and plug in the information for your new Google account. Once added, view the sync options and be sure that Contact is toggled on.
Syncing will happen automatically in the background. Now your contacts will be accessible on your phone and in your Google account. If you add a new contact on your phone, it will magically show up in your Google account, and vice versa.
Switch Your Default to Google Contacts
A couple more things to check… different Android phone manufacturers sometimes use their own customized versions of apps, Samsung is one of them. If you use the default Contacts app, access the settings by touching the 3 dots in the upper right hand corner, go to settings. Under Contacts to show, be sure that your Google account is selected. If you are using the Google Contacts app, which comes on some Android devices, or can be installed for free from the Play Store, you want to check the same since you can have multiple Google accounts on your phone. Open the Google Contacts app, hit the settings menu (3 lines) in the upper left-hand corner. Scroll down to settings. Under Default account for new contacts, you want to make sure that the correct one is selected. This way you are sure that new contacts are being saved to your preferred Google account, and not directly to your phone.
Install/Enable Find My Device
If you have an iPhone, you should enable Find my iPhone in your iCloud settings. This will allow you to use the iCloud website to track your phone should it get lost or stolen. For full instructions visit the Apple Website.
If you have an Android phone, you can use Find My Device. This may have been automatically enabled when you set up your phone. You can check by going to Settings–>Security (or location and security). The exact location may be different on your phone. If you do not see it, just type “Find My Device” into search at the top of your settings screen. Make sure that Find my Device is turned on. You can then install the Find My Device app from the Google Play Store. This is a free app by Google that allows you to very easily track all of your Android devices. Or, you can visit the Find My Device website from any computer.
Stretching Out Your Battery Life
We have a love/hate relationship with smartphone batteries. Many manufacturers will claim their devices have awesome batteries that will last all day. This may be true… if you do not use your phone. But, the truth is that the length of time your battery lasts is based on how much you use your phone. If you are constantly recording video, streaming online content, or playing games your battery life will dwindle faster. But, there are a few things that you can do to help. Did you know that when you “close” an app on your phone it does not actually exit? It keeps running in the background. This is true on both iOS and Android.
On Android, you will have a running apps button on the bottom of your phone next to the home button. It is usually on the left. If you click this, you may be surprised that you have a dozen apps running. You can then click the Close All button to exit them all, which saves your battery life.
You also want to beware of some games and other apps installing “bloatware” that may run on the background of your phone for the purposes of serving ads. If you notice this happening after you install a new app, either get rid of it, or check the settings and see if you disable the feature that allows it to run in the background.
How to Backup Photos
Once again, I'm going to tell you to use a Google account. Not only do you get Gmail, a great calendar, and your contacts backed up, but you can also ensure that you will not lose the photos on your phone. How? Download the free Google Photos app from the Google Play Store or the App store on iOS. Once installed, open the app.
It will confirm your Google Account and options. Be sure that the Google account that you want to use is selected. You will also notice some upload options. Click Change Settings. If you do not see that, click on the 3 lines in the upper left hand corner and click on Settings. Click Back up & sync. Double check that Back up & sync is toggled on. You should see your Google account listed under Backup Account.
You will also see an option for Upload Size. If you pay for Google storage like I do, you will have an option to change this setting to Original, which is full resolution that counts against your quota. I had to do a bit of research on this. Until now, I assumed that if I chose High Quality my photos would be losing some quality. However, it looks like I was wrong! For most smartphones keeping it on High Quality is just fine, and will save you a ton of space. Why? Apparently, High Quality mostly only shrinks photos that are above 16MP. Most smartphones here in the US have resolutions that are around 12MP. When uploading, Google Photos will compress the file size without affecting the image quality. I found a great article about this on PhoneArena.com.
Another option to check is under Cellular Data Backup. If you have an unlimited data plan you can go ahead and toggle this on for photos and video. However, if you do not have an unlimited data plan, I recommend keeping this off. When off, photos will sync over WiFi only. So, just be sure that your phone is on WiFi when you get home and your photos will upload.
You can now access your photos from any device where you install Google Photos, or from the Google Photos website at http://photos.google.com. And, they are safely backed up in your Google account… even if you lose your phone.
Install an SD card
Sorry iPhone Users, this one is not for you. However, most all Android phones on the market will allow you to install a microSD card to add more storage to your phone. My current phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, can accept a microSD card up to 512GB. This is in addition to the 128GB of built in storage.
Once your SD card is installed, you should change the photo storage location in your camera. Just open the camera app. It will detect the SD card and confirm that you want to change it. Now, when you take a new photo it will be stored on the SD card, and not the phone storage. This is very helpful for phones that may have a smaller amount of storage. Plus, if you get a new phone, you can take the card out and put it in the new phone.
These are just a few of my top smartphone tips for seniors (and others) to get the most out of their smartphone. If you are looking to upgrade to a smartphone, or even get your first phone, check out the Verizon 55 Plus plan! And guess what? The whole family can benefit as long as one person on the plan is over 55!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Verizon Wireless. All opinions are my own.