May 01, 2014, 7:04 PM —
Image via IFTTT (Android app)
IFTTT is both a great and terrible name for an intriguing service. It says exactly what it does–sets up conditions so that If This Happens, That Should Happen–but it also makes it sound nerdy, programmer-only, and more thinking than most people need.
But if there has ever been a reason to check out If This Then That, it is the recent arrival of IFTTT for Android. Android is more open to deeper modifications by third-party apps than iPhone or most other smartphone platforms, and IFTTT takes advantage of that openness. You can make yourself more aware of things, control and track your phone usage, and set up some smooth automation that makes you feel a bit more in charge of your web life.
To prove this, I have dug deep through IFTTT's shared recipes, and into Android-focused blogs, and other slightly musty parts of the web. I return with these, the most useful IFTTT "recipes" that you can set up on your Android phone.
I have linked many and embedded a few recipes, so that you may easily activate and personalize them for your own account. If you don't have an IFTTT account set up, you should set one up, and then install the IFTTT Android app. As noted, there is also an IFTTT app for iPhone, though it does not have all the powers of the Android app.
Let's dig through some of the left-brain tricks you can set up with IFTTT on an Android.
Get notifications about just about anything
If you do nothing else with IFTTT, you should consider it as a kind of universal notification tool. Installed on your phone, IFTTT can issue a notification whenever certain things happen in any of the other IFTTT channels. That's a wide swath of the internet in those channels. And if you let IFTTT watch those bits of the internet and notify you about them, you don't have to install each individual app to do it.
So, for example, you can set up a recipe to have you notified when:
- Your favorite teams start a game
- A friend checks in nearby on Foursquare
- A stock you're watching hits a certain low point
- A new email from a certain "VIP" person or any other Gmail label
- New Github issue is assigned to you
You get the idea. Pick a web service, activate it in IFTTT, then tell it to ping you on your phone when something happens. Magic, performed by servers you don't pay for.
Silence, un-silence, connect and unconnect your phone
Two powerful IFTTT powers that go well together: the Android Device channel and the Android Location channel. You can tell Android to make your phone do something when you reach a certain location (work, home, the gym). One obvious difference between home, work, and the gym: whether your phone rings, vibrates, or goes completely silent.
Here's the most basic and helpful duo: mute your phone at work ...
... and then turn the noise back up when you get home.
Want to get tricky? How about having your phone mute whenever your calendar (Google Calendar, or something synced to it) suggests you're in a meeting:
Set anything as your Android wallpaper: https://ifttt.com/recipes/161619-automatically-set-your-latest-instagram-as-your-wallpaper
For those who like to keep things quiet at night, there's a "Date & Time" trigger you can play with. In this recipe, that means mute the phone around bedtime:
Track and act on your phone calls
IFTTT can interact with your phone when it makes or receives phone calls or text messages. Combine that with Google Drive, Google Calendar, or just combine them with each other, and nifty things can be done with the seemingly old-fashioned phone call.
You can keep a log of all your calls in Google Drive for easier searching and analysis:
The same goes for SMS messages, which you can write to a Drive spreadsheet:
Or write your phone calls to your calendar, time-stamped and all:
There's also an option to only do something if a phone call is from a very specific person, so you can push a notification to your phone (through IFTTT or any other app you use) that said very specific person called, or you missed the call. One example uses the very handy Pushbullet to ping about missed wife calls.
The photos channel: backup or prettify
The photos channel for Android is just killer. You can have it go off whenever you take a photo, whenever you take a screenshot, or whenever you take a photo that is geo-tagged with a certain location.
At a basic level, this means you could send every single photo you take on your phone to a good backup location:
And on and on the list goes. Search IFTTT for recipes involving screenshots that automatically upload, photos that get posted, backed up, or even synced to an Apple device (gasp!), and much more. And that geo-location tag? Perhaps a neat way to make sure good photos you take of your business, your project, or whatever else you regularly snap get posted for the world (or friends) to see.
Think about where else you can push
Beyond the notifications, phone functions, and silence powers, think about what you can do with your phone when it's set up to notice things, like you being connected or disconnected to a certain Wi-Fi network–you can use that in place of the location checking (which, to be certain, will eat a bit more battery). Consider all the things you can send to be your automatic wallpaper: Flickr favorites, certain photos, Facebook shots of you.
Search, explore, try out, and tell me your best and most useful IFTTT recipes that work with Android or iOS, either via Twittter or in the comments below.