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FAQ

Do You Need Unlimited Data?

Well, summer is almost here which means that once again the prepaid carrier war is heating up. This time in addition to prices being dropped, more and more companies are offering unlimited data to go with the unlimited talk and text we already enjoy. MetroPCS, GoPhone, and Virgin Mobile are some of the most recent to add the service, but they’re far from the only ones who offer it. However, this begs the question: do we really need unlimited data?

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FAQ: How to Deactivate Wi-Fi Assist on iPhones

All iPhones with at least iOS 9 or later have this nifty feature called “Wi-Fi Assist” which basically helps fix the issue of Wi-Fi signals being a little spotty at times. However, for prepaid iPhone users, it’s causing a problem: data overages. And the worst part is that the setting is turned on automatically.

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FAQ: How to Scan a QR Code Without an App

QR codes are one of those things that you probably don’t encounter every day because they simply aren’t very popular in the United States. However, every once in a while you’ll probably come across one and need to read it. While there are a ton of apps that will allow you to scan QR codes, having to download an app is annoying. However, if you have a newer phone, you may not have to use an app at all.

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FAQ: How Do You Hide Apps?

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Unless you purchased your device straight from the phone manufacturer, chances are it probably came with a handful of useless apps and services I tend to refer to as “bloatware.” While you can disable apps, sometimes an app simply cannot be disabled or you need it but don’t really want it showing up in your app drawer. When that happens, you can simply hide it.

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FAQ: How to Remote Wipe Your Android Phone

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If you’re anything like me, you keep a lot of information on your phone. I don’t have any banking apps or anything, just for safety reasons, but I am logged into Google and have documents and things I’d rather other people not snoop through. While wiping the device is the obvious solution, if it’s lost or stolen this can be impossible. Luckily, Google has you covered, and you can remotely wipe your device.

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FAQ: How to Pin an App Screen on Android

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There’s nothing worse than handing someone your phone to show them something cool, only to find that they ‘accidentally’ wander from that screen onto another. It might be an accident, or it might not, but either way it feels like an invasion of privacy. However, if you have at least Android 5.0 or later, then that no longer has to be a worry.

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FAQ: What is the Difference Between GSM and CDMA?

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GSM and CDMA are the two networks that U.S. carriers can use. The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) has been adopted by most of the globe, while Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) is popular in the United States, Russia, and some Asian and African countries. Here in the U.S., we have a 50/50 split with our major carriers: Verizon and Sprint use CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile prefer GSM. U.S. Cellular also uses CDMA.

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FAQ: What Does Airplane Mode Do?

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Unless you’re a frequent flyer, airplane mode is probably one of those things that you never really think about. It was introduced when smartphones began to become more prolific, as a way of ensuring that cellular equipment didn’t interfere with the flight apparatuses. But, what most people don’t realize is that airplane mode can be useful for more than just flying.

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FAQ: Can I Use Any Phone on a Prepaid Plan?

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Prepaid plans are extremely cheap and a great way to get good service without having to pay a ton of money every single month. But, when most people think about prepaid plans, they think about all of the entry-level and inexpensive (and also very underpowered) phones that tend to go along with it. One question I get asked a lot when trying to convince people to switch is: can I use a nice phone?

The short answer? Yes. But, as with everything, there are some catches.

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Which Carrier Has the Best Coverage?

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Marketing is a pretty powerful thing and for your average customer, trying to decide which company and which network is best can be complicated. After all, they all boast that they have the “fastest” or “largest” or “most dependable” or even use “nationwide” in their advertisements. Easily the question I am asked the most–by people on both prepaid and postpaid plans–is, “Which network is the best?” And my answer is always the same: It’s complicated.

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FAQ: What is data used for?

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In the wireless world, “data” is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot and it is used to cover a wide range of things. But, since data is easily the most expensive part of any plan–especially a prepaid one–how do you decide exactly how much data you should pay for? And what is data used for anyway?

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Tips for Waterproofing Your Phone

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Water and technology–especially delicate technology like smartphones–is never a good combo. But, unfortunately, water and liquids are a part of everyday life. I can’t explain how many times I’ve seen or heard of a phone that took a suicidal leap into a body of water (or a toilet), never to function properly again. Heck, I once drowned a phone in sweet tea on accident. It didn’t end well. So today, I wanted to talk a bit about waterproofing options for your smartphone.

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FAQ: Is ‘Unlimited’ Really Unlimited?

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I think that the word ‘unlimited’ is probably the most overused word in the mobile world. If you look at the plans, it seems like you can get just about anything unlimited — unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited international minutes and even on a few select plans, unlimited data. But, what do they mean when they say ‘unlimited’ and is it really unlimited?

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FAQ: Taming your Android App Drawer

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There are more than a million apps available on Google Play and probably more than half that many apps available via Amazon’s App Store. That’s a lot of apps, so it’s no wonder that the average Android app drawer can get out of hand pretty quickly. If you find yourself scrolling until kingdom come every time you want to find that one really cool app, then I have a few tips for making it a little easier!

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FAQ: What are NFC Chips?

If you have a smartphone, there’s a really good chance that it has an NFC chip. However, despite the technology being fairly common in phones over the course of the last few years, it constantly surprises me how few people even use this of nifty technology. And of those who do use it, most don’t actually know what it’s called. No matter which category you fall in, we’ll look at some of the basics to get started.

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Tips for Creating a Secure Lock Screen

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Your phone probably has a lot of personal information stored on it. From passwords to photos or even social media accounts which automatically log in upon launch. So, it’s not surprising that many phones have locks set up to prevent unwanted access. If you don’t have a lock set, then maybe you should. If you already have one, how secure is it, really?

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Why You Shouldn’t Care About Camera Megapixels

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Whenever you see smartphone specs–even here on Prepaid Reviews–one of the things that the manufacturers always advertise is the numbers of megapixels. This phone has 5 MP but that one has 8, so clearly it’s better, right? That seems to follow basic logic, as more in the tech world is usually a better thing.

But there’s a lot more to a good camera than how many megapixels the camera has, so if you’ve been comparing those numbers stop it. Stop it right now.

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List and Explanation of Pre-installed Google Apps

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Bloatware is the worst, and there is no one as guilty of pre-loading your phone with tons of random apps than Google. Personally, whenever I get a new device the first thing I do is go through and disable about 2/3 of these mostly useless apps. Recently, Google announced that it was pairing down some of the required apps, but that isn’t helpful for the phones that already have these apps locked in.

However, not everyone is likely to agree that all of them are useless and some of you might just find a few of these apps helpful. So to help you decide which apps to disable and which to keep, here are some of the most common Google Apps that you probably got preinstalled, along with what they do: 

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Tips for Managing Apps

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No matter what you want to do, there is probably an app for it. After all, there are literally more than a million apps available on Google Play and iTunes together, so it’s easy to see why people tend to quickly gather a ton of apps which may suck up valuable resources and space on your device.

If you find yourself short on space or simply want better manage and control your app drawer, here are some tips:

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FAQ: What are Widgets?

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know what an app is. However, if you look on the app list of your Android smartphone, you have probably noticed that there is a secondary tab labeled “widgets” which contains all kinds of weird little boxes and things. But, what IS a widget? 

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FAQ: How to Set Data Limits for Android

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Data is, without a doubt, the most precious commodity in the wireless world. It’s simultaneously the most expensive and most sought-after part to a wireless plan. And, of course, it is used in so many ways from updating apps to getting directions or even using voice search. But, if you’ve found yourself running short on data month to month, there is a way to not only check where that data is going, but set warnings and limits.

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FAQ: Factory Resetting Your Device

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If you’ve ever considered selling your device or had problems with your phone lagging, then you’ve probably had someone tell you that you need to do a factory reset. It sounds big and scary, but sometimes it’s necessary (and is, in fact, the best solution). However, before you do that, there are some things to consider.

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Why and How to Disable Apps

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Unless you managed to purchase your device unlocked and directly from the manufacturer, it probably came with some apps pre-installed. Known as bloatware, these are apps that you’ll not only never use but also be unable to uninstall like every other app. Instead, these annoying little apps will instead clutter your app screen and generally just be annoying. But never fear, short of rooting your device, you do have an option: disabling the app.

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FAQ: What is an MVNO?

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Every single market, no matter what it is, has its own abbreviations and phrases that are used by enthusiasts and specialists alike. Many times newcomers are left on their own to decipher what all of these terms mean. In the world of prepaid phones, easily the most common and confusing term is MVNO because, generally speaking, it never comes with any context clues. Either you know it or you’re lost.

So, for those of you who have been curious about what an MVNO is and why are we always talking about it, we’ll take a quick look:

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FAQ: What is Porting?

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There are a lot of terms in the phone world that get tossed about on various phone sites and it’s generally assumed that people understand and already know what they mean. However, unless you’re super tech-savvy, you might find yourself lost when people talk about them. One of the things that I get asked about the most is porting, and it’s probably one of the terms that all prepaid users ought to be familiar with.

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FAQ: Should I Lock My Phone?

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Pretty much all smartphones have the capability of using a passcode or other form of lock so that no one else can tamper with the device. With nothing more than a single tap of the power/sleep button, you can secure your device so that, theoretically, no one else can access your precious information without your passcode. But, is locking your phone a good idea?

I get asked this question with startling frequency by my older relatives who just don’t get the whole ‘locking’ thing. I, personally, found it a little surprising as I have locked my devices for years. Of course, locking your device while making it a bit more secure, does have some downsides and definitely isn’t going to be for everyone. Here are some of the arguments for (and against) setting up a lock on your phone to help you decide if you need to enable a lock or not.

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How to Purchase an Unlocked Phone

Part of the benefit of prepaid plans is the lack of contract. Whenever you want, you can jump ship and find a new carrier on the same or even a different network. That kind of freedom isn’t available with contracts, and it’s one of the many reasons more and more people are switching to prepaid. But, if you plan on having that freedom, then you’ll need an unlocked phone.

But, when you go to many phone manufacturer websites, only locked carrier versions are available. Prepaid carriers sell phones, but these, too, are frequently locked to the particular carrier until you’ve been with the company for anywhere from six months to a year. But don’t worry, there are some places where you can get an unlocked phone for a reasonable price.

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Tips for Setting Up Your Kid’s Phone

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It can be a little nerve-wracking when you give your child their first phone. It’s a move towards independence and mutual trust as well as the first passage to the outside world without your direct guidance. But, with a few settings and preparation you can make sure that your child is protected and develops responsible smartphone habits.

Here are some tips for setting up your child’s first smartphone:

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FAQ: How to Download the Amazon App Store

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It continually amazes me how many people are completely unaware that Amazon, in addition to having plenty of physical goods for sale, offers apps for Android phones to download. In fact, the company hosts a free app every day and is how I gained several of my favorite apps (and plenty of apps I never use).

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6 Essential Tools for Every Smartphone

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Smartphones are, at their most basic, tools. But, depending on your device it’s likely that your phone is lacking at least some of the most basic (and to me essential) tools like a calculator, microphone, notepad and more. My phone, which is a flagship, is missing a voice recorder and a QR Scanner. My friend’s device doesn’t have a built-in calculator.

So, I thought I’d put together a list of some of the most basic tools that all smartphones ought to have, along with links to my favorite tried-and-tested Android apps.

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What Prepaid Faceoffs Do You Want to See?

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Hey everyone! As you’ve probably noticed, this month we’ve started to bring back the Prepaid Faceoff posts, where we pit one company against another based on what their promotions and plans look like that week! The series has had a lot of views, and we’re certainly not going to run out of MVNOs anytime soon.

However, I wanted to take a minute today and see what companies you, my awesome readers, are interested in seeing compared and what specific features interest you! Read on and give us some feedback!

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FAQ: Google Now Voice Commands

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One of the coolest things about iPhones and Windows Phones is their digital assistants, Siri and Cortana. But, if you have an Android, then you have something very similar (albeit a little less exciting): Google Now. Provided you’re using a smartphone with at least KitKat, then your device probably has a voice search function which can perform similar feats including opening programs, making notes, setting timers and more.

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Tips for Adjusting To a New Phone

Studies suggest that roughly half of smartphone users in the United States prefer to wait until the device they currently have no longer functions to upgrade. And with the price of phones, really, who can blame you? Heck, I certainly fall in that category. And since some of you probably wait for as long as possible to upgrade, that can mean that by the time you get a new device, the operating system is completely different and adjusting can be difficult.

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FAQ: How to Record a Voicemail Greeting

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One of the questions that I get asked the most by users is how to set up voicemail. Unfortunately, there isn’t any magic bullet, as pretty much every phone is a little bit different. However, I’ll try give you some generic ideas for how to get to the voicemail to set up your own greeting and even some tips for leaving a custom greeting!

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Should You Bring or Buy a Phone?

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Every time you decide to switch to a new carrier, you have two options: you can either purchase a new phone from the company or try and activate your own device, provided it is unlocked. Bringing your own device (often called BYOD) is when you simply activate a phone you already have on whatever network you’re moving to. If you have a GSM device, then you’ll need to purchase a SIM card.

Of course, whether BYOD is the right option for you depends on a few factors:

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FAQ: How to Turn off Autocorrect

I have a love-hate relationship with the autocorrect on my smartphone. Sometimes, it’s extremely helpful and smart. Other times I think it doesn’t actually speak the English language and makes the oddest assumptions for words that I KNOW I spelled properly. Yes, phone, ‘bachelorette’ really IS a word. No, I didn’t mean ‘propel,’ I meant ‘people.’

But, what a lot of people don’t realize is that while autocorrect is enabled by default, you can actually turn it off. Or, if you want to feel like you have zero control, make it more aggressive. Here’s how:

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FAQ: Change Your Phone’s Font Size

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If you have trouble reading tiny font, then you really only have two options: get an old person phone that has gigantic font by default, or learn how to up the font settings on your regular smartphone. I bet you can guess which I’m going to recommend?

Anyway, if you have an Android or iPhone, then making the font size a little bigger and easier to read is really not as complicated as it sounds. You might even be able to select a font that’s a bit easier on the eyes, depending on what phone you have. But for now, here are the steps to increase (or decrease) the font size:

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FAQ: Display Contact Info on Lock Screen

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There are all kinds of protections and security in case your smartphone is stolen. You can remotely lock or even wipe the device to keep potential thieves from getting you r personal information. But what about if you lose the phone? Lock screens can prevent people from prying, but it also will stop a Good Samaritan from being able to return a lost phone. Fortunately, there are ways to display contact information on your device’s lock screen so that it can find its way back to you.

Here are a few ways for Android and iPhones:

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How to Fix an iPhone stuck in Headphone Mode

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Apple products are ingeniously engineered and can be extremely intuitive and helpful a majority of the time. In fact, most of the little things that the iPhone does people don’t even notice. Well, until something is broken, that is.

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5 Google App Tips and Tricks

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Google is everywhere. The technology corporation has expanded and become a household name (even a verb in the dictionary) and there’s a better than 50% chance that you have a host of Google’s apps on your phone right now. But, in the nature of all tech companies, Google is constantly changing and updating and making little tweaks to its app suite which your average user probably is completely unaware.

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Fix GPS Issues From iOS 8.4 Update

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Last week, Apple released the 8.4 update for its iOS which has caused sporadic issues with GPS connectivity for iPhones and a few iPads. Users on Apple’s forums have complained that their devices are unable to lock on to GPS satellite signals, making most GPS apps completely worthless.

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Should I Keep my Grandfathered Plan?

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Things are constantly changing in the wireless industry and this is more apparent in the prepaid market than just about anywhere else. Between promotions, plan lineup shifts and other things, you’ve probably heard of or had a grandfathered plan at one point. But, what is a grandfathered plan? And is it worth keeping?

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TracFone Ordered to Unlock Phones by 2016

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The ability to unlock a phone is absolutely essential for prepaid customers, as it allows for freedom of movement between carriers without having to constantly be forking out more money for a phone. Earlier this year, the unlocking agreements that the carriers all made wit the FCC went into effect, with one major exception: TracFone and its subsidiary companies.

Easily the largest of the prepaid carriers, TracFone’s laughable unlocking policy directly violated the terms of agreements with the FCC and after months of arguing that they were following the law, the FCC and TracFone have finally come to an agreement that, yes, TracFone should allow customers to unlock devices. Just don’t expect it anytime soon. In fact, the FCC has given TracFone until 2016 to completely implement these procedures. Here is the basic timeline outlined in the FCC document:

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Find the Right Phone For You

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Finding the right phone for you can be a hassle. When you look at the low to midrange phones, it seems like there isn’t really all that much difference between them. How do you find a device that is going to fit your needs? What specs do you need to worry about for your life and which aren’t as important? Well, here are some guidelines for what to look for in a phone, depending on how you use it!

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Saving Data Tips: Reduce Instagram Data

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In the world of smartphone plans, data is probably the most precious commodity. Anyone can get unlimited talk and text, even without  a contract. But data… data is the real catch to both limited and unlimited plans. Now, you might be one of the lucky ones who has a plan that offers unlimited throttled data. If so, that’s awesome. But, for the rest of us, limiting the data that your favorite apps use is one way to help make those GB stretch just a little further.

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How to Find Your Account Number and PIN

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With plan prices on the rise, more and more people are fleeing the Big Four carriers in favor of cheaper prepaid options. Add that to the vast number of ETA Payoff promotions, and you have a lot of people looking to jump ship from one carrier to the next. But, if you’re looking to complete a port request, then you’ll first need to know your account number and account PIN as well as the name and billing address on the account.

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FAQ: How to Turn Off Google Location Services

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Recently, there seems to be a lot of information and concern floating about in regards to location data collected by your smartphone. I’ve seen all kinds of scary and even crazy allegations recently–everything from the fear being stalked and killed via location services to government spying. I’m not going to go into how likely or unlikely any of those scenarios are; instead I thought I’d try and give you a few facts on what that location data does and how you can disable it if you like.

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FAQ: Is it Okay to Use an Off-Brand Charger?

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If you have a phone from a company like Samsung, HTC or Apple, then you know that replacement chargers and cords can often run anywhere from $30 – $50. But, pretty much every gas station has a box somewhere full of $2 chargers in bright fun colors. So, what’s the difference, and are these cheap chargers safe to use?

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What Carrier is Your Phone Compatible With?

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The best part about prepaid phones and networks is undoubtedly the flexibility. Most MVNOs and even some of the main networks allow customers to activate their own devices, provided that the phone is paid for, unlocked and compatible with the network.

But, how do you tell if a phone is going to be compatible with a network? Well, if you’re buying the phone from the company then you know it will be. Likewise, if it’s a phone you already own, then most MVNOs have compatibility checks on their websites. But, if that isn’t the case, then here are some steps to checking if a phone will work on a given network:

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MVNO vs. MNO : What’s the Difference?

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If you’re getting into the prepaid market, then you have two primary kinds of companies to deal with: MVNOs and MNOs. But, what are they, and which one is better?

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