This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Learn more

14 things you didn't know you could do with your Android phone

Getting the most out of your Android handset

14 things you didn't know you could do with your Android phone

Didn't want an iPhone, eh?

Good for you. We admire your spirit - going against the smartphone grain.

As an Android user, you're probably aware that your preferred OS has a wealth of adjustable features to provide a more 'personal' feel. But with so many bloody features, it can be hard to keep track of them all.

On which note - here are 20 of the best you probably haven't discovered yet. 

You're welcome.

Map your location

If you've allowed Google to keep all its location settings turned on, you can view your entire movements with an Android device via the Google Maps Timeline feature.

Log on to your Google/Android account and head to:

It's fascinating, but also slightly scary that this is how much your handset knows about your daily movements...

Write numbers quickly

Be honest - are you still holding down the letter 'T' to type '5'? Or, slower still, heading to the numeric keyboard?

There's a quicker way you might not know about. Touch the "?123" key and then slide it upward across the keyboard to the number or character you want. Let go, and that character will be inserted while the keyboard will go back to normal.


Type quick capitals

Just like the number trick, there's a neat shortcut for typing capital letters with the Android keyboard.

Press and hold the 'Shift' key, and then slide in the direction of the letter you want to capitalise - in this instance, G. 

When you let go, the G will be typed in its capital form, and the rest of the keyboard will go back to lowercase. 

Type fractions in half the time

One more keyboard shortcut - and this one's for fractions.

You can write a series of common fractions by pressing and holding any number, sliding to select the fraction once it appears.

Remember that other number trick? Holding down the '?123' button and then sliding into a long hold on a number will also let you access a fraction, before the keyboard goes back to its QWERTY form. 

Improve your battery life

You might have noticed your battery kick in to 'Battery Saving' mode when you're running low on juice - but did you know you can turn it on whenever you want?

  • Head to Settings
  • Click Battery - you'll get this screen on the latest Marshmallow OS
  • Click the three dots in the top right hand corner and head to Battery Saver
  • This will ensure your device will automatically go into a deep sleep state when it’s idle, and all those apps you seldom use will go into a reduced activity state, all to ensure your battery survives for longer

Learn your swipes

You know you can access notifications by swiping down from the top of your screen, right? And that another swipe gets you into the settings menu?

Well, did you know that if you use two fingers to swipe down, it takes you straight into the settings menu?

You do now. You Android master you.

Activate your personal assistant

You might have missed the 'Now on Tap' feature, but it's basically the best personal assistant going on Android (or any smartphone, for that matter).

  • If you want extra details on content within an app you're using, press and hold down the Home button
  • Now on Tap will pop up to provide you with links to information, or shortcuts to apps that may be helpful. Have a play with various apps - it'll work for anything you're using

Keep your phone unlocked at home

Always keeping your phone locked is a good idea - but the Android Smart Lock feature means you won't have to input your swipe pattern/fingerprint/impossible-to-guess pin code you've been using since you were 16. 

  • Head to Settings
  • Scroll down to Security
  • From here, tap on Smart Lock
  • There are several features you can turn on, including the ability to add trusted places (always leave your phone unlocked at home), facial recognition and voice recognition

Never lose a photo

If you're not already using it, the Android Photos app has some great features for keeping your phone storage uncluttered by photos you don't need access to at all times.

  • Open the Photos app 
  • Touch the menu button (top left) and select Settings
  • Touch Back up & sync
  • Add your Google account - you can then tweak how your phone backs up and syncs with the Google Photo storage system. You'll get notifications of when it's time to purge some photos and shuffle them over to the cloud 

Add a user to your mobile

Picture the scene: your battery has died and you need to make a call - but you can't remember your friend's number. Rather than collapsing to a heap on the pavement and crying, you can log in to your friend's Android phone and - so long as they have a data connection - access any contacts you've backed up on your Android account.

  • Head to Settings
  • Scroll down to Personal, Accounts
  • From here, click Google - you might need to provide a password from the person who owns the phone at this point
  • Once the account is added, you'll have access to your contacts - just be sure to remove the account once you've made your emergency call, otherwise your friend will have ultimate prank potential 

Add multiple users

Got a kid who's always asking to use your phone? Or want to have one set up for work and another for personal use?

  • Head to Settings
  • Scroll down to Users
  • From here, if you tap 'Add user' you can set up a new homescreen, new settings, new widgets - giving your entire phone a second identity, as it were

Find your phone

If you've lost your phone, you can search for it from Google (via a connected Google account) by just searching "Find my phone". It will then give you the physical location of your handset, the ability to make it ring and even an option to remotely lock and wipe it.

  • To turn this function on, head to Settings
  • Scroll down to Google and give it a tap
  • Then head to Security 
  • You can then change settings for 'Remotely locate this device' and 'Allow remote lock and erase'

Record a message anywhere, access it anywhere

  • Say "OK Google" to access Google Now on your Android phone
  • Say "Take a note" and dictate what you'd like to remember
  • This will be stored in the Google Keep app - which you can then access from other Google devices or Chrome

Reduce blue light before bed

Google Play Books Reader now has a 'Night Light' feature that lets you cut out blue light with amber light, helping your brain slow down before a night's sleep

  • From the Play Books Reader app, head to Settings
  • Turn on the Night Light feature
  • Night Light automatically adapts to the amount of natural sunlight outside, based on the time of day, giving you just the right temperature and brightness