Bigger. Better. Faster. Those are the messages smartphone manufacturers are touting this year. The big three, T-Mobile/Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon, continue to race to fill the coverage maps with more access and faster speeds.
As we use our phones for even more, including video streaming and conference calls, the need for more processing power has phone manufacturers looking to increase screen sizes and processor speeds without sacrificing battery life.
Although very few phones are touting new security features, security should still be a concern for lawyers and their employees. Moving to remote work, thanks to COVID-19, opened up new opportunities for threat actors to target unprotected mobile devices.
Respondents to Verizon’s annual security report and survey indicated that 85 percent think phones are now as vulnerable as other IT systems, and 40 percent think that smartphones pose a major security concern for their company. Unfortunately, however, ensuring mobile phone security usually takes a back seat to getting work done.1
Changes for 2022
Foldable Screens. Constantly looking for a way to make screens bigger, Samsung makes this year’s list with its innovative foldable design in the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. Folded, the device looks and works like any other smartphone. Unfolded, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 screen is 7.6 inches (expanded from 6.2 inches).
James Pearson owns The Computer Center, Janesville. He is a Microsoft Certified Professional and a frequent author and speaker on cybersecurity and safety topics.
Meanwhile, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 folds across its midsection down to a convenient 4.2 inches. It has a 1.9-inch cover screen so the user can see texts and basic information, much like a smartwatch, without actually opening the phone. When the Flip 3 is partially opened, it can be set on a surface for a hands-free mode. Completely open, it boasts a 6.7-inch screen.
Camera Quality. The Apple iPhone 13 Pro might appeal to creatives because Apple invested in building and advertising a phone with a superior camera and video quality. But, of course, the need for faster and better video and audio technology isn’t limited to home videos and vacation snapshots. The new normal of working remotely demands that phone users be ready for videoconferencing.
Apple has improved and integrated its macro photography capabilities in the Pro 13. Improved low-light sensors make night-time photography better than ever. In addition, Apple claims faster video processing with hardware and software improvements, giving users the ability to shoot pictures and videos like a pro or just look really good during videoconferences.
5G Coverage. With T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger, T-Mobile now has 5G coverage in 41 percent of the United States. AT&T and Verizon follow with less than that combined.2 In January 2021, I reported that T-Mobile had publicly committed to providing 5G access to “99% of Americans” over the next six years.3 It appears that T-Mobile is continuing to advance to this goal.
As a reminder, you’ll need a phone that’s compatible with T-Mobile’s 5G network and a new SIM card to benefit from the new integrated network. T-Mobile provides free SIM cards to Sprint users.
To fill in the coverage gaps, most providers now offer Wi-Fi calling. As a result, users can send and receive calls when connected to a Wi-Fi network instead of relying on service coverage.
Here are some security-related things to consider when further researching your next smartphone purchase.
Google is now including the Titan M, a custom-made processor, in its phones. The processor has a security core that Google claims improves security by performing security checks and encryption.4
In 2021, Apple had several newsworthy security issues, releasing several updates to combat zero-day attacks and even struggling to keep its operating system patched.5
However, when it comes to mobile security, apps still tend to be one of the most significant security holes. It is estimated that 85 percent of the apps released have some cybersecurity flaw.6 Unfortunately, most of these aren’t caught until a hack is detected.
As a reminder, no provider or operating system (Android or Apple’s iOS) will provide users and their smartphones with 100 percent security right out of the box. Just as with personal computers, security is as much a function of users’ behavior as it is of manufacturers’ smartphone designs.
The Top Picks
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max ($1,099) – Advertised as “Hollywood in your Pocket.”
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 ($1,590) – Unfolds to have a 7.6-inch screen.
Google Pixel 6 Pro ($899) – Includes the Titan M security chip and is a great camera for the price.
OnePlus 9 ($659) – A robust smartphone with 5G, a good camera, and a budget price.
The pandemic hasn’t seemed to slow down smartphone manufacturers from releasing new models, with continued improvements. As we spend even more time tethered to our smartphones, larger screens, faster performance, and better quality cameras and video are this year’s essential new releases.
1 Scott Ikeda, Verizon Mobile Security Index 2021 Report: Mobile Devices Increasingly Seen as Leading IT Security Threat, but Businesses Need Them to “Get the Job Done”,CPO Mag. (April 21, 2021), https://www.cpomagazine.com/cyber-security/verizon-mobile-security-index-2021-report-mobile-devices-increasingly-seen-as-leading-it-security-threat-but-businesses-need-them-to-get-the-job-done/.
2 Angelo Ilumba, 5G Coverage Maps Compared, WhistleOut (Aug. 4, 2021), www.whistleout.com/CellPhones/Guides/5g-coverage-maps-compared.
3 Sprint Is Now Part of the Family, www.t-mobile.com/brand/t-mobile-sprint-merger-updates (last visited Dec. 2, 2021).
4 Jerry Hildenbrand, What is the Titan Security Module? androidcentral (Jan. 30, 2020), www.androidcentral.com/what-titan-security-module.
5 Gordon Kelly, iPhone Alert: Two Known Zero-Day Hacks Left Unpatched in iOS 15.0.2, Forbes (Oct. 13, 2021), www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2021/10/13/apple-iphone-ipad-zero-day-security-warning-new-iphone-danger/?sh=434a19a621c5.
6 Alison DeNisco Rayome, How 85% of Mobile Apps Violate Security Standards, TechRepublic (Oct. 4, 2018), www.techrepublic.com/article/how-85-of-mobile-apps-violate-security-standards/.
» Cite this article: 95 Wis. Law. 49-52 (January 2022).