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Smartphones & gadgets

10 hidden tricks you didn’t know your Android could do

Ever handed your phone to a friend to show them something on your screen, only to have it returned and find that they’ve accidentally toggled over to that cheesy meme page you were browsing? As embarrassing as that can be, it’s the least of your worries.

What if they hand it back to you after infecting it with malware? Does your Android have a virus? How to find out and remove it.

You may think you know what your Android can do, but there are quite a few settings your phone offers that you may not be familiar with. Let’s take a look at 10 features your Android has that you may not know about.

1. Picture-in-picture mode

Do you want to become the king or queen of multitasking? Of course you do, and if you have an Android phone that’s running 8.0 Oreo and later, you can do just that because it offers picture-in-picture mode to allow for multitasking.

RELATED: 7 Android security settings you need to enable now

What type of multitasking, you ask? Well, you can Google the best places for lunch takeout while on a video call or you can entertain yourself with a YouTube video or six while waiting on your Zoom meeting to start. The multitasking world is your oyster.

To turn on picture-in-picture mode:

  • Navigate to your Android settings >> Apps & notifications >> Advanced >> Special access >> Picture-in-picture.
  • Tap YouTube.
  • Toggle on the option to Allow picture-in-picture.

2. Customize sounds and ringtones

If you have an Android phone, you can completely customize your sounds, ringtones, independent volume settings, and vibration settings.

You can also completely customize your sounds and ringtones so that they reflect more of your personality. (Or you can change them to remove some of the annoying pings and buzzes that come stock on your phone — whatever your preference).

And, if you want to add the “Baby Shark” ringtone or the “Rocky” theme song to your phone or adjust your other settings, it’s actually pretty easy to do.

To customize sounds:

  • Open your phone’s Settings app.
  • Tap Sound >> Advanced >> Default notification sound.
  • Choose a sound.
  • Tap Save.

To customize ringtones:

  • Open your phone’s Settings app.
  • Tap Sound >> Phone ringtone.
  • Pick a ringtone.
  • Tap Save.

To customize vibration settings:

  • Press a Volume button.
  • On the right, above the slider, you’ll see an icon. Tap it until you see:
    • Vibrate
    • Mute
  • If you want to unmute or turn off vibrate, all you have to do is tap the icon until you see Ring. This is completely optional, though.

To customize volume settings:

  • Press a Volume button.
  • At the right, tap Settings, or:
  • Slide the volume levels to where you want them. This includes:
    • Media volume: Music, videos, games, other media
    • Call volume: Volume of the other person during a call
    • Ring volume: Phone calls, notifications
    • Alarm volume

3. Split-screen

Have you ever tried to copy and paste from one app to another on your phone but failed miserably? Well, you can remedy that — and other issues — by employing the split-screen mode on your Android phone.

This mode will allow you to not only copy and paste from one app or screen to another with ease, but will also allow you to keep an eye on your work Slack channel while watching some super educational (and totally work-related) YouTube videos. Or, it will allow you to keep your chat window open while scanning a work document for answers to your coworker’s inquiries.

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To use split-screen mode on your Android phone:

  • Launch the first app that you want to use in split-screen multitasking and then enter the Recent apps screen.
    From there:
    • Swipe up from the Home bar in Android 10 by using gestures, or:
    • Swipe up from the Pill button by using 2-button navigation, or:
    • Tap the Recents button if using 3-button navigation.
  • Toggle over to the app you want to see at the top of your split-screen display.
  • Tap the Kebab menu within the Recents app switcher or hold the app icon to pull up the mini menu.
  • Tap Split-screen.
  • From there, you can open the secondary app from the recent app view, or you can pick an app from your home screen or app drawer.

4. Focus Mode

If you’re struggling to focus on certain tasks due to the allure of your incoming messages or other distractions, you can use the in Focus mode to become more productive. If you’re unfamiliar with Focus mode, it’s a Digital Wellbeing tool that helps you get back on track to productivity by temporarily pausing apps that may be distracting you.

For example, if you have a fiery game of Candy Crush that you can’t put down but you really need to get back on top of some work emails that have been sitting in your inbox for far too long, you can use Focus mode to force your hand away from the game.

To set your phone to Focus mode:

  • Open Settings from the app drawer or home screen.
  • Scroll down to the Digital Wellbeing section >> Digital Wellbeing & parental controls >> Focus mode.
  • Choose the apps that you want to pause.
  • Tap Turn on now to enable Focus mode.

5. Access app shortcuts

If you are a regular user of certain apps and like to pick up where you left off, you can use App Shortcuts to do just that. And, using this mode will not only allow you to access your primary actions straight from the launcher, but it will also allow you to pin the shortcuts to the home screen.

The one downside is only certain apps will allow shortcuts, so you’ll have to figure out which ones will allow you to set them to shortcuts by parsing through them. It’s a quick process, though, and shouldn’t add much time.

To turn on App Shortcuts:

  • Choose the apps you regularly use and want to create shortcuts for.
  • Touch and hold the app and then lift your finger. If the app has Shortcuts, you’ll see a list.
  • Touch and hold the Shortcut and then slide the Shortcut to where you want it.

6. Live captioning

Have you ever wished that your phone would offer live captioning, much like your television does? Well, you’re in luck. Chances are your Android phone does offer this.

That’s right. You can finally stop blaring podcasts at top volume to hear them in a loud coffee shop, and you can stop annoying your friends with those Facebook videos you watch on the regular by using the Live Captioning mode instead.

To turn on Live Captioning for specific content:

  • Find the Video, Podcast, or Other Content that you want to caption and start playing it.
  • Press the volume up or down button, which should bring up the Caption icon below the volume controls.
  • Tap the Caption icon to make the Live Caption box appear on the screen.
    • If you don’t see the icon, go to Settings >> Sound >> Live Caption and make sure the Live Caption in volume control option is toggled on.
  • Tap and drag the Caption box and place it anywhere you’d like on the screen.

To turn on Live Captioning for all content:

  • Go to Settings >> Sound >> Live Caption and toggle on Live Caption at the top of the screen. This will set your phone to automatically offer captions every time speech is detected.

7. Family Link

You can easily control your kid’s screen time by using Family Link. This setting allows you to set time limits for phone use and set a bedtime for supervised devices so that your child’s phone won’t be usable after a certain hour.

You can also lock their device by using Family Link, so they can’t sneak it to the dinner table or into homework time to distract them. You can manage the apps they use and download, too — all without touching their phones. Family Link is used and controlled remotely from your phone, so you won’t have to pry the device out of their hands to set any of these limits.

To enable Family Link:

  • Open the Family Link app.
  • Select your child.
  • Tap Location card >> Set Up.
  • Turn on the settings required to see your child’s location.

8. Screen recording

There are tons of reasons you may want to record your screen from time to time. Maybe you want to record a friend’s Snapchat video or capture a cute TikTok video but you can’t figure out how to download it.

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Well, you can record it with the screen recording option. All you have to do is set your phone up to record your screen by using the Developer Options.

To set Developer Options:

You’ll need to enable Developer Options before you can record your screen (if you don’t already have these enabled).

To do this:

  • Open Settings >> System >> About Phone.
  • Scroll down to Build and then tap Build 7 times.
  • Go back to the previous screen, and select Developer Options.
  • Turn on enable Developer Options.

Once that is done:

  • Open the Developer Options menu and Select Feature Flags.

To set your phone to enable screen recording:

  • Look for settings_screenrecord_long_press in the Developer Options menu.
  • Enable this setting.

To start a new recording:

  • Press and hold the Power button.
  • A menu will pop up. Tap and hold Screenshot on that menu and choose Start Recording to begin recording.

9. Set priority notifications

If you’re dealing with notification fatigue from your apps constantly sending you new notifications, you may be tempted to mute them. If you do this, you can still set your phone to send priority notifications, which are overridden in the mute notifications setting.

You can also choose which notifications you want to prioritize to send to the top of the list. This is especially helpful if your phone is constantly pinging with notifications but you don’t want to mute any of them. It will allow you to prioritize the order in which your notifications are listed on your phone by tossing the more important ones to the top of the list.

To choose which notifications you’d like to treat as priority notifications:

First, you’ll need to set your phone to Priority Mode. You can do this via the volume buttons. All you have to do is move the volume up or down (pro tip: don’t try this when music is playing or it won’t work) and then tap Priority on the box that appears.

You’ll have the option to use Priority Mode until you choose to switch it off, or you can choose to set it for a certain amount of time. Set it for whichever mode you prefer.

Once Priority Mode is turned on:

  • Open your phone’s Settings >> Sound & notification.
  • Tap Do not disturb >> Priority only allows you to set your notifications to mute, other than the ones you prioritize.

10. Pin the screen when loaning it

If you want to show a nosy friend or family member something that’s happening on your screen but don’t want them to have the option to scroll through other open apps or windows, you can pin the screen on your phone pretty easily.

It will help cut down on awkward situations or accidental clicks — and it’s especially handy for parents who lend their phones to children and have them returned with 8,000 open browser tabs full of ads.

To turn on screen pinning on your Android phone:

  • Open your phone’s Settings app and tap Security or Security & location >> Advanced >> Screen pinning.
  • Turn on Screen pinning.

After turning on screen pinning:

  • Toggle over to the screen you want to pin and swipe up to the middle of your screen. This should open your Overview screen.
  • Tap the app’s icon at the top of the image and then tap Pin.
  • Your screen won’t un-pin without your PIN, pattern, or password once this is activated.

These helpful Android tricks will let you get the most out of your device with a few simple changes to your settings. Now, don’t you wish you knew them earlier?

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