Did You Know Your Smartphone Could Do This?

Category: Mobile

Do you have an Android smartphone? Most users are barely scratching the surface of Android’s many built-in features. Here are some tips to help you be more productive, and to make using your phone more pleasant. Read on…

Nifty Android Tips

If you have a smartphone, the odds are its operating system is Android. There’s only one phone made by Apple (the iPhone), but there are hundreds of Android phones on the market. That may be why Android is on 85% of all smartphones, according to Strategy Analytics.

Most of these tips will work on any make/model of phone and on multiple versions of Android, but the specific steps required to implement them may vary depending on your phone’s version of Android.

Have your phone unlock itself - Locking your phone is a basic security precaution; you don’t want strangers to poke around in it if it’s lost or stolen. But it’s a pain to enter a pin, press a fingerprint sensor, or draw a pattern every single time you want to use the phone. That’s why Android includes Smart Lock.

Android smartphone Tips

Smart Lock can automatically unlock your phone when you are in a specified location, such as your home, where it’s reasonably safe to do so. It can also unlock the phone when you are carrying it, and other other convenient circumstances.

To enable Smart Lock and set when it should unlock automatically, tap the Settings icon, then Device Security, then Smart Lock. Enter your PIN to access Smart Lock’s options. Here are all the options available in Android 7 (Nougat), the latest version:

On-body detection: Android use the accelerometer in your phone to sense when the phone is being carried. Over time, it will learn your walking gait and refuse to unlock for unrecognized gaits.

Trusted Places are physical locations where your phone will remain unlocked. Your home and workplace are two possibilities. You can type in addresses or set your current location as a Trusted Place with one click.

Trusted Devices are Bluetooth devices whose presence suggest it’s safe to unlock the phone. Your car’s entertainment system is one example. Headphone would be another possibility; if you’re listening to anything, a sudden cutoff of sound may mean the phone has gone AWOL.

A Trusted Face should be yours alone. With this option, Android uses facial recognition to determine it’s you holding the phone. Trusted Voice is another biometric security token. Android learns to recognize your voice and unlock automatically.

Offline Maps come in handy for navigating when you are out of signal range. You must be connected to a WiFi network to save maps for offline use. Unfortunately, even the latest version of Android does not let you save turn-by-turn directions from Point A to Point B.

To use Offline Maps, open the Maps app and enter a destination in the search box. Now tap the three lines in the upper left corner of the screen and select “Offline maps” at the bottom of the next screen. Choose “Select Your Own Map.” On the next page, you can drag the highlight box around to display exactly the area you want, then save and name that map. Each saved map consume about 50 MB of storage space.

Split-Screen mode is real multitasking; two apps can run simultaneously in separate screen windows. This would be handy if you want to listen to music or video while doing something else, for example. Split-screen is new in Nougat, the latest version of Android. To use split-screen mode, launch an app and then press and hold the Recent Apps button (usually found to the left or right of the Home button). Your open app will snap to the top half of the screen, and you can open another app in the bottom half.

Voice Control is arguably the greatest convenience of Android, as it eliminates many keystrokes. To enable the “OK, Google” personal assistant, tap on the Google app, then tap the three lines icon in the upper left corner of the screen. Under Settings, tap Voice and then enable “OK, Google” detection from any screen. I'm always amazed at how accurately my phone can convert my spoken words into text, even when I'm in a noisy environment.

These are just some of Android’s more useful, but perhaps lesser-known features. Do you have a favorite?

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Most recent comments on "Did You Know Your Smartphone Could Do This?"

Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
24 Jul 2017

"Trusted Face" and "Trusted Voice" are likely to fail if you're injured or under stress. If you have a bloody nose or a black eye, is your face still "trusted"? And if I'm in pain because I've been in an accident, my voice is likely to sound VERY unlike my normal voice.

Posted by:

Sharon H
24 Jul 2017

Thank you so much for providing information about this remarkable phone.

My brother gave me a Samsung Galaxy J7 last month and each day I am discovering more of its wonders. The Google Assistant is amazing in itself. It has yet to misinterpret me, though I haven't used it enough to really comment fully.

As I love to take photos, I've discovered its extensive array of editing tools right at my fingertips. I'm still learning those functions as well. Good article on the Android smartphone.

Posted by:

24 Jul 2017

I have just tried the Smart Unlock which sounds like a great app. However it has made things worse! Instead of just having to draw my pattern, I now have to slide the lock, then draw my pattern before I can get in. (Not sure what version of Android I have).

Posted by:

24 Jul 2017

I have used the "palm swipe to capture" feature SO MANY times! When it's turned on (settings > advanced features)sliding the side of my hand (right to left) across the screen for a full screenshot has saved me manually copying lists, numbers, even recipes so many times! Once captured, I can import to an email and send it to anyone anywhere (even to myself at work). What could be better than that? I love my phone.

Posted by:

john silberman
24 Jul 2017

Google maps tries its best to suck your data even when using WiFi only mode. An alternative to Google Maps (OffLine)is Maps.Me, works very well. It would be my primary navigation program if it continued navigation with the screen turned off. Google Maps does continue navigation with the screen turned off.

Posted by:

David Barber
25 Jul 2017

I don't know if this works on Androids, but on my iPhone using Google maps, I have been able to get turn by turn directions when walking around cities in Europe (and I assume other places as well). I set up the trip using Wifi at my hotel and then take off on my walk. As long as I don't try to do anything else with my phone, it keeps giving my directions to my destination. This was amazingly helpful in Venice although it did have a bit of trouble finding me amongst the buildings.I just learned to be aware that when it told me I was off the designated route, it was only because it wasn't able to pinpoint my exact location.

Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
25 Jul 2017

Deborah, you wrote >I have used the "palm swipe to capture" feature SO MANY times! When it's turned on (settings > advanced features)sliding the side of my hand (right to left) across the screen for a full screenshot has saved me>

I don't have "Advanced Features" on my Verizon Moto Z Droid running Android 7.0.

Did you include ALL the steps, or is there something between "Settings" and "Advanced Features" you might have accidentally overlooked?

Thanks in advance!

Mac 'n' Cheese

Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
25 Jul 2017

Follow-up to my question to Deborah: In Googling for an answer, I discovered the hand swipe to grab a screen shot is not supported on all phones. Samsung apparently supports it. My Motorola apparently does not. For me, pressing Volume-Down and Power simultaneously does the trick.

Posted by:

25 Jul 2017

Re: Palm swipe for screen shots - camera > settings may show you what works on your phone.

Posted by:

Riccardo Capuano
25 Jul 2017

I am running Android 5.0.1 Lollipop, but I cannot find Smart Lock anywhere on my device. I looked in the Google Play store, and there are several versions but none that work as described in this article.

Posted by:

25 Jul 2017

Thanks Bob for another interesting article.

I've found, on my phone (Motorola Droid Maxx running Android 6.0.1), Smart Lock by location is unreliable. I have my home location set up as an area in which to unlock, but phone often does not recognize it (even though it's GPS shows I am at home locaton). I've read posts in various forums also reporting this problem and am mentioning it here just to let folks know it may not be your fault if it's not working for you.

Posted by:

25 Jul 2017

Riccardo, it's a setting rather than an app.

Go to Settings > Security and look for it there.

Posted by:

Ronnie G
25 Jul 2017

Its worth it to mention that you can intuitively add unique or esoteric words to your user dictionary and they will be available immediately in your talk-to-text app

Posted by:

27 Jul 2017

Riccardo - I couldn't find it either. Check this setting first:

Settings -> Security -> Trust Agents -> enable Smart Lock

Posted by:

Bruce Fraser
29 Jul 2017

Two important things to note in your article.

1) Under "Smart Lock," using Trusted Places means your GPS has to be on all the time. That's a great battery drainer.

2) You capitalize "Offline Maps," which indicates that's the name of an app. I think you're actually referring to the simple Google Maps app for Android.
The problem with using the Google map offline is that it self-destructs every 30 days. It REQUIRES regular updates of map data, or else refuses to work. Much better is "Here WeGo."

Posted by:

21 Aug 2017

To Mac 'n' Cheese, palm swipe on my Android (Samsung 5) is in Settings under Motions and Gestures.

Posted by:

Stormy Norman
03 Sep 2018

I have been using the offline maps for some time now and found it an asset. don't mix it up with the simple google maps as they are entirely different. offline maps does just that , operate offline. only time you need to be online is to download the particular country your in. Once done,job done.

one other feature it has which I find valuable is the HD car cam, the quality is mind blowing day or night.

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