Android is great, but it’s so vast that you might miss a few tips and tricks to speed up your experience. Here are our favourites to get you started.
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.
Google Now, for those not familiar, is a very slick app that debuted in Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) last June. Its main selling point is that it gives you the information you want before you even ask for it. It’s not perfect, but it’s come a long way since launch, and it’s pretty excellent. It can tell you when you need to leave for your next appointment, and give you directions for getting there. It can automatically track everything from your online shopping packages to your favourite sports teams in real time. The information shows up on little cards (and in notifications, if you so desire), which are easy to read and simple to dismiss. You decide how much or how little of your personal information you give it access to, but of course the more access you give it, the more it can do.
It now runs on every device packing Android, and the hotkey is almost universal: just hold down the Home button to access your intelligent virtual assistant.
Obviously, if you’d rather just use the integrated voice assistant in your phone, you can do that too. And let’s be honest, if you have an Android phone, odds are it’s a Samsung device.
Samsung’s voice assistant is called S-Voice. The interesting thing about S-Voice is that you can use it without even touching your phone. You can record what’s known as a “wake-up phrase” consisting of 3-5 syllable words to activate your virtual assistant.
After that, you can ask it anything you want to know or want your phone to do: set an alarm, check the weather, play a song, dial a number, save a memo, update your social networks and even have the news read to you.
Add A Navigate Home Widget To The Home Screen
Ever since Google updated its own Maps app, things have gotten a little…messy. There’s a lot more clicking involved, which can confuse those who aren’t confident with their phones.
Pressing and holding on a blank area of the home screen brings up the Widgets shortcut. You can then tap and hold the 1×1 Directions widget (from Google Maps) to a home screen of your choice (other icons will shift to make room). Once that’s done, you’ll be prompted to enter an address.
You’re going to need to be pretty precise here for Google to work out where you mean, so include a zip code and don’t forget to choose your preferred mode of transport. Driving will perhaps be the most frequently selected one but of course Google can help you plot a course home via public transit routes.
The widget doesn’t have to lead home either — you can plot a course for wherever you like, accessible with one tap on the home screen. By default, turn-by-turn navigation is launched automatically, but you can turn this off when you create the widget if you want to (and if you do it’s easier to switch between modes of transport before you start).
Download Standalone Street View
Street View has always been a separate file on your Android device — it even gets its own Play Store listing — but up until now, you got to it through the Maps app.
All that’s changing with version 2.0, which has a shiny new icon all to itself. Not only does the app let you look at standard Street View imagery, but it also lets you browse all the 360-degree photo-bubbles Google has slowly been integrating into Maps. You can even make your own — as long as you’ve got a phone with a gyroscope, Street View will walk you through making your own photosphere.
You can grab the update from the Google Play Store.
Open Office Files With Ease
Just because everyone uses Microsoft Office doesn’t mean you have to be shackled to Windows forever! Android now has native support for all the goodies in the Office suite, including Word, Powerpoint, OneNote and Excel. You’ll have to have an Office365 subscription to use them, however.
If you don’t feel like subscribing to Office, you can download some awesome Office replacement suites for your Android mobile device that will allow you to open all sorts of work gear on the go.
Check out this awesome list to get you started.
Install Some Apps To Manage Zip Files
The same theory goes for Zip files as it does for Office files: you can get great tools on Android mobile if you know where to look.
Quick Switch Wi-Fi Networks
Getting onto another Wi-Fi network on Android doesn’t have to be a clickety-clack hassle.
Long-pressing on a Wi-Fi network bubble in notifications drawer takes you straight into the Wi-Fi Settings sub-menu, so you don’t have to jump through hoops to get there.
Put Samsung’s People Edge On Any Phone
You might have noticed the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, a rather distinctive handset with a curved screen. Samsung makes use of this extra display space in various different ways, alerting you to different notifications and providing quick links to contacts and other parts of the TouchWiz OS. Thanks to a clever app, you can get one of these features on your standard flat-screen Android device.
The app you need is Edge Colour Notifications, and just like the software on the S6 Edge it displays coloured bars at the side of the screen when your contacts are calling — it lets you change the colour and size of the sidebars and even assign different colours to different contacts (handy if you want to ignore some people but not others).
This is an OS tip that all the Samsung users will enjoy: you can use Air Command to get access to your productivity apps!
The Air Command feature refers to a a radial menu that anchors in new apps designed to leverage the Note 4’s giant screen and handy power: Scrapbook for web clipping, Action Note for powerful handwriting tools, S-Finder for looking around your device, Screen Write for doodling on screenshots and Pen Window for putting hovering apps over any screen.
Manage Memory Usage
The fastest way to speed up your phone is to close all the background apps currently running (as demonstrated), but if you want to get really serious about trimming the fat from your phone, we’ve got a guide just for you.