One of the great things about owning an Android device is choice – consumers have a choice of smartphones from multiple manufacturers, they have a choice on what they want their displays to look like, and how they want them to react in certain situations. This is why the majority of users around the world choose an Android device over the more inflexible Apple iOS operating system. One of the problems consumers run into when it comes to customizing an Android device is that there are so many options or configurations that many times they may overlook some very helpful settings. There are many hidden gems to find, but here there are several that can really make using your Android device a true delight. It must be noted that these instructions are for Android 8.0 Oreo, so you may have to search around a little more for the same settings on your version.
The first setting to pay attention to is the Font. While the displays are certainly getting larger, the fonts are often too small to read – especially if you are older or wear glasses. However, there is no need to strain your eyes by going to Settings, Display, and Font size. Simply use the slider to adjust the font size and here you can even choose a font from a number of choices. Why not be comfortable in your font size and the type of font you want to use and allow your device takes on a personality all its own.
Data Saver is another good setting to become familiar with. Some apps on devices are constantly checking for new data by sending and receiving data in the background, even when not using that particular app at the time. Data saver allows you to prevent some apps from doing this and that will save you monthly data usage. Even apps you are using will send and receive data less frequently and this could require you to tap on an image to open it up, but there are many times you do not need to see the image, only the words. If you are in a position to use WiFi most of the day, this may not be an option you want to use. App Permissions are another feature to acquaint yourself with. Android gives the user a lot of control over the apps by going to Settings, Apps & notifications, then choosing an app (or hit see all for a full listing). Here you can ‘uninstall’ the app, check its Notifications and Permissions. From there you can choose a myriad of options to control what you applications are allowed to do. You may not care if an app has access to your contacts, but you may not want it to know your location.
Android allows you to adjust the volume levels for media files, alarms, system, and ringtones by going to Settings, then the Sound menu, and then choose Volume. There is a slider under each topic that allows you to independently adjust the volume for each and even plays a sample for you to determine the right volume level for your ears. You may want the Alarm at its highest setting, but Notifications you may want to attract less attention when your phone is in your pocket around other people. The same goes for media files, you might not want videos starting off at top volume. Snoozing notifications is also nifty if you’re worried about volume. How many times does a notification pop up when you are in the middle of doing something else? A new feature in Android 8.0 Oreo allows you the option of making the notification go into a snooze mode so you can attend to it later. You can always drag a notification to the left to make it disappear, but in Oreo, you can swipe the notification to the right and a clock icon will appear. Simply tap the clock to make the notification snooze for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, or two hours. After the period of time is up, the notification will reappear and you can either read it or start the snooze process all over again.
WiFi is one of the nicest things to have around if you own a smartphone with a data plan – or no data plan for that matter – because you can access the internet without using any data. Around the house or at work, where there should be a secure WiFi set up, there is no problem. However, when you are in a Starbucks, McDonald’s, or hospital that offers free WiFi, your information on your phone could be hacked. Android 7.0 and Android 8.0 allow you to select if it is okay for your phone to connect to a trusted WiFi signal. Next time your device encounters that WiFi signal, it will automatically connect without any intervention on your part. In Oreo 8.0 go to Settings, Network & Internet, WiFi, WiFi preferences, and finally Turn on Wi-Fi automatically.
If you’re big on customization then one of the great things about using a smartphone are the different sounding ringtones that are available – many come stock on the device, but it is easy to add custom ringtones as well that are just plain cool to hear. The default ringtone is easily set by going to Settings, Sound, and then Phone ringtone option. A list of ringtones will pop up and you can pick the one you want to use as your everyday ringtone – it will even play a small clip of the sound for you. However, it is also easy (and wise) to set up custom ringtones for certain contacts. By doing this you can tell from the ringtone if it is a family member calling, work calling, your girlfriend, or ex-wife calling. Press the Contact icon, tap on a contact, press on the three dots in the upper right hand corner, and choose Set ringtone to select the ringtone from the listing that you want associated with this contact.
If battery life is an issue for you then you might want more control over your battery stats and details. One of the most important worries a for the average smartphone owner is how long their battery will last. The newer chips cause less drain on batteries, but one of the biggest culprits are the apps on your device as some run in the background more often than others do. Android now optimizes your apps to cause less battery drain. It does not allow them to check for updates quite as often, but if there are certain apps that you want to run more often…no problem. Go to Settings, tap Battery, and then to Battery Optimization. Next hit Not optimized, click on All apps, and then select the app and choose Don’t optimize. Let’s face it, unlocking your phone can be a pain – passwords, pin numbers, facial recognition, fingerprints, they all require you to physically engage with your device. With Android 8.0, you can unlock your phone with your voice by saying, “OK Google.” What could be easier than that? Go to Settings, select Voice, and choose Voice Match, and say, “OK Google.” The device will ‘learn’ your voice and now simply say, “OK Google” and voila, your phone will unlock.
Even though larger displays are becoming the norm for many smartphones, there are times when nothing but a 60-inch display will do. Google came out with their Chromecast dongle a few years ago and while some apps have their own Chromecast button, most do not. Android 8.0 will allow you to cast anything on your display to a Chromecast screen by going to Settings, Connected devices, and then select Cast. Whether you love or hate shortcuts there’s a way to control them a little more. Most users want neat and clean home screens, but they can become cluttered with the hundred or so apps on our devices. Each time you install a new app, it wants to create a shortcut on one of your home screens. This action can be turned off in Android 8.0 Oreo by pressing on a blank part of your home screen, choose Home Settings, and turn off the Add icon to Home screen option. Oreo puts this feature right on the Home screen and makes it very easy to organize your apps.
A great feature on an Android smartphone is the ability to have a pull-down Quick Settings panel. It allows the user quick access to many useful functions, such as a flashlight, WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, etc. The user can customize these features to make it even more useful by telling Android which shortcuts you want to appear and even what order you want to appear in. Simply use two fingers and drag down from the top of the display (one finger will bring up only one row), tap the pen icon in the lower left, and add or remove shortcuts and drag them in the order you want to see them. Android 8.0 Oreo also gives you a new option to rotate your Home screen. Go to a blank place on one of your Home screen and give it a long press. Choose Home Settings and tap on Allow Home screen rotation to toggle it on. By doing this, you can also have your home screens rotate from portrait to landscape. Note that if you have already locked the orientation of your device, this option will be grayed out – you must first go to Settings, Display, and change the Auto-rotate screen option.
Timing can be everything in many areas of life, and this applies to your smartphone as well. Android allows you to choose how long it takes your display to go to sleep and lock your device. This is helpful for two reasons – the first is the short time period, the greater the battery savings and secondly, the longer it is on, the less times you have to unlock it. Android allows you to select whichever method is important to you. In Oreo you go to Settings, Display, Advanced, and then Sleep (it is called Screen Timeout in Android 7.0). You can choose from 15 seconds up to 10 minutes. These are just a few of the many settings that Android allows you to play around with to make the device use more convenient, which furthers your enjoyment when using your device. Each rendition of the Android operating system gives you more options and easier ways to implement them. Try doing that with iOS.