A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

13 Hidden Android Hacks You Never Knew About

These little-known customizations and shortcuts will change the way you use your phone.

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pin windows

Keep nosy friends out of other apps

Every now and then, you probably need to hand your phone over to someone else, like if a friend is using your GPS while you drive or your kid wants to play a game. But that doesn’t mean you also need to give them the chance to weed through all your embarrassing photos and Web history. Android lets you pin one app to the screen, requiring the password to be punched in before opening a new app. To unlock the option, go to Settings > Security > Screen Pinning, and turn the feature on. Now go to the app your friend needs to look at, then hit the back button to go to the Overview screen. Swipe back down to the app you were just on, and tap the pin icon on the bottom right. When you close the app, the phone will shut completely, and you’ll need the password to get back in. To keep your security air-tight, never do these things on public WiFi. 

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access hidden symbols

Access hidden symbols

There’s more than meets the eye on your keyboard, with some Android hacks hiding in plain view. Long-pressing certain keys will reveal more character options, and you can drag your finger up to type the one you want. For instance, hit vowels to find accents and umlauts, or hold down the dollar sign to find more currency symbols. Don’t miss these other hidden symbols you didn’t know your phone could type.

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open the quick settings menu

Fully open the Quick Settings menu with ease

Dragging the Quick Settings menu down once to open, then swiping again to maximize it doesn’t feel so “quick.” Save yourself a step by using two fingers to drag the status bar down to open it all the way in one fell swoop.

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smart lock options

Make your apps easier to access at home

Passcodes are an important security feature to keep crooks from sifting through your information, but they’re also a hassle to enter every time you want to open your phone. By setting your house as a “trusted place,” you can stop using a password at home but automatically put the security feature back in place when you’re out and about. Go to Settings > Security > Smart Lock. Now you can add “trusted places,” like your home address, where the device will stay unlocked until you leave. This helps keep your phone more secure, along with knowing key security tips like how to remove spyware on an Android phone.

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smart lock on-body detection

Stop hitting unlock when you’re out and about

That’s not the end of the Android hacks you can find in Smart Lock. Fiddling with your password when you’re out for a run gets annoying (and dangerous), but on-body detection mode lets you type it in just once. If you unlock it while you’re moving, it won’t ask for a passcode again until it senses you’ve put it down. Now you can open Spotify without bothering with a password every time.

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zoom one finger on google maps

Zoom in one-handed on Google Maps

The two-finger pinch you use to zoom on Google Maps isn’t too convenient when you only have one free hand. You might already know you can double-tap the screen to zoom in, but there’s an easier way to zoom in and out to just the right spot. Double-tap, but don’t take your finger off the screen. Drag your finger down to zoom in or up to zoom out. This is a great Google feature on your phone, but if you aren’t happy with your Google Assistant, there’s something you can do about it. Here’s how to turn off Google Assistant on your Android phone. And if you decide that you don’t want Google to know your phone’s location, you can always learn how to turn off location services on an Android.

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keyboard in one-handed mode

Type one-handed easily

A big phone is great for fitting content onto the screen, but it’s not so ideal when your fingers can’t reach the right buttons—especially when typing. That’s where Android hacks for one-handed mode come in. Using a Google keyboard (you might need to download it first if it isn’t your model’s default), press and hold the blue return button key, then drag your finger to the symbol on the left, which has an image of a hand holding a phone. The keyboard will squeeze over to the right side of the phone, and you can hit the right arrow to shift the easy-to-reach buttons to the other side. Hit the full-screen button (the four arrows pointing outward) to bring it back to its original size.

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edit keyboard position

Bring your keyboard where you need it

If you’re going to customize your keyboard to the right size and side, you might as well pick the exact right spot. Hit the bottom icon next to the condensed one-handed keyboard, which will let you drag the keyboard to the spot where you want it—even if that’s halfway up the screen. Hit the checkmark to lock it into place. Now use those keys to use these 12 hidden codes you didn’t know your phone had.

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do not disturb

Limit your notifications when you need to focus

Do Not Disturb is useful when you don’t want your phone to wake you up in the middle of the night, but sometimes you just want to limit notifications a little bit without shutting them off completely. Priority mode makes it easy to customize. Head to Settings > Sound > Do Not Disturb. You can limit whom you can receive calls and messages from (including all contacts or starred contacts only), or let calls through if the same person calls twice within 15 minutes. That way, you can be on guard for emergency calls from your kid without needing to deal with a million pings from your book club. Plus, you can block “visual disturbances” so your phone doesn’t even light up when you’re trying to limit distractions.

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quick settings

Customize the Quick Settings bar

Newer Androids using Marshmallow and above aren’t stuck with the icons Google automatically puts in the swipe-down status bar at the top of your phone. Open the Quick Settings bar all the way, then hit the pencil icon. Not only can you long-press the tiles to drag them to the order you’d like, but you can also drag the ones you don’t use off entirely or add ones that you want back.

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set default apps for browser, calls, and messaging

Open automatically with the apps you want

If you prefer Chrome to the YouTube app, or WhatsApp to the usual SMS messenger, you can make sure the right one opens when you click a link that sends you to a new app. Go to Settings > Apps, and then hit the gear icon on the top right. Under “default,” you can pick your favorite app to use in categories like opening links or making phone calls. These are 11 things highly organized people do on their smartphones.

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control volume for specific apps

Give different apps different volumes

Volume isn’t one-size-fits-all when you want soft music to lull you to sleep but won’t wake up unless your alarm is blaring at full volume. Thankfully, you can customize each one without hunting through Settings. Just hit the volume buttons as usual and you should see which type of volume you’re adjusting at the moment (ring, media, or alarm). On the right of the volume bar should be a downward arrow. Hit it and the other volume options will show up too, and you can adjust how you please. By the way, if you notice a new app on your phone you don’t remember downloading, it could be a sign that your phone has a virus. Make sure you do some investigating and learn how to get rid of a virus on an Android phone quickly.

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wifi options

Change your Wi-Fi connection quickly

No need to go into Settings just to switch your Wi-Fi network when the current one isn’t working. Open your status bar all the way, then simply tap the Wi-Fi icon to bring up a list of available networks. Next, find out the hidden smartphone codes you should be using.

[Sources: Popular Science, lifewire.com, makeuseof.com]

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.