Recently we heard the story of a programmer who wrote scripts to secretly automate almost everything he did at work. Most of us may not have the coding skills to pull this off but there are tools you can use on your smartphone to automate various tasks in your life. Here's how to take advantage of those tools.
Automation with smartphone image from Shutterstock
Lifehacker's guide to getting more done with your phone is brought to you in partnership with Samsung. With more work being done on-the-go, now might be the perfect time to upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
There are a number of automation apps you can get on iOS and Android that can be use to automate specific tasks. The best part is you don't need to be a tech-wizard to use them. For this article, we will be focusing on Android apps, specifically Tasker ($3.49), IFTTT (free), AutomateIt (free) and ManDroid (free).
#1 Dimming Your Phone's Screen Brightness Before Bed (Tasker)
You wake up from a terrible dream. It's still dark and you rollover to turn on your phone to check the time. That was when the bright light seared your weary eyeballs. You can avoid this by automatically putting your phone on the lowest brightness setting before you hit the hay through Tasker. The Tasker app is a bit tricky to use at first but once you get the hang of it, you'll be tempted to automate everything you do on your phone.
For this trick, start a new task on Tasker and pick Time as the context and input the your bedtime. Select Display then Display Brightness and slide the Level all the way down to zero.
Now the phone will automatically dim the phone screen light for you before bed. Easy peasy.
Send an SMS to someone when you've arrived at a location (Tasker)
My mother is always hassling me to send her a text when I arrive back at my place after my regular visits to the family home. I ride a motorcycle, you see, and she's constantly worried I'll meet an untimely end on the roads. Trouble is, I never remember to message her.
The solution to my woes is making Tasker automatically send a message to my mother as soon as I arrive home, but you can obviously adapt it to a similar type of scenario for your own personal use. Just create a new Profile on Tasker, choose the option that says Location and type in your address. Click "Back", name the profile and start a new task. Pick the Phone option and Compose SMS. Select a recipient from your contacts list, type out the message you want to send them when you arrive home and you're done.
Tone down your ringtone at work (Tasker)
If you don't want your Justin Bieber ringtone to accidentally go off at work because you forgot to put your phone on silent, make Tasker mute your handset during work hours. Start a new Profile, set the context as time and input your start time and finish time at work. Then start a new task and select the Audio Category. Set the ringer level down to zero.
Make your smart light turn on automatically when the sun starts to set (IF)
If you're an owner of a Phillips Hue smart light, there are plenty of automation settings, or "recipes", readily available for you to use through IF by IFTTT. We found one on the IFTTT website that will automatically set your Hue light bulb to turn on as soon as the sun starts to set. Just download the app on your phone, create an account and add the recipe, which you can get here or directly through the app.
Send your location to yourself so you can pass it on to friends(IF)
You’re out and your friend calls you out of the blue and wants to catch up. You're both in the same suburb and your friend will be coming to where you are to meet you. Make sure he or she doesn't get lost by texting her your Google Maps location.
There's no option in the Google Maps app that lets you share your location but you can get around this by using IF. There is an IF recipe that will allow you to send a Google Maps link of your location to yourself with just a tap of a button. You can then forward that on to your friends. You can get it here or download it through the IF app.
Unmute your phone by sending it an SMS (AutomateIt)
If you've ever lost your phone, which is set on silent, in your house then you'll know the pain of trying to hunt it down. You can save yourself a lot of pain by making your phone automatically unmute with an SMS. This can be done through AutomateIt.
Much like IF, AutomateIt has a handful of ready-made settings, which the app recognises as "rules", that you can get. Those pre-made rules can be acquired by using the app to scan a QR code from the AutomateIt website. You can get the one to turn your phone off silent by sending it a message saying "unmute" here.
Turn your phone on silent at night (AutomateIt)
Stop pesky callers from waking you up at night by making your phone automatically switch to Silent mode at 10pm with AutomateIt. Here's the rule from the AutomateIt website.
Launch your favourite music app when you connect phone to car with Bluetooth (Trigger)
You want to keep your eyes on the road and not on your phone when you're driving, but you also want to play some music while you're cruising around. Use Trigger to automatically launch your preferred music app as soon as your phone connects with your car's sound system through Bluetooth.
To do this, start a new task in the app and set Bluetooth as the trigger. Configure the Bluetooth task by selecting a device to connect with which, in this case, is your car. Follow the prompts and set the action in the task to launch your favourite music app when the phone connects to your car's Bluetooth.
Turn off data when you're outside (MacroDroid)
Excess mobile data charges can add up and it's always a good habit to do the majority of your downloading when you're in the vicinity of a trusted WiFi connection. But sometimes apps that run in the background will automatically download updates when you're on your mobile internet connection, which can eat away at your data limit.
If you've blasted through your allotted data allowance for the month and want to cut off your mobile internet when you're out and don't have access to your home WiFi, you can do so with the MacroDroid app. Simply add a macro and set the Triggers as disconnection from your chosen WiFi connection. Then set the Actions to "Data Off".
Verbally alert you that you have received a text message (MacroDroid)
MacroDroid can be set up to tell you when you receive an SMS. You can make it read out a particular sentence when the phone receive a text and the cool think about this is you can make it say whatever you want.
Start a new macro and set the Triggers to "SMS from [Any Number]". Then set the Actions to "Speak Text" and just type in whatever you want.