Cell phones are like PCs in that they store data. You might think that because they were smaller, the task of removing your data would be easier. Sorry, that’s not the case. It can be downright difficult to do it with some phones. Part of this is intentional by the manufacturers so we don’t accidentally delete the data.
The way in which you delete data differs based on your cell phone and your carrier. For example, GSM phones can store the address book data on the SIM card. These cards make it easier when a user upgrades their phone provided they still use a GSM carrier. These phones still allow users to write data to parts other than the SIM card.
Identifying the Data Types your cell phone stores
When you decide to upgrade the phone, look at the type of data your present phone allows. Many people make the mistake of just deleting phone numbers. Today’s smart phones allow you to save much more such as:
- Phone logs
- Voice notes and recordings
- SMS messages
- Application data
- Email attachments
Each of the above items could contain personal or confidential information. While your goal is to protect your data, you’re also protecting other people. You probably would be annoyed if your contact information were revealed.
Finding the Delete Data Instructions
Your best solution is to find a way to overwrite the data on the phone or reformat it. If you simply delete the data, it still can be retrieved with third party tools. This same problem occurs with PCs. Just because you delete the file, doesn’t mean the data is gone. Cell phones are worse because of the type of memory they use. Here are some resources to help you find the correct steps to remove or reformat:
Cell phone manuals – Yes, I know. We rarely keep this item but sometimes you can find an online version that is available from your cell provider. Look in the index for items such as “delete data” or “reformat device”
Cell phone manufacturer’s website – These sites tend to be overlooked and often times have just the info we need. In doing a quick scan, I found Palm had an article called Performing a Factory reset for the Treo devices. Sometimes vendors like Nokia, have specific reformat instructions based on the phone and carrier.
Cell carrier or their website – No promises here, but these folks can provide some answers. If you plan to change carriers and maintain your contact lists on a hosted system, you should ask how to delete those records too.
Cell Phone Data Eraser – this tool provides deletion instructions for specific cell phones. It’s a nice resource if they list your phone. In some cases, you’re erasing cell phone data and in other cases, you’re doing a reformat. The reason for the difference is some manufacturers have included the ability to reformat the phone. This tends to be the case with newer smartphones.
Alternative Methods for Deleting Cell Phone Data
bitPIM - You may encounter situations where you can’t find the instructions for deleting your information. If you have a CDMA phone and use Windows, there is an open source program called bitPIM that works with many phones. It’s best known for allowing users to move ring tones to the phone, but it can also delete data. I’ve not tried the program so can’t vouch for its effectiveness. You can also view the mailing list archives for information.
Remote Data Deletion – Some services delete the data remotely. They’re not available in all areas but what happens is you call or trigger an event that deletes all the data on the phone. The service is mainly designed to protect you in the case your cell phone is stolen. Some of these services have operator intervention and some are triggered by a SMS sent to the phone or many invalid password tries.
Central for Treo - a utility by Bluefish which includes a feature called SMS Kill Pill that remotely deletes your data
FLEXIALERT – works on Symbian phones
Q-Switch – pending
remoteProtect - designed for Windows Mobile phones. Includes a remote feature to remove data
Remote XT – offers a hosted service that includes a complete wipe feature
If you were only able to delete the records from your cell phone, you may want to taken another precaution. Keep in mind the more barriers you put up, the better the security. The other step is to add back bogus records to the phone and delete them. You could create bogus entries in Excel with autofill and then import these to your contact software program such as Outlook. Hopefully, your phone has an easy way to import records. This way your old data has been overwritten and the new owner doesn't have to remove the bad entries.
And if you’re using a GSM phone, please remember to remove the SIM card from your present phone.
- Understanding SIM Cards
Defining a World Phone
Last Updated (Friday, 18 June 2010 20:49)