In a nutshell: Samsung is experimenting with a new feature in South Korea called “recovery mode”. As the name suggests, this is a special setting that you can turn on when you take your phone in for repair to protect your data from prying repairers.

- Advertisement -

Now that Samsung has pointed it out, it sounds weird that we’re giving our phones, with all their sensitive data on board, to repair shops with a password on a piece of paper. Many minor repairs don’t require unlocking your phone, but the ones that do pose a significant security risk if your phone has important information on it, especially if you use it for work.

- Advertisement -

There have been many documented cases of repairmen abusing their access to customers’ (or PC’s before) phones and getting caught. In 2016, two employees of Pegatron, one of Apple’s main repair contractors, found candid images of a college student on her phone and posted them on her Facebook account. She sued Apple for $5 million and privately settled a multi-million dollar settlement, which was eventually paid by Pegatron. After that, Apple conducted an “exhaustive investigation”.

- Advertisement -

samsung repair mode designed to prevent such situations. In this mode, the phone becomes a blank canvas: all your photos, messages, and accounts disappear and only the default apps remain visible. This allows technicians to try out all the normal features of the phone, such as taking a picture to make sure the camera is successfully repaired, but keeps them in an isolated environment. Ars Technique speculates that this mode works by creating a new temporary user account on a different disk partition.

Samsung says the recovery mode will be added in an upcoming update to the South Korean version of the S21 series, followed by other devices. When this feature appears, you can find it in Settings > Battery & Care > Recovery Mode. The phone will reboot and you will be taken to an empty account that does not require a password. To turn it off, you simply restart your phone again, unlock it in the usual way, and it will return to normal.

Given how useful this is, we’d like recovery mode to become a standard feature on more devices. It’s entirely possible that this could become a default Android feature, but before that happens, Samsung needs to complete testing and release it to the general public for the newer S22 series, as well as internationally. No word yet on when this will happen, but hopefully in the not too distant future.

Image credit: Sri