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Smartphones - Passwords a Word of Warning

Smartphones - Passwords a Word of Warning

18-Jul-16

When you are upgrading your cellphone, you can be forgiven for letting the assistant in the store setup your smartphone, let’s face it a new phone that you are not familiar with it becomes an easy option! However, this easy option can have serious ramifications later down the line if you don't walk away with the right information in your hands!

By and large, most smartphones are Android based (it’s the operating system of the smartphone, much like Windows is for your laptop) and by default all Android based devices must have an account setup with Google (the developers of the Android phone operating system) and in this case an account is not a bill but rather a logon, i.e. username and password. Please try not to confuse the term account with invoice as I have found some clients do. A Google account comprises effectively a Google Mail address (Gmail) and a password and this simple combination permit you to log on to the Google Play Store for example, to download applications for your smartphone.

However, the Google Account is also used (amongst many other things) to secure and identify your smartphone. Even though a Google Account can be used for billing (i.e. for “paid for” applications), there is no need to set up any payment options because most normal applications like Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter etc., are free and can be downloaded to your smartphone once you are logged on to Google Play Store! The Google Account can also be used to backup the contents of your handset or even your tablet!

Now here is the problem (and it may soon become a huge problem) in that many cellular stores will create a Google Account when they setup a handset and not tell the client the password or logon information! Should you lose your phone and need to replace it with another similar device, this information is vital to recover things like your phonebook entries that should have been backed up to your Google Account. Indeed, even if your phone has to be “factory reset” for any reason, the Google Account information is vital if you wish to minimise data loss!

I said earlier that it may soon become a huge problem; I meant to say a massive problem! On newer version of the Android smartphone operating system, a system called Factory Reset Protection or FRP has been implemented. Historically, if an Android device was factory reset and the client was not aware of their Google Account details, one could simply set it up again as a new device and that was very much that. Now, and here is the bombshell! On Android Lollipop (all versions of Android have names of sweeties) and later; after a factory reset the customer is required to enter to Google Account information that was originally used to setup the device and without this, the device becomes effectively useless!! In other words, a Samsung S7 Edge for example, which has been factory reset (with the client unable to provide their original Google Account information) becomes a R12000 door stop! As this is effectively an anti-theft system, bypassing FRP is “subject to status” and you will have to prove your ownership of the device if you wish this to be reset and be aware that on some devices it can NOT be reset at all.

It is therefore vital that your Google Account information is kept safe and secure, write it down and keep it in a safe or similar. If you have a smartphone and do not know your Google Account information; on your device go to Settings > Accounts and then Google and you should see something like: jsmith991@gmail.com or similar and although this doesn’t give you your password, it does provide a fighting chance of resetting the password and is infinitely better that the usual “I don’t know” of “I’ve never had one” answer that we hear all too often on the cellular trade!  

So in a nutshell, even if you don't use GMail you MUST have a Google Account on your Android smartphone or tablet. If you change or upgrade your phone or factory reset your phone, then you MUST have the Google Account details to hand. Using comments like "I think my Google Account is" when inside a cellular establishment may conjour up a roll of eyes and a dull groan from whoever is assisting you! You remember your ID Number, so remember your Google Account details or repent at your cost!

Articles are written by independent contributors and the views expressed in this article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Top Twenty.