Featured: Top 10 Android Tips and Tricks


Android is full of useful features, but are there any particularly useful ones inbuilt or available through the Play Store? Well I think there are, so without further ado let’s dive in.

1. Tasker

Tasker is not the easiest program to use and takes a while to learn how to use it to its full potential. However, once you know how to use this fantastic app you’ll never look back. It can fully automate your phone, everything from using airplane mode at night to allow you to get a good night’s rest to switching to a user defined power saving mode when you reach low battery. It does this by utilising what it dubs “Triggers” and “Actions”. However the price is a little bit steeper than most apps at £3.99 ($6.49) it’s on the pricey side, but I think that it is more than worth it! They do offer a 7 day trial version on their sitefor those that aren’t necessarily willing to pay out immediately.

2. ICS Easter EggICS clad Droid

I would be lying  if I said this was a tip or in fact a trick, however I do love it! Unfortunately it is only available on Ice Cream Sandwich but I have a sneaking suspicion that people without this will probably survive quite happily. It is accessed by going to Settings – About Phone and then quickly tapping the Android version a fair few times. If done properly a familiar Ice Cream Sandwich clad Droid will appear before you; press and hold on your new chum and he will slowly expand until he explodes. After this many of these skinned droids will fly from the left of you screen and continue to do so until you interrupt them. In my case this was far longer than I anticipated.

3. Respond to a call with a text

On many occasion I have received a phone call and my situation has not lent itself to answering it. This could be because I am talking to someone else, engrossed in some reading or just on a roll with some work. Whatever the situation I feel slightly guilty when declining someone’s call. This guilt can be banished forever for people using Gingerbread or ICS. You can send them a text informing them of your current situation and implying that the intent could be reiterated later. The manner in which the text is sent when ignoring someone’s call varies between phones and manufacturers. However I think this feature is pretty neat and has saved me from no end of remorse!

4. Data Limits

 

I don’t know about you but I am always going over my data limit. I suppose this is becoming more and more common with the ever decreasing size of packages on offer. To counter this ICS has an inbuilt data limiting system. This is the only one I have ever used; however I would say that it is fantastic! I like the fact that it gives a breakdown of the data usage for each app. You can set two different limits; one of them is an early warning system letting you know that you are getting a little close for comfort. The other will severely limit the data usage allowing you to be safe in the knowledge that you probably won’t have to pay extortionate prices for going over!

The Onavo app allows you to set similar limits on Froyo, Gingerbread and Honeycomb. However, it does also allow you to limit particular apps to Wi-Fi only and highlights apps that are using a lot of data.

5. Screenshots

Google have heard our prayers and have finally put screenshots in Ice Cream Sandwich. All it takes is for you to press the power and volume-down button in unison and in a flash it will be saved to your photo gallery.

Even if you aren’t blessed with ICS you can still take screenshots using No Root Screenshot it. However, rather awkwardly, you will need to exclude it from task killers and connect your phone to a computer each time you turn it off. While not ideal I suppose it is still better than not being able to take screenshots.

6. Battery Usage

Every version of Android that I have owned has had a fantastic battery usage app; it allows an app-by-app breakdown of battery usage since it was last charged. The majority of the time it’s not an app that tops the table but the screen or Android itself. However, it is very informative and useful when it comes to identifying apps that are using more than their fair share of power. In fact it is the perfect hunting ground for what to turn off when on low power. It even allows you to “Force Stop” apps if they are using too much battery.

7. Photo Edit and photos from videos

 

Unfortunately this is another ICS standard feature; however for the 95%+ that aren’t using the latest OS there are apps out there which do a very similar thing. In fact Photoshop is better. While it isn’t the most advanced photo editor in the Play Store it’s inbuilt and more than enough for the average user. It allows for the usual auto-fix, filters and FX. While being easy to use and rather pleasant. It was rather unfortunate that all I had on my desk at the time to show the edit features was a stapler… please forgive me.

There is one trick that amazes me in ICS, the ability to take photos while shooting a video. Now that’s just showing off! Simply tap the frame while recording and voila you have yourself a photo. Frame Grabber does a similar job on the older OS’s. However it is necessary to wait until the video has been recorded, which is less impressive and can be slightly tedious.


8. Browser “Quick Controls”

Blue Circular controls for ICS and Honeycomb browsers

Quick Controls” is available in the Labs of the Honeycomb (3.1) and ICS browsers. I think it looks rather splendid and is rather functional. It saves you from having to press any buttons or move you thumb to the bottom of the screen. Simply press on the far side of the screen, left or right, and this marvellous circular menu allows you to access all the settings and app features you would normally be able to without going to the soft keys at the bottom of the screen. It also hides the URL bar which gives you a teeny bit more screen to work with. Unfortunately since I have an HTC Desire my screenshot doesn’t have these soft keys at the bottom.

9. Google Goggles

Google Goggles is one of my favourite apps. It allows you to use photos to search, translate text and even solve Sudoku’s! It’s the simplicity of the app that appeals to me, yes it may be slow on 3g but when it does work it’s just fantastic. It also recognises QR codes and bar codes, landmarks, paintings, books, DVDs and the list doesn’t really stop. While I haven’t yet found a particularly practical use for this app I do find it valuable the odd time that it has been used. By no means will this ever replace searching by text. However, it is a fun and viable alternative if you have a picture of the object you wish to search for.

10. Save Websites to read later

“Save for offline reading” is one of the most used features on my phone. In the ICS browser enter the menu and press “Save for offline reading”, that’s it. Wait a few seconds while it saves and then access like it was a bookmark at any time. I love using it for saving QR codes for friends or reading a page while I’m on the go without eating into my monthly limit.

Yet again if you do not have ICS the Play Store will provide. Pocket is a good alternative as it also syncs between your computer and other devices that have it installed. It was previous called “Read It Later” and has gone through an update since it was rebranded Pocket. However it seems as good as ever.

So there we have it my top ten Android tips and tricks; have any you would like to add? Pop it down in the comments section for all to see.

 

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