7 hidden Android features you should use
There’s a secret world inside your Android phone, a whole host of hidden features that you may not know about or that you may have overlooked. These can make your mobile experience more convenient, faster and more fun.
We’ve uncovered some cool Android tricks that will help you translate your writing, type numbers more quickly and even improve your mobile gaming experience.
Android versions can vary quite a bit on different smartphones and tablets. The latest operating system is Android Pie (Android 9), but not every gadget can run it. That means you may have to hunt around to find these features, or that some of them might not be available on your particular device.
1. Go split-screen
You can fit two open applications onto your display at one time when you use split-screen mode. The traditional Android way of doing this involves opening an app and then holding down on the square button until the screen splits. You will see your open app on one side and be able to choose from recently used apps on the other. Tap on the one you want to use in split-screen mode. To unsplit, hold down on the square button (which is now split to indicate the new mode) and you will go back to just seeing your original app.
For Android Pie phones with gesture navigation, the process is a little different. Swipe up on the home button to see your Overview. Tap on the icon at the top of the first app you want to use in split-screen mode. This opens a small menu. Tap on “Split screen.” Now pick out your second app in the lower part of the screen.
2. Translate text with Gboard
Chances are good you’re using Google’s default Gboard keyboard. This capable keyboard puts translations right at your fingertips. Here’s one handy way to use this feature: With the keyboard open, tap on the G symbol (if the top menu isn’t already visible). This opens up an array of options. Tap on the one that has a small G that looks like it’s folded over a symbol. This opens up a text box you can type into. Use the drop-down menu to choose the languages. Google will automatically translate what you type.
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3. Pin an app to the screen
Let’s say your friend wants to borrow your phone to look something up online. You can hand it to them with Chrome open and pinned to the screen. The app will stay pinned until you unlock it. It’s an easy way to keep someone else from exploring what’s on your phone.
To enable screen pinning, go to Settings, tap on Security & Location and tap on “Screen pinning,” which you may find listed under Advanced settings. Make sure it’s toggled on along with the option to ask for your PIN, pattern or password.
To try this out, go to Chrome. If you’re using Pie, swipe up from the middle of the screen, tap the app icon and tap the pin-shaped icon. You will get a confirmation that the app is pinned. To unpin, touch and hold the angular Back button and the pill-shaped Home button and enter your PIN.
For earlier Android systems, tap the square icon at the bottom and swipe up until you see the pin icon. Tap on the pin. To unpin, touch and hold the triangular Back button and the square overview button and enter your PIN to unlock.
4. Open Chrome tabs fast
There’s more than one way to open all your open Chrome tabs in Android. The obvious route is to tap on the square with the number of open tabs inside it. The lesser-known way is to simply swipe down from the address bar. You’ll see all your tabs and can open a new one or close open ones. This may not really save you much time, but it’s nifty to access your tabs with a swipe rather than a tap.
5. Access app shortcuts
There’s more to the icons on your home screen than just pretty pictures. Try long-pressing on an app icon and you may see a helpful shortcut menu appear. When available, these shortcuts usually lead to common tasks you would want to do with that app. For example, long-pressing on the Google Maps icon gives me an option to open up navigation to my home. The Contacts app gives me an option to go directly to adding a new contact.
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6. Type numbers quickly
To save screen space, Gboard doesn’t display a full number row like you would get with a physical keyboard. But look closely and you will see small numbers on the top row of letters. Touch and hold down on one of these letters and the number option will appear above it. Just slide your fingertip up to type the number.
7. Block ads in gaming apps
You’re trying out a new game and you feel like you’re battling the advertising just as much as the villains. For some apps, you can quash those ads by putting your phone into Airplane mode. This works by blocking the app’s ability to serve up online ads. Airplane mode can be a little inconvenient, so also check into upgrading to an ad-free version of the game if you enjoy playing it and want to support the developer.
These clever and cool tricks and features will make you feel like an Android insider. Try them out and enjoy how they enhance your mobile experience.