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50 Android tips

If you've just bought an Android phone, we've put together 50 tips on how to get the most from your new Google-powered device.

There's no knocking the iPhone, but it's not for everyone. If you're one of the rapidly growing number of people opting for an Android phone, we've put together 50 tips on how to get the most from your Google-powered smart phone. Hit play on the video, then find detailed instructions below.

If you're struggling to choose a phone from the vast selection on offer right now, try our straightforward guide -- what phone should I buy? And if you've already mastered the basics on your new Android phone, you should check out our choice of the best Android apps to make your homescreen feel like, well, home.

Getting started

Android notifications, contact shortcuts, unique ring tone

1. The notification area at the top of the screen shows your phone's charge, and its mobile, data and Wi-Fi signal strengths. Drag it down to view notifications, or to toggle power-hungry features such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS on and off. Use the Sound icon to enter or leave silent mode.

2. Regularly call, text or email someone? Create a shortcut by tapping the Home screen and holding your finger down (tap-holding), then tap Shortcuts and choose Contact. Just tap the shortcut whenever you want to get in touch.

3. Giving someone a unique ring tone means you don't have to look to know they're calling. Tap Contacts, find and tap the right entry, press Menu and tap Edit. Scroll to Ringtone, tap it and choose the sound you want.

Android adding photos to contacts, search, wallpaper

4. Adding photos to contacts helps personalise them. Edit a contact as above and tap the silhouette next to their name. Choose an existing photo from an album, or use the camera to take one there and then.

5. The Google Search widget should already be on your Home screen (if not, see tip 11 for how to add it). Type in a word or phrase then tap the arrow to search for it. Tap the 'g' icon to choose what to search, or the microphone icon to try speaking your search.

6. To change your phone's default wallpaper tap-hold the Home screen and tap Wallpaper. Now you can choose from supplied wallpapers, photos in the Gallery or even animated Live wallpapers -- just remember the latter can sap your battery.

Market and applications

Android Market and applications

7. Tap the Applications button to see your installed apps, dragging your fingertip across the screen to scroll between pages. Find and tap Market to go to the Android app store. Here you can browse thousands of free and cheap applications. Install one you like by tapping its Download box and agreeing to its permissions (see the 'Getting online' section below).

8. Sometimes there are several competing apps available to do the same job. The apps at the top of the Market search results are normally both popular and highly rated -- try these first.

9. You can get a no-quibble refund for an app you don't like, but only within 15 minutes of buying it. From the Market, press Menu, tap My Apps and select the questionable app. If you're quick enough to see a Refund button, tap it to uninstall and get your money back.

Android app shortcuts

10. Create shortcuts for quick access to the apps on your phone. Hold your fingertip down on the Home screen and select Shortcuts in the pop-up menu. Tap Applications, and select the shortcut you want. To move it, tap-hold and drag it.

11. Some apps have cool widgets. Tap-hold the Home screen, select Widgets and choose from the list. Move widgets just like shortcuts, and delete by tap-holding then dragging to the Remove bin at the bottom of the screen.

Android uninstall app, edit dock, quit app

12. Deleting shortcuts or widgets won't uninstall the app. Tap Applications to view your installed apps. To uninstall, press the Menu button, tap Edit, then tap the minus sign next to the app you're tired of.

13. You can use the same screen to edit the 'docked' icons visible from all Home screens. Drag icons on or off the dock then press Menu again and tap Save.

14. If you want to quit the application you're running, keep pressing Back until you return to the Home screen. Using the Home button instead leaves the app running, rather like minimising a program in Windows.

Android re-open app, home screens

15. Want to re-open the app you just closed? Hold the Home key for a second to see the most recently used apps. On some Android phones this also lets you start a task manager. You can use it to close apps, but it's better to quit them normally if possible.

16. Android phones have several Home screens -- dragging the background scrolls between them, while on many phones a 'pinch' gesture zooms out to show them all. Try grouping similar shortcuts and widgets on each page so you have, say, one for socialising, navigating, shopping and so-on.

17. Home screens getting messy? Tap-hold the Home screen and tap Folders to create an empty folder, then drag icons into it. To rename the folder, tap it open and tap-hold the bar at the top.

Text tips

Android Swype, cut and paste, delete word, Vlingo

18. Finding text entry a drag? Write words on Samsung Galaxy phones by dragging your finger through the letters. Open the Settings menu (see tip 38), tap Locale and text, tap Select input method and choose Swype. Follow the tutorial to master it. On other phones, try installing the FlexT9 app.

19. Cut, copy and paste text by tap-holding it, then dragging the brackets to the correct selection and tapping either Cut or Copy. Navigate to, then tap-hold where you want the text to go and tap Paste.

20. Enable Caps Lock by tap-holding Shift. To delete an entire word, tap Shift then tap Backspace, or tap-hold the backspace key and keep it held down to delete larger sections of text.

21. Who needs Siri? Install Vlingo and add its widget to your Home screen to control your phone with your voice. Tap it, give a command such as, "text Dad", then dictate your message.

Getting online

Android data roaming, Wi-Fi, browser

22. You'll need a mobile phone account with data before you can use the Internet on the move. SIM-only customers may need to contact their network to set it up. Avoid huge bills for data while abroad by selecting Wireless and network from the Settings menu, tapping Mobile networks and ensuring that Data roaming isn't ticked.

23. While in the UK, save your bundled data by using Wi-Fi wherever possible. Enter the Settings menu then select Wireless and network. Tap Wi-Fi settings, scroll down and pick a network from the list, providing the password if necessary.

24. Android's browser works just like any other -- run it by tapping the Internet app. Many sites are optimised for mobile phones, but there's often a link to the full site at the bottom of the page. If text is too small to read, double-tap it to zoom.

Android bookmark, homepage, disable background data

25. The Menu key brings up options to open and switch between multiple browser windows. Bookmark a site by pressing Menu to display the address bar, then tapping the star icon to the right of it.

26. To change the Internet homepage, visit the site you want then press Menu, tap More and tap Settings. Scroll down the Internet settings menu and tap Set home page, then tap Use current page.

27. Mobile data is expensive, and many apps send and receive it in the background. Disable this by tapping Accounts and sync in the Android Settings menu, then un-ticking Background data. Alternatively hold in the power button for a second and tap to turn off Data network mode.

Android Update over Wi-Fi only, tethering, Airplane mode

28. Allowing apps to update automatically can hammer your mobile data allowance. Visit the Market, press Menu, tap Settings and tick Update over Wi-Fi only.

29. If you're on the road and need to get your laptop online, connect it to your phone with a USB cable if available then exit the phone's PC mode. Enter the Android Settings menu, tap Wireless and network and tap Tethering. Tick USB tethering to use your phone's data connection for your PC. If USB isn't available, tick Mobile AP and tap Mobile AP settings to turn your phone into a wireless hotspot. Be warned: most mobile operators frown on tethering.

30. To use your phone on a plane, prepare it before you take off. Hold in the power button for a second and tap Airplane mode to disable all radios, then turn the power off. When you turn the phone on in the air it'll already be in Airplane mode.

Extra functions

Android alarm clock, Stopwatch

31. Your phone is also a travel alarm clock. Find Clock among your applications, tap it to run the app, then tap Create alarm. Set the time and day(s) for the alarm and any other options, then tap Save. Leave the phone on overnight or the alarm won't sound.

32. Clock does more than tell the time. Start the app and tap Stopwatch to time an event, or tap Timer to set a countdown timer with an alarm -- ideal for cooking, or just for a well-judged power nap.

Android World clock, add songs, music player

33. World clock can save your blushes and stop you Skypeing someone at four in the morning. In Clock, tap World clock, tap Add city, then choose from the list to keep an eye on another time zone.

34. Leave the MP3 player at home, and add songs to your phone by connecting to your PC and using the phone's file-management software. Alternatively, use Explorer to manually copy tunes across to a new folder. Either way, Android's media scanner will find them when you disconnect the phone from the computer.

35. Play music with Android's built-in player -- find and start Music from among your apps, then browse by track, album or artist. Tap a song or album to play it.

Android Google Maps, Runkeeper

36. GPS enables some of your phone's most exciting features. Google Maps is a must-have free app. It tells you where you are, includes Places to show you what's nearby, and Navigation to direct you by foot or car.

37. GPS can provide precise locations for the photos or updates you upload to social networks. With apps like Runkeeper, joggers and cyclists can track where they've been.

Settings and system

Android Settings, lock screen, Set up SIM card lock

38. Most of Android's more advanced options are in the Settings menu. Find it by pressing your phone's Menu button and tapping Settings. The options here control almost every aspect of your phone -- to avoid problems, only change the ones you understand, or just make a note of what you've changed so you can switch back if something goes wrong.

39. Thwart mischievous friends from messing about with your settings by locking your screen. Enter the Settings menu, tap Location and security and tap Change screen lock to set a pattern. Un-tick Use visible pattern to use a code instead.

40. Protect your mobile account from abuse if your phone is stolen -- scroll further down the Location and security menu and tap Set up SIM card lock. Tick Lock SIM card then tap Change SIM PIN -- and don't forget your PIN!

Android call forwarding, barring and waiting, backup contacts

41. Tap Call settings in the Settings menu to change the way voice and video calls behave. Click Voice call to set and change forwarding, barring and waiting. One money-saving barring option is to block all incoming calls while roaming.

42. Store your contacts and appointments on Google and they'll be backed up should the worst happen, but other data may not be. There are several Android backup apps such as MyBackup, which will copy files to the phone's storage or an online vault.

Android Battery use, disable feedback, disable wireless

43. Shortlived battery? To find out what's killing it, enter the Settings menu and scroll down to select About phone, then tap Battery use. The chart at the top of the screen shows how quickly the battery has drained over time.

44. Improve battery life by entering the Settings menu, tapping Sound and disabling both Vibrate and Haptic feedback. Under Display, turn the screen brightness right down. Keep GPS and Bluetooth off unless you're actually using them.

45. Eke out an ailing battery by disabling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS and quitting all running applications. If things are really bleak, disable data network mode, too (see tip 27). Most importantly, tap the power key to turn off the screen -- and leave it off.

Android Manage applications, phone status, music file as ringtone

46. Running out of space? You can move most apps to the phone's SD card. Enter the Settings menu, tap Applications and tap Manage applications to see how much storage is free. Tap an app and, if available, tap Move to USB storage (on some phones it'll say Move to SD card) to free up system space.

47. If you don't know your new phone number, or you just want the detailed status of your phone, get to the About phone menu as in tip 43, then tap Status.

48. Personalise your phone by using a music file as a ringtone or notification. Copy ringtones to the main phone memory, into the media > audio > ringtones (or notifications) folder (see tip 34). Now enter your phone's Settings menu, select Sound and you should find your custom tones among the ringtone or notification options. You can use any ringtone as an alarm sound, too (see tip 31).

Android file manager, factory data reset

49. If you're the hands-on type, a decent file manager lets you view, move or rename files stored on the phone. Search the Market for 'file manager' to see some options.

50. If you encounter severe problems and nothing else helps, you can entirely reset your phone -- although this really is a last resort that will wipe all of its data. Take a full backup first (see tip 42), then enter the Settings menu, choose Privacy and select Factory data reset. You'll need to restore all of your data and reinstall any apps you had.

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