10 Things to Remember About an Android Phone

By Dan Gookin

Following are ten things to remember when using your Android phone, but don’t think for a moment that there are only ten. Continually check for updates.

Lock the phone on a call

Whether you dialed out or someone dialed in, after you start talking, you should lock your phone. Press the Power/Lock key. By doing so, you disable the touchscreen and ensure that the call isn’t unintentionally disconnected.

Of course, the call can still be disconnected by a dropped signal or by the other party getting all huffy and hanging up on you. But by locking the phone, you prevent a stray finger or your pocket from disconnecting (or muting) the phone.

Use landscape orientation

The natural orientation of the typical Android phone is vertical — its portrait orientation. Even so, that doesn’t mean you have to use an app in portrait orientation.

Turning the phone to its side makes many apps, such as the web browser app and the Maps app, appear wider. It’s often a better way to see things, such as more available items on certain menus, and to give you larger key caps on which to type if you’re using the onscreen keyboard.

  • Not every app supports landscape orientation.

  • You can lock orientation so that the touchscreen won’t flip and flop. The easiest way to do so is by touching the Auto Rotate quick action. Otherwise, open the Settings app and choose Display to find the orientation lock setting.

Enjoy Google Now

Perhaps the most powerful feature on any Android phone is Google Now. You use it for more than just searching for something. Google Now updates you with cards. And the more you use Google Now, the more cards you see and the more relevant they become.

Start Google Now by touching the Google Search widget on the Home screen, starting the Google Now app, or swiping the screen from the bottom up. That swipe works even on the lock screen.

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Abuse the onscreen keyboard

Don’t forget to take advantage of the suggestions that appear above the onscreen keyboard while you type. Choosing a word, or long-pressing a word to see more choices, greatly expedites the ordeal of typing on a cell phone. Plus, the predictive text feature may instantly display the next logical word for you.

When predictive text fails you, keep in mind that you can use Google Gesture typing instead of the old hunt-and-peck. Dragging your finger over the keyboard and then choosing a word suggestion works quickly — when you remember to do it.

Things that consume lots of battery juice

Three items on your phone suck down battery power faster than an 18-year-old fleeing the tyranny of high school on graduation day:

  • Navigation

  • Bluetooth

  • The display

Navigation is certainly handy, but because the phone’s touchscreen is on the entire time and dictating text to you, the battery drains rapidly. If possible, try to plug the phone into the car’s power socket when you’re navigating. If you can’t, keep an eye on the battery meter.

Bluetooth requires extra power for its wireless radio. When you need that level of connectivity, great! Otherwise, turn off your Bluetooth gizmo as soon as necessary to save power.

Finally, the touchscreen display draws a lot of power. You can try using the Auto Brightness setting, but it can get too dark to see or, more frequently, it takes too long to adjust to a high- or low-light setting. So if you avoid the Auto Brightness setting, remember how that bright display can drain the battery.

Check for roaming

Roaming can be expensive. Even though you might have a good cell phone plan, keep an eye on the phone’s status bar to ensure that you don’t see the Roaming status icon when you’re making a call.

Well, yes, it’s okay to make a call when your phone is roaming. Remember to check for the icon, not to avoid it. If possible, try to make your phone calls when you’re back in your cellular service’s coverage area. If you can’t, make the phone call but keep in mind that you will be charged roaming fees.

Use the + symbol when dialing internationally

Most folks are careful when dialing international numbers. On an Android phone, you can use the + key to replace the country’s exit code. In the United States, the code is 011. So whenever you see an international number listed as 011-xxxxxxxxxx, you can instead dial +xxxxxxxxxx, where the x characters represent the number to dial.

Get a docking stand

A docking stand is horrifically expensive for what it is: a squat little chunk of plastic that props up the phone to a favorable viewing angle. It comes with a charging cord, so the phone charges while it’s docked. Yet the docking stand has no other features to justify the high price, except that it was designed specifically for your phone.

Docking stands make excellent bedside holders for your phone. In fact, most phones recognize the docking stand and run a special Home screen app while they’re docked. You can use the Clock app, play music, or watch a photo slideshow while the phone is docked.

Snap a pic of that contact

Whenever you’re near one of your contacts, take the person’s picture. Sure, some people are bashful, but most folks are flattered. The idea is to build up your Contacts list so that all contacts have photos. Receiving a call is then much more interesting when you see the caller’s picture, especially a silly or an embarrassing one.

The Search command

The Search command is not only powerful but also available all over your Android phone. Just about every app features a Search icon.

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Touch the Search icon to look for information such as locations, people, text — you name it. It’s handy. It’s everywhere. Use it.

Once upon a time, the Search icon was part of the basic navigation icons that appeared at the bottom of an Android phone’s touchscreen.