The 7 Essential Tips Every Android User Should Know

by Raymond Dell'Aera
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The 7 Essential Tips Every Android User Should Know


Device makers like Samsung and HTC are responsible for bringing the Android operating system into the mainstream, with phones that rival the best Apple has to offer. Although that little green robot now makes up over 80% of the smartphone market, frequent updates and changes to how basic things work mean that both new and experienced users often miss out on useful features—or, in some cases, rely on outdated ways of doing things. We pay a lot for our smartphones, so let’s get the most out of them. Here are the 7 essential tips every Android user should know.

(Note: The following applies best to smartphones released in the last two years or so, such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, and the HTC One series.)

1. Make sure your system has the latest update

This is potentially the most impactful thing you can do to improve your phone: check to make sure you’re using the latest version of Android supported by your phone in Settings > About Phone > System Update. If an update is required, it’ll take some time to download and install, so it’s highly recommended that this be done over WiFi. These software updates usually improve overall performance and stability.

2. Protect your phone with Android Device Manager (ADM)

Whether it was stolen, forgotten, or just plain hiding under couch cushions, we can all agree losing a phone is frustrating and inconvenient. ADM is a relatively new feature that allows you to find your phone’s location from any web browser. From there, you can choose to ring, lock, or—if necessary—completely wipe your phone. To activate ADM, open Google Settings from your device’s apps menu, then tap ‘Android Device Manager’, and check both options. When you want to find your phone, open in a browser.

3. Keep your apps up-to-date

The 7 Essential Tips Every Android User Should Know - Fresh Print Magazine

If you would like to see what’s new in an update, tap on an app here and scroll down

Running the newest version of all your apps is easy and ensures that they have the latest features, bug fixes, and performance improvements. Find the Play Store in your app list (it may be called ‘Market’ on your phone), go to the ‘My apps’ screen, and tap ‘Update All’. Although you can set your phone to do this automatically within the settings here, it’s better to do this task manually every month or two when you’re on WiFi and aren’t worrying about battery power. Also, while you’re staring at the list of your apps, go through it and uninstall anything you don’t use anymore.

4. Learn the one-handed zoom in Google Maps

New versions of Google Maps have removed the plus/minus buttons for zooming, making it next to impossible to zoom without using your non-phone hand to help with the “pinch” gesture… until now. Next time, simply double tap the screen, then, before lifting your finger, slide it up or down to zoom in and out. It’s a pretty cool way to keep a hand free for more important things.

5. Always leave WiFi on

Contrary to popular belief, there is very little benefit to toggling WiFi on and off. You won’t see any savings in battery power, and it’s annoying having to remember it. Android is smart at connecting or disconnecting to your WiFi networks on its own, so leave it on. The only exception is if you’re getting a weak or unusable signal on WiFi and prefer to use mobile data instead. Another benefit of leaving WiFi on is you will actually get quicker more accurate location results in apps (such as Google Maps)–even when you’re not connected to a WiFi network. That’s especially useful if you leave GPS turned off.

6. Backing up photos has never been easier

The 7 Essential Tips Every Android User Should Know - Fresh Print Magazine

A comparison of the photo backup settings for Dropbox and Google+

It’s safe to assume we take more photos than ever before, and while a lot of them may be of questionable importance, it would be a shame to lose those captured moments by breaking or misplacing the phone carrying them. There are two leading options for automatically backing up your photos and videos without wires. Dropbox is very user friendly and gives you the option to install an app on your PC so your files are synced there as well. Google+ is the other option, and boasts more storage space since it integrates with a Google Drive account but is slightly less intuitive to use. Here’s a comparison of the two. Both apps can automatically upload your media only when you’re on WiFi with a sufficient charge.

7. Don’t concern yourself with “closing” apps

Hopefully by now you’re comfortable using your phone’s multitasking menu to switch between recent apps. The way to access this varies by phone model, so you may do it by holding down the home button, or by using a dedicated multitasking button. In either case, the task switching screen allows you to do more than its name suggests, with the ability to “swipe away”, “close”, or “remove” tasks.

Here’s what they don’t tell you: there is virtually no benefit to clearing items from this list. In fact, doing so might not even close those apps at all because Android doesn’t work like Windows when it comes to multitasking—its designed to require much less user maintenance. Not to mention compulsively closing tasks actually hurts performance. Resist the urge to manage which apps are running unless one is causing a problem, which occasionally happens with games. In all but the rarest cases, the system should decide what’s running. The days of “opening” and “closing” apps are all but gone. Welcome to the future.

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