If there’s one thing that separates Android from iPhone, it is Android’s deep-down customization and straight-up usefulness. Androids can, by default, do quite a few things iPhones do not allow for, but you have to know where to find those handy tools in a rather crowded shed. Here are 5 more things I suggest the owner of any new Android phone set up right away.
Like Part 1 of the Android right-away list, these tips are not the really basic stuff, like setting up your first Google account or adding icons to your home screen. They are, hopefully, things you may not have thought of, or find in your casual look-through, but are useful and time-saving on a day-to-day basis.
Note: This, like Part 1, is a revised and updated version of a quick-start guide included in my book, The Complete Android Guide, which I am still desperately overdue in updating. Enjoy the fruits of my procrastination!
6) Add a PIN or password to unlock your phone (only while you’re out!)
What are the chances, you ask yourself, that you’ll really lose your phone? Actually, the lost-phone statistics are not great. And then there’s leaving your phone on a table, accessible to anyone who wants to snoop. Do the bare minimum for your security: head to your phone Settings, select Security, and under the Screen Security heading, tap “Screen lock.” Choose PIN or Password; Face Unlock is quirky and still somewhat rough, and Pattern only works if nobody thinks to look for the finger smudges on your glass at an angle.
Constantly entering your PIN or password when you’re just at home, or at the office, gets annoying. I highly recommend Unlock with Wifi for that pain. Install it, give it administrator access, and it releases the need for security whenever you’re connected to a trusted Wifi network (which you must add to the app’s list manually).
7) Add your contact information to the lock screen
Because you read tip number six, just above, you now have a phone that, when awoken from sleep outside the home or office, asks for a security code before allowing access. But that also means someone who finds your phone has no idea whose phone they’re holding, because they can’t get into it. So in the same Security section of Settings, tap the Owner Info section. Enter in your name, email address, and perhaps an alternate phone number, and click to enable “Show owner info on lock screen.”
8) Install Dropbox
This is a cheat, because this is my constant advice to anyone, for just about any computer gripe or question. But Dropbox’s Android app is very good, and there are desktop clients available for almost every computer out there, with 2 GB of Dropbox server space available for free, and lots more through easy promotions and referrals.
Why Dropbox? Because, as one prescient Quora answer explained, it is just a folder that magically keeps the same files wherever you look at it. It solves a lot of conundrums at once:
“I wish I had this (photo/song/file) from my (computer/phone) on my (computer/phone).
“I need to share all these files with someone, but there are too many to attach to one email.”
“I’d rather not deal with Google Drive or Windows Live or whatever, and the sharing, permissions, blah blah blah. I just want people to download this thing.”
9) Change your screen sleep time
There is a Battery section of Settings that shows exactly which apps and processes have been eating your power. Almost always, the hungriest thing on your phone is “Screen.” On my phone, as I write this, Screen ate 45 percent of the battery loss over nearly 8 hours since my last charge. Particularly on a phone with a larger screen, the screen is where much of your juice is fleeing your phone at the speed of light.
Head to Settings, then into Display, and choose the Sleep setting. Pick a setting that works for how you use your phone. Pick a shorter time to save on battery, or a longer time if you’re often doing tasks that require keeping the screen on without interaction, like reading longer items, watching a timer, and so on.
10) Get rid of widgets you don’t use
It seems obvious, but it’s a frequent comment I get from new Android phone owners: “I don’t use this Facebook thingy that you swipe over to see, but, whatever.” Widgets, the larger items you keep on a home screen, use memory, and can slow the responsiveness of your home screen. What’s more, widgets of the kind phone companies and device makers like to add, that constantly check for social updates, weather reports, and the like, also eat up battery and a bit of data usage.
So if you’re really not using something on your home screen, get rid of it. Press and hold on the widget with your finger (you’ll get a very brief vibration if you’ve held long enough), then drag it upwards, so that it hovers over the “Remove” label that appears at the top of your screen. You can always add it back if it turns out you really do need to see Twitter trending topics at a moment’s notice.