One of the reasons Android is a very popular mobile phone OS is the wide range of possibilities the platform presents to both developers and users.
There are lots of stuff you can do that other smartphone users, for instance, iOS or Windows, can’t. However, due to the huge array of possibilities or tricks for that matter, it’s obviously not possible to know or even use all of them, including some of the best ones. To help you move closer to enjoying the full potential of the Google-owned mobile OS, here is a list of the top 10 cool Android tricks that you probably didn’t know about – and you definitely need to know. You might even be surprised that you’ve managed to live without them all this time, but that’s the life of a smartphone user.
The beauty of Android is its diversity. However, this also means that some of these tricks might not be applicable to certain versions of the same OS. Others may work, but in a different manner to what is mentioned in this article. Also, other tricks are limited to certain versions of Android, but since I have tried and tested the features on an Android 7.1.1 Nougat phone, I believe they should work on any other phone running this version of the OS – or at least v7.0 – and above. Still, some work on older versions of the OS while others pose as new features exclusive to certain versions of Android.
Locate a stolen phone
Android phones are cheaply available and sometimes people never bother to follow up when they lose them, instead, they choose the “easier” path of just getting a new one. But what if I told you there’s a way you can locate your stolen phone?
There are apps you can use to locate your lost phone, however, they have to be installed prior to losing the phone. But why download a third-party app when Android has an inbuilt feature that serves the same purpose?
Using Android Device Manager (Find My Device), you can trace your lost phone, make it ring, erase data and even lock it regardless of where you are. But first, you need to confirm that the Manager is installed on your phone through Settings>Security>Device Administrators and check the “Android Device Manager” or “Find My Device” option. This ensures that the feature is active and can be called into action at any time.
To call it into action, go to the official Android Device Manager website (using any other internet-enabled device, including a computer), log in using the same Google account used on the stolen phone and select your phone from the menu that shows up. From there, you’ll be able to see the phone’s location, ring it, lock it or erase the data on it. However, this also needs the “cooperation” of the thief, where they need to keep the phone connected to the internet, otherwise, you won’t be able to trace it.
Prevent background apps from using data
In a market where free Wi-Fi hotspots are only guaranteed in fancy bars, hotels and restaurants (pun intended), mobile data has become a very sensitive issue. In fact, some people make do with 50MB, 20MB or maybe even less, which is just not enough for any kind of significant activity on a smartphone. It gets even tougher for those who have apps that are guzzling data without their knowledge, but Android has a way to keep data usage checked.
In fact, the platform has had a feature that cuts off data when you hit a given predefined limit, but with the updated version, it’s now possible to cut off background data for individual apps. To do this, go to Settings>Data usage>Data saver and toggle it on. In the new window, tap Unrestricted data access and from the list of apps that pops up, toggle the apps you want to keep using mobile data in the background. By default, Google Play Services is enabled for obvious reasons.
With Android Nougat came a new feature known as App Shortcuts. This feature saves you time by eliminating the need to launch an app in order to do certain common things. When you long-press an app icon on the home screen, several options pop up allowing you to jump straight to it rather than use the normal channel of launching the full app.
For instance, long-press on MySafaricom app and options like Remove, Edit App Icon, App Info and Uninstall show up. Do the same for WhatsApp and you’ll see an option to jump directly to the camera or open a recent conversation you had in private or in a group you frequently talk to. The Icon Options let you uninstall the app or remove the icon from the home screen, among other things.
We all have those friends who can’t just keep off our stuff, no matter how personal. But that’s what they are – friends. Regardless of how close they are, there are some things you might not want them to know or see on your phone. With Screen Pinning, Android offers the right tool just for this purpose.
Let’s assume you’ve just received a funny message on WhatsApp and you want to show it to your friend seated next to you. It’s possible that when you hand over your phone, your friend might see things beyond what you intend them to see, including checking into other apps or areas of the phone. To prevent this when you hand over your phone, you can turn to Screen Pinning.
This feature lets you pin an app so that your friend will be restricted to the current screen (app) and thus they won’t be able to look into other stuff stored on the phone. This is really cool, but you must first enable it via Settings>Security>Screen Pinning/Screen Pin and that’s it. When you want to use it, simply open the app you want to pin and then hit the Recent apps button. From here, scroll up the Recent apps screen and you’ll notice a pin icon in the bottom right corner. Tap on it and give your friend your phone – they won’t be able to leave the current app no matter how hard they try.
To unpin the app, long-press the Back button and that’s it. If otherwise, your phone will give you instructions on how to unpin the app.
Customize Quick Settings
One of the best features of Android Nougat is the ability to customize Quick Settings. For the uninitiated, Quick Settings is that section in the notification shade that gives you quick access to things like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, battery percentage, Airplane mode and so on. In case you didn’t know, it’s possible to rearrange or replace these tiles to fit your personalized needs.
To do this, pull down the Quick Settings menu and tap on Edit (the pencil icon) at the top. You should see a collection of tiles where you can drag whichever you want to the Quick Settings area, however, not all of them can be accommodated, so you’ll have to keep your list checked.
Hide lock screen notifications
Only non-smart smartphone users walk around with their phone without any form of protection, be it a pattern lock or passcode. This is the most basic form of security for any phone and it begins with the lock screen. If you have a pattern or passcode for locking your screen, it means strangers can’t break into your phone.
On the other hand, having a protected lock screen doesn’t mean that prying eyes won’t be able to get a sneak preview or sometimes the full details of a message you’ve just received. This can happen thanks to lock screen notifications that still show the content of the message, but luckily, there’s a way of hiding the content of these notifications.
To do this, go to Settings>Notifications>Gear icon at the top>Tap “On the lock screen” and you’ll see options to pick from. Select the one that fits your needs, be it “Don’t show notifications at all”, “Show all notification content” or “Hide sensitive notification content.”
Smart Text Selection
Are you excited about the new Android Oreo? Well, here at Android Kenya, we really are. One of the reasons for this excitement is the range of new features the OS brings to the table. They are in plenty, but not all are as exciting. One interesting addition is the Smart Text Selection feature.
You’ve probably tried selecting text when you want to copy and paste it somewhere else and you definitely know how frustrating it can get. According to Google, most Android users try to select information like phone numbers or addresses and to make life easier, Android Oreo has Smart Text Selection, a feature that lets users simply double tap text and it auto-expands the selection as needed. It gets even better as the feature includes a predictive shortcut, where you can cut or copy the selected text and paste it somewhere else. The feature works for physical addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and names.
Redesigned power menu
Another cool addition that is part of Android Oreo is a new power menu. Although not necessarily an Android trick, the redesigned menu looks a lot cooler than what Android Nougat and older versions offer. It started with the Google Pixel 2, where the power menu no longer pops up in the middle of the screen, rather, it appears on the right edge with two small buttons for Power off and Restart.
This is just next to the power button, which makes a lot of sense.
Apps will only make one notification sound per second
This is arguably my best Android Oreo feature and you’ll probably agree with me. You’ve probably had an experience where you turn on your Android phone after it has been off for a few hours or after you turn off Do Not Disturb and you are barraged with a flurry of notifications that came in when the phone was off, sending it into a vibration and ringing frenzy as soon as it gets an internet connection.
WhatsApp recently added a feature that allows users to send photos and videos as albums, where photos sent in batches of more than four are automatically grouped into a single album. If someone sends you an album with multiple photos, say 15, the phone’s vibration motor will go into a frenzy as the photos come in – and this can be really annoying.
But with the new Android Oreo, this problem has been taken care of. From Oreo and beyond, apps will only be able to make one notification alert sound/vibration once per second regardless of the number of notifications coming in at the same time. This is a cool addition, especially since you won’t lose the notifications themselves. In addition, the notification messages will still show up as usual.
As pointed out earlier, I’ve tried and verified these cool Android tricks on a device running Android 7.1.1 Nougat (Android One). However, different OEMs have their own take on Android, which could mean some of them work totally different or are completely unavailable in other cases. That’s Android for you!
What do you think? Do you have any other cool Android trick (s) you use and is not on the list? Share with us in your comments below.