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Essential Android Tips

Essential Android Tips

Worried about the performance and productivity of your Android device? This article has a few essential Android tips and tricks that everyone should know.
Shreyas Bhide
Only about 5 years since Google launched Android, it has captured almost 75% of the smartphone market share. It is a robust and user-friendly OS. An Android device is a lot more than what meets the eye. You need to scratch the surface, dig deep, and you can discover a number of small ideas that will help you with your device. Right from shortcuts to efficiency-oriented tips, there's much in Android that you can do to give your Android experience that little extra push. Your Android device can pretty much do anything! Techspirited suggests a few tips and tricks for Android devices, using which, you can save time and resources, utilize your storage options better, and of course, keep your device software healthy and running for an extended period of time.

PERFORMANCE

As is with any operating system running on a desktop or mobile phone, Android's performance too becomes a little sluggish after using it for some time. Android running at its peak will give you a superb experience. If you have noticed your Android device slowing down recently, it's time to mop up your act and optimize the device to get Android's proper functionality.
Chuck Out Unwanted Apps - If there is an app you haven't used for a while, you clearly don't need it. Every app you install takes up some space, and most apps run in the background all the time. This affects the overall performance of the system.
Update Your Apps - If an update has been made available for an installed app, go for it. I have frequently come across people who skirt away from app updates just because updates are being made available so often that they don't see the point in it. The fact is, if your Android device is not functioning to its potential, it could be due to a mis-app! Developers almost immediately take note of such bugs and correct them in the next update.
Don't Sink with the Sync - Sync is a great feature which Android uses to sync your data with Google servers, to keep your locations and other such information updated. But the Sync feature refreshes after a set time period (settings can be customized), say 15 minutes, resultantly affecting the overall performance of your system. Keeping sync off releases a lot of memory, thus improving overall performance. Decide a day for every week when you want to update your information to Google servers, and turn on sync only then.
Taming the Animation - Animation is basically the little visual tricks your screen does when you lock or unlock the screen, or switch between windows, etc. If you are a heavy user, the following will do your device's performance a world of good. Under SettingsDeveloper Options, look for Windows Animation Scale, and tap on Animation off; then look for Transition Animation Scale, and again tap on Animation off.
Widget Witch - So they make for great shortcuts! But have you given long-term consequences a thought? Widgets are CONTINUOUSLY running background processes. They keep exchanging and updating data every few minutes. Even if they are not updating anything, they stay in the task manager as running processes. App shortcuts on the homescreen are better options. They are activated only when you tap on them. Widgets, on the other hand, keep running in the background even when you are not using them - sure shot memory guzzlers.
PASSING NOTE:
Grab a task manager or task killer from the play store. If you are not the 'geek' types, who cannot/doesn't want to search and alter settings in the device, a task manager can be used to kick 'em out all at once.

SPEED

Google is all about speed. If you haven't noticed, go figure now - after all these years, Google has still kept its homepage very basic and clutter-free. The reason - quick display of results for your search queries. Google brings this quality to every service they provide, Android being no exception! So if Google is ready to take all that effort, why not you do your bit and keep your Android horse ahead of the slackers?

Gesture Keyboard - This does not have much to do with speeding up your device as much as it helps in speeding up your tasks. Some devices come armed with one, and for those that don't, get a gesture keyboard. Plenty of free options are available in the Play Store. Gesture keyboards let you swipe your fingers across all the letters of the word you want to type, in one go, thus saving on a lot of trouble.
Memory Card Messiah - A high speed memory card is a handy purchase. Since all your data (music, photos, videos, and even apps) is transferred to a card, the internal memory remains relatively free. Phones with low internal memory get that extra wee bit storage for heavier read/write operations, thus boosting the overall speed of the device.
Flash in the Bin - Yes, flash is amazing. And I am not advising you to do away with it, but let's say you may want to use it only when you need it! In your browser settings, look for the flash plug-in. Tap on it and select 'on demand' from the menu that jumps out. Thus, whenever a flash website is to be accessed, the browser will first ask you whether you want to run it. If you know your way around the website without flash animations, avoid falling into it. In my experience, not using flash speeds up the overall web browsing experience quite a lot.
Live, but Dead - Whatever it was that pronged the Android team to come up with an idea like Live Wallpapers, must be thoroughly investigated and taken to task. Yes, it is great to impress your gal with a floating hearts background, but keep it to that. When not flaunting, even otherwise, avoid using Live Wallpapers. They eat up so much processor resources (in every way imaginable), that a live wallpaper can single-handedly slow down your system as much as three moderately heavy apps running together.
Overclock Shock - I have never quite come to terms with the obsession of overclocking machines. If you want your device to run faster than what its specified speed is, why not buy a faster one in the first place? I consider overclocking a sin. If you have done that to your Android device, may all the Gods of Nerdism concede their cumulative wrath on you. Imagine how you would feel if you are made to do 16 hours of work while you are capable of only 12. Your device is going through exactly the same emotions right now. The damages are pretty serious - more work than it can take means more working energy will be produced. The device will heat up like crazy. Now look inside your overzealous overclocker self and think, do you really want to turn your Android device into a brick kiln?
PASSING NOTE:
If background apps are something you cannot avoid, try looking for lighter alternates to the same app. The Play Store is replete with lightweight options to popular apps.

PRODUCTIVITY

Are you extracting the maximum out of your Android device? Are you using it to its full capability. Are some features of great productivity being wasted just because you did not spend enough time getting to know your device.

Do Away with the Fancy - So Android allows you that ... doesn't mean you give everything a shot. As much as everything looks and sounds fun when your Android device is new, a while later, you will realize this is the kind of stuff that drains your battery out even when you are not using it. Vibration alerts, loud ringtones, live wallpapers et al - as much as they perk up your device's 'cool quotient', they are a disaster on the battery. Turn them off.
Voice Your Opinion - Google's voice recognition is a robust and intelligent feature. Make use of it. The microphone button next to the space-bar will allow you to talk out your messages and watch it turn to text on screen. In fact, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean users can even search the web using voice queries. To counter the hilarious interpretations the software might make of what you dictate, (believe me, some of them can make it to Playboy's jokes section!) turn on the personalized recognition feature, under voice recognition settings.
Hop Offline - Download Maps for offline use. Please do. It's a brilliant feature that will be of great use if you find yourself in a spot with little or no network coverage - yes cell towers do crash or fail. Download a map of your permanent address and a few others which you possibly visit fairly regularly. If you are going hiking or picnicking, and are anticipating a network misbehavior, download your picnic spot's map and the map of route to and from there to your house, for offline use. Whatever this does to enchant or disinterest you, your GPS finds it fairly useful to navigate the map without a data connection.
One Touch Call - That contact shortcut widget or button is one of the few that does not hark any resources unless asked to. All you have to do is drag it to the homescreen and add the contact you are likely to call the most!
PASSING NOTE:
Android has a safe mode! To boot in the safe mode without loading any apps, just press the power button, and then long-press the power button after the options appear. Now click on Restart in the new dialog box that appears, and your device will restart in safe mode!

SECURITY

Security has clearly become the key operational term with most modern devices. And most devices these days cater to the importance of security too. No doubt with all your information being on the web these days, security and privacy are of foremost importance.

Lost and Found - Unfortunately, Android does not have any 'recover' or 'trace' features, in case you lose your phone. This is where some nifty third-party apps come in handy. Download any app that is free, but make sure it offers a lot of remote options. In case you are ready to invest in an app that needs to be purchased, all the better.
Malicious Monsters - Avoid malware-inducing apps. Most phones do come with a strong inbuilt security system against malicious apps, but if you need one, the Play Store has them (free or paid) in abundance. They scan every new app for malware to make sure your device does not get infected. Consider downloading anti-viruses that have higher ratings and more downloads. That is obviously the tried-and-tested method to verify an app's utility.
External Enemies - Do NOT, and I mean at any cost, download apps outside the Play Store. Play Store apps are checked and verified at regular intervals, and are 99.9% trustworthy, which is not the case with external distributors. To ensure any external distributor's app does not get downloaded on your device, go to SettingsApplications, and tap on the Unknown Sources option, to make sure the box next to it is not checked.
Stay Away from Nasty Networks - Choose which wi-fi network you hop into very wisely. Firstly, open public networks are a playground for malice-spreaders, and secondly, it's never a good idea to do serious work on public networks - unsafe or otherwise. Do not carry out sensitive business such as bank transactions or work-related emails on a public network. You would not want strangers to know how much the missus spent on curtains last month, do you?
Reading Between the Lines - Swipe across a board full of letters to form words - quite a fun game that! Next time you are playing it, try looking for the word - RISKY. Do you know that the game's background process is accessing your phone's resources, your location information, and possibly even your personal data? While installing, most apps do display a list of all the default privileges it gets when installed. In an ideal world, you read them. But since we live in an imperfect world, let us take the efforts to go through them. Before downloading an app, make sure to read what it can access on your phone. If you feel even 1% threatened, get off that app or try changing its privileges if possible.
PASSING NOTE:
Under SettingsSecurity, add the appropriate information in the 'Owner Info' fields - name, contact number, your address, whatever. It will show on the home screen even when the phone is locked. Important information for the person who recovers your phone, in case you lose it.

Apps are the heart and sole of Android devices. Not that the system will not function without them, but the charm of Android lies in its apps. There are so many of them... and so many of the so many are so good! Here's a very important tip to keep in mind in case you are purchasing an app.
It comes as a surprise that not many know this - Android apps are refundable! To those who just discovered the railroad in the middle of nowhere, congratulations! Android Play Store gives you a 15-minute window for the apps that you purchase, to test and check if they are to your liking. If not, you can return the app back to the Play Store and get yourself a refund. Yes, this happens only within the first 15 minutes after you download the app. So be quick, or else you will be stuck with something you are never going to use again!

Android is as much fun as you make of it. It is also as much performance as you make of it. If you are bad with the handling and managing of your Android device, its performance will keep degrading in every respect. What you need to figure out is - understanding your device and learning your way around with it, is the most crucial most step to an Android fairytale.