How Your Smartphone Can Help Pay for Itself

Turns out, there is a way to earn a small return for simply possessing and using a smartphone.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your phone could help pay for itself? Or at least help ease the burden of monthly bills and other expenses? Turns out, there is a way to earn a small return for simply possessing and using a smartphone.

A handful of companies pay you to install their market-research apps on your phone or other electronic device and pay you for every month the app remains installed. Some even kick in bonus loyalty payments along the way.

Some of the leading names in this arena are Verto Analytics, The Nielsen Company and Survey Savvy, each of which have their own research programs and associated apps that reward consumers for participation.

The payments and rewards are by no means gigantic — averaging around $5 per month — but in some cases there are sign-up bonuses and increased bonuses for remaining a participant over an extended period of time. For example, Smart Panel, the Verto Analytics program adds up to about $110 in 12 months, or $230 in 24 months, when you factor in loyalty payments.

Here’s a closer look at each program and what digital experts say to consider before installing market-research apps of any type on your devices. (Only Verto Analytics responded to our requests for comment.)

Smart Panel by Verto Analytics

Launched in 2012, Smart Panel is a research project run by Verto Analytics focused on collecting information about how people use the internet through computers, smartphones and tablets. The goal is to understand how people interact with each other, as well as with websites, apps and devices. The program relies on participants agreeing to install the Smart App.

“Smart App runs in the background while anonymously and securely collecting statistical data about how devices are used,” said Verto Analytics’ senior vice president of marketing, Alison Murdock. “The data collected relates to the general usage of devices, device features, apps and services.”

Since its creation, more than 1 million people have participated in Smart Panel, said Murdock.

Participants are paid $5 for signing up and $5 for every month of involvement. After 90 days, they receive a $5 loyalty bonus. After six months, the loyalty bonus increases to $10, and after nine months it becomes $15. Every quarter after that, there’s another $15 loyalty bonus. Payments are made via PayPal, or you can opt for Amazon gift cards.

Survey Savvy Software by Savvy Connect

Savvy Connect, founded in 1999, pays people for downloading its Survey Savvy software. The software monitors your internet habits to identify trends, particularly those tied to online shopping, searches and entertainment. (Here are some tips for better internet safety.)

The company pays $5 per month, per device, for installing its software on web-connected devices. (This is a departure from Smart Panel’s payment structure, which does not pay per device). Payments are made by check.

In addition to having an extensive privacy policy that must be reviewed before signing on, Survey Savvy’s website says participants can opt to occasionally use private browsing mode on their devices, which blocks data from being collected when in use. However, extensive private browsing can impact your participation status.

Nielsen Mobile Panel by The Nielsen Company

If you watch television, you’ve likely heard of The Nielsen Company and its ratings system. In addition to measuring how many people watch a particular television show, Nielsen measures your activity on your phone, tablet or other mobile device with Nielsen Mobile Panel. Participation in the program involves downloading the Nielsen Mobile app and then using your mobile device as you normally would.

All the data collected and transmitted as part of the Nielsen Mobile Panel program is encrypted and anonymous, according to Nielsen’s website. The program pays up to $50 annually. Payment is made in the form of Nielsen Mobile Rewards points that can be spent at the Nielsen Mobile Rewards online store, which sells gift cards from Amazon.com, Target and Starbucks. Participants can also opt to save rewards for bigger purchases such as flatscreen televisions and digital cameras.

A Few Words of Caution

“Before you install these types of apps, a consumer should really understand what data it is collecting,” said Thomas Fischer, global security advocate for Digital Guardian, a Massachusetts-based data-loss prevention software company. “Read the description and make sure you understand what will be sent back to the company.”

Fischer, who had not specifically reviewed any of the apps in this story but offered general advice about the security of such programs, also noted the apps’ potential to invade your privacy. (You can check your free credit scores for signs of mischief on Credit.com.)

“One example might be capturing your contact data, which they could use to see who you contact on a regular basis and then begin building patterns of your contacts, or worse, taking those contacts and sending marketing messages that look like they’re coming from you,” said Fischer.

In response to such concerns, Murdock of Verto Analytics said the company only provides aggregated, projected, non-personal information to the market and fully protects consumers’ personal data. Further, she said, Verto secures all data with 256-bit encryption, and stores information in a siloed system that includes multiple physical parts. The result is that company employees cannot connect consumers to specific research data.

Image: Cecilie_Arcurs

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Samsung Is Offering Up to a $100 Credit So People Will Return Their Fire-Prone Phones

Samsung

Samsung is now offering full refunds for its fire-prone Galaxy 7 Note as part of a total recall announced on Thursday — and, just in case, you needed an extra incentive to return the phablet and its problematic lithium-ion battery, the company is offering $25 to $100 bill credits to Note 7 holders “as a token of our appreciation and acknowledgement of your inconvenience.”

The recall, which applies to every Galaxy 7 Note in existence as of 3 p.m. Thursday, comes of the heels of Samsung’s decision to nix production of the product for good.

What Happened

Reports of igniting Galaxy 7 Notes began popping up shortly after the phone hit the market in August. Samsung first tried address the issue by halting production of the devices and offering replacements with different batteries to their owners. This move was followed by an official recall of 1 million Galaxy 7 Notes in mid-September. That recall, backed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, allowed customers to receive full refunds or replacement devices. But problems persisted — and not just with the old devices. Earlier this month, Southwest Airlines reportedly had to evacuate a flight after a man’s replacement Galaxy 7 Note started smoking.

According to the CPSC, Samsung has received 96 reports of Note 7 batteries overheating in the U.S., including 23 new reports since the initial September 15 recall. Samsung has received 13 reports of burns and 47 reports of property damage associated with the Note 7, the CSPC said.

What Note 7 Owners Need to Know

Samsung is asking people with original and replacement devices to power them down immediately and return the phones. You can do this by contacting the carrier or retail outlet where you got your Galaxy Note 7. People who got their phablets from Samsung.com can go to samsung.com/us to start the exchange.

The aforementioned $100 credit is available to customers who choose to exchange the Note for another Samsung device. Samsung will give customers who already exchanged their faulty phone for a different Samsung phone a $75 bill credit in addition to the $25 they initially received. And, if you’re choosing to go with a device from a different company, you’ll still receive a $25 bill credit for your troubles.

“We appreciate the patience of our consumers, carrier and retail partners for carrying the burden during these challenging times,” Tim Baxter, president and chief operating officer of Samsung Electronics America, said in the press release that announced the expanded recall. “We are committed to doing everything we can to make this right.”

Customers with further questions can contact Samsung at 1-844-365-6197.

When Shopping for a Phone

Remember, smartphones and phablets can be an expensive proposition, so you should read the terms and conditions regarding any product you’re going to purchase to be sure you understand what you can do if stops working and how much it could potentially cost to replace, should the device get lost, damaged or stolen. And, if you’re shopping around for cellphone plan to go along with a new device, it’s a good idea to check your credit. Most providers check a version of your credit report when you apply, and a good credit score can help you qualify for better rates or lower fees. You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view two of your scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.

Image: CPSC

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Need to Charge Your Phone? ‘Urine’ Luck

phone_battery_urine

“I need to pee.”

“My phone is dying.”

They’re such familiar phrases — everyday mini-crises of modern life, and that makes them a perfect match. It’s one made not in heaven but in a British laboratory. And what a beautiful scientific marriage it is.

Scientists have for the first time recharged a smartphone with urine, according to Engineering and Technology Magazine. Ioannis Ieropoulos and his team at the University of West England developed a small fuel cell that turns urine into electricity, and while microbial fuel cells have already proven capable of charging a basic mobile phone, this is the first time they’ve charged a “modern-day smartphone.” The fuel cells are one square inch, cost between 1 and 2 British pounds (about $1.33 to $2.66) and produce electricity using “natural biological processes,” according to the magazine.

Before you wrinkle your nose in disgust at the idea of pee power, think about this: Multiple surveys have found that the vast majority of people use their phones in the bathroom. That’s really gross, and we don’t even have a good reason for doing it. Scientists are using pee to spread power to people who need it, and you’re sitting on the toilet playing Candy Crush. Get over yourself.

Power to the Pee-ple

Seriously: Using urine to produce electricity could be incredibly impactful. A single fuel cell and 600 mL of urine (about 2.5 cups) produced enough energy for three hours of phone calls on a smartphone. It could help provide affordable electricity to communities in the developing world with little or poor power infrastructure, which is what Ieropoulos and other researchers developing similar systems are trying to do.

While those scientists continue to refine their impressive problem-solving skills, it’s kind of fun to think of some other (less important) things we could do with “Urine-tricity,” as Ieropoulos calls it.

It’s not too much of a stretch to think people would pee as a means to power their smartphones. Plenty of people would rather spend money than wander the world with a dead phone, considering you can buy charger cables pretty much anywhere, as well as device-charging phone cases and portable chargers. There’s also the common tactic of buying a coffee, beer or snack to justify your use of an establishment’s power outlets. At least pee power allows you to charge your phone by taking advantage of something you already need to do, as opposed to whipping out your credit card to solve your battery-life woes. (Side note: If you’re a big credit card user, you should know it has a significant impact on your credit scores. You can see how much by getting two free credit scores each month on Credit.com.)

If you want to get really nerdy about it, you could pitch pee power to the super frugal as an opportunity to save with tag lines like “Bacteria: It’s Good For Your Budget!” or “Waste Not, Watt Not.” After all, we waste energy (and money) by keeping phones plugged in even when they’re charged (though hours of unnecessary phone charging won’t ding your finances by way of a huge utility bill as much as leaving a charged laptop or another more powerful device plugged in).

Then there are the ridiculous first-world problems it could solve, like needing a bathroom and a phone charge in the midst of a night out or a Pokémon Go excursion. (You’d probably need a lot of pee to keep that game going, though.) Sure, this might present a bit of a public urination problem — but then again, maybe it’s a solution: Relief & Recharge is a pretty good port-a-potty name, if you ask me.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: Roberto A Sanchez

The post Need to Charge Your Phone? ‘Urine’ Luck appeared first on Credit.com.

Need to Charge Your Phone? ‘Urine’ Luck

phone_battery_urine

“I need to pee.”

“My phone is dying.”

They’re such familiar phrases — everyday mini-crises of modern life, and that makes them a perfect match. It’s one made not in heaven but in a British laboratory. And what a beautiful scientific marriage it is.

Scientists have for the first time recharged a smartphone with urine, according to Engineering and Technology Magazine. Ioannis Ieropoulos and his team at the University of West England developed a small fuel cell that turns urine into electricity, and while microbial fuel cells have already proven capable of charging a basic mobile phone, this is the first time they’ve charged a “modern-day smartphone.” The fuel cells are one square inch, cost between 1 and 2 British pounds (about $1.33 to $2.66) and produce electricity using “natural biological processes,” according to the magazine.

Before you wrinkle your nose in disgust at the idea of pee power, think about this: Multiple surveys have found that the vast majority of people use their phones in the bathroom. That’s really gross, and we don’t even have a good reason for doing it. Scientists are using pee to spread power to people who need it, and you’re sitting on the toilet playing Candy Crush. Get over yourself.

Power to the Pee-ple

Seriously: Using urine to produce electricity could be incredibly impactful. A single fuel cell and 600 mL of urine (about 2.5 cups) produced enough energy for three hours of phone calls on a smartphone. It could help provide affordable electricity to communities in the developing world with little or poor power infrastructure, which is what Ieropoulos and other researchers developing similar systems are trying to do.

While those scientists continue to refine their impressive problem-solving skills, it’s kind of fun to think of some other (less important) things we could do with “Urine-tricity,” as Ieropoulos calls it.

It’s not too much of a stretch to think people would pee as a means to power their smartphones. Plenty of people would rather spend money than wander the world with a dead phone, considering you can buy charger cables pretty much anywhere, as well as device-charging phone cases and portable chargers. There’s also the common tactic of buying a coffee, beer or snack to justify your use of an establishment’s power outlets. At least pee power allows you to charge your phone by taking advantage of something you already need to do, as opposed to whipping out your credit card to solve your battery-life woes. (Side note: If you’re a big credit card user, you should know it has a significant impact on your credit scores. You can see how much by getting two free credit scores each month on Credit.com.)

If you want to get really nerdy about it, you could pitch pee power to the super frugal as an opportunity to save with tag lines like “Bacteria: It’s Good For Your Budget!” or “Waste Not, Watt Not.” After all, we waste energy (and money) by keeping phones plugged in even when they’re charged (though hours of unnecessary phone charging won’t ding your finances by way of a huge utility bill as much as leaving a charged laptop or another more powerful device plugged in).

Then there are the ridiculous first-world problems it could solve, like needing a bathroom and a phone charge in the midst of a night out or a Pokémon Go excursion. (You’d probably need a lot of pee to keep that game going, though.) Sure, this might present a bit of a public urination problem — but then again, maybe it’s a solution: Relief & Recharge is a pretty good port-a-potty name, if you ask me.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: Roberto A Sanchez

The post Need to Charge Your Phone? ‘Urine’ Luck appeared first on Credit.com.

Can Your Smartphone Wreck Your Credit Score?

smartphone credit score

Credit scores have traditionally been based on past data: Lenders analyze a borrower’s payment history, her amount of debt and credit age in order to determine how likely she is to pay back her debt. But as society becomes more data-driven, could lenders start turning to smartphones to measure our creditworthiness?

In developing parts of the world, a few already are. Several Silicon Valley startups have launched mobile apps that use data culled from smartphones to underwrite and make micro-loans to users in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, The Wall Street Journal reports. Here’s a look at how the new technology works and what it might mean for your credit score.

How the Apps Work

By downloading these apps onto smartphones, users grant micro-lenders access to any information, including texts, emails, time and duration of calls and payment records. Underwriting algorithms have begun to recognize that infrequent travel, fast-draining batteries and sending more texts than one receives are red flags, while evening phone calls, which show price sensitivity as they’re cheaper, receiving more texts and gambling—yes, gambling—are signs you’re reliable, WSJ says.

By analyzing these and other factors, lenders can deliver immediate approval and financing to customers. For instance, on the startup Inventure’s website, it says most of its small-dollar loans can reach borrowers across Africa in less than five minutes.

Are They Coming to a Phone Near You?

Using smartphone data in underwriting may work in emerging markets, such as South Africa or Nigeria, where banks (and financing) can be scarce. But the startups WSJ spoke with didn’t mention any plans to bring their tech to the U.S. And if they were to try, widespread adoption may prove difficult. Financing is easy to get in the States, so that could potentially negate the privacy tradeoff consumers would have to make to access a loan. Plus, financial institutions using this type of technology would need to be careful not to run afoul of fair lending laws.

That’s not to say the types of social data found on a smartphone won’t affect your ability to score a loan. Some alternative lending startups in the U.S. scan social media accounts as part of their loan decision process. And recently an executive at the credit scoring giant FICO suggested that Facebook profiles could have some worth in determining a person’s ability to repay. (FICO did clarify that timeline updates aren’t used to calculate credit scores.)

Even if social media can’t hurt your credit, other data has already made its way onto certain reports. Specialty renters’ reports, for instance, consider a tenant’s history, while credit scores designed to help the underbanked examine deeper credit card transaction data, among other things, to help those outside the traditional credit scoring system.

As such, consumers should think twice before posting on social media or other outlets. And no matter what data is in use, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit. You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and see your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com. Scanning these reports for errors can be a great way to keep scores intact and prevent identity theft.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

Image: Phototick

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