Android Tricks and Tips For 2016 to Make the Most Of Your Smartphone
Android smartphones are favored over Apple’s iPhones because of their flexibility and customizability for the users. In itself, the operating system is packed with features but what most users do not know is that there are still tricks that they can do in order for the phone to become more efficient and more useful in several circumstances.
Access Google Search from Any Screen on Your Phone
Arguing over a topic that needs clarification? Want to know who really invented the light bulb? Google is your best bet at answering almost any trivia question in the world.
It’s a convenient tool for most users, but it can be a hassle to open up the browser and manually type in the question or search term at this day and age. Android users can quickly search for something using their voice through the OK Google feature on recent Android versions.
One caveat is that the Google Search app would need to be installed. In order to activate this feature, the app must be opened and the “OK Google Detection” setting should be enabled to “From any screen”.
The user must then train the app to recognize their voice. Another possible flaw is that it would not always work especially in noisy environments where the voice of the user can be distorted by other loud sounds.
Still, it’s a nifty trick to pull out if a user is arguing with friends over a certain topic that can be clarified with one Google search. It also works anywhere on the phone. The user can just activate OK Google even while watching a movie or a TV show via a video player app.
Disable Pesky App Notifications
Some apps have annoying push notifications that can clutter up the notifications bar. Most of them can be turned off using the app itself but it can be hard to find the settings especially if the app is poorly designed.
In addition, the constant notifications and updates can also impact the performance of the Android smartphone. Too many apps constantly checking for updates can eat a lot of RAM and mobile data.
By turning them off, the user can save some RAM, mobile data and even battery life. It would also be less annoying as the user won’t need to check the phone every time thinking that there is a text or an email but it’s really just a notification from Clash of Clans.
Users can easily turn off notifications of any apps by long pressing the notification until a message box appears. App Info should be tapped and there will be a setting Show Notifications that can be unticked. After that, the app would not show any notifications anymore.
Similarly, they can go through the Settings app and find the app itself under the applications tab. They can also untick the Show Notifications option from there.
In more recent Android versions such as the Android 5.0 Lollipop, long pressing the notification in the notification drop down pane will instantly allow the user to block notifications. It is useful to disable and block notifications from apps that are not really needed.
Disabling notifications from messaging and email apps would not be recommended unless the user checks them regularly. Without notifications, the user might not know whether there is a new text or email that has been received.
Disabling Mobile Data or Setting a Limit
Most mobile data plans have caps which means that the user can’t really turn the data on all the time. Background processes can eat up data by constantly checking if there is a notification or update.
Some apps may also try to update while the user is using a data connection. These updates can easily reach several MB which can easily add up to the limit of the data cap.
In addition, mobile data also uses a considerable amount of battery. This is especially true if a 4G LTE signal is used or if there is poor signal reception. The harder it is to get a signal, the stronger the phone tries to maintain a connection which can drain the battery fast.
To prevent unwanted capping of data or draining the battery, the user can choose to disable the mobile data connection. It can be done through the quick settings menu or through the Settings app itself.
In order to further save on battery, the user can also choose to use only 2G networks for the signal. The battery can still be drained even without mobile data on.
Similarly, the user can still set a mobile data limit. This warns the user if he or she is above the preset limit for mobile data.
Under the Settings app, they can go over the Data Usage tab and drag the limit line to how much they want. There are also some apps that help prevent other apps from using data altogether to prevent data capping.
Disabling Automatic Updating of Apps
If disabling the mobile data or setting a data limit won’t do the trick, the user can choose to disable automatic app updates. This prevents unnecessary data usage especially if data is being saved for more important reasons.
They can just open the Play Store app and head to the Settings part. Under the Auto-update apps part, they can choose the option for “Do not auto-update apps”.
Similarly, the user can choose to auto-update apps on Wi-Fi only under the same settings part. Users can just choose to manually update apps by also going inside Play Store and choosing My Apps page.
Disabling automatic updates can save data and battery too. Some users can even face problems when trying to stop the updates from downloading.
Use Other Launchers
Almost everything can be customized in the Android operating system. One of the easiest customizations is replacing the stock launcher with third-party ones.
The stock launcher does not allow for more customizations compared to third-party launchers such as Nova Launcher and GoLauncher. They can rearrange how icons are placed both in the app drawers and the home screen.
Third-party launchers can easily be download through the Play Store. However, users should note that it can impact the performance of their Android smartphones because the launcher could eat up more RAM and CPU process.
Rooting an Android Phone
One of the first things that experienced Android users do when they get a new phone is to root it. Rooting allows a user to gain root access, hence the name, which gives them the capability to install apps and tweaks that can modify how the operating system runs.
Users with root access will also be able to uninstall all the bloatware that initially came with the phone. Uninstalling them can give the user more free space and more RAM for them to use.
Rooting also allows the user to install custom recovery options. Some apps also work only when the phone is rooted.
Another interesting feat that Android users can do is to try out different ROMs on their phones. Most flagship smartphones have their own community of developers that make custom ROMS.
Custom ROMs can have different features and themes which can make them very appealing. There are some ROMs that completely overhaul the appearance of the Android operating system starting from the boot animation and through the icons and launcher itself.
Perhaps one of the most popular custom ROMs across several devices is the CyanogenMod ROMs. They look completely different from stock AOSP ROMs and even from the customized skins Samsung with their Touchwiz.
However, one problem is that not all devices have a fully functional CyanogenMod ROM or any other custom ROM for that matter. Even with a large community, it can take several months before a build becomes stable and bugs are minimized.
For some obscured Android phone models, only a few custom ROMs are available. There are even several phone models that do not really have custom ROMs at all. This is especially true for many local models as the community can be small.
Another drawback of installing ROMs is that the user can brick his or her phone if done incorrectly. Fortunately, the developers of the ROM would be kind enough to write down specific instructions on how to install and flash the ROMs on the devices.
One crucial tip is that the user should check first if the ROM is compatible with his or her device. Obviously, a custom ROM for a Samsung Galaxy S5 would not work on an LG G4.
Even then, there are some smartphones that have several variants depending on the regions. Some ROMs only work on one variant and not all of them; the user should also be aware of that.
Lastly, the user should also consider making a NAND backup of their current ROM. This is needed in case the installation does not go smoothly. The backup can just be restored to avoid any damage the failed installation might have done on the operating system files.
Update Even Without Over-The-Air (OTA)
Some users only update when the OTA notification shows up. This is the official way for smartphone manufacturers to roll out their updates for the devices.
However, it is not the only way for a user to update their phones. Users can also browse through the forums meant for their smartphones or even the official website of the manufacturer and directly download the update file if it is already available.
Some OTA updates roll out late in some regions, which is why users resort to downloading the update themselves instead of having to wait for it to arrive on their phones. When an update file is placed on the phone’s storage, the system will recognize it and ask the user if they want to update or not.
Users should also be aware of updating when they are rooted. It can sometimes be a cause of bricking and they should unroot first before updating the system.
Show Owner Info on Lock Screen
While there is no 100 percent guarantee that a lost smartphone might find its way back to its user, the Show Owner Info on Lock Screen option can still come in handy. It allows the user to display vital information on the lock screen.
The info on the lock screen would be helpful in cases of accidents or when the phone is left in a public place. Hopefully, the person who picks the phone up will have the decency to send it back to the owner’s address on the lock screen. They would also be able to contact the owner through a phone number on the display.
The increasing number of data breaches and hackers trying to compromise any system possible is alarming. Android smartphones are also vulnerable to sophisticated attacks.
Users can implement a PIN or a password for the basic security measures of the phone. The newer phones also have finger print sensors which is faster and more secure.
However, the strongest security measure of them all might be encryption. Newer Android versions such as the Android 5.0 Lollipop and the Android 6.0 Marshmallow have options to encrypt the device.
It usually takes about an hour to encrypt a whole Android phone. It can take longer if there are more files to encrypt.
Users should always remember the PIN that they will be setting as the encryption key for their phones. Without it, nobody else would be able to access their files either remotely or directly. Of course, they won’t be able to access the phone’s files if they forgot the encryption pin.
There is a tradeoff with encryption. While the phone is more secure than ever, it can make the performance slower as the system would need to decrypt and encrypt the files needed to run the apps.
Encryption has been the recent topic of debate between tech companies and law enforcement authorities. Apple has even resisted court orders to assist the FBI in unlocking an iPhone 5c that was encrypted.
Google and other tech companies are supporting stronger encryption instead of giving away backdoors. That’s how strong encryption is in the right hands.
Lost Android Phones Can Be Located and Wiped Remotely
Should the unfortunate happen and the smartphone is really lost without any news, users can still try to locate it. However, the smartphone should have Android Device Manager enabled and registered with a Google account in the first place.
If the Android Device Manager is enabled before the phone was lost, users can go to the device manager website from Google. From there they can choose to locate the device, if the location access was on.
They also have the option to lock and erase the device remotely. Locking it would instantly reset the password as well so whoever picks it up won’t be able to use the phone.
Wiping the phone would erase all of its contents. It’s a perfect solution if the phone contains sensitive files and they are not encrypted.
If the phone is just lost inside the house, the user can choose to Ring the device. This works even if the phone is in the silent or mute mode. However, it should be connected to the Internet for it to work.
Users can still do their own tweaks without having to root or to install custom ROMs. They can tweak several options under the hidden developer options in the Settings app.
In order to access the developer options, the user has to tap on the Build Number which can be found in the About tab and further in by tapping Software Information. The Build Number should be tapped seven times and it would pop out a small message box saying that the user is now a developer.
There are several options that the user can tick on and off to tweak how the operating system responds. The infamous USB Debugging option is also found in the developer options page.
Users can also turn off animations such as transitions in order to make the phone respond faster. With fewer animations, the processing power could be focused more on navigating the apps and opening them.
One useful option is the background process limit. The user can choose to set a specific number of apps that can stay in the background as not to clog up the RAM. Of course, the user will have to consider how many crucial apps will need to stay in the background as well.
The Don’t Keep Activities option can also be ticked if the user does not want to leave any apps running in the background. As soon as the user leaves the app, the app is also closed from the background. It can help with managing the RAM for low-end smartphones.
Power Saving Modes
Depending on what Android phone the user has, there are stock power saving features that they can take advantage of. They can also choose to download apps that have the same capabilities.
Power saving modes can vary depending on their functions. Some modes only let the phone use half of the CPU power to save on battery while others can turn off the Wi-Fi and data when the phone is asleep.
For those who would really like to save the battery, there are ultra-power saving modes available on some phones. It turns off all data, Wi-Fi and background processes to save battery. It also prevents the phone from using colors.