Yes, you need a VPN on your phone.
It’s finally happened. After the long pandemic year you’re back at an airport or in a coffee shop, and you desperately need to use public Wi-Fi and save your phone’s data plan, but you’re worried about connecting securely. You’ve heard about VPNs, but they seem complicated and costly. What to do? No worries. VPNs are easier to use than you think, and most are less expensive than you might’ve heard. Here’s how to get a VPN on your iPhone or Android phone — and get back to browsing safely — in under 10 minutes. Read more: Best VPN services of 2021Why do I need to use a VPN on my phone?Are all of the internet-connected apps on your phone up-to-date and running versions that were published later than, say, 2017? How about your operating system — is it the latest version from Android or iOS? If the answer to any of those questions is “I don’t know,” then you should use a VPN on your phone if possible. It may be hard for malicious actors to take advantage of everyday users on public Wi-Fi, but outdated software can give them the opening they need in order to steal the passwords to your most sensitive accounts. If you’re concerned about the risks of using public Wi-Fi to check sensitive work email, bank account balances, or airline ticket and passport information, a VPN can offer some peace of mind. Some of our top-rated options include ExpressVPN, Surfshark and NordVPN.Read more: NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Speed, security and price comparedChoosing a VPN for your iPhone or Android doesn’t have to be difficult.
Choosing the best mobile VPNWhether you’re using an iPhone or an Android device, your first step is the same: find a VPN you like that’s compatible with your device. Here’s how:1. Browse CNET’s lists of the best VPNs for iPhone and best VPNs for Android. If your aim is just to browse on public Wi-Fi securely, look for a VPN service that has servers located in your current country. The general rule of thumb is the closer the hardware, the quicker the connection. 2. Avoid free VPNs. We love 30-day guarantees and 7-day trial periods (and you’ll find a lot of those), but completely free VPNs are rarely safe, and are often just a way for unseemly companies to get hold of your data. If you’re looking to invest in a VPN for the long haul, you’re going to need more than 10 minutes of research time. But when you’re ready to take a deeper dive, CNET has reviews of many of the major players in the VPN space, and a guide for how to pick the right VPN for you.
Which VPN should you pick?
How to use a VPN on an Android phoneNow that you’ve chosen the VPN you want to use, follow these steps to get it up and running on your Android device: 1. Open the Google Play store app on your phone and tap the search bar at the top of the screen. 2. Type in the name of the VPN you’d like to use, and select it from the list of apps that pops up. Take a look at the app’s creator to make sure you’re downloading the official app instead of a copycat. The name of the company and app creator should match up. Click Install and wait for the app to download. 3. Once the VPN app is installed, leave the Google Play store and return to your phone’s home screen to click on the VPN app and open it. 4. The first time you open any paid VPN app, you’ll be asked to provide your login information or to sign up for the service. If you’re asked to sign up using an email address (which is the case for almost all services), be sure to check your email for a confirmation link from your new VPN provider. For all of the apps listed in CNET’s VPN directory, the process will be largely the same: You’ll be prompted to choose and pay for your preferred level of subscription. We always suggest choosing a service that has a 30-day refund policy so you can test drive services until you find the one you like. Android devices require additional steps to keep a VPN permanently running in the background. We don’t recommend this for most users — a VPN kept running around the clock will quickly run down your battery, and may force you to hit your data limit too soon if you’ve chosen a VPN provider that caps its customers’ data use. That means by default, nearly any new VPN you use will only be in operation when you open the app and turn it on. Just remember to turn it off once you’re finished browsing. Read more: Avoid these 7 Android VPN apps because of their privacy sinsHow to use a VPN on an iPhoneHere’s how to get a VPN running on your Apple iPhone: 1. On your iPhone, go to your home screen and tap to open the App Store. 2. Tap the Search tab in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, then tap the Search box near the top of the screen. 3. Type in the name of the VPN you’ve chosen, and select it from the list that pops up. Then tap the Get button that appears to the right of the app’s name. Like with any other app, you’ll need to confirm the app installation with your passcode, Touch ID or Face ID. 4. Once your install has finished, close the App Store and go back to your Home screen. 5. Just as with using a VPN for the first time on Android, using a VPN on iPhone for the first time means you’ll be prompted to create a new account and select your preferred subscription level. Make sure to check your email inbox for any confirmation links your VPN provider sends you if you’ve signed up using an email address. Nearly all VPN apps will prompt you to connect to an automatically selected server based on your location to enable the fastest browsing. From here on out, any time you’d like to use your VPN, all you’ll need to do is tap the VPN icon on your Home screen before you start browsing the internet, click the app’s button to connect, then go back to the VPN app and turn it off once you’re finished. There, now. Didn’t I tell you it was easy? More VPN recommendations
Turn yourself into a cartoon like everyone else on Instagram with the Voila AI Artist app – CNET
Voila AI Artist is the latest cartoon craze going around Facebook, Instagram and more. It’s free on iPhone and Android. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET When I first saw the cartoon avatar appear on my Facebook feed, my eyes went as wide as the cherubic rendering before me. It was my cousin’s daughters, but Disney-fied, with lighting that…
Voila AI Artist is the latest cartoon craze going around Facebook, Instagram and more. It’s free on iPhone and Android.
Learn smart gadget and internet tips and tricks with our entertaining and ingenious how-tos.
There’s something about avatars I find irresistibly compelling, from the very first Yahoo Messenger avatar I ever used, to Bitmoji stickers and beyond, as if our cartoon selves have the power to capture a core essence while outstretching a more playful version of ourselves. At any rate, it took less than five minutes to download Voila AI Artist and make my first cartoon grid. I also learned a few things along the way. Here’s how to do it and what to know.My cousin and her family, shared with permission.
Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Google Pixel 3 XL is now $200, but only if you’re cool with its worst color – CNET
Sarah Tew/CNET Google has a history of quirky names for the colors of its gadgets, but the name Not Pink doesn’t really do justice to the pale white flesh tone of the Pixel 3 XL. While you can drop the phone into a case and forget about the color underneath, this color option never sold…
Google has a history of quirky names for the colors of its gadgets, but the name Not Pink doesn’t really do justice to the pale white flesh tone of the Pixel 3 XL. While you can drop the phone into a case and forget about the color underneath, this color option never sold very well for Google. As a result, you can now get the Pixel 3 XL in Not Pink for half off the price it’s normally sold for right now at B&H Photo while the company attempts to purge its inventory in preparation for the Pixel 6. If you’re looking for a backup phone in case something goes wrong with your daily driver, or you’d like a dedicated screen for a DIY car or bike system, $200 is a great price for what you’re getting here. And if all you want is an inexpensive phone you don’t have to think about, this deal is $150 less than you’d pay for a Pixel 4A directly from Google. But in buying this phone, you’re taking an immediate risk. Google will stop delivering monthly software updates to the Pixel 3 in October, which is not that far away. You’ll be able to update to Android 12 this fall, but after that you’re on your own.What you will get with this phone is 128GB of storage and unlimited photo backups to Google Photos, something the company recently removed from all other phones with access to this app. If that’s all you need for $200, you’ve got until 9 p.m. PT (midnight ET) to take advantage of this deal.
The problems with the Pixel 3 and 3 XL
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Amazon’s Alexa can now sense the presence of people. Here’s how to use the uncanny new trick – CNET
The new second-gen Amazon Echo Show has a person detection feature that can control other smart home gadgets like lights and outlets. Chris Monroe/CNET New Amazon Echo Show smart displays have started shipping nationwide with a host of new features and tricks — one of which I’ve been eagerly anticipating: person detection. Although Alexa can’t…
The new second-gen Amazon Echo Show has a person detection feature that can control other smart home gadgets like lights and outlets.
New Amazon Echo Show smart displays have started shipping nationwide with a host of new features and tricks — one of which I’ve been eagerly anticipating: person detection. Although Alexa can’t distinguish between individual people the way Google’s Face Match or Apple’s FaceID do, the new Echo Show 8, Echo Show 5 and Echo Show Kids can at least figure out whether or not someone — anyone — is in the room with them. Although that’s a pretty nifty feat in its own right, what piqued my interest most was what Alexa can now do with that information.
The new Echo Show 8 adds just enough to be a worthwhile…
Namely, you can now use person detection to fire off a set of commands as part of an Alexa routine. Think about lights that turn on and off depending on whether anyone is in the room. An air conditioner or space heater that kicks on or off, depending on occupancy. Your front door could lock if no one’s in the foyer, your bedtime routine could start when you open your bedroom door, your garage door could close, your kitchen could fill with song — all based on whether or not anyone’s there.Of course, there’s usually a bit of a gap between the way a new feature is hawked versus how it works in the real world, and Alexa’s person detection is no exception. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a fantastic new trick, but it comes with some limitations, which I’ll explain in a bit, after I show you how to set it up.
First, however, there are a couple of things you need to know about: a hidden setting you can’t change (but still need to account for), plus one other slight (but significant) limitation to consider.It’s important to note that Alexa on your Echo Show must go 7 whole minutes without detecting a person before the person detection trigger will fire again.
Alexa’s person detection has a cool-down periodWhen I first started testing Alexa’s new person detection feature, I was convinced it didn’t work. I had set up a brand-new Echo Show 8 on my desk and aimed it at myself while I worked. Beside it, I positioned a desk lamp, which I then plugged into a smart outlet. I created a simple routine that told Alexa to turn on that smart outlet whenever the Echo Show 8 detected a person, and yet — no matter how much typing, suspicious leering or frantic thrashing of limbs I did — that daggone light never came on.I was almost ready to write off the new feature as DOA when an Amazon rep informed me that Alexa abides by a 7-minute cool-down period in between person detection events. To test this, I moved the Echo Show 8 into another room, turned off the smart plug and set a 7-minute timer. When the alarm went off, I moseyed into the other room. Lo and behold, my presence triggered the routine, the desk light lit up — and my dilemma was solved.The takeaway here is this — if you set up a routine with the new person detection trigger, then — for whatever reason — turn off the devices used in that routine (either manually or with an app), Alexa won’t turn them back on again until you’ve disappeared for at least seven minutes.A bona fide motion sensor, like this one from Philips Hue, uses ultrasonic sound to detect movement, allowing it to still function in the dark.
Alexa isn’t actually a motion detectorMost motion sensors work using ultrasonic sound waves, meaning they don’t depend on lighting conditions to detect movement. Alexa, however, uses a camera and a computer processor to figure out whether someone’s in the room or not, and that means the Echo Show has to see you before Alexa knows you’re there. In my testing, Alexa almost never noticed when I entered a room unless it was bright enough to at least read a print magazine. For me, that made person detection triggers essentially useless for turning on nightlights, which is a huge drawback. If that’s your goal, you may need to consider dedicated motion sensors.With all that out of the way, here’s how to set up person detection and how to use it with Alexa routines:As long as there’s at least a moderate amount of light in the room, the new Echo Show 8 can detect a person.
To enable Alexa’s person detection, check this setting firstI recently discovered a new Alexa setting called Home Monitoring that turns your Echo Show’s webcam into a security camera (or something quite like it). Basically, Home Monitoring lets you check your Alexa camera feed in real time without also sharing a selfie video like during a video call. Whether you want to use a feature like that or not, Home Monitoring also needs to be turned on before person detection will work. You can get the full rundown on Home Monitoring here, but here’s what you need to do to enable person detection:1. Starting on the Echo Show device itself, swipe down from the top of the screen and tap Settings, then scroll down and tap Camera.2. Make sure the toggle for Home Monitoring is switched on and, if not, tap to do so.Once you’ve turned on Home Monitoring, in addition to appearing in the places you’d expect, like under Echo & Alexa, your Alexa device will now appear in the Devices submenu of the Alexa app under Cameras (that’s also where you’ll find the live video feed, FYI).Start with a super-simple Alexa routine like thisHere’s a very basic Alexa routine in which person detection triggers a light to come on.
Screenshot by Dale Smith/CNET
Before attempting to craft any long, complicated automations based on person detection, I wanted to get a sense of how the feature worked using a dead-simple routine. To that end, I plugged a small desk lamp into a smart plug and set it to turn on whenever the Echo Show 8 detected a person. Here’s how to do it exactly as I did:1. Open the Alexa app and tap the More menu in the lower right corner, then tap Routines.2. Tap the + (plus) sign in the upper right corner, then tap Enter routine name (I called mine “Show 8 Motion On”) and tap Next when you’re finished.3. Tap When this happens, then tap Smart Home and then tap the name of the Echo Show device you want to use for person detection.4. The next screen will present two options: People are detected and People aren’t detected. For this routine, choose the first one, then tap Next. (We’ll use the People aren’t detected option in the next example. 5. Tap Add action then scroll all the way down and tap Smart Home. Tap All devices and scroll until you find the device you want to control with this routine (mine was “Desk Lamp”) and tap it.6. The next screen sets what that device does when this routine runs — in this case, the box next to Power should be checked and the toggle should be turned on, then tap Next.7. Your routine should look something like the adjacent screenshot. Tap Save. The Alexa app will now double check that you’ve followed all of the steps in the previous section to turn on Home Monitoring — tap Next and Done.Once you’ve mastered those steps, building a more complex routine with even more commands is literally just a matter of repeating steps 5 and 6 as many times as necessary. What this doesn’t, however, do is turn the light (or whatever device you turned on) back off again. For that, you’ll need another routine (that’s just as easy as this one, quite frankly).What turns on must turn off: An Alexa routine in reverseHere’s the opposite of the previous routine — this one turns the light off when people are no longer detected.
Screenshot by Dale Smith/CNET
Setting up a routine to turn off a device when people aren’t detected is almost identical to the previous example turning one on. Rather than copypasta all the previous steps, I’ll save us both the trouble and just point out the three steps that are slightly different: Step 2: To keep things nice and tidy I named this routine “Show 8 Motion Off.”Step 4: Instead of People are detected, you’ll want to choose People aren’t detected.Step 6: Leave the Power check box checked, but tap the toggle to turn it to Off.If this isn’t your first Alexa Routines rodeo, you might be curious why I didn’t combine these two routines into one. After all, Alexa has a Wait function, right? While it may very well be possible to create one long routine to handle both on and off functions, considering the trip-up I had with the unpublished 7-minute cool-down period and the discovery that Alexa is effectively blind in the dark, I kept them separate for simplicity’s sake. Plus, it’s not uncommon to discover that a routine has unintended consequences, and it’s a lot easier to isolate and correct for them when you keep things separate like this. In other words, I’m still testing this feature and will continue to do so for a while. I’ll come back and update this story when I really cinch using person detection as a routine trigger and have something new to share.