Protect Your Smartphone Without Insurance

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Editor's Note: Be sure to also read the other two parts of this series, Insuring Your Smartphone May Be Smart and iPhone Peace of Mind Comes at a Price.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Most people still don't, or won't buy insurance. One report says just 27% of smartphone owners insure their phones. However, market researcher iGR does note that smartphones owners are more likely to buy insurance then non-smartphone owners because of the higher replacement costs.

But if you can't afford to -- or refuse to -- insure your smartphone, at least keep it protected. Here are some tips from the experts and companies:

Damage control:

  • Don't carry your phone in your pocket
  • Use a screen protector to prevent scratches
  • Get a case to protect the back and sides against scratches and drops
  • Get a really good case like the Otterbox Defender Series (with three protective layers: hard polycarbonate shell covered by silicone skin plus built-in screen protector) or Ballistic's Hard Core case (built-in screen protector and hard shell with shock absorbent polymer and silicone outer layer). Very few promise protection from water, but the LifeProof iPhone case promises protection up to a depth of 6.6 feet.
  • Turn on the phone's automatic back up to prevent data loss
  • If your phone gets wet, remove the battery and SIM card and let it completely dry. Don't use a hair dryer. And don't try to use the phone, which could allow water to move deeper into the phone's electronics.
  • Install anti-virus or anti-malware to prevent data damage; most of the major computer anti-virus companies offer a product

Loss/theft protection

  • Set up the phone's built-in security by turning on screen or keypad lock or requiring a code or pattern to unlock device access
  • Clearly identify ownership either by a simple ID sticker or an app like Contact Owner, available on Google Play, for Android or Owner Information, available through iTunes for iPhone. Both state the owner's contact information right on the locked screen.
  • Turn on the free service from the manufacturer:
    • --Windows Phones: Microsoft's Find My Phone lets you map the phone's location, make it ring, lock the phone and erase it.
    • --Apple iPhone: Set up the Apple's Find My iPhone service on Apple's iCloud to map the phone's location, send it a message, lock it or erase it remotely.
    • --BlackBerry: Download BlackBerry Protect to back up data and help find the missing phone.
    • --Android doesn't appear to have a built-in service to find missing phones. But several apps are available to help locate missing Androids, including Plan B, available on Google Play.
  • Download a free or inexpensive app to help locate your phone or lock or wipe the phone remotely if it gets lost or stolen. Some popular apps: Android Lost, available on Google Play or Find My iPhone, mentioned above.
  • Already lost your phone? Try Plan B from Lookout Mobile Security, mentioned above. The Android app is pushed to the missing phone where it launches, turns on GPS and messages the phone's location back to the account holder.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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