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A reader showed us a simple way to block robocalls. It's built right into the smartphone.

"I am writing to you," he says, "because I don't understand why cellphone users don't shut off robocalls. On an Android phone, just set it to 'Do Not Disturb.' Then set it to accept calls from contacts only."

We knew about "do not disturb" mode, but we didn't know you could make an exception for contacts. That choice is right there when you tap "settings," "sound," and "do not disturb." On an iPhone, go to "settings," "do not disturb," and tap "allow calls from." From there, "all contacts" is one of the choices.

The reader continues: "I did this a long time ago and I never receive a robocall. Simple fix. Anyone can still leave you a message, and you can return the call at your discretion. However, robocallers do not leave messages and your phone only rings if the caller is in your contact list."

We followed his advice, but at first we didn't notice that "do not disturb" was set to stay on for only 15 minutes. Now it's set to stay on until we turn it off.

Some people might be afraid of missing an important new contact, while others are afraid to fiddle with their phone. We had two new important contacts the first day we tried it, but fortunately they left messages. If you find that spammers are also leaving messages, you can block them.

We've had pretty good results with the free True Caller app. But nothing beats "do not disturb."


Here's how to add a picture to a birthday message in Facebook or in an email.

Search on the person's first name along with the words "happy birthday." at You'll usually get a cake or billboard with the person's name on it. Right-click it to save it, or use screen capture. (Look up "how to screen capture" for instructions.) Pop it in by tapping the "add files" or "attach photo" icon. WolframAlpha gives you lots of information, but it helps to start with its examples. Categories include science stuff as well as "history," "people" and "arts." When we looked at the UV (ultraviolet) index, we found the sunburn risk that day for any city we wanted. It's a scale of 1 to 11, with 11 designating the highest risk. In the "history" category, we got quick conversions to Roman numerals. For example, 1776 is MDCCLXXVI. has interactive lessons on music theory, starting with the physics of sound. We found it interesting.


More than 29 million phones are reported lost or stolen annually, but sometimes they're not really lost.

Scammers can sell a phone and keep it too, by reporting it lost and collecting the insurance money. These scams go up by 50% in summer months, according to a report at online pricing guide

Here's how it works: The thief buys an insured phone from a carrier, sells it to you, then reports it as lost or stolen. The carrier then blacklists the phone, making it unusable. The insurer pays the thief to replace a phone he already sold. Flipsy recommends offering to meet the seller at the store where they bought it. If they're a scammer, they won't show up, because the carrier will know it's a blacklisted phone. You can check the blacklist at


We usually tap "OK, OK, OK" when installing Android apps on our phones, basically agreeing to whatever they want, because we have no privacy concerns. But according to a report cited by CNet, formerly Computer Network, more than 1,000 Android apps collect data about you even if you deny them permission.

A fix is coming with the next version of the Android operating system, version Q. Google's Pixel phones will get the latest update as soon as it arrives. OnePlus phones are second on the list, according to Nokia is third and Sony fourth. Among other Android phone manufacturers, Samsung is eighth on the list to get Android Q, then Motorola is 11th and HTC is 12th.

Though iPhones are supposedly not collecting the information you type, they do listen, according to experiments run by and other digital news sites. A reporter said words like "going back to university," or "need a new T-shirt," and immediately got ads for those things.

If this bothers you, turn off Siri, the voice assistant. On Android phones, go to "settings," then Google, then "search," and go to Google Assistant and delete any data collected. You can also turn off Cortana in Windows.

Bob and Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at and

Business on 07/27/2019

Print Headline: Smartphones' privacy settings can block unwanted calls


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