Before you get rid of that phone, you're going to want to erase everything on it to keep the bad guys from getting your personal information. So much is on our phones these days, including addresses, calendar appointments, accounts we pay things with, and more. Don't just hand your phone over to a friend or family member or reseller and think they will clear it all, and don't toss it in the trash expecting no one will fish it out to find goodies you left.
Android phones can be tricky. Depending on how you set it up, it may or may not erase everything when you tell it to. However, doing the steps here will ensure your data is gone (unless someone uses special tools). There are also apps that will assist in clearing everything, but we don't have any recommendations on the best to use.
We've provided images below from Samsung and LG phones. Your screens might look different depending on your phone model and Android version, but the selections are generally in similar places under Settings.
Step 1: Backup Your Stuff
If you haven't already purchased a new phone and moved everything to it, then you'll want a backup. If you didn't already turn this on, you can find it under Settings > Backup and reset. Make sure both 'Back up my data' as well as 'Automatic restore' are checked. This will allow you to tie the backup to your Google account, so any restore can just be done wirelessly later.
Once the backup is complete, you're ready to go! Remove any SD and SIM cards for the next step.
Step 2: Remove Android Activation Locks
If you are handing the phone over to a friend or trading it in, you need to remove your accounts from it so the next person can use the phone. The two main things that can tie the phone to you are Google and Samsung Accounts.
For Google Accounts, go to Settings > Accounts. Choose the account type and then email address. Then tap the menu icon in the top right corner to select "Remove Account." Verify it, and the phone will be released from your account.
Samsung has its own locking service, so make sure any Samsung device you're erasing isn't signed into your Samsung accounts. Go to Settings and find "Lock Screen and Security." It might be under a "Personal" tab. Then select "My Mobile" and enter your Samsung account password. Uncheck the Reactivation Lock, and the phone should be removed from your Samsung account.
After you erase the phone, you might want to go to your Google and/or Samsung accounts via a web browser to ensure the device isn't showing there. If it is, remove it.
Step 3: Wipe That Phone!
Next up is wiping your phone clean. The easiest way is to factory reset it. Find Backup & Reset in your settings and choose "Factory Data Reset." After you do, if it shows you are signed into any accounts, you might want to exit and sign out of those before clicking that final reset button.
If you want to be more sure your information can't be recovered by a ne'er-do-well, you can encrypt your phone first and then reset it. Encryption will scramble everything, and the reset will delete the special key to unscramble it, effectively making anything that might be left unreadable. Encryption is found in Settings under "Security" and may take some time to do its work.