Learn some new tricks for your Android smartphone with our tips on maps, storage, data plans and more.
Throughout the past year, Android skyrocketed in popularity and currently holds 79% of the global smartphone market. When it comes to number of users, Google's operating system trumps even Apple's iOS. Together, Android and iOS make up 93.2% of the global market, but Android's share has been rising while Apple's share dropped.
Android's surge contributed to smartphones outselling feature phones globally for the first time in Q2, according to Gartner.
What gives Android the current edge? The smartphones are well-known for their customizable interface, which continues to attract new users. You can make the devices your own with apps, games and custom settings.
You can also optimize your Android's performance with personalized shortcuts, search boxes and widgets. Many people take personalization to a new level by adding custom words to the Android dictionary, adding contacts' images to the home screen or downloading animated backgrounds for a fun (though battery-draining) touch.
Android's many options and features are numerous enough to overwhelm even smartphone veterans. For every feature you know, there is another that can help you do something new with your smartphone.
Consider, for example, the Android's ability to run Google Maps offline. With Google Maps for Android, you can select and download a specific area on the map. The downloaded section can be used in places that have limited or unavailable Internet connection and on devices that don't have a data plan. If you don't have an unlimited data plan, using an offline map will save you the cost of accessing Google Maps on a mobile network.
To create an offline map, enter Google Maps for Android and display your desired map on the screen. As of July 11, 2013, there is a button that says "Make this map area available offline" to simplify the process. The estimated size of the area in your map will appear on the screen. If it is too large, you will be asked to choose a smaller area. You can store up to six maps on your device.
Click through our slideshow to see more things you can learn about your Android smartphone. If you have further suggestions to share with your fellow readers, please add them in the comments section.
Many of today's devices run on the 4G network. Unfortunately, 4G coverage is often spotty, and using it can quickly drain your phone's battery and put you over your monthly data allowance. You might want to use the 4G network only in a well-covered area, or switch to 3G when you're running low on power. Android makes it easy to do this. To switch networks, simply go to Settings > Mobile networks > Network mode and set your phone to CDMA only (3G) or LTE/CDMA (4G). These settings might vary depending on your location and which network you're on.
If you have a long name that's difficult to spell or your job uses a lot of obscure terms, you've probably experienced the frustration that comes with typing long or complex words into your device. Next time you're in the middle of typing "Anastasia" or "NoSQL" into your text field, long-press on it. This will add it to the dictionary, so you'll no longer have to type more than the first few characters of the word.
If you have the misfortune of losing your phone, it's unlikely that you'll get it back. Even if someone wants to return it, password protection will keep them from accessing a number to reach you. With Android 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3 (Jelly Bean), you can display your contact information on the lock screen to increase the chances of reuniting with a lost device. From Settings, go to Security > Screen security > Owner info. You can enter your name, email address, phone number or other information to appear on the lock screen.
With Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or any newer version, you can decline a phone call while sending the caller a custom text message. This is not a new feature, but the latest OS has different settings. To customize auto-response texts, go to Phone > Settings > Quick Responses. Tap one of the pre-written responses to change it. When your phone rings, you would normally slide the circle to the right to answer the call or to the left to send the caller to voice mail. To send a response text, slide the circle upward to the message icon and let go. From there, you can select a pre-written message or write a new one.
With Jelly Bean, you can quickly and easily review the photos on your device. From the camera app, you likely know to tap the lower right-hand corner to view your most-recent photograph, then swipe left and right to view pictures. For faster review, pinch inward to view pictures lined up in order, similar to a film strip. Swipe up to delete any unwanted photos.
Not all Android users have an unlimited data plan. Monitoring data use is a pain, but Android Jelly Bean makes it a little easier. Go to Settings > Data usage to see how much data each of your apps is using. You can program your phone to warn you when you're approaching a high amount of data use and stop you altogether when you reach a certain limit. Users of the Froyo, Gingerbread and Honeycomb versions of Android (2.2 through 3.2) can download Onavo Count, a free app that serves the same purpose but also lets you set data restrictions on individual apps.
Taking a screenshot on an iPhone is simple; with an Android phone it's a bit trickier. To capture an image of your screen with Jelly Bean or Ice Cream Sandwich, press the Power button and Volume Down key at the same time and hold until the shutter clicks. An image should automatically be stored to your gallery.
Your spouse. Your pizza place. You have your favorites. Android lets you create icons for your most-dialed contacts and place them on your home screen for easy access. To do this, press and hold an empty space on your home screen until a menu pops up. Go to Shortcuts > Contact, and scroll through your contacts until you find the person you want to add.
Your smartphone can double as a portable hard drive. Activate Android's storage mode by plugging the phone into a computer with a USB cable. This lets you swap files between your phone and computer and take files with you as you go.
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