Android Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most From Your Phone
The Android mobile operating system developed by Google may appear straightforward at first glance, but a deeper dive reveals a wealth of options for personalization and improvement. See our top Android advice for details.
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Google’s Android mobile operating system seems simple on the surface, but dig deeper and you find many ways to hack it for convenience and customization. Check out our best Android tips and tricks to find out how.
Android is a remarkably powerful, innovative mobile operating system that frequently leapfrogs Apple’s iOS in new technology support. 5G, NFC payment, custom keyboards, the list goes on. All of that state-of-the-art functionality makes for a complex, sprawling OS, though. At the surface level, the interface is simple enough for casual users—who just want to text, make calls, and use their apps—but hidden a layer or two deep in the interface are all sorts of power-user settings and tools. You just have to know where to look.
We want you to be able to use Google's mobile OS like a boss, and our list of suggestions and shortcuts can help you do just that. These are only some of the ways you can take advantage of the Google's OS—there’s such a deep list of features that you’ll no doubt find more. Be sure to check out our list of the best Android apps, too, and feel free to chime in on our comments section at the bottom of the article. We may add them to future updates of this story!
Uninstall Apps You Don’t Need
Smartphones using Google's Android operating system typically have a sizable collection of useful apps already loaded. Many will be appreciated by most people (maps, email, a browser, and so on), while others may not be to your liking. Not everyone needs a podcast app; if you're not into podcasts, there's no use in downloading one. Also, the majority of phone manufacturers pre-install a suite of useless apps on your device. To uninstall an app, simply press and hold its icon for a few seconds until the menu that appears appears, and then tap the I option.
Some preinstalled software is locked and cannot be deleted. Even if you solely use Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge, you will still be unable to remove Google Chrome. At the very least, you have the option to select "Disable" for such programs, which will remove them from the user interface and release any associated resources.
Use Digital Wellbeing Features
Staying up late to text and "doomscroll" is not the best for your health (Opens in a new window). The Bedtime option in Android 11 is a part of the Digital Wellbeing package. The app not only mutes your phone at a predetermined hour, but also converts the display to black and white in case you do need to use it in the wee hours. If you need additional time to wind down, you can select Pause from the menu. If you're seeking for more advice on how to get a good night's rest, check out our article on the benefits and drawbacks of using technology before bed.
Focus mode, which blocks app notifications to keep you from getting distracted, is another helpful tool included in Wellbeing. Putting your phone down with the screen down activates Do Not Disturb mode on some models, such as the Pixel and Motorola phones from recent years. Finally, when it's time to unwind, Work Profile will conceal all of your hard at work applications.
Set Up the Your Phone App in Windows
I would guess that the vast majority of Mac users also own an iPhone, thanks to the excellent compatibility between the two platforms. However, Windows 10 users can gain even more integration between their mobile device and desktop computer by downloading the Your Phone desktop software. The first setup process is simplest when initiated from a personal computer. To get started, open the Settings app and navigate to the Phone section, where you can then select Add a Phone. Your PC will function as a phone, text message, and photo viewer/editor simultaneously.
The Your Phone app for newer Samsung smartphones and the Surface Duo phone gains even more functionality with the Link to Windows option, such as the ability to run multiple Android apps side by side on the desktop. Another feature that is regrettably absent from Apple's mobile OS is the ability to receive Android SMS online if you're not using Windows. The Android app experience on Windows 10's Your Phone is superior to that of running Android apps in an emulator on Windows or macOS.
Edit Quick Settings
One aspect of Android that I find a little annoying is that the Quick Settings need two swipes before displaying more than one row, and even after you complete both swipes, there are still two pages of options to choose from. You have the ability to rearrange the settings so that the ones you use most frequently are located in the first row that you access by swiping down. Simply by clicking the pencil symbol, you will be able to add helpful features such as switches for the Focus mode and the Dark mode.
Install Apps From the Web
This is one of Android's greatest benefits over Apple's iOS in my book. A physical connection between your device and your hands is not required for app installation. With a web browser and an account linked to the same Google account as the phone, you may install apps and games directly to the device. When you go to install, you'll be able to view a list of all of the Android devices associated with your account. This is quite helpful when you find a cool program on your computer but don't feel like fumbling with your phone to install it.
Install Apps From Other Sources
Android's open nature means you're not tied to a single app store like you are on iOS. The vast majority of customers may get all of their desired apps through Google's Play store, which also offers valuable security features. However, if you require something that is not included, you can always visit Amazon's app store, your phone manufacturer's app store, or even download the program and install it as an APK (the extension for an Android Application Package file).
Keep in mind that third-party app stores are the primary source of Android malware, so if you choose this way, you must be confident that the program is coming from a trustworthy source. Make sure you check the facts first! After you've installed the app you want, it's a good idea to disable Install Unknown Apps from the source.
Install a Launcher App
Users of Apple's iPhone don't have access to this type of customisation. By downloading a launcher app from the Google Play store, you can modify your phone's default home screen. Action Launcher, Apex, the aptly called Lawn Chair, Lightning, the Microsoft Launcher, Nova, Niagara, and Smart Launcher are just a few of the many excellent launchers available.
The iOS 14 launcher makes your Android device look and feel like an iPhone, complete with Siri shortcuts and an App Store icon in place of the default Android system app, Play Store. Do you yearn for the good old Windows Phone days? There are even launchers available that try to mimic the look of that OS.
Customize Message Notifications
With Android 11, you can customize who is prioritized in your message notifications and which conversations are kept together. You can now have bubble notifications appear on top of all other open programs. It's as easy as activating them in Settings and designating the contact as a top priority. There is an additional Bubbles setting under a notice, and it has three options: All Conversations Can Bubble, Selected Conversations Can Bubble, and Nothing Can Bubble.
Add Widgets and Customize Home Screen
With iOS 14, widgets can now be added to the home screen. Android users have had this capability for quite some time, but not everyone is aware of it. Simply long-press the home screen, select Widgets, and then choose among the widgets provided by the apps already installed on the user's phone. By holding down on the Home screen, you can access additional settings, such as the ability to disable screen rotation for the Home screen (which we would never do, because it's cool to see your home screen in landscape) or the removal of the Google feed page that appears to the left of the Home screen.
One of the most significant benefits of Android over iPhones is the ability to expand storage space using a microSD card, which is available on select Android phone models. This not only makes it possible for you to keep more media and applications on your phone, but it also provides a method for transferring enormous amounts of file data between your phone and other devices. An additional benefit is that certain Android phones may be connected to an external USB storage drive, allowing users to access and navigate the phone's stored data. You may easily use a USB flash memory drive that has a Type-C connector if your phone has a port that is compatible with USB-C.
Because Android is considerably more open than iOS, or to put it another way, it is more similar to Windows than it is to macOS, it is also more susceptible to malware attacks. Although Google has built in a number of robust defenses, we nevertheless recommend that you use an antivirus app on your Android device. PCMag's resident security expert Neil Rubenking suggests the following four programs as worthy of the PCMag Editors' Choice award: Bitdefender Total Security, Kaspersky Security Cloud, Norton 360 Deluxe, and McAfee AntiVirus Plus. The majority of these will also protect your desktop devices. They will monitor your activity to ensure that you are not installing malicious software and will perform routine virus scans. Additionally, they prevent thieves from gaining access to your account by merely exchanging the SIM card in your phone. VPN protection is included with some of them.
Screen Pinning in Android
The following enlightening recommendation comes to us courtesy of our colleagues at ExtremeTech.com (Opens in a new window): You can pin the screen if you need to hand your phone to someone else but don't want them to be able to look around in other apps while they have it. You can enable this feature under the Security menu if it isn't already turned on by default. To restrict the user from switching apps, they need to tap the app icon on any app in the multitasking interface and then pick "Pin." By needing your phone's PIN, you can safeguard the process of switching between apps. Be aware that tapping on the app icon when in app switching view gives you the option to split the screen, halt the app's alerts, and examine the app's information.
Set Up Guest Access
You have the option to offer another person slightly more access than what is permitted by screen pinning if that is what you desire. You can enable someone else to use your phone, but they will not be able to access your apps, data, or settings, nor will they be able to send or receive text messages until you activate Multiple Users in the Settings menu under System > Advanced. You have the option of turning on the slider for Adding Users from the Lock Screen. The Quick Settings menu on your phone may now be accessed by swiping down twice from the top of the screen. Locate your user icon in the bottom right corner of the screen, and then select the Add Guest option. It takes a little bit for the phone to switch to the mode, which disables any personal accounts (such email) but enables functions such as making phone calls, using maps, and browsing the web. Because only the factory-installed apps for Android are displayed, you do not need to be concerned about a guest publishing a post to Facebook or tweeting using your account.
Record Screen Activity
Google introduced a built-in screen recording capability into Android 11 with the release of Android 11. In the past, only owners of Samsung, LG, and OnePlus phones were able to access the feature, but now it is available on any phone that runs Android 11. It's easy to put to use: You simply pull down the top shade, then select Screen Record, and then select Start Recording. You have the option of revealing touch locations and recording sounds, but you may also choose not to. To finish recording, draw down the shade once more and press the large red bar. During our testing, it functioned faultlessly and resulted in the production of a regular MP4 file in the gallery.
Use Developer Options
This one was brought to our attention by Ben Moore of PCMag. To activate this feature, open the Settings app, navigate to the About Phone section, scroll until you reach the area with the Build number, and press on it seven times. After that, go into your device's settings and select System > Advanced > Developer Options. From this screen, you can reveal screen taps, adjust the choices for Bluetooth devices, and establish preferences for USB connections, in addition to a great deal of other configuration options that are solely relevant to developers. This one is unquestionably exclusively for the severe tinkerer, and not for the technophobe in any way, shape, or form.
Turn on Find My Device
Both of these mobile operating systems contain features that, in the event that you lose your phone or it is stolen, can assist you in locating it on a map. In addition to that, these Find My services provide you the ability to silence the phone, delete the contents of the phone's memory, and play a sound on the device. Apple's mobile operating system goes a bit farther than Google's Android by allowing you to display your phone number or another message on the screen of a misplaced device. This is a feature that we do not understand why Google has not implemented.
Use Battery Saver Mode
Android gives users a lot more flexibility over the alternatives for conserving battery life than the iPhone does. You not only have the option to turn on Battery Saver mode and program it to turn off by itself when the phone is fully charged, but you also have the option to use the Adaptive Battery function, which lengthens the battery life based on how you typically use your device. You also have the option of programming a schedule for the Battery Saver mode, which allows you to have it automatically selected based on how you use your device or when it reaches a predetermined percentage of battery life.
Control Your Smart Home With Your Android Phone
With the release of version 11, Android made it simpler to control devices found in smart homes. If you hold down the power button for an extended period of time, a screen will display with large buttons for controlling your light bulbs and other electronic equipment. In order for this to function, you will need to configure the devices using the Google Home app and, if desired, create a room specifically for the devices to reside in.
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