Android – Top 10 tricks, tips and shortcuts
Android is known for its flexibility. You can shape and customise your home screens in almost any way you choose. That and the large Google Play app store are reasons why mobile phones running Android are so popular (cool handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S3 help too, of course).
Android tablets haven’t been as popular, but that’s due in no small measure to the success of the Apple iPad. There are some good products about though, read our Best Android tablets round-up to see some of the best.
A while back we started an Apple iPhone tips blog post with a small number of tips. Thanks to your help, that has grown over the weeks to a half century of tricks and shortcuts. Can we do the same for Android?
Here are our top 10 to kick-off with, based on various versions of Android. Let us have your tips below – we’ll use the best ones to update the article.
1) Categorise your apps in folders
It’s not too difficult to pack your Android device with apps. Fortunately, it’s also pretty easy to keep them all neat and tidy. On Android 4.0, just drag one app on top of another to create a folder. On earlier versions, try touching the screen and holding down your finger. That brings up a menu, and from there choose ‘Folder’ and then ‘New folder’.
2) Turbo-charge your typing
Swiftkey X is probably one of the best keyboard and predictive text combination we’ve seen on Android – and the company has now released an improved version Swiftkey 3. There are separate versions for mobile phone and tablet – both are on Google Play.
It’s a great time saver if you email, text, or otherwise type a lot on your Android device.
3) Turn off your alarm – easily
Are you half asleep when your morning phone alarm goes, frantically trying to slide it to ‘off’ with eyes wide shut? Instead, try simply turning it over (you could do that in your sleep couldn’t you?). This sets it to snooze and gives you a precious few more minutes to wake up.
To set this up, go to ‘Settings’, ‘Gesture’/'Motion’ and tick the ‘Snooze’ box or activate ‘Turn over’ functionality.
4) Wirelessly access your tablet or phone
Airdroid, a free app available on Google Play, is a web browser based remote control for your Android tablet or phone.
It allows you to send and receive text messages on your main computer as if they were on your phone – useful for quick fire text conversations.
You can also wirelessly transfer music, video and other files from computer to your Android device without messing around with cables or memory cards.
5) Add direct dial and message shortcuts
There’s usually a couple of people that you call or text more than others. In that case, try adding a direct link icon for them.
To do this, long press your finger on the home screen, and choose ‘Shortcuts’ when it comes up. Then choose ‘Direct Dial’ to choose a person that you call a lot, or ‘Direct message’ to choose a person that you text a lot.
6) Keep your data secure
PINs and passwords are great for locking your phone, but pattern unlock is easy to set up, and very fast to unlock. With your finger, you just recreate the pattern you set up. Pick a complex pattern, and it’s also pretty difficult for a thief to crack.
Android 4.0 features face unlock – the phone will unlock when it recognises your face. However, there have been some reports of users unlocking their devices with a photo so it’s probably not the most secure system.
7) Rotate maps
Pinching to zoom out, and the opposite action of spreading your fingers to zoom in, are pretty well-known actions to smartphone and tablet users.
Less well-known however is rotate. Placing two fingers on the screen and tracing a circle with them rotates a map you are viewing – very handy when you’re navigating.
8) Stop data
If you’re on a limited monthly data allowance, or otherwise don’t want unexpected downloads to occur, make sure the ‘Data enabled’ box is unticked. This is in ‘Settings’/ ‘Wireless & network settings’/'Mobile network settings’.
A simple one, but an effective barrier against unexpected bills.
9) Open recently used apps
A pretty easy one to quickly open an app you’ve recently used. Long press your Home button and your most recently used apps will appear.
10) Resize your widgets
A feature exclusive to Android 4.0 and above, you can make your home screen widgets bigger or smaller by dragging the corners.
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