Nearly half of all smartphones sold in Australia last year used the Android operating system. Chances are you have an Android device yourself or have owned one in the past. It's easy to learn the basics of using the operating system but there are some features you may not be aware of that could improve the performance and functionality of your Android smartphone.
X-ray Android picture from Shutterstock
Here are 10 tips and tricks from Google that can help you maximise the capabilities of your Android device using those hidden features. Bear in mind some of these are only applicable on devices running Android Lollipop 5.0 and above.
#1 Make your phone quicker
With so many apps available, it’s easy to get carried away downloading a whole bunch of apps. We might use a handful of apps on a regular basis but the rest just sit on our phone most of the time. One of the easiest ways to make your phone quicker is by using Android’s Application Manager. While you might not want to delete or uninstall apps altogether, you do have the option of turning off apps to stop them from eating resources and potentially slowing down your phone. In settings, select Application Manager. All your apps should then pop up and it's just a matter of going through each app and either selecting Uninstall or Turn Off. If you want to use the app again, you just simply go back into the application manager and select Turn On.
#2 Turn your phone into your personal assistant
Many people in Australia don’t know the potential of Google Now, the Android feature that becomes your digital personal assistant. It automatically organises the information you need into “cards” that pop up on your screen exactly when you need them. It works for hundred of different things, from weather updates, flight details, next appointments, events in the area, sports and even real estate. Google Now integrates all the different things you use your smartphone for to make your life easier. To use Google Now, download the app from the Play Store, customise the cards and notifications you want to see and let Now help you with your day.
#3 Let your voice do the work with voice commands on call
You can do almost everything on your phone with voice commands. It could be as simple as saying “OK Google” to turn on your flashlight, take a photo, or play your favorite song on spotify. To use voice commands, open the Google app, touch the menu icon and go into settings > Voice > OK Google Detection. From here, you can choose when you want your phone to listen to you. Then you’re ready for your voice to do all the work.
#4 Hide your selfies from others browsing your phone
Keep your embarrassing selfies safe from prying eyes with Guest Mode which locks away any important apps or features you like by creating a whole new profile in your phone. To activate Guest Mode, swipe down from the top of the quick settings panel, tap your avatar and choose Add guest. From here you can configure Guest mode to enable or disable particular apps and functionality by clicking on the cog icon next to Guest when on the User page found in settings. It’s also easy to create other user accounts, so if someone regularly uses your phone, you can create their own profile to keep your stuff separate.
#5 Expanding your phone’s storage capabilities
When deciding which phone to purchase, storage size is often a key consideration — use and cost wise. After all, you want to make sure it can handle all your important documents and apps. What most Android users forget is that they have access to unlimited storage space with Google Drive. Drive starts with 15 GB of free online storage which allows you to keep all your important photos, videos, music and documents in the cloud. Not only does it expand your storage space, but it also means you can take your stuff with you anywhere with files in Drive being accessible from any device. Google Photos also means you can save unlimited photos for free in the cloud.
#6 Extend your battery life
Phone battery picture from Shutterstock
Today you can do almost everything with your smartphone but it also means our devices have turned into battery hungry machines. The days of charging your phone a few times a week is no longer possible. Fortunately for Android users, you can squeeze a few extra hours out of your device when you need it most. When running low, simply go into settings, click on Battery, tap the Menu button and select battery saver mode. It will limit non-essential features like location services and background data, so you can get an extra 90 minutes out of your battery when you need it most.
#7 Prioritise contacts and alerts to limit distractions
Whether you're in a meeting or on holidays, sometimes you don’t want to be disturbed but still need to hear from important contacts or sources. This is where Android’s Priority Mode comes in. You can use it to customise notifications you want to receive and when. There is an option to set priority lists based on time and events scheduled in your diary as well. To set up Priority Mode, tap on the volume button and choose Priority from the pop-up dialog. Once activated, you can click on the cog icon and customise your preferences.
#8 Save and control your data usage
We’ve all be caught out exceeding our mobile data limits so any way to reduce unnecessary usage is warmly welcomed. Reducing background data is a simple way to help conserve data. Most apps will auto-sync when an update is needed, regardless of whether you’re on a Wi-Fi connection or not, which can really take a toll on your data. However, on Android devices you have the option to turn-off auto-sync or to restrict background data altogether. Simply open the Settings menu and select Data usage under Wireless & Networks. Then click on the Restrict background data button.
You can also restrict data for certain apps by going into the individual app. Even better is the fact that you can set up reminders for when you are getting close to reaching your limit. Just go into the Data Usage menu again and set your mobile data limit. When you get close to your set limit, you will be notified and once your limit is reached, mobile data will automatically be turned off.
#9 Quick contact search
Avoid the hassle of searching through your contact list with this simple trick. Instead of scrolling through your contact list to find a number, simply start typing the person’s name into the numberpad and their number will pop right up.
#10 Unlock Android's Easter Egg for a fun surprise
Google is known for creating hidden surprises in most of its offerings and for Android users each version of the platform has something special. In Lollipop 5.0, Google made a hidden Flappy Bird clone game, featuring the Android robot. To find it, go to Settings, About Phone and then tap the version number five times. When a lollipop appears, tap on it and the game will appear. It’s not strictly a tip - but it is a great little surprise that’s only available to Android users.