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Android 10 Upgrade Report Card: Progress is relative

I’m not gonna lie: This time of year is usually a bit of downer here in the land o’ Android analysis.

I’ve been tracking device-makers’ speed at sending out Android operating system updates to their devices for quite a while now, y’see — since somewhere around the early 1800s. And with rare exception, the results are pretty much always bad news.

Calling it “bad news” is probably being generous: With almost every year in recent memory, we’ve seen upgrade delivery performance from most of the big Android device-makers get progressively worse, despite Google’s ongoing efforts to make the process easier. Last year was a slight exception, with a couple of moderate improvements, but it was still a ridiculously depressing picture all in all — with only two non-failing grades in a sea of cold indifference.

And that was the first true test of Google’s Project Treble, a massive effort to separate Android into multiple layers so that phone-makers could perform updates more quickly and efficiently, without having to mess with any lower-level code for every new Android version. It was the year everything was supposed to get meaningfully better. But it didn’t — at least nowhere near the level it should have.

Well, this year, for the first time in as long as I can remember, there’s cause for optimism. Only the slightest sliver of optimism, mind you, but hey — it’s something. And it’s a pretty noticeable contrast to the typical feeling these results provide.

So without further ado, now that we’re six full months past the launch of Android 10, it’s time to step back and look at who’s making upgrades a priority and who’s treating them as an afterthought. Get ready for some data-driven truths.

(Want the full nitty-gritty on how these grades were calculated? You can find a detailed breakdown of the formula and every element taken into account at the very end of this article.)


Android 10 Upgrades: Google JR Raphael/Google
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach current flagship: 0 days (60/60 points)
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach previous-gen flagship: 0 days (30/30 points)
  • Communication: Excellent (10/10 points)

Seeing Google at the top of the heap is probably no huge surprise, but believe it or not, this is only the second year Google has ever received a 100% score in this analysis. Up until last year, the company had always either faltered — slightly — with its previous-gen flagship, or at the very least had lost some points for leaving certain models of its phones hanging longer than others and then failing to communicate anything about its progress.

With Android 10, though, there’s really nothing to complain about and no points to dock. Google announced Android 10 and then started rolling the software out to its then-current-gen Pixel 3 flagship and its then-previous-gen Pixel 2 model on the very same day. (For the purposes of this analysis, it’s the start of a rollout — to a flagship phone model in the U.S. — that counts, as you can read about in more detail here.) Google even delivered a little bonus and included its original 2016 Pixel phone, which is well out of its window of guaranteed updates, in the mix.

And while the usual “rolling out in waves” asterisk applied to a certain degree, Android 10 made its way to all Pixel owners within a reasonable amount of time, without the need for any extra communication beyond the company’s initial announcement.

Pixel upgrades may not always be immediate, given that staged rollout process Google often likes to use, but they are always quite speedy — and consistently in a league of their own. Sure, we could argue that Google has a unique advantage in that it’s both the manufacturer of the devices and the maker of the software, but guess what? That’s part of the package.

And the results tell you all there is to know: Google’s phones are without question the most reliable way to receive ongoing updates in a timely manner on Android. It’s the only company that overtly makes a guarantee about that, let alone delivers on it — and it’s the only company that now offers such support for a full three years from a phone’s launch date, compared to the typical two-year window, thereby giving its devices even greater long-term value.


Android 10 Upgrades: OnePlus JR Raphael/Google
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach current flagship: 18 days (58/60 points)
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach previous-gen flagship: 93 days (24/30 points)
  • Communication: Poor (3/10 points)

Coming into second place for its third straight year now, OnePlus did admirably well with getting Android 10 onto all of its recent devices. The company’s current pair of flagships, the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro, saw their upgrades at the same time in late September — an impressive 18 days after the software’s release. The dual previous-gen flagships, meanwhile — the OnePlus 6 and 6T — were initially set to be upgraded in November but ended up being pushed back to early December due to some issues with the original rollout. That still puts them at just over 90 days from Android 10’s launch date, which is by no means exemplary but also isn’t awful, all considered.

As has been the case in the past, OnePlus didn’t do much in the way of communication with customers — no official estimates, no promises, no meaningful updates or ETAs along the way. The company’s communication is mostly limited to announcements in its forums when a rollout is beginning. It’s more than some companies offer but still not enough; if you own a OnePlus device, all you really can do is wait blindly and hope the upgrade might show up on your phone sometime soon.

Still, it’s a commendable all-around performance, and it’s heartening to see OnePlus continuing to steadily improve with each passing year. (While it did rather astonishingly hold the second place position the past two years, its scores for 2019 and 2018 were a 74% C and a 65% D, respectively — not exactly what you’d expect to see in the silver-medal spot.)

It’d sure be nice to see a couple more A-level scores in the mix, but a solid B-range performance isn’t bad at all. Unfortunately, things get way, way worse from here.


Android 10 Upgrades: Samsung JR Raphael/Google
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach current flagship: 106 days (47/60 points)
  • Length of time for upgrade to reach previous-gen flagship: 147 days (21/30 points)
  • Communication: Poor (0/10 points)

Samsung’s gotten some serious props for improving its upgrade performance with this year’s Android 10 rollout — and it absolutely should! The company did better this go-round than it has in ages, with the first U.S. rollout of Android 10 reaching its current-gen Galaxy S10 flagship in mid-December and its current-gen Note 10 flagship just slightly later in the month. (Since Samsung treats its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note phones as co-flagships, I look at the delivery time to both devices and then average it to achieve a single score.)

Still, we can’t grade Samsung only relative to its own past letdowns. After all, when the bar’s been set embarrassingly low for so long, “not entirely horrible” suddenly seems grand. But in and of itself, sending out an Android upgrade over a hundred days after its release is nothing to celebrate. And even in the Samsung-specific big picture, all this performance actually does is return the company to the level of adequacy it achieved five years ago, with 2014’s Android 5.0 Lollipop rollout.

The same can be said for Samsung’s previous-gen flagship performance — which, again, is a massive improvement over last year’s embarrassing showing but still is ultimately just sending software to a top-dollar, one-year-old phone five months late. And, again, it still basically just puts Samsung back where it was with its then-underwhemling 2014 level of Android upgrade performance. Adding insult to injury, Samsung never makes any effort to communicate with customers about the process or what can be expected along the way.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Samsung can — and should — do better. Particularly for a company of its size and with its immense financial and engineering-related resources, not being able to deliver updates to people after all those months (now with the benefits of Google’s Project Treble improvements in place, no less) comes down to one thing and one thing only: priorities.

NEXT PAGE: The Hall of Shame “F” club — and a few honorable mentions

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Review: 4 business card scanning apps for Android and iOS

Throughout workdays, meetings and industry events, you probably collect a lot of business cards. But if you’re like many business professionals, you lack the time or motivation to type the information on them into your contacts. Why not let a business card scanning app can do the work for you?

Using such an app, you snap a photo of a business card with your phone’s camera. The app performs optical character recognition (OCR) on the photo to extract the information printed on the card and categorizes that info into fields (name, job title, phone number, email address, etc.). Some apps’ OCR software can even recognize languages other than English — a plus for today’s global business environment. These results can be added to your phone’s contacts app with a quick tap.

Additionally, these apps typically offer cloud storage (either their own or via a third-party service like iCloud or Google Drive) so you can access the contact data from anywhere. And many allow you to export the data as a vCard email attachment, to a CSV file, or even to CRM platforms like Salesforce, though you may have to pay for a premium account to do so.

It’s impossible for these apps to produce perfect results every time. At least occasionally, you’ll need to make edits, such as correcting the spelling of a business or a person’s name. How often you have to make corrections on the scanned results from any of these apps depends partly on how capable its OCR software is.

Another factor affecting the results is image quality. The camera tool in many of these apps automatically enhances the image of a scanned business card (e.g., brightening it and straightening its alignment) to help produce better scan results through its OCR. Nevertheless, you should snap photos of the business cards in a well-lit setting.

We tested four business card scanning apps with versions for both Android and iOS. They are among the most downloaded and highly rated in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. With them, we scanned a variety of nine business cards: some with minimalist designs, some with more elaborate designs, and some with languages on them other than English (German, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish).

Which app was easiest to use? Which had the best features? And which produced accurate results the most frequently? Read on to find out.

ABBYY Business Card Reader

ABBYY can recognize 25 languages. As you target your phone’s camera at the card you want scanned, ABBYY’s camera tool shows a transparent rectangle overlay over the card. When the rectangle locks its positioning right over the card, the app automatically snaps a photo. (You can turn this off so that you snap the photo yourself by tapping a button.)

biz card scanning apps 01 abbyy IDG

ABBYY shows a transparent rectangle over the business card you’re scanning to help you position it. (Click image to enlarge it.)

In the app’s card editor, contact information that was extracted from the card is organized into fields that you can scroll through. Text in fields that ABBYY thinks may be errors is colored in red. You tap a field to edit it. When you do this, a close-up of the corresponding text in the photo of the business card is displayed along the top of the screen.

biz card scanning apps 02b abbyy IDG

Using ABBYY’s text editor. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Tiles with thumbnails of your scanned cards are placed on the app’s main screen. From here, you can search the fields of all your cards through a search box.

If you want to store your scanned data in the cloud for easy access from any device, you need to sign up for a free ABBYY Cloud account. Contact info from scanned cards can also be exported as a VCF file (a.k.a. vCard format), and you can send an email with your own vCard attached with a few quick taps.

The free version of ABBYY is ad-supported and lets you scan and save information for up to 10 business cards only. Upgrading to a Premium account gives you unlimited card scanning, automatic backup, no ads, and the ability to export your data to Microsoft Excel (in CSV format) or Salesforce CRM. You can alternatively purchase options such as ad removal or CSV export à la carte.

Test scan results

ABBYY’s OCR software generally did a good job scanning each of the nine business cards, only misreading a few characters from the batch. The photo of one of the English business cards turned out to be slightly out of focus (a “5” in an office address was incorrectly recorded by the app as an “S”), yet ABBYY managed to transcribe the rest of the card correctly.


Trial version free for Android or iOS; in-app purchases from $3 for additional features; Pro version for Android $60; Premium subscription for iOS $8/month, $30/year or $60/lifetime; volume licensing available.


CamCard requires that you register for a free user account in order to use it. Alternatively, you can log in with your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google account. The app recognizes 17 languages.

The camera tool in CamCard displays a rectangle in its viewfinder. Position your camera to frame this rectangle around a business card, then tap a button to snap a photo.

biz card scanning apps 03 camcard IDG

Like ABBYY, CamCard provides a rectangle overlay to help position the card. (Click image to enlarge it.)

If you have more than one card to scan, CamCard has a convenient option that lets you snap photos of every one of them first. After you’ve finished taking photos of all of them, CamCard then proceeds to scan them for their contact info one by one.

This app’s card editor displays the photo of a scanned card at the top of the screen. Contact information that was extracted from the card is placed below throughout a scrollable list of fields.

biz card scanning apps 04 camcard IDG

Editing contact information in CamCard. (Click image to enlarge it.)

When you tap a field box to edit it, the photo of the business card zooms in on the corresponding information that’s on it. (For example, when you edit a phone number, CamCard zooms in on that number in the photo of the card.) This zoom-in effect animates very smoothly.

Like ABBYY, CamCard displays tiles with thumbnails of your scanned cards on the main screen. You can search the fields of your cards from here via a search box.

Your contacts are stored both on your phone and in the cloud for access from any device, and you can create your own e-card and exchange it with other CamCard users, skipping paper cards altogether.

You can scan up to 500 cards with the free version of CamCard. With a premium account you get unlimited scans, no ads, and the ability to export contact info from your scanned cards to Salesforce, Google Contacts, or Outlook. Business plans include shared contacts, task assignments, integration with other CRMs, and other admin tools.

Test scan results

For some reason, CamCard didn’t acknowledge the city, state and ZIP code that were clearly printed on one business card, but it recognized and transcribed the full address on another card. Its OCR made some mistakes extracting from the German business card, and it didn’t recognize several Simplified Chinese characters. But for the other cards, its accuracy was close to ABBYY’s.


Basic version free for Android or iOS; premium subscription $4.50/month or $47/year; team and business plans available.


ScanBizCards supports 23 languages, but not Simplified Chinese. The camera tool lacks a targeting graphic in its viewfinder to indicate if your business card is within focus or frame. You just aim and tap to snap a photo. Like CamCard, it does offer a convenient batch-scanning option.

biz card scanning apps 05 scanbizcards IDG

There’s no positioning rectangle when you photograph a card in ScanBizCards. (Click image to enlarge it.)

The card editor for ScanBizCards shows the photo of a scanned card along the top of the screen. Information extracted from the card is listed below, organized into fields that you can scroll through. Unlike ABBYY and CamCard, ScanBizCards doesn’t show the source area on the card photo in close-up when you tap a field to edit it.

biz card scanning apps 06 scanbizcards IDG

Editing contact info in ScanBizCards. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Also unlike ABBYY and CamCard, ScanBizCars doesn’t show tiles with thumbnails of scanned cards on its main screen for convenient access. You have to tap to open a screen that shows folders containing your cards. Next, you tap one of these folders to see thumbnails of the scanned cards inside it, and then finally you can tap a thumbnail to open a card.

You can search the fields of your cards through a search box that’s on the app’s main screen. There’s also a search box on the screen that displays all your card folders, and on any screen showing thumbnails of your cards inside a folder.

You can connect your Google Drive or iCloud account for online storage and access, or export a card’s contact information as a vCard or (on a limited basis) to your Salesforce, SugarCRM, or Evernote account. Unlimited CRM exports and admin tools are available with team and enterprise accounts.

Test scan results

Compared to the other three apps we tested, ScanBizCards made the most mistakes. It failed to transcribe correctly or recognize addresses and phone numbers on three of the business cards. In particular, its OCR struggled with email addresses and website URLs.


Lite version free for Android or iOS; Pro version $1 for Android or iOS; team and enterprise plans available.

Wantedly People

As with CamCard, you have to register for a free user account (or sign in with your Facebook or Google account) in order to use Wantedly People. The app’s website says it recognizes more than 50 languages.

This app is designed to let you scan several business cards at once. You can take a single photo of up to 10 cards, and from that, Wantedly People extracts contact info from each one. (See the results below for how successful it was in our tests.)

biz card scanning apps 07 wantedly IDG

You can scan multiple cards at the same time with Wantedly People. (Click image to enlarge it.)

In its camera tool, when a business card is within focus of your phone’s camera, a pulsating circle appears in the viewfinder.  When you aim the camera at more than one card, a targeting circle appears over each card. Then you can tap a button to snap a photo.

Scanned business cards are stored in the Contacts section of the app as tiles. From this screen, you can search your cards via a search box.

biz card scanning apps 08 wantedly IDG

Editing contact info in Wantedly. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Unlike ABBYY, CamCards and ScanBizCards, Wantedly People doesn’t have a wide range of fields for contact info. It identifies only the most basic details on a business card: the contact’s name, phone numbers, fax, email, and physical address.

You can export contact info extracted from a business card as a vCard and store your contacts online with your Wantedly People account. From the Wantedly People site, you can download your contacts as a CSV file, but the service doesn’t integrate with Salesforce or other CRM tools.

Note that much of the Wantedly Site is in Japanese, but there is an English-language help center.

Test scan results

Wantedly People ignores any contact info (such as website URLs) for which it doesn’t have fields. Otherwise, its results were similar in accuracy to ABBYY’s and CamCard’s. And it was the best at handling the three non-English cards, transcribing the German, Simplified Chinese and Spanish characters and contact info on them with the fewest mistakes.

The multiple-card scan feature didn’t work well in our tests. From a photo of two cards that we snapped, the OCR results were worse compared to snapping photos of each card separately. In a photo of four cards and another of ten together, the errors increased exponentially.

The problem is that the phone’s camera may not be able to snap a photo of several business cards where each one is in focus. And the more cards you want to snap together in one photo, the more difficult it can be to get targeting circles to appear over each one in the viewfinder. How well this feature works could depend on how advanced your phone’s camera lens is.


Free for Android and iOS.


ABBYY and CamCard shared similar accuracy in our tests, with a slight advantage going to ABBYY. CamCard’s free option is the one to look at if you only need to scan business cards occasionally and don’t need to export them. With just 10 scans offered before you have to pay up, the free version of ABBYY is only useful for evaluation purposes. (That said, you can purchase 50 scans with ABBYY for $4.) CamCard also has the better card editor, and its “batch photo” feature is convenient.

If you need to scan a lot of cards or export them to a CRM tool, you’ll need to shell out for a premium version of one of these apps. At $30 per year or $60 lifetime, ABBYY offers better value than CamCard’s $47-per-year subscription.

If a business card you want to scan isn’t in English and you don’t care about saving website URLs, give Wantedly People a try. Just don’t expect its ability to scan more than one business card in a photo to work as accurately as it does with a photo of a single card.

This article was originally published in August 2014 and most recently updated n November 2019.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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How Credit Card Fraud Works and How to Stay Safe

It’s common knowledge to keep your credit card safe from fraud, but how does it work? How do hackers get your card details in the first place?

Let’s explore how scammers do credit card frauds, and how you can stay safe.

How Hackers Get Your Credit Card Number

For a scammer to do credit card frauds, they first need all the necessary details. There are several ways they can get these details, and they range from the very basic to the more technologically complex.

Getting Details via Phishing

Phishing is an old strategy that is still effective today. The scammer gets in touch with you via phone or email, usually posing as your credit card issuer. From here, they can talk you into giving them your credit card information.

It sounds like something you’d be able to spot right away, but some phishers are very skilled. This is very similar to the tactic that was used in the British phone-hacking scandal a couple of years ago. Thankfully, you can learn how to spot a phishing email

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, so be sure to study up before you become a victim!

Gleaning Details From Database Leaks

Scammers also get credit card details from online data breaches.  Hackers have successfully breached big-names like Target, Home Depot, and the PlayStation Network in the past. These companies tend to have saved payment information listed under each customer, which scammers can use for fraud.

The numbers stolen from those sites often end up on “carding” shops, where people go to buy stolen credit card numbers for use online. ZDNet mentions how some accounts sell for as little as $5 on the dark web. This makes it easy for thieves to buy hundreds of cards at a time, potentially including yours.

Monitoring Your Inputs With Keyloggers

If a hacker manages to get a keylogger or another type of malware installed on your computer, they could quickly steal your credit card information when you use it for online shopping. The silent nature of keyloggers makes them particularly nasty, so be sure to protect yourself against keyloggers as much as possible.

Forging Payments Using NFC Skimming

Someone paying for goods using the NFC on a credit card.
Image Credit: AllaSerebrina/DepositPhotos

These days, credit cards have NFC scanning built-in. NFC is also known as “contactless,” and it’s when you place the card up against the payment terminal to buy something.

Scammers can use devices that act like these payment terminals. When they pass close by to someone with a credit card in their pocket, the skimmer makes a fraudulent payment to the card. The victim may not even realize this has happened until they notice odd fees on their statement.

How Scammers Use Your Credit Card

Once a thief has your credit card, the hardest part is complete. Now all they need to do is use it or sell it on. The credit fraud they choose depends on their ulterior motive behind why they stole the details in the first place.

Making Contactless Payments

Contactless payments with cards don’t require PINs or signatures, so they’re perfect for credit card thieves. Even though the limits for contactless payments are rather small, they add up quickly. Online payments don’t require PINs or signatures ether, so going on an Amazon shopping spree with a stolen card is remarkably easy.

Fortunately, there are constraints for the scammer. The upper limit of a credit card will stop them from spending too much. On top of this, credit cards typically allow a set amount of contactless payments before it asks for a PIN. These restrictions mean the scammer can perform only a small shopping spree before they’re locked out without a PIN.

Selling the Card Online

If the hacker doesn’t want to “dirty their hands” with a stolen credit card, they sell the details online. These credit card markets thrive on the dark web, where all kinds of identifying information is up for sale. Sellers need to keep their practices under wraps to protect their business from law enforcement, and the dark web gives them the protection they need to operate.

Buying and Flipping Goods

A range of different gift cards.
Image Credit: dennizn/DepositPhotos

If the hacker has enough information to make large purchases with the cards, they can buy goods and sell them on the black market. This is safer for them, as it hides their tracks better than if they transferred money directly into their bank account.

Scammers will typically buy gift cards. They can then sell these cards on the black market for less than face value. For instance, a $100 gift card will sell for $60. This makes them highly desirable for buyers and gives the scammer a way to wash their hands of the evidence.

How to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Fraud

There’s a lot a scammer can do with a credit card. As such, it’s important to keep yours secure. By following a few guidelines, you can decrease the chances you’ll encounter credit card fraud.

Don’t Share Credit Card Information Freely

First, don’t share your card information over the phone or in an email. Credit card companies, banks, and stores won’t randomly ask for your credit card information. If someone asks for them out of the blue, exercise extreme caution. If you need to share your information over the phone, be sure that no one is around to overhear you.

Keep Track of Data Breaches

Second, pay attention to online security news. If a service you use suffers a database breach and leaks payment information, contact your bank immediately.

You could wait to see if you get any suspicious charges on your account before alerting your bank, but this is risky. For example, ABC News reported on how the Bank of America fraud department can be hard to convince that a scam occurred in the first place. Waiting for fraud to happen may result in lost money that you have to wrestle back.

Protect Your Card’s RFID

Third, consider buying an RFID-blocking wallet

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, so your card is protected while it’s in your pocket. By blocking RFID signals, the wallet prevents any device from reading the information on your card until you take it out to use it.

Double-Check Payment Points

Fourth, be careful with where you insert your credit card.  Scammers can operate at ATMs, pay-at-the-pump gas stations, small stores, and restaurants. If the payment terminal looks weird somehow, use another method to pay. Make cash withdrawals from within your bank, pay at the counter when you buy gas, and don’t let your card out of your sight.

Keep Tabs on Your Records

Finally, make sure to monitor your credit card statements, bank statements, and credit reports. The earlier you catch a potentially fraudulent transaction, the better. These days, you can get a credit report for free without harming your score. This makes it easier to spot any weird purchases and quickly report them.

Staying Safe With Payment Cards

Credit cards are a hot commodity for scammers. From small NFC skims to large-scale gift card selling, there are multiple ways they can make use of your details. Keep them safe to avoid headaches in the future!

You now know not to trust a phishing call, but can you trust your browser with your credit card information

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2 Ways Your SIM Card Can Be Hacked (And How to Protect It)

You probably know that your smartphone’s operating system needs to be regularly updated to protect against security vulnerabilities. But your SIM card can be a source of security vulnerabilities too. Here we’ll show you some ways hackers can use SIM cards to gain access to devices, and advice on how you can keep your SIM card safe.

1. Simjacker

SIM card vulnerabilities - how Simjacker works
Image Credit: AdaptiveMobile Security

In September 2019, security researchers at AdaptiveMobile Security announced they had discovered a new security vulnerability they named Simjacker. This complex attack targets SIM cards. It does this by sending a piece of spyware-like code to a target device using an SMS message.

If the target opens the message, hackers can use the code to surveil them by spying on their calls and messages and even tracking their location.

The vulnerability works by using a piece of software called [email protected] Browser, which is part of the SIM Application Toolkit (STK) that many phone operators use on their SIM cards. The SIMalliance Toolbox Browser is a way of accessing the internet—essentially, it’s a basic web browser—which lets service providers interact with web applications like email.

However, now that most people use a browser like Chrome or Firefox on their device, the [email protected] Browser is rarely used. The software is still installed on a large number of devices though, leaving them vulnerable to the Simjacker attack.

The researchers believe this attack has been used in multiple countries in the last two years, specifying that the [email protected] protocol is “used by mobile operators in at least 30 countries whose cumulative population adds up to over a billion people,” primarily in the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, and Eastern Europe.

They also believe the exploit was developed and used by a specific private company, which is working with various governments to monitor particular people. Currently, between 100 and 150 people are targeted by this attack per day.

As the attack works on SIM cards, all kinds of phones are vulnerable, including both iPhones and Android devices, and it even works on embedded SIM cards (eSIMs).

2. SIM Card Swapping

sim card

Another SIM card security issue you may have heard of is SIM card swapping

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. Hackers used a variation of this technique to take over Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s personal Twitter account in August 2019. This event raised awareness of how these attacks can be destructive. The relatively simple technique uses trickery and human engineering rather than technical vulnerabilities.

In order to perform a SIM card swap, a hacker will first call up your phone provider. They’ll pretend to be you and ask for a replacement SIM card. They’ll say they want to upgrade to a new device and therefore need a new SIM. If they are successful, the phone provider will send them the SIM.

Then they can steal your phone number and link it to their own device.

This has two effects. Firstly, your real SIM card will be deactivated by your provider and will stop working. Secondly, the hacker now has control over phone calls, messages, and two-factor authentication requests sent to your phone number. This means they could have enough information to access your bank accounts, email, and more.

And they may even be able to lock you out of other accounts.

SIM card swapping is hard to protect against. That’s because hackers can convince a customer support agent that they are you. Once they have your SIM, they have control over your phone number. And you may not even know you’re a target until it’s too late.

How to Keep Your SIM Card Safe

If you want to protect your SIM card against attacks like these, there are some steps you can take.

Protect Against Socially Engineered Attacks

To protect against SIM card swaps, you should make it hard for hackers to find information about you. Hackers will use data they find about you online, such as names of friends and family or your address. This information will make it easier to convince a customer support agent that they are you.

Try to lock down this information by setting your Facebook profile to friends-only and limiting the public information you share on other sites. Also, remember to delete old accounts you no longer use to prevent them being the target of a hack.

Another way to protect against SIM card swaps is to beware of phishing. Hackers may try to phish you to get more information they can use to copy your SIM. Be on the lookout for suspicious emails or login pages. Be careful where you enter your login details for any account you use.

Finally, consider what methods of two-factor authentication

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you use. Some two-factor authentication services will send an SMS message to your device with an authentication code. This means that if your SIM is compromised, hackers can access your accounts even if you have two-factor authentication on.

Instead, use another authentication method such as the Google Authentication app. This way the authentication is tied to your device, not your phone number, which makes it more secure against SIM card swaps.

Set a SIM Card Lock

To protect against SIM attacks you should also set up some protections on your SIM card. The most important security measure you can implement is to add a PIN code to your SIM card. This way, if anyone wants to make changes to your SIM card, they need the PIN code.

Before you set up a SIM card lock, you should ensure you know the PIN number given to you by your network provider. To set it up, on an Android device go to Settings > Lock screen and security > Other security settings > Set up SIM card lock. Then you can enable the slider for Lock SIM card.

On an iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular > SIM PIN. On an iPad, go to Settings > Mobile Data > SIM PIN. Then enter your existing PIN to confirm, and the SIM lock will be activated.

For more advice and instructions on setting up a SIM PIN, see our article on how to encrypt and set a SIM card lock on any mobile device

How to Encrypt and Set a SIM Card Lock on Any Mobile Device

How to Encrypt and Set a SIM Card Lock on Any Mobile Device

Do you encrypt the data on your smartphone? If not, you risk having your data stolen the moment you lose your device. Encrypting your data is easy; all you need is the right software.
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Other Security Tips

As always, you should use strong individually-generated passwords. Don’t reuse old passwords or use the same password on multiple accounts.

Also, make sure your answers to password recovery questions aren’t publicly available, such as your mother’s maiden name.

Protect Your Device From SIM Attacks

Attacks on mobile devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Simjacker and SIM swap attacks both target SIM cards, but they do so in different ways. Simjacker is a technical attack which exploits vulnerabilities in software used by phone carrier companies. SIM swap attacks use social engineering to get a copy of your SIM card.

There are protections against these types of attack, such as keeping your personal information under wraps and setting up a SIM card lock.

That said, phones are becoming more secure than they used to be. To learn why, see our article on reasons smartphones are more secure than dumb phones

5 Reasons Why Smartphones Are More Secure Than Dumb Phones

5 Reasons Why Smartphones Are More Secure Than Dumb Phones

Think a dumb phone can make your life more secure? Think again. Here are five ways a smartphone is more secure than a dumb phone.
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What Is an eSIM and How Is It Better Than a Standard SIM Card?

If you’re eyeing a new iPhone 11, or hoping to pick up a Pixel 4, you might find they have a feature you don’t know much about: the eSIM.

An eSIM is a smaller, built-in version of the traditional SIM card, and it’s coming to a phone or other smart device near you soon. But how does it work and is it worth having? Let’s take a look.

What Is an eSIM?

An eSIM is an embedded SIM card. It’s a replacement for the physical SIM card that currently connects phones to a mobile network, but the eSIM is a lot smaller.

sim card

Unlike a SIM card, the eSIM is fixed onto the phone’s (or other device’s) motherboard. You don’t need to insert it, and you can’t remove it. That doesn’t mean you can’t switch numbers or change carriers, though, since the information on the eSIM is rewritable.

In fact, switching or setting it up might even be easier. You don’t have to wait for a new SIM to be delivered to your house; it could all happen instantly with just a quick phone call.

eSIM cards use the same tech, and run on the same GSM networks that normal SIMs use. Take a look at our article What is a SIM Card?

What Is a SIM Card and What Does It Do?

What Is a SIM Card and What Does It Do?

What is a SIM card and why is it so important? It connects you to your carrier network, stores contact information, and more.
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for more on this.

To use an eSIM you’ll need to be with a carrier that offers it, and have a compatible phone. Carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile in the US, or EE in the UK, along with over 85 more worldwide offer eSIM support.

eSIM cards are currently used to bring dual SIM capability to smartphones including the iPhone 11 range, and the Pixel 3, as well as in smaller devices like the Apple Watch.

In time it’s likely that all phones and tablets will switch to using eSIM. Its much smaller size means that it could also become a common feature in internet-of-Things devices, although there’s an even newer and vastly smaller tech called iSIM just around the corner.

How to Set Up an eSIM Card

You connect most phones to a network by inserting the SIM card into the tray. But if it doesn’t use cards, how do you connect an eSIM phone?

how to activate esim

It depends what device you’ve got, and whether you bought it with a cellular plan or added your plan separately. Buy the plan separately and you’ll get an eSIM activation card that includes a QR code that you need to scan on your phone.

  • On iPhone go to Settings > Cellular (or Mobile Data) > Add Cellular Plan then scan the code when prompted.
  • On Android you can set up your eSIM at Settings > Network & internet > Add. Follow the onscreen instructions and choose Use 2 Numbers when prompted. This may of course differ depending on which Android version and phone you’ve got.

Buy a Pixel on Google Fi and your eSIM details will be automatically tied to your account.

Your Apple Watch will come with the eSIM preconfigured when you buy it with a plan, or you can add the details through the Apple Watch app if you don’t. On a Samsung Galaxy Watch you must complete the setup through a mobile app on your phone.

Dual SIM devices need to support DSDS (Dual SIM, Dual Standby) in order to offer full functionality. This is available on the iPhone, and in Android 10. DSDS enables both SIMs to connect to a network at the same time. When you set it up, you’ll need to choose which line to use as your default line.

What Are the Benefits of eSIM?

The main benefit to the eSIM is that it’s really small. Nano SIMs already seem pretty small, but with a surface area of 108.24mm² (4.2 inches) they’re actually more than three times larger than an eSIM, which measures just 30mm² (1.18 inches).

That’s before we even factor in the additional size of the SIM tray, and the card reader inside the device. These are no longer needed with the embedded technology.

eSIM card on an iPHONE XS board
The eSIM, marked in yellow, is much smaller than a nano SIM. Image Credit: iFixit

This not only allows extra room for other components, or perhaps a larger battery, it also enables manufacturers to rejig the internal layout of their devices. An eSIM doesn’t need to be near the edge of the phone and could make waterproofing devices even easier.

There are also benefits for us users. No fiddly cards to work with, and no need to find a paperclip if you ever need to extract the SIM tray.

As we’ve seen, eSIMs enable devices to easily offer dual SIM capabilities. This is ideal if you want to keep separate personal and work numbers, or if you’re travelling overseas.

Dual SIM phones make it much easier to hop onto a local network and avoid the expensive roaming fees you’d expect to pay on your usual plan.

What Are the Downsides?

The main downside to an eSIM is that it’s less convenient when you’re switching phones. You can’t simply remove the SIM card from one device and pop it into another.

It also makes it more difficult to test for problems with your device. At the moment, when you have connection or signal problems an easy test is to stick your SIM into a different phone to check if the problem is with your network or your device. You wouldn’t be able to do that with an eSIM.

And then there’s the fact that new technologies take a while to become mainstream. In 2019 the support and availability is still very limited.

What Devices Use eSIM?

The iPhone 11 series, plus the older iPhone XS and XR devices use an eSIM alongside a nano SIM. Pixel phones since the Pixel 2 have the same setup, although is not supported everywhere—it’s best if you use Google Fi.

Other than that there are a limited number of phones with eSIM support. Even a company like Samsung, usually so eager to embrace new technologies, is yet to offer one.

apple watch 5 esim
Image Credit: Apple

As for other devices, the cellular versions of the Apple Watch, Samsung Watch, and Huawei Watch 2 are among those that use eSIM. There’s eSIM support in Windows 10 as well, so always-connected laptops may well become a more common sight in future.

Do More With Your SIM Card

The eSIM is very much the future for smartphones and smart devices. Even if you don’t have it now, it’s likely that your next phone—or certainly the one after—will make use of it.

In the meantime, why not make sure you’re getting the most from the SIM you have got. First, learn how to beef up your phone’s security by setting up a SIM card lock

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How to Encrypt and Set a SIM Card Lock on Any Mobile Device

Do you encrypt the data on your smartphone? If not, you risk having your data stolen the moment you lose your device. Encrypting your data is easy; all you need is the right software.
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. Then take a look at our guide to the best apps to manage your SIM card

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7 Useful Apps to Manage Your SIM Card on Android

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on Android.

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