Smartphones are amazing gadgets that can do just about anything you can think of. In some cases, your smartphone can do things you wouldn’t have believed possible. Click for Android or Apple apps that will make you say “Wow!”
Today, I’m going to let you in on two more things your smartphone can do. One is a future feature you can have now, and the other is essential for anyone who has precious photos on their gadget.
Improve voice call quality
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I wasn’t too happy when carriers started labeling their services as “4G.” That’s because to be truly 4G there were a series of requirements carriers needed to meet, and their “4G” didn’t.
One of those requirements was that voice calls and texts would use cellular data instead of the traditional separate voice/text channel. This not only would have increased voice quality, it would have made voice calls and texts essentially free.
Fortunately, that shift is finally happening, which is what lets T-Mobile and Sprint, and soon the other carriers, offer seamless switching between cellular and Wi-Fi calling. It also lets carriers offer HD voice.
HD voice is also known as VoLTE, or Voice over LTE, although Verizon also calls it Advanced Calling. If the term “VoLTE” looks familiar, that’s because it’s similar to VoIP, or Voice over IP, which is making calls over the Internet. The only difference is that VoLTE uses the carrier’s LTE data network.
HD voice is supposed to make calls clearer while reducing background noise. It also lets you make calls while using your cellular data for Internet browsing or Internet-connected apps at the same time. Sounds great, so let’s try it.
While HD voice isn’t turned on by default for most phones, you can enable it if you have a phone that supports it. That includes the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, along with most of the latest high-end Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4, S5 and S6, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and 4, the HTC One M8 and M9, the LG G2 and G3, the Motorola Moto X, the Google Nexus 5 and 6, and more. Of course, it varies by carriers.
On an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus for any carrier, go to Settings>>Cellular>>Enable LTE and tap Voice & Data. HD Voice will work automatically when you’re in a compatible service area.
For Android on Verizon, you’ll need to go to Settings and under Wireless Networks tap “Advanced Calling.” Tap Activate Advanced Calling and follow the directions. However, this won’t work for every phone that supports Advanced Calling.
For others, sign in to your Verizon account and go to Manage My Account>>Manage Products & Apps. At the top of the page click “Get Products,” and next to “HD Voice” click “Get it now.” In the checkout window, you’ll see compatible gadgets you own. Select the ones you want to add HD Voice to and then click “Confirm Purchase.” Don’t worry, the feature is free.
For Android on AT&T, go to Settings>>Networks>>Mobile Networks>>Enhanced 4G LTE Mode. Turn it to “On.” If you don’t see it or can’t turn it on, then your phone or account isn’t compatible. You can learn more on AT&T’s FAQ page.
For Android on Sprint, go to Settings>>Networks>>Mobile Networks>>Enhanced 4G LTE Mode. Turn it to “On.” If you don’t see it or can’t turn it on, call up Sprint and ask about adding it to your account.
For Android on T-Mobile, HD Voice is automatically activated. So you don’t need to do anything.
While HD Voice sounds great, there are still a few kinks to work out of the system. It only works when you’re using your carrier’s LTE network. In AT&T’s case, it’s only available on LTE in select areas. Click here for the current list.
Aside from T-Mobile, if you’re on an HD Voice call and you leave your carrier’s LTE network or coverage area, your call will drop. Also, you can only have an HD Voice call if your fellow caller has HD Voice enabled and uses the same carrier.
There’s also some concern about data use. Voice traffic doesn’t really use much data, but if you’re on a very low data plan and you talk hours a day, you might see your data draining away. You’ll want to keep an eye on things after you turn on HD Voice to make sure you aren’t going to go over your data limit.
OK, enough about HD Voice. Let’s move on to the second important smartphone setting you need to change.
Back up your photos
If you’re like many people, your smartphone is your main camera and where you store most of your photos. That means if it gets stolen or broken, your priceless photos are gone. That’s why it’s important to back up.
On an iPhone, you can back up to your free iCloud account. It holds 5GB of photos, and you can pay if you need more space. To turn on iCloud backup, go to Settings>>iCloud and make sure it’s turned on. If it isn’t, you’ll need to enter your Apple ID to activate it. It will back up your photos automatically.
Your photos are also being sent to your Photo Stream, which sends your photos to your other gadgets. However, that only holds the most recent 1,000 and only for 30 days, so you don’t want to use it for long-term backup.
Android phones have Google+ built in, which can back up your photos to Google Drive. You get 15GB of free storage, which is good for a lot of photos.
To turn on Auto Backup, go to the Google+ app (you can also download this app on your iPhone or use Google Station on Windows Phone). In the upper corner, tap the icon with three vertical dots and choose “Settings.” Then tap “Auto Backup” and switch it on.
Select the Google account to back up to and it will start backing up your photos and videos to Google Photos. To save your data plan, I suggest scrolling down the settings and setting it to only back up photos and videos while you’re on Wi-Fi.
On a Windows Phone, Microsoft will automatically back up your photos to your OneDrive account. Like Google, you get 15GB of free space.
To double-check that this is happening, go to the Apps and select Settings>>Backup. Here you can select what information Windows Phone is backing up.
Of course, your smartphone isn’t the only place with priceless information. You should be backing up the data on your computer as well. For that I recommend Carbonite.
Carbonite automatically backs up your files to a secure remote location where they’re safe from thieves, computer failures and natural disasters. And it makes restoring your files to a new computer a snap.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.