The Best Android Tips and Tricks

1.Uninstall or disable unused apps

(Credit: Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET)

Your device has a limited amount of internal storage and the less free space it has the slower it will perform. If you have filled your device with photos, music, or apps, it is recommended to free up space by either uninstalling unused apps or moving files to cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive.

Uninstalling apps can be done by going to Settings, opening the Apps menu, and selecting the app you wish to uninstall. Preloaded applications from carriers or manufacturers that cannot be uninstalled, known as bloatware, can at least be disabled and hidden from the app drawer using this method.

On smartphones and tablets that include expandable storage you can also move apps to the microSD card. To do this, enter Settings, go to the Apps menu, click the app you wish to move, and select the “Move to SD card” option.

Too many widgets can affect battery life and performance.

(Credit: Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET)

2.Clear app caches

Cached data can build up over time in your applications and affect the performance of your device. Deleting individual caches can be done in the Apps menu, but a number of free programs are available through the Google Play store that can automate the process. Some of the most popular ones include App Cache Cleaner and Clean Master, both of which are available for free.

3. Limit widgets and live wallpapers

Many people would argue that widgets are one of the benefits of using an Android device. They can be helpful for finding information quickly without having to open an app, but at the same time they can eat away at battery life and slow your device.

Reducing the number of widgets, especially data-intensive ones like Facebook, will help your smartphone or tablet run more smoothly and last longer. You can remove widgets from the home screen by long-pressing the one you wish to delete and dragging it to the top of the screen.

Another cool Android feature is the option to use a live wallpaper as your background. Like widgets, however, live wallpapers can slow down your device and drain the battery. You can also change your wallpaper with a long press on the home screen.

4. Disable animations

A hidden settings option in Android will give you access to commands you may have never known existed. Go to Settings, About Phone, scroll down to Build number, and tap it seven times. You will now have access to developer options. These special settings allow you to do a variety of things, but they are meant for advanced users and shouldn’t be changed unless you know what you are doing.

One tweak that could speed up your device is disabling animations within the operating system. To do this, open Settings, go to Developer options, and scroll down to the Drawing option. Next, turn off the Window animation scale, Transition animation scale, and Animator duration scale. This will disable animations that occur when you open, close, and switch between apps. Although the interface will look less polished, there should be less lag in performance.

5. Get software updates

Manufacturers and carriers are continually pushing out new software updates to their devices. It is imperative that you be on the latest firmware as these updates usually include security and bug fixes, among other things that will improve the overall stability of your device. To check to see if there is an update available, go to Settings, select About Phone, and choose the “System updates” option.

6. Rooting, ROMing, and more

Risk takers and advanced users can also root their device, which will open the door to new features and even greater performance boosts. Rooting gives you the ability to overclock the device’s processor, install a custom ROM, and other things; however it also voids your warranty and could cause irreversible damage to the device.

7.How to Switch between Open Apps

Switch between Open AppsWhen running an app, you can minimize it by simply tapping the Home icon. Getting back to it is not just one click on the taskbar like the way you do in Windows. But the Android way is pretty straightforward too.

  1. Tap the Recent Apps icon to reveal the apps that you recently opened. (Note 2)
  2. Slide down to see more recent apps.
  3. Tap a screenshot from the list to instantly switch to the app.

Note 1: You can clear the recent apps from the list by swiping them sideways one by one.
Note 2: On Android 2.x, touch and hold the Home button to reveal recent apps.

8.How to Switch between Open Apps

Switch between Open AppsWhen running an app, you can minimize it by simply tapping the Home icon. Getting back to it is not just one click on the taskbar like the way you do in Windows. But the Android way is pretty straightforward too.

  1. Tap the Recent Apps icon to reveal the apps that you recently opened. (Note 2)
  2. Slide down to see more recent apps.
  3. Tap a screenshot from the list to instantly switch to the app.

Note 1: You can clear the recent apps from the list by swiping them sideways one by one.
Note 2: On Android 2.x, touch and hold the Home button to reveal recent apps.

9.How to Set and Clear a Default App

Set and Clear a Default AppIn Android, you can set a file to open with a certain program by default as you do in Windows. For example, if you have installed an image viewer such as QuickPic, the system will ask you to select an app when you try to open an image file (See the screenshot).

  • To set a default app to open the file, check ‘Use by default for this action’ before you tap that app.

The next time you tap an image file, it will always open with the app you’ve selected without asking you again.

What if you need to clear the default app?

  1. Run the Settings app and tap Apps under DEVICE.
  2. Choose the app you do not want to launch by default.
  3. Tap ‘Clear defaults’ under LAUNCH BY DEFAULT.

10.How to Uninstall an App

Uninstall an AppInstalling apps from the Google Play store to your Android device is convenient, likewise removing them is pretty straightforward.

  1. Tap the All Apps icon on the tray and select the Apps tab on the top.
  2. Touch and hold the icon of the app you want to uninstall.
  3. Drag and drop the app icon over the Uninstall icon then tap ‘OK’ to confirm. (The Uninstall icon appears only for the app that can be uninstalled from the system.)

Alternatively, you can run the Settings app, tap Apps under DEVICE then select the app you want to uninstall from the list.

11.How to Install a Third Party App

Most apps are available for download and install easily via the Play Store. If you have a third party app that is only available from sources other than the Play Store and you think it’s useful and secure to install, the Android system allows you to do so after changing the settings.

  1. Run the Settings app and tap Security under PERSONAL.
  2. Tick “Unknown sources” under DEVICE ADMINISTRATION.
  3. Tap “OK” to the system reminder that your device and personal data are more vulnerable to attack by apps from unknown sources.

You can then browse to the app file ending with an .apk suffix, known as the Android application package, tap and install it right away.

12.How to Add and Remove Icons from Home Screens

When you install an app, the system often adds an app icon on your home screen. This icon works as a shortcut to run the app. In case you need to manually add an app icon or a widget icon yourself, it’s pretty easy.

  1. Tap the All Apps icon on the tray.
  2. Select the Apps or Widgets tab on the top.
  3. Remove app iconsTouch and hold the icon you want to create a shortcut.
  4. Drag and drop the icon on a home screen you like.

To remove an icon from your home screen:

  1. Touch and hold the icon of apps, widgets or shortcuts until the Remove icon appears on the top.
  2. Drag and drop the icon over the Remove icon.

Note: On Android 2.x, you can add a shortcut icon by touching and holding an empty location of a home screen or press Menu then tap ‘Add’; On Android 3.0, touch the customize button at the top right of a home screen to add a shortcut icon.

13.How to Re-arrange Icons

Re-arrange IconsWhen you install new apps to your Android, the system stacks up the icons automatically without asking you to select a home screen. But you can subsequently re-arrange the icons on the home screens and on the tray.

  1. Touch and hold any icon on your screen for a second.
  2. Drag the icon to a different spot on the screen, or even to or from the tray, except for the permanent “All Apps” icon.
  3. You can also drag an icon to the left or right edge of the screen until it starts sliding, then drop the icon to another screen.

14.How to Lock Screen Orientation

The Android screen switches to either the portrait or landscape view in response to the way you hold the device when you run certain apps. What if I want to lock the screen orientation to one view so that the screen doesn’t rotate to another? Easy.

  1. Run the Settings app.
  2. Tap Display under DEVICE.
  3. Uncheck “Auto-rotate screen”.

Your screen will then lock to the portrait mode. To unlock it, check the above option.

15.How to Print Screen

Where’s the PrintScreen button when you need to take a screen shot of your Android device? Instead of using one button, try a combination of two:

  1. Press and hold down the Power and Volume-down buttons simultaneously.
  2. Open the Gallery app, and you can see your screenshot already saved in the Screenshots album.

Note: Older Android system doesn’t support this feature, but it has a more complicated way to take screenshots using Android SDK such as this without rooting the device.

16.How to Access Notifications

Access NotificationsAt the top of your screen, you will see notifications which report calendar events, alarms, incoming mails or other ongoing events. Swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal the list of notifications, then swipe up from the O-sign to hide it.

  • Depending on the notification type, you can swipe a notification sideway to dismiss it, or tap the X-sign to dismiss all from the list.
  • To access a notification, tap it and you’re taken to the related email, reminder, message or app. The notification then clears automatically from the list where applicable.

Note: When you slide down from the top of the screen, you can also see this Quick Settings icon. Touching this icon is equivalent to running the Settings app.

17.How to Setup Mail Accounts and Sync Options

The Android system allows for adding multiple mail accounts including GMail, Exchange, Yahoo, Hotmail and others. To set up a mail account is straightforward especially for this example, GMail.

  1. Open the app Email.
  2. Enter Email address and Password, then tap ‘Next’ for verifying.
  3. Leave ‘Sync email form this account’ checked, select other options you like, and tap ‘Next’.
  4. Enter your name to be displayed on outgoing messages, and tap ‘Next’ to finish.

After this setting, you can then open the app Email to send emails and read incoming mails, which are automatically synced with your GMail account over the air.

18.How to Add a Mail Signature

Mail SignatureEach time you send out an email using the Email app, you can have a mail signature, such as ‘Sent from my mobile device’, automatically added at the end of your message.

  1. Open the app Email, tap the Menu button, then Settings.
  2. Tap the email account that you’ve set up.
  3. Tap ‘Signature’, enter a signature in a few words you like then tap ‘OK’ to confirm.

19.How to Sync Emails, Contacts and Calendars

The Android system allows you to operate and sync your emails, contacts, calendars and other items using multiple accounts. You can set your accounts to sync these items on your device with the servers automatically or manually.

  1. Run the Settings app, select ‘Accounts & sync’ under PERSONAL.
  2. At the top, tap to switch the ‘Accounts & sync’ to ‘ON’ for automatic syncing, or ‘OFF’ for manual syncing.

When the ‘Accounts & sync’ is switched off, you can touch an account and sync contacts or other items manually—either touch an item to sync or tap the Menu button then ‘Sync now’ to sync all items. The last synced date and time are shown below each item.

20.How to Copy Files between your Mobile and PC

Connect WirelesslyWhat if you need to copy files and folders between your mobile device and PC? You can do so by connecting your mobile device to your PC using a USB cable provided. Better still, you can connect them wirelessly via a local WiFi network to do the same or even more without needing a cable.

  1. Run the Play Store app.
  2. Tap the Search button and enter the name of a remote desktop app, such as AirDroid (reviewed here).
  3. Tap the app from the list and download it.
  4. Open the app and start using it to connect your mobile to PC for copying files wirelessly and doing even more between the two platforms.

21.How to Share Mobile Data Connection

When you’re using an Android device with mobile data connection enabled, wouldn’t it be convenient for another computer device such as a Windows-based notebook to share this connection for access to the Internet? Yes, you can do a wireless connection via a portable hotspot, or a wired connection using a USB cable:

Turn your Android mobile into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot:

  1. On your mobile, go to Settings > More > Tethering & portable hotspot.
  2. Tap “Portable Wi-Fi hotspot” to enable it.
  3. Tap “Configure Wi-Fi hotspot” to enter an ID and password to prevent unauthorized connections.
  4. On a computer with Wi-Fi connectivity, click the network icon on the system tray to identify and connect to the wireless network you set.

Enable USB tethering on your Android mobile:

  1. Connect a computer to your Android device with a USB cable.
  2. On your mobile, go to Settings > More > Tethering & portable hotspot.
  3. Tap “USB tethering” to enable it.
  4. On the computer, click the network icon on the system tray to identify and connect to the wired network. The Windows system may take more than a minute to discover the network for Internet access.

Note: Enabling Bluetooth tethering on your Android mobile to allow for Internect access from a computer is also possible after the two devices are paired.

22.How to Reboot the System

In the event your Android apps freeze or the system becomes unresponsive, you can try to reboot the system as follows:

  1. Press and hold the Power button of your device until a pop-up menu appears. Select ‘Power off’ and tap ‘OK’ to confirm. The system will then turn off.
  2. Turn the system on by pressing and holding the Power button until the Google logo appears.
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