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Six clicks: Great tips and tricks for Android

Android is probably the most versatile mobile platform ever produced. It is so broad there are layers of features buried deep under the facade. These tips will help peel back those layers.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

6 tips and tricks for Android

Android is the mobile platform that lets you make what you want of it. It is customizable in almost every way and whatever you need to do there's probably an app to make it so.

As the OS has matured its integrated features and functionality has grown, often quietly in the background. Unless you spend a lot of time fiddling with the Android settings you may miss some useful features.

Now you don't have to spend the time, as we've done a deep dive in the settings to find six useful tips and tricks that will make your Android phone and/or tablet even better. Spin through them and you should find at least one or two that make you a happier Android user.

Due to the many versions of Android out there, along with OEM customizations of them, the settings menus differ widely. The instructions for accessing these tips and tricks may not appear on your device exactly as stated, but should be similar enough you can find them with a little investigation.

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2 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Enable power saving mode when battery is dying

Smartphones and tablets use a lot of power, and on those days you see your battery level plummet you probably scramble to stretch it until you reach a power outlet.

There are lots of articles on the web with tips to cut your phone's battery consumption (See ) so we won't go into that here. It is easy to forget that Android has a power saving mode that is designed to eke as much time out of the dying battery as possible.

Just turn it on and it will instantly throttle things down to use the least amount of power. This includes turning off haptic feedback, the vibration your phone does when things happen. It throttles the CPU of the device to be gentler on the battery. Lastly, it reduces the frame rate of the screen and lowers the brightness, since the display is the worst offender.

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3 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Android data usage warning

Now that mobile broadband in the form of 3G and 4G has spread far and wide, Android device owners need to keep an eye on how fast they sip from the broadband trough. There are a few apps that can keep an eye on 3G/4G data usage, but Android can do that for you.

Under settings somewhere you should find a setting for data usage. This will track the usage on an app level so you can see what is using all your bandwidth.

That's not all, either. If you toggle the setting that alerts you when your data consumption hits a certain level, your phone will warn you. Drag the warning bar to the data usage amount for the notification. No more surprise overages from your big, bad carrier.

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4 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Inverted rendering/reverse colors

If you use your Android device at night or in adverse lighting situations, this setting will become your best friend. It reverses colors rendered on the screen, eg black to white. This makes it much easier to read the screen in the dark.

Besides the obvious, displaying black screens has an unexpected benefit. Rendering dark pages uses less power than light pages.

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5 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Personalized voice recognition

Not everyone likes to tell Android what to do by voice, but those used to dictating search queries and other input realize how good Android’s speech recognition has gotten. It’s not perfect, so there’s a way to get Android to learn what you tell it over time, and get more accurate as a result.

The personalized voice recognition is buried in the settings so it’s a little hard to find. Under the “Language and input” section you should find “voice search”. The “Personalized recognition” setting is a toggle that activates the learning process. Anything it learns about your speech input is associated with your Google account.

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6 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Chrome browser bandwidth management

If you don't use the Chrome browser on Android devices, you probably should. It has evolved into a mobile powerhouse for surfing the web.

One of the nicest features in the Chrome browser settings is bandwidth management. Android device owners do a lot of surfing the web, and that can use a lot of data bandwidth.

Enter Chrome for Android to help reduce the data used by the browser. Under settings there is a section labelled "bandwidth management". Here you can restrict the browser from preloading pages unless on Wi-Fi.

Even more powerful is the "reduce data usage" setting. This uses Google's servers to compress web pages, reducing the amound of data served. This can save you quite a bit of data consumption over time.

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7 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Enable offline voice recognition

Google has baked some powerful speech recognition technology into Android. This lets you speak search queries, and create content by voice. 

This works by checking with Google's servers to make the recognition more accurate. This normally requires your device to be online when entering text by speech. 

Fortunately, there's a setting that enables speech input when offline, by downloading language packs to the device. Some implementations of Android turn this on by default, but not all. It's worth a quick check in settings under Language & input to make sure offline recognition is turned on.

Online or offline, Android's recognition can work in multiple languages, so while you're in the settings download and enable dictionaries for any languages you might speak to your device.

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