Upgrade Your Life

New Tricks for New (and Old) Android Phones

Becky Worley
Upgrade Your Life

There's a new crop of Android phones out there — and a new set of hidden shortcuts to make using your phone even easier. And even if you have an older model, I'll share my favorite tools to get you the same functionality you would get with a brand-new device.

Camera Tricks
One of the handiest things about modern phones is that you now have a reasonably high quality camera with you at all times. But as cool as that is, it can be incredibly frustrating how long it takes for the camera to launch. How many times has this happened to you: By the time you've woken up the phone, unlocked your screen, and opened the camera app, you've missed the moment.

Launch the camera in just one move. On most phones running the latest Android OS, you can customize your lock screen for fast access. On the Samsung SIII, for example, you can simply press and hold the center of the lock screen, rotate the phone 90 degrees while still holding the center of the screen — and boom; the camera launches. To enable this feature, go to Settings, Security, Lock Screen Options, and then turn on CAMERA QUICK ACCESS. On older android phones you can use an app like WidgetLocker to get the camera icon onto your lock screen. Added bonus: With WidgetLocker, you can customize your lock screen with whatever functions you like to access quickly.

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Voice Control. Once you get the camera fired up, many newer Androids also offer voice control. Set your camera on a tripod or Gorillapod and say "Shoot." After a one-second delay (just long enough to smile), the camera will snap the shot. This is great for self-portraits and group shots.

If you have an older Android phone, Camera ZOOM FX gives you the same voice control, plus some awesome additional powers — stabilizer, time lapse, and Burst Mode, which lets you take up to 10 shots in a second.

Screen Capture
Say you want to do a screen grab of a web page — or maybe you have a cute sequence of texts you want to save forever — whatever. Depending on the model and flavor of Android you have, some key combos will do the trick. On some versions, press the Home key and Power buttons at the same time; on others, it's Volume Down and Power. On older phones, you can get an app like Screenshot It, which enables you to capture what's on your phone's screen, just not with the quick key combos of newer phones.

[Related: True/False: Never Sell Your Old Phone]

Fast Reboot
Powering down your phone normally takes two moves, and restarting takes a third. But if you hold down the power button for 10 seconds, it'll reboot with just one move. This should work on most Android phones.

Managing Battery Life & Speed
The best way to improve your phone's battery life and speed is to keep the number of open apps to a minimum. But how do you know what's open? Answer: The Task Manager lists the programs that are currently operating in the background, draining your battery. But instead of scrolling through menus to find the Task Manager, you can launch it immediately by holding down the Home key. You should now be able to see a list of all apps that are currently running. From the same screen, you can close anything that isn't mission critical.

Not All Androids Are Created Equal
One caveat for all these shortcuts: they may or may not work depending on what version of Android you're running or which brand of phone you have. So let us know what worked for you and share your favorite shortcuts on our Facebook page.

[Related: More Android Touchscreen Secrets]

Brad Marshland contributed to this story.

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