Tips on using smartphones, tablets

Eric Geier is the owner of On Spot Techs, which provides on-site computer repair and IT services at homes and businesses in the Dayton and Springfield areas. For more information, visit or call 937-315-0286.

Smartphones and tablets are convenient, giving you Internet access that’s more mobile and endless apps and games to entertain yourself. Whether you have an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, here are a few tips to consider:

Don't buy more data than required: When you purchase a smartphone or tablet from a wireless carrier you usually must sign up for a data plan, which gives you Internet access via the cell phone towers. There's usually a limit to how much data you can use per month based upon which plan you choose.

Some carriers may try to get you to purchase as much data as possible. If you aren’t a heavy user, you likely won’t consume much data. Perhaps choose a plan you think is appropriate to begin and monitor the usage throughout the month by checking online or giving the carrier a call. If you already have had a data plan, you can check past usage and adjust your data plan accordingly.

Don't use mobile hotspot for main Internet: Some wireless carriers offer mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices that get Internet access via their cell towers and then allow nearby Wi-Fi devices to connect, like your laptop, desktop, or other mobile devices. These mobile hotspots are great if you travel often, giving you Internet access in most places when you're away from home.

However, I don’t suggest using mobile hotspots as your main Internet connection at home. Most have data limits, similar to phones and tablets, and you’re bound to use a lot of data at home if you’re an avid computer user. Additionally, if you don’t get good signals from the cell towers when inside your home, the Internet connection can be very slow.

Connect your devices to Wi-Fi when possible: To help reduce the data usage of your smartphone or tablet, connect to Wi-Fi when it's available, especially at home. When you're out and about, you may also be able to connect to free Wi-Fi hotspots when at restaurants, stores, and public venues. These are particularly useful when using a lot of data, like when uploading photos or videos to Facebook before you get home.

Protect your mobile devices: Although viruses aren't a big problem on most mobile devices today, you still might consider installing a security program to catch any viruses and other harmful apps. Most also come with remote locating and antitheft features as well, which can be quite convenient as mobile devices can be easily misplaced or stolen. Consider the Lookout ( app or check with your favorite PC antivirus vendor as most also have mobile security apps as well.

Consider Wi-Fi calling or signal booster: If you don't get good (or any) cell phone reception at your home, consider using Wi-Fi calling, provided by some carriers, such as T-Mobile, Sprint, and maybe Verizon in the near future. It allows you to talk and text like normal over your Wi-Fi instead of via the cell towers, thus it can even be used in places where there is absolutely no cell signal.

If Wi-Fi calling isn’t an option, consider getting a cell signal booster. The easiest booster solution is usually one that plugs into your Internet and then basically acts like your own mini cell tower. These are provided by some carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. Alternatively, you can use a third-party repeater solution to boost the cell signals for virtually any carrier, but that requires at least a low- to good-cell signal outside or somewhere in the building.