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10 Android Phone Encryption Pros and Cons You Should Know

August 2, 2019 • Shannon Flynn


Encryption is a hot topic lately, especially as people have growing concerns about data security. If you’re thinking about encrypting your Android, here are some Android phone encryption pros and cons to help you decide what to do.

1. It’s a Security Booster

One of the top reasons why many people encrypt their Android devices is that it makes them more secure. Although the Android system has many security layers, being especially careful is always a good idea. Encryption scrambles the data on your phone so that people cannot read it without the decryption key. In the case of phones, the decryption happens via a password or a security pattern drawn on the screen.

But, if an unencrypted device falls into the wrong hands, prying eyes can easily see the contents. Often, people who steal phones and try to get information from them boot the devices off a USB drive or mount the phone’s hard drive to another tech tool to get the data.

Encryption is also a smart thing to do before selling a phone. It prevents the next user from accessing your files and other stuff the phone once held. Contrary to popular belief, a factory reset alone is not enough to delete data.

2. Android Phone Encryption Protects Your App Data Too

When you think of securing your data, you probably imagine all the texts, images and notes on your phone. You may not realize that your apps are full of valuable data as well. Apps store your data in temporary places called caches, and these are vulnerable to hackers.

If you use social media apps like Facebook or Instagram, your cache could store sensitive personal information. Any paid apps might have data like your credit card info in their cache. Thankfully, Android’s encryption option encrypts these caches.

With Android phone encryption, you’ll make all of your phone’s data secure, not just the obvious things. Security is a common topic people learn about when researching Android phone pros and cons, and that’s not surprising.

3. It’s Easy to Do

Another positive thing about Android encryption is that it doesn’t require a complicated process. Every Android operating system since 2.3 has built-in encryption available. Assuming you have one of the newest operating systems, the encryption option is part of the Security menu in Settings.

Tap on Security, then scroll to the Encrypt Phone option under the Encryption header. If encryption is turned on, it shows as such.

Otherwise, tap the encryption option to go through the steps. A warning screen confirms that people need to start with a fully charged battery and keep their phones plugged in during the process to avoid losing data.

Individuals can’t use their phones while encrypting them, and the process can take an hour or more. Even so, it’s not difficult, and a status update indicator displays the estimated time left.

4. You Can Pick and Choose What to Encrypt

If you don’t want to encrypt your whole phone, you don’t have to. Apart from the built-in option, you can find plenty of Android encryption apps on the Google Play Store. You can look through these to find options that encrypt only what you want to.

One of the most popular types of Android encryption apps are VPNs, or virtual private networks. These encrypt your internet data so you can browse on public networks safely. While you can find free options, many of these are paid.

There are also encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp you can download. Unlike normal texts or services like Facebook Messenger, these offer end-to-end encryption. That way, you don’t have to worry about third parties spying on your conversations.

These are just a few of the Android encryption apps there are out there. With dozens of options, you can encrypt what you want the way you want to.

5. It Won’t Drastically Affect Performance

When many people make changes to their phones, they worry about potential declines in performance. However, one of the reasons why gadget owners choose to encrypt their smartphones is because doing so shouldn’t hinder how a device performs.

Something that may seem different is that encrypted phones take slightly longer to unlock. That’s when the encryption happens. But, it’s not a frustrating change, especially for people with updated operating systems.

So, we’re halfway through the list of Android encryption pros and cons. What should people know about the negative side of things?

6. It Doesn’t Offer a Password Recovery Option

Perhaps the biggest downside of encryption is that people cannot access the data on an encrypted phone if they forget the associated password. Usually, if a person can’t remember the password to a website or an app, they can go through recovery options. But, that’s not the case for an encrypted Android.

Some people say that’s a good thing because it keeps things more secure. That’s true, but they should think carefully about moving forward with encryption if remembering passwords is a frequent problem.

7. It’s Not Available on Low-End Androids — Yet

Android began requiring the smartphones that use that operating system to support encryption as of 2015. But, the least-expensive phones get an exemption. That’s because encryption would place too many demands on devices that already lack in processing power and other capabilities due to their price points.

Encryption, then, isn’t an option for people who own the most economical phones running Android.

Fortunately, things may change. Google researchers recently created a new algorithm they say makes encryption more efficient and speedier, even on cheap phones. That development is in the early stages, though. And, it’ll be the device manufacturers that ultimately adopt Google’s solution or not. As such, the exemption for some Androids remains in effect.

8. It’s Time-Consuming

While encrypting your phone doesn’t take much effort or technical know-how, it does take time. The encryption process typically takes at least an hour, sometimes taking a few. If you, like most people, use your phone frequently, that can be a problem.

American adults spend more than three hours a day using mobile internet, and that doesn’t account for all phone use. Considering how much we rely on our phones, not having access to them for an hour or more can be quite the inconvenience. If you need to use your phone for work, finding the time to encrypt it can be tricky.

For most people, this is more of an inconvenience than a deal-breaker. Still, you should be aware of it before deciding whether to encrypt your phone or not.

9. You May Have to Unroot Your Phone

If you don’t root your phone, you can ignore this one. Some Android users, however, like to root their devices, which is similar to having admin access to a computer. Rooting gives you access to devices features you wouldn’t have otherwise, but it can present a problem if you try to encrypt.

If your phone is rooted, when you try to encrypt it, you’ll almost definitely encounter some problems. These could result in lost data, which you certainly don’t want. Thankfully, you can work around this issue.

You can unroot your phone, encrypt it, then root it again. While that’s not a particularly challenging process, it can be an inconvenience. 

10. It’s Not a Feature to Turn On and Off at Will

Android is a user-friendly operating system. It’s simple to do things like clear the cache for an app, change app notification settings, alter how the phone sounds when new calls or texts come through and more.

But encryption is different. Some phones come encrypted out of the box. Otherwise, people who want to encrypt their phones go through the steps mentioned earlier. On the other hand, disabling encryption is not as straightforward as tweaking a setting. The only option is to restore the phone to factory settings. Doing that deletes all the device’s information.

Is Encryption the Right Choice for You?

These Android phone encryption pros and cons should help you make a confident and informed decision about whether encryption is an appropriate precaution to take with your phone. Besides evaluating the aspects here and applying them to your life and usage habits, consider the value of the phone’s data.

Using your Android for work or holding sensitive data could make encryption especially appropriate.