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How to automate Android processes

If our phones are so smart, why do we still have to turn off our ringers manually in movie theaters? Automating your Android device just got a little easier, thanks to a free app called Impel.

One day, we'll look back on the term "smartphone" with a smile, remembering a simpler time when our digital devices still used up quite a bit of our time and attention. How many times have you fiddled with the volume or brightness controls--or, worse, not bothered because it was too much trouble? The free app Impel lets you automate these and other Android processes easily and intuitively. Here's how to get started: 

  1. Install and run the Impel app. 
  2. The start-up screen is fairly straightforward. Impel comes with a few demo tasks that you can use or learn from. You can press any of them to examine and edit or long-press to get more options, including copy and delete. 
    Step 2: Select or create an action.
    Step 2: Select or create an action. Screenshot by Rob Lightner
  3. To create a new task, just tap the Menu button and select Add Task, then pick an event to trigger your task. I'm going to set my phone to turn the volume down when I'm home, so I selected GPS events and used the map tool to select my house. 
    Step 3: Add an Event.
    Step 3: Add an event. Screenshot by Rob Lightner
  4. Next, you need to tell Impel what to do when the trigger is activated. There are quite a few options, which are presented simply. I selected setting alert volume to 50 percent so I don't freak out my cats when I get a call. 
    Step 4: Select an action.
    Step 4: Select an action. Screenshot by Rob Lightner
  5. Next, you can add conditions. Currently, your options are limited to time and battery level, but that's plenty to get fancy. I decided to keep my action simple. 
    Step 5: Add conditions.
    Step 5: Add conditions. Screenshot by Rob Lightner
  6. Finally, you can give it a simple name and color code, if you like. You will need to turn it on from the main screen, but then you're all set. 
    Step 6: Name and color-code your event.
    Step 6: Name and color-code your event. Screenshot by Rob Lightner

There are some caveats. My example uses GPS, which is something of a battery vampire if you've got it on all day. There are plenty of other tricks you can pull off with Impel to make your life easier, but unless you're willing to shell out 99 cents (available as an option within the app), you're limited to two active automated actions at one time and you've got to endure ads from time to time. I don't think that's a steep price, considering the time and energy Impel can save.