Your Android smartphone has oodles of handy features and access to millions of ingenious apps. Tech pros and gadget aficionados analyze the latest Android devices to discover clever hacks and useful tricks that go beyond the norm to increase the potential of your Android phone.
To pinpoint some of the freshest hacks for current Android users, we reached out to a panel of 32 tech pros and gadget bloggers to share some of their secrets by answering the following question:
Discover some cool Android hacks that will tell you how to use facial recognition to unlock your phone, use your phone as a security cam with motion detection and recording, and more. Read what our panel of tech pros and gadget bloggers divulge below.
Brian Penny is a former Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower and freelance writer.
“My favorite Android tip is…”
How to bypass tethering restrictions. Some carriers impose tethering restrictions on their unlimited data plans, which disables a device’s built-in tethering/hotspot options. Fortunately, there’s an easy workaround to allow at least USB tethering to a computer or laptop.
These restrictions are simple network blocks that focus on the User Agent String of your device. Visit a User Agent Tracking website, like User Agent Lookup from the Browser Capabilities Project, from your smartphone. This will provide your phone’s User Agent String, which you can copy enter on your desktop browser to emulate the phone. It’ll make your computer look like your phone on the carrier’s servers and allow you to use your smartphone as a wireless modem.
On Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge
Press F12, select Emulation, enter the UA string and press Enter.
On Firefox 36+
Type about:config in the address prompt, confirm the action, right-click on the list of parameters, select New → String, enter general.useragent.override as the preference name, paste the UA string, and press Enter.
On Safari 5+
Go to menu bar -> Safari -> Preferences, select the Advanced tab, enable the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” option then use menu bar -> Develop -> User Agent.
Press Ctrl+Shif+ I for Windows and Linux or Command+Option+I for Mac OS X. Select the “Show console” icon, then select the “Emulation” tab. If prompted with a message that says “Emulation is currently disabled,” click the phone icon next to the word “Toggle.” Select “Network” on the left pane of the Developer console. From there you can set the “Spoof user agent” box to the User Agent you wish to use.
Katrina is a Canadian writer currently living and working in Hungary. She writes technology articles and guides for BestBackups.
“My handiest Android trick is…”
To take full advantage of the phone’s built-in backup system. So many people don’t know, or don’t care, to take advantage of this feature, and later kick themselves when they accidentally drop their phone into a pool or toilet and lose all of their data.
Backing up your phone’s data and settings – including the all-too-important contacts, calendar, Wi-Fi passwords, and app data – is as simple as going to ‘Settings’ > ‘Backup and reset’, clicking on both ‘Backup my data’ and ‘Automatic restore’, then on ‘Backup my account’. It’ll then be automatically synced with your phone’s Google account and saved to Google’s servers.
The best part? All that data you’ve saved can be accessed and restored on both your current phone, or any new one that you purchase.
Michael Westcott is the Principal at Westcott, Small & Assoc., offering Civil Engineering design for both public and private land development projects.
“One of the coolest Android capabilities is…”
The voice-to-text functionality. If you use it on a regular basis, it learns your voice very well. Whenever I have a whole bunch of text to type or report or a long email to write, I use this functionality. For an email, I do it just as I normally would, except I use my voice. For a report, I open up an email and send it to myself. I then use the voice-to-text function to generate the text of my report. Send the email to myself. And then on my desktop it’s a simple copy and paste to get the text into a Word document. From that point, it’s just a little bit of formatting to complete a document. It saves me all sorts of time.
I wrote this using this method. What you see is an unedited version of my voice-to-text.
Eric Bowen is a Content Coordinator and Assistant Developer at BroadbandSearch.net.
“My favorite Android phone tip is…”
To enable the System UI Tuner on your device. The primary reason I do this is to get a numeric representation of battery life remaining on my device on the status bar. To enable this functionality, you will first need to activate the hidden settings menu by following these steps:
1. Swipe down on your screen to show notifications.
2. Swipe down again to show device settings.
3. Press and hold the small cog/gear icon on the top right hand side of the screen and then release it.
4. Enable the System UI Tuner menu.
5. Go to your device settings and scroll to the bottom and click System UI Tuner.
6. Click Show embedded battery percentage and you are done.
There are many additional options that you can play around with in this newly activated menu, but showing battery percentage via number is my favorite.
Karen Mesoznik is the Inbound Marketing Manager for SaferVPN, a fast-growing cybersecurity SaaS company providing online security, privacy, and freedom to hundreds of thousands of netizens worldwide. SaferVPN is known for leading the industry in simplicity and ease-of-use, with one-click applications for Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Chrome, as well as customized business solutions.
“My favorite phone hack, which is equally useful for both iPhone and Android, is…”
Downloading and using a mobile Virtual Private Network (VPN) app. A VPN allows you to connect to a remote server abroad, and browse through a private and secure network. There are many benefits to this simple hack, among them:
a) You can browse the web as if you were in your country of choice, meaning that you can access your favorite streaming content, music, VoIP calling apps, and social networks on your phone — even if you’re abroad and in a country where they aren’t available.
b) You can instantly secure your Wi-Fi and browse through an encrypted connection, which is especially crucial to protecting your personal data when using unsecured Public Wi-Fi networks in hotels, airports, and cafes.
c) Last but not least, you can also save on your data usage. When you browse with a VPN, your traffic is routed through the VPN’s servers, and gets compressed, therefore reducing your data usage — sometimes by up to 50%!
The full list of hacks you can enjoy with a mobile VPN app are listed in the article 17 Reasons You Need an Anonymous VPN.
When it comes to the many elements of the websites that ARC Software Studios creates, Fabian is the guy to ensure all parts are working together nicely. A designer at heart, Fabian is an all-around friendly guy with a penchant for perfection.
“The best hack for Android is…”
To remove bloatware. In fact, the Android Nexus program comes with Android as-is (no skins or bloatware) – as it was meant to be from Google.
“Here are some of the coolest Android tricks and tips for important features…”
I use Avast Battery saver to identify apps that eat up my battery. Some like Outlook I ignore since it works well otherwise, but others I terminate or switch to a comparable app.
I use Night Keeper to keep my phone from beeping in the middle of the night since I sleep next to it for the alarm. I have to terminate the app prior to the alarm, however, or the alarm won’t function. I manually turn off the Pulse Notification light via Settings – Sound & Notification; otherwise, the blinking light interrupts my sleep.
I toggle to Charging mode in USB Configuration to transfer files from my phone (Computer\Nexus 5\Internal storage\DCIM\Camera). Settings – Developer Options – (Networking) Select USB Configuration – MTP.
Brian graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Computer Science. This combination of expertise supports Brian’s omni-channel approach to digital marketing – creative strategy backed by hard data. Brian is an avid baseball fan, and tries to never miss a San Francisco Giants game. Brian is the Digital Marketing Manager at Barefoot Solutions, a software and mobile app development company in San Diego, CA.
“Our favorite Android trick is…”
For Android devices running Android Lollipop, there’s actually a hidden playable clone of the highly popular mobile app Flappy Bird. Here’s how to unlock it:
1. Go to Settings.
2. Tap on Android Version until a lollipop appears on screen.
3. Tap the lollipop a few times and then hold your finger down on it for a few seconds.
4. The playable Flappy Bird clone should pop up.
Patrick Parkins is an Android mobile application developer for a software company in Richmond, VA named V4 Development. Patrick enjoys pushing the envelope on what is possible on a mobile device and fully embraces the power of cloud computing.
“My favorite Android pro-tip is…”
One of the often overlooked, but incredibly useful, hacks on any Android device is the ability to access developer options. Once unlocked developer options offer a wide array of tools and flags that a user can tweak to profile their device’s performance, disable OEM bloatware, view device statistics, and much more.
To unlock developer options, a user simply has to open Settings, select About Phone/Tablet, then select Software Info and tap the Build Number option exactly 7 times. A toast will appear saying, “You’re a developer!” Voila!
One more small Easter egg from this menu on Lollipop and above is tapping the Android version multiple times until a mini game version of Flappy Bird appears with the Android robot character. Have fun and happy hacking!
Tyler Reynolds is the CEO & Co-Founder of Trinity Mobile Networks.
“My favorite Android tip is…”
Jumpnet (Jumpnet.com) is my favorite app for Android. Jumpnet gives me faster, cheaper, and more reliable wireless connections. It combines my Wi-Fi and cellular connections so I get better service when one connection isn’t fast enough, saves me money by moving more of my data consumption onto Wi-Fi, and seamlessly transitions my connections between Wi-Fi and cellular so my streams and video calls don’t drop as I switch between networks.
Saqib Zahid is the Senior Brand Strategist at PureVPN, the world’s fastest VPN service offering encrypted online privacy and security.
“Buying a new phone has the expectation it will be clean and lean but this usually is never the case…”
Android Phones come with a lot of built in bloatware which slows down the phone, reduces the battery life, and takes up a lot of memory. Mostly, there are better alternatives available to the bloatware apps, but the biggest issue is they cannot be deleted. To counter this issue I prefer to use bloatware-freezing apps to freeze apps I don’t want, making my system faster and reducing battery usage.
Andrea Barnes is the marketing manager at iCare Repair, an electronics device repair company in Michigan. Formerly an iPhone user, she switched to a Samsung Galaxy and never went back!
“For other Android users like me, my favorite tip is…”
Android phones with Marshmallow and higher can use Google Now on Tap to search about anything on screen. Just press the home button for a few seconds, and On Tap will display relevant information about whatever you have on your screen. No need to open another browser to search; just use Google on Tap!
Christian Denmon is a Founding Partner of Denmon & Denmon, A Personal Injury, Divorce, and Criminal Defense Law Firm.
“A great hack to give your phone a more personal feel is to…”
Download an app such as Beautiful Widgets to give your phone a more personal touch. This app allows you to customize your home screen and to create easy access to your favorite apps.
Shona Hemmady is a recent graduate of Yale University.
“My favorite Android hack is…”
Downloading Jumpnet, a new application that I absolutely love. It combines my Wi-Fi and cellular signal so I can get faster connections while still offloading most of my data use to Wi-Fi, so I’m saving money too.
Ed Brancheau is a San Diego-based SEO expert driving traffic and leads to businesses. CEO and Chief SEO Officer (CSO) at Goozleology, Ed has been working as an SEO professional for over 10 years and is a Google Certified Partner with expertise in Google AdWords Google AdSense, Pay Per Click (PPC), Internet marketing… the works.
“Who hasn’t had a problem with the battery life on their Android? I certainly did, so I installed…”
A battery-check app, and guess what? My battery got even worse. It turns out that the app was using a ton of the battery just to check the other apps on my phone. Which, of course, kind of defeated the purpose.
So I did an online search and found that Android has its own battery use app. All you have to do is go to Settings >< Battery and check Show Battery Percentage. When I did this, I found that two apps were using almost 30% of my battery: Amazon’s app and the Google Chrome Browser.
As it turns out, Amazon’s app starts up every time you use your phone to send push notifications about sales and discounts. Well, I certainly don’t need Amazon telling me about deals every few minutes, so I installed a startup app killer to stop that problem. Since then, my phone’s battery lasts much longer.
Kayla Ethan works at Rebateszone and has written articles on major media outlets like Huffington Post and Lifehack.
“My favorite Android hack is one of the best features of Android, yet it is hidden from most users…”
Remote locking. Nobody wants to lose their smartphone, but absolutely no one wants a random person to go through some of his most confidential data – especially when he has stolen our smartphone from us. You can stop this thief in his tracks by remotely blocking access to your smartphone. Head to your phone’s security settings and activate the Android Device Manager.
When the calamity eventually strikes, all you need to do is to log on to your Google account linked to your Android device and remotely lock your phone. You can also easily erase your phone’s entire data to stop it from falling into the wrong hands. Granted, you’ll still have suffered a financial loss, but you can still sleep in peace knowing that there has been no breach of your private and confidential information. After all, if we don’t have security, then we don’t have anything at all.
Robert Walter has been working in the tech industry for over 15 years, with extensive experience in web and mobile app development. He’s heading the development team at Degree 53, looking after the technical aspects and advises clients on best approaches to their products.
“At Degree 53, we’re always in search of the latest mobile apps, tips, and hacks. A few of our favorite hacks for Android include…”
– You can make your fingerprint reader more reliable by registering the same fingerprint multiple times in slightly different positions/angles.
– Enabling developer settings allows access to sRBG color mode which can make over-saturated AMOLED screens look a lot nicer – so better resolution and brighter colors.
– Currently Android (nor Apple) phones don’t have a restart/reboot option. You can only turn it off and then on again (2 actions instead of 1). So it would make the user experience a lot easier if there was such option.
– As we often have to design mobile apps from scratch, we follow Android design elements guidelines to ensure best user experience and authenticity to the platform. Best apps work when their design and UX are rooted in the platform and its user expectations. For example, Android has an actual ‘back’ button, so there’s no point in creating an additional arrow to go back as it’s just confusing. Also, design needs to stick to Android principles, whether it’s icons, arrows, pointers, ticks etc or actual blocks/cards for content. Some apps are often designed only for one platform and the second is always an afterthought, with discrepancies and inconsistencies for the respective OS. (Here’s some additional info on why apps look different in Android vs. iOS.)
– Many companies may see apps as an extension of their brand or as something that’s nice to have. However, any marketing element published as part of it needs to reflect the key messages and values, regardless of who sees or uses it. It is therefore important to put the user at the forefront when creating an app. Adhering to the Android or iOS guidelines will not only please the core audience, but will also positively reflect on the brand due to its attention to detail and focus on user experience. Apps are created with ease of use and speed in mind, and the simpler and more consistent the workflow is, the more appealing it will be.
Rob Boirun is an SEO specialist, Internet Marketer, Blogger and a weekend hockey warrior. He writes at Reviewster Network.
“One thing I am really surprised that people don’t utilize on their Android Phones is…”
The use of a VPN. There are many choices when it comes to using a VPN. The main reason you would want to use a VPN on your phone is for online security for when you are using it in a public Wi-Fi location. There are many other security reasons also. The only drawback is that using a VPN could slow down the internet connection, which could affect streaming video. But overall, this is one ‘hack’ I would recommend anyone implementing since it is super easy with most of the VPN apps available.
AJ Santos is the Owner of TechOTG, which provides on-the-go services and repairs for mobile phones, tablets, and computers.
“My favorite hacks are based off of apps…”
Record Your Screen
With Android 5.0 it’s now possible to screen record your phone via an app called AZ Screen Recorder. It’s a clean and versatile app with a some really neat features. So if you’re looking to ever record anything on your phone, this is the app to do it with.
Remotely Control Your Desktop Computer
Sometimes you’re away from your desktop and need to upload a file or something of the like. With Google’s Remote Desktop app, that’s entirely possible. It’s a quick and easy setup.
With the new Samsung Edge phones, edge display or notifications are a really neat feature. Now, it’s possible to have that feature without an edge display phone. Using Edge Color Notifications, you can customize notifications to wrap towards the edge of your phone. Definitely worth looking into.
Chris Orris is an Account Executive with Oxygen PR.
“As a huge Trekkie, my favorite thing with Android is…”
Getting it to look like the LCARS panels in Star Trek. If you’re not familiar, all the computers in the Star Trek shows since the 1980s have a really distinct colored paneling.
The only downside is that the theme uses GO Launcher Z, which I personally think is annoying.
However, the guy who made the theme was named Terence, and he was super helpful in helping me deal with it (mainly in lining up the wallpaper).
Ankit Seth is a co-founder at VedSutra, an online platform covering any and all information about Hinduism.
“Android has an amazing…”
Play Store, which lets you choose from millions of free and paid apps. However, a lot of apps have geographical restrictions and are not available in certain countries. Instead of being bogged down by the app not being available in your country, you can use a VPN to easily download and install the app. TunnelBear VPN is one of the best VPNs available for the job. All you need to do is to install the VPN and switch to a country where the app is available for download. I would recommend turning the VPN off post-download, as it might affect your internet speed.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Top 10 Android 2015 Hacks and Tricks for Your Android Phone via Prophet Hacker.
“Know how many people are using your WiFi network with Android…”
If you are the owner of a WiFi network, or you use a public WiFi network, how can you find out how many people and devices are connected to your network? You can see how many users are connected to your WiFi network by using Fing WiFi Network Analyser.
John is an Editor for Android Authority.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Android ‘hacks’ you can do without rooting your phone via Android Authority.
“One of the coolest Android hacks is the ability to…”
Re-configure navigation buttons. Home2 Shortcut is a brilliant little app that lets you re-assign new shortcuts to the navigation buttons that appear at the bottom of your phone’s screen. With Home2 Shortcut, you can easily configure your home button, for instance, to launch a specific app when you tap it twice. I’ve discovered that the app I use the most is Google Play Music, so assigning that as a shortcut was a no-brainer for me.
Scott is originally from the UK and graduated in Popular Music Studies at Newcastle University. He attributes most of his success there to his beloved Samsung Galaxy S2. A dedicated Android fan, Scott has never owned an Apple device of any kind and doesn’t see this changing anytime soon.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from 6 Android hacks you can do without rooting your phone via ANDROIDPIT.
“One cool Android hack enables you to…”
Bypass your security. Setting up a trusted location means that your device won’t require a security code when you use it in that place. Although there is a risk in doing this in public places – because you are making it easier to get into your phone – it’s a cool hack to use at home.
The way it works varies according to your device, but it involves going to your security settings and setting up a secure unlock method, such as a PIN code (if you haven’t already).
Once this has been done, go to Smart Lock, enter your pin number and then hit Trusted places. Add a trusted location and you will no longer need to enter a PIN code to unlock your phone while you’re in that place.
Dylan is a multimedia content guy with a penchant for the printed word. He’s written long-form articles and news content for a number of outlets, and has handled behind-the-scenes administrative work as an intern for some television shows you’ve heard of.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from 11 Android Hacks You Need to Know via Men’s Journal.
“One of the coolest Android hacks lets you…”
Easily identify which apps are slowing down your phone. Unlike iOS, Android makes important information about its performance quite accessible to the user. If you want to investigate phone performance or identify which app is causing your phone to run so sluggishly, then enable Developer Options under Settings > About Phone > Build Number. Tap on Build Number until you see the prompt that Developer Options has been enabled. Then go to Settings > Developer Options > Process Stats. This dialogue sorts your apps based on how much RAM they’re using. If certain apps are hogging the RAM, this leaves less for your other apps to share, and you may fix the situation by closing these more demanding apps.
Ashish is an Author at MobiPicker, technology freak, internet maniac, and a passionate blogger. You will find him with a laptop and a smartphone most of the time.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from 7 Android Hacks to do Without Rooting Your Phone via MobiPicker.
“One of my favorite Android hacks is for…”
Call Recorder apps. A lot of call recorder apps ask you to root your phone, but there are some apps that work on stock Android. You can use Automatic Call Recorder to record incoming and outgoing calls that are important to you.
Raul is an Author at Godokmi.Com. He is a tech enthusiast, a full-time blogger, and a part-time gamer.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Cool Android Hacks Without Rooting Your Phones via Godokmi.Com.
“One of the coolest tricks for Android users is…”
Using your LED flash for a heart rate monitor. You can use your Android device as a heart rate monitor without rooting your phone. Your LED flash can do this heart rate monitor job by tracking the color changes under your skin to monitor the amount of blood passing through. However, you need to have the right software so that your phone LED can do that job. Instant Heart Rate is one app that is available in the Play Store that seems to work well.
Hemant is the Founder of intenseCLICK.com, a professional blogger, and Geek.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from How to Speed up an Android Smartphone with 15 Android Hacks via intenseCLICK.com.
“The best tip I have for Android users is to…”
Keep fewer widgets. Widgets look light and small in size but actually they are not. Widgets are always running in the background; they are active all the time. While some Android users use them to keep track of the weather, and important dates, others use widgets like ‘Extended controls’ for quick access for essential configurations such as switching Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or their GPS on or off.
Widgets’ purpose is easy use and quick access, but bear in mind that having too many of them running on your homescreen will cause your device’s performance to slow down. Keep only important widgets.
Faisal is a postgraduate student doing MS in CS who has good knowledge about all the latest trends in the world of tech and gadgets. Faisal is both tech and IT tech-savvy. He also owns two blogs, Fancy Material and Geektor, both of which are tech-related. Faisal is also an author at Neurogadget.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Get to know these 4 cool Android hacks you can do without having to root your phone via Neurogadget.
“Android users can hack a number of games without…”
The need of rooting your Android phone using a hacking tool known as “Game Killer.” Since its inception, the tool has been updated regularly and to date, it consists of almost 800 games in its database.
What you have to do is simply download the Game Killer APK file from their website. Since this app isn’t available on the Play Store, you will have to turn on the option for “Unknown Sources” in your phone settings to get access to it. It’s a quite heavy app so you might wish to download it through a Wi-Fi network.
After you have installed the Game Killer tool on your phone, tap the icon to launch the app. A list of games will appear and start loading and as soon as the loading gets complete, tap the button that says “Hack Android Games Without Root.” A list of all supported games will appear on the next screen. From this list you can select the game you want to modify, or you can use the search feature to find your required game.
Once you select the game you want, a menu will appear that shows all the cheats that are available for that particular game. These cheats will differ depending on the type of game you wish to modify. Next, select the modifications you want to apply and then hit the “Hack” icon given at the bottom. That’s it. Game Killer will open the modified version of the game you chose along with the cheats.
After spending years as a governmental accountant, Allison decided to transition into the world of freelance writing. When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys mentoring mommy-preneurs and helping others manage their finances. Allison holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in accounting from the University of South Florida. Allison’s work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, ABC, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, Fox Business, Credit.com,MoneyTalksNews, Love to Know and a host of other reputable publications.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from 8 Android Hacks Every User Should Know via MoneyTalksNews.
“A lot of Android users don’t know that…”
The four-digit pin or swipe pattern isn’t the only way to secure your smartphone. You can enable your Android’s facial recognition software by going to your Security preferences, choosing Smart Lock and then selecting Trusted Face. To complete the setup, you’ll need to take some selfies; be sure to get your various angles, take one with your glasses, one without, etc. Then the next time you look at your phone, it should recognize you almost instantly and unlock without you having to do a thing.
Rob’s main interests are Windows Servers/Workstations, Linux, VMWare/Virtualization, hardware and networking. Working in IT he has also developed a decent background with scripting and web development. Lately Rob has been spending most of his time working with virtualization, IIS 7 web servers/farms and running PHP/ASP Content Management Systems with MySQL and MS SQL databases.
Rob also likes to play with Android and game consoles.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Android IP Security Cam with Motion Detection and Recording! via RobWillis.info.
“Here’s a cool trick you can use for an old Android phone…”
Use the Android IP Security Cam with motion detection and recording for different purposes. Normally I just sell my old phone on eBay or something and use that money to pay for my new phone. Being a techie, I began to think “What else can I do with it?” It’s not exactly useless just because there’s no cell service on it, I mean it has WiFi, Bluetooth and a decent 1080p camera. We recently got a little puppy and I was thinking I wish I could monitor her when not in the room or even home. Then it hit me, a few weeks ago my brother telling me how there were some apps out for Android to turn a phone into an IP based web cam.
It took a little bit of toying around to find the right software for my needs and I always try to use free/open source software if possible. In the end I was able to not only come up with a completely free solution but a pretty robust one with motion detection and everything. I found IP Webcam for Android works very well for the camera portion and has a lot of features including username/password security, 1920 x 1080 support and a slew of other options. To view streams from another Android device I found tinyCAM Monitor FREE works very well and actually has support for recording to various storage locations and motion detection.
I wanted to have something a little more solid for recording though, and using another Android device wasn’t going to cut it. That’s when I found iSpy for Windows, which is completely free and open source. The software is so good it’s really hard to believe they offer it up for free! You can record multiple cameras, set alerts, disk management, web access and all kind of other stuff.
That’s all it took! A little time and tinkering with the right software to completely re-purpose an old phone into a very useful security camera without spending a dime!