10 Things to Remember About Android Phones and Tablets - dummies

10 Things to Remember About Android Phones and Tablets

By Dan Gookin

Have you ever tried to tie a string around your finger to remember something? For your Android, some things are definitely worth remembering. From that long, long list, here are ten good ones.

Dictate Text

Dictation is such a handy feature — don’t forget to use it! You can dictate most text instead of typing it. Especially for text messaging on an Android phone, it’s just so quick and handy.


Just about any time you see the onscreen keyboard, you can dictate instead of typing: Tap the Dictation icon and begin speaking. Your utterances are translated to text. In most cases, the translation is instantaneous.

Change the Orientation

The natural orientation of the Android phone is vertical — its portrait orientation. Larger-format Android tablets have a natural horizontal orientation. Smaller tablets beg to be held vertically. No matter what’s natural, you won’t break any law by changing the device’s orientation.

Apps such as Chrome and Gmail can look much better in the horizontal orientation, whereas apps such as Play Books and Play Music can look much better in the vertical orientation. The key to changing orientation is to rotate the device to view the app the way you like best.

  • If you prefer a specific orientation, use the Quick Settings item that locks the orientation.
  • Not every app changes its orientation. Some apps — specifically, games — present themselves in one orientation only: landscape or portrait.
  • eBook reader apps have screen rotation settings that let you lock the orientation to the way you want, regardless of what the Android is doing.

Work the Quick Settings

Many Android controls are available at a single, handy location: the Quick Settings drawer: Use two fingers to swipe from the top of the screen downward, and behold the Quick Settings drawer.

Many common features sport Quick Settings icons: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen orientation, and more. Using the Quick Settings drawer is far more expedient than visiting the Settings app.

Employ Keyboard Suggestions

Don’t forget to take advantage of the predictive text suggestions that appear above the onscreen keyboard while you’re typing text. Tap a word suggestion to “type” that word. 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 glide 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.

Avoid the Battery Hogs

Three items can suck down battery power on your mobile device faster than a massive alien fleet is defeated by a plucky antihero who just wants the girl:

  • The display
  • Navigation
  • Wireless radios

The display is obviously a most necessary part of your Android — but it’s also a tremendous power hog. The Adaptive Brightness (also called Auto Brightness) setting is your best friend for saving power with the display.

Navigation is certainly handy, but the battery drains rapidly because the touchscreen is on the entire time and the speaker is dictating your directions. If possible, plug the Android into the car’s power socket when you’re navigating.

Wireless radios include Wi-Fi networking, Bluetooth, and GPS. Though they require extra power, they aren’t true power hogs, like navigation and the display. Still, when power is getting low, consider disabling these items.

Unlock and Launch Apps

The most common unlock-and-launch feature is the Camera app. Swipe this icon across the locked touchscreen to quickly snap a picture or record a video. Many Androids let you add other lock screen launchers in addition to the Camera app.

  • To unlock and launch an app, swipe the icon across the screen. That app instantly runs.
  • Depending on the screen lock that’s installed, the app may run but the Android won’t unlock. To do anything other than run the app, you must work the screen lock.
  • Lock screen launchers may not be available when the None or swipe screen lock is set.

Enjoy Phone Tricks

Most Androids sold are phones. They predate tablets by a few years. Still, it’s possible to place phone calls on an Android tablet. That’s just one of many phone tricks.

Locking the phone on a call

Whether you dialed out or someone dialed in, after you start talking, 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.

If you like to talk with your hands, or just use your hands while you’re on the phone, get a good set of earbuds with a microphone. Using a headset lets you avoid trying to hold the phone between your ear and shoulder, which could unlock the phone or cause you to drop it or perhaps do something more perilous.

Making calls on a tablet

It’s not a phone. Even Android tablets that use the mobile data network can’t make phone calls. Why let that stop you?

Both the Hangouts and Skype apps let you place phone calls and video-chat with your friends. Boost your Skype account with some coinage and you can even dial into real phones.

Avoiding roaming

Roaming can be expensive. Even though you might have a good 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. They ain’t cheap.

Use the plus (+) symbol when dialing internationally

That phone number may look like it needs the + symbol, and the Phone app’s dialpad features a + key, shared with the 0 key, but don’t use it unless you’re dialing an international number. The + symbol prefix is the first part of any international phone number.

Check Your Schedule

The Calendar app reminds you of upcoming dates and generally keeps you on schedule. A great way to augment the calendar is to employ the Calendar Widget on the Home screen.

The Calendar Widget lists the current date and then a long list of upcoming appointments. It’s a helpful way to check your schedule, especially when you use your Android all the time. I recommend sticking the Calendar Widget right on the main, or center, Home screen panel.

Remember to specify location information when you set up an appointment in the Calendar app. Type the information as though you were searching in the Maps app. You can then quickly navigate to your next appointment by touching the location item when you review the event.

Snap a Pic of That Contact

Here’s something I always forget: 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 entries in the address book so that all your contacts have photos.

When taking a picture, be sure to show it to the person before you assign it to the contact. Let them decide whether it’s good enough.

Receiving a call on an Android phone is then much more interesting when you see the caller’s picture, especially a silly or an embarrassing one.

Use Google Assistant

Google is known worldwide for its searching capabilities and its popular website. By gum, the word Google is synonymous with searching. So please don’t forget that your Android, which uses the Google Android operating system, has a powerful search, nay, knowledge companion. It’s called the Google Assistant.

  • On many Androids, you access Google Now from the far left Home screen page.
  • The Google Search widget on the Home screen provides a shortcut to your Google Assistant.
  • The Google Assistant app is titled Google.


  • Next to the Google Assistant, you can take advantage of the various Search icons found in just about every app. Use this icon to search for information, locations, people — you name it. It’s handy.