10 Android Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most From Your Smartphone

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1. Uninstall Apps You Don’t Need

Most Android phones come with a healthy helping of preinstalled apps. Many will be welcomed by nearly everyone—maps, email, browser, and so on—but there are undoubtedly some you don’t want or need. If you’re just not a podcast person, you don’t need a podcast app. And phone vendors tend to include a bunch of their own apps that you may never need to use. Simply long-press an app’s icon and then select the i entry to get to its detail page where you can uninstall it.

Unfortunately, there are some stock apps you cannot uninstall. For example, if you only use Firefox or Edge as your web browser, you still can’t uninstall Google’s Chrome browser. For those apps, you can at least choose Disable, which will hide them from the interface and free up system resources.

2. Use Digital Wellbeing Features

It’s not the healthiest thing in the world to stay up all night texting and doomscrolling. Android 11’s Bedtime mode is part of the Digital Wellbeing feature. Not only does it silence your phone at a set time, it also changes the screen to black-and-white, in case you do have to look at the screen after hours. There’s a Pause option in the dropdown menu if you need more time before retiring. If you’re looking for more sleep tips, you should read our feature on how tech can help (and hurt) your sleep.

Another recommended Wellbeing feature is Focus mode, which silences noisy apps’ notifications. Some phones, including recent Pixels and Motorolas, turn on Do Not Disturb mode when you set them down with the screen facing down—a quick and easy way to get relief from disturbances. Finally, using Work Profile hides all those productivity apps when it’s time to relax.

3. Set Up the Your Phone App in Windows

I suspect that most people who use Mac desktops or laptops are also most likely using an iPhone, which offers terrific integration with macOS. But with the Your Phone desktop app for Windows 10, Android users can get just as much continuity with their desktop computer—perhaps even more. It’s easiest to start setup from your PC. Go to the Setting’s app’s Phone section, choose Add a Phone, and you’re off and running. You’ll be able to make calls, send texts, and instantly see and use photos from the phone on your PC.

Recent Samsung devices and the Surface Duo phone get even more possibilities with the Link to Windows option, including running multiple Android apps on the desktop in the Your Phone app. If you’re not running Windows, you can get Android messages on the web—another capability annoyingly not offered by Apple’s mobile OS. You can also run Android apps in an emulator on either Windows or macOS, but that route is not as convenient as Windows 10’s Your Phone.

4. Install Apps From the Web

For me, this is one of the coolest advantages of Android over iOS: You don’t have to have your phone in your hand to install an app on it. Just go to the Google Play store in your web browser and you can remotely install any app or game, as long as you’re signed in to the same Google account the phone uses. If you have multiple Android devices under your account, you’ll see them listed when you go to install. It’s a great convenience for when you discover an app at your computer and don’t want to fumble with your phone to get the app on it.

5. Turn on Find My Device

If you misplace your phone or it gets stolen, both mobile OS have features that help you locate it on a map. Not only that, but these also Find My services let you disable the phone, wipe it, and play a sound on it. Apple’s mobile operating system goes a little further by letting you display your number or another message on the screen of the lost device, something we don’t see why Google hasn’t added.

6. Install a Launcher App

This is one customization type iPhone users don’t get: You can change the basic start screen on your phone by installing a third-party launcher app from the Play Store. A couple noteworthy launchers are Action Launcher, Apex, the cleverly named Lawn Chair, Lightning, the Microsoft Launcher, Nova, Niagara, and Smart Launcher. 

You can even make your Android look like an iPhone with the iOS 14 launcher, which includes Siri shortcuts and an App Store icon in place of the Play icon. Want to go back to the days of Windows Phone? There are launchers that emulate that OS’s design, too.

7. Install Antivirus

Since Android is far more open than iOS—that is, more like Windows than macOS—it’s also more open to malware attacks. Google has built in a lot of strong protections, but we recommend you run an antivirus app on Android. PCMag security guru Neil Rubenking recommends four PCMag Editors’ Choice options: Bitdefender Total Security, Kaspersky Security Cloud, Norton 360 Deluxe, and McAfee AntiVirus Plus. Most of these also cover your desktop devices. They make sure you’re not installing bad apps and run regular malware scans. They also prevent thieves from simply swapping your phone’s SIM card to gain access. Some also include VPN protection.

8. Double-Tap the Power Button to Open the Camera

Unlike the iPhone—which does, however, includes a camera icon on the lock screen—most Android phones let you double tap the power button to turn on the camera. Quick camera access is essential for capturing those fleeing moments. You can also use volume keys to focus and take the shot. Long-press on either to start a video recording.

9. Use Screen Pinning

This is a great tip from our friends at ExtremeTech.com: If you need to hand your phone to someone else and don’t want them snooping around in other apps, just pin the screen. If this isn’t enabled by default, you can turn it on in the Security menu. Tap the app icon on any app in the multitasking interface and select “Pin” to prevent them from switching apps. You can protect switching apps by requiring your phone PIN. Note that the app icon in app switching view also lets you split the screen, pause the app’s notifications, and see its info.

10. Record Screen Activity 

With Android 11, Google added built-in screen-recording capability right into the OS. Previously, Samsung, LG, and OnePlus owners had the capability, but now any phone running Android 11 gets it. It’s simple to use: You just pull down the top shade and choose Screen Record > Start Recording. You get choices for showing touch points and recording audio or not. To stop recording, pull down the shade again and tap the big red bar. It worked like a charm in our testing, producing a standard MP4 file in the photo gallery.


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