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10 things you didn't know Android could do

Last updated on: April 20, 2013 12:00 IST

10 things you didn't know Android could do

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Control your PC, add contacts to your home screen, automate everything at will and more...

While Apple's iOS is currently the most popular mobile operating system in the world -- thanks to the sheer number of devices hosting it -- Google's Android is quickly catching up. But what makes Android so appealing to users? Part of the reason is the ability to customise it to do what you want. It's highly nuanced in its functionality, and the wealth of apps available help support that. The other part of the reason is its cost-effectiveness. It's not too tough to find a worthy Android smartphone for less than Rs 20K that can effectively run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

These will surely help you appreciate the sheer power and functionality of your Android device.

1. Wake up to news, updates and information... without even touching the device

One of the biggest appeals of Android is the use of off-screen hand gestures. Simply move your hand across the screen to perform tasks and dismiss notifications. Of course, the voice control is also incredibly useful and Senti Wayk helps put both of those to great use.

It acts as an alarm clock and lets you activate the snoose mode by either saying the word "snoose" or just waving your hand across the screen. Its biggest advantage is delivering reports as soon as you wake up, reading out weather reports, meetings and appointments you have planned and even news items from your RSS feeds.

If one ever needed a wireless personal assistant, this is it.




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2. Automate everything at will

Another highly under-utilised feature of Android is the ability to automate and execute tasks when certain conditions are met.

Suppose you want your smartphone to text someone as soon as you reach a new area, or even play songs as soon as you plug in your headphones. How about cutting off Wi-Fi and 3G usage when data usage gets to a certain limit or when your battery runs out?

Android features a lot of these tasking abilities but the Tasker app perhaps exceeds them all. The sheer amount of customisation makes it so that you can do anything and everything automatically. And like a lot of useful functions with Android, it's free.

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3. Control your PC using your smartphone

Most people who use a smartphone do so to access their mail and other documents. However, wouldn't it be great if you could access your computer itself?

Apps like Virtual Network Computing do this, allowing you to remotely connect to your system and view your entire desktop on your smartphone display. You can perform functions such as converting files, mailing and much more.

Another interesting app is VLC Direct Pro Free which stream media to your smartphone. You can use this to watch media from your PC on your smartphone. Imagine travelling to work and being able to watch a movie sitting on your PC via remote streaming.

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4. Add contacts to your home screen

Some functions of Android are incredibly complex and powerful. This one is incredibly simple but under-stated in its importance. If you press and hold on an empty space on your Android smartphone's home screen, you'll get a pop-up menu.

From there, select "Shortcuts" and then "Contact".

From there, you scroll through your contacts and decide whom to add. For Jelly Bean, you need to press the Menu button, select Widgets (located in the top right corner) and then slide over one page to select Contact.

From there, you can choose the contact you wish to add a shortcut for.

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5. Taking measurements using your smartphone

Suppose you don't have any measuring tape on you. Using Smart Measure Pro, you can convert your camera's lens into a highly accurate measuring device. It features a long range of measurements and conversions so you can properly discern things.

It may seem a bit confusing at first, since you need to aim at the ground rather than the object in question to measure. For example, when measuring the distance from someone, you need to take a picture of his or her feet. But it supports a range of features such as Portrait Mode, measuring width and area, and much more.

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6. Gesture mode for visually impaired users

External apps are fun and all for utilising wave gestures. However, what if you're visually impaired and need to use the entire smartphone?

This is where Google's new Gesture Mode comes into play.

Available with Jelly Bean, Gesture Mode uses voice output, gestures and even inputs via Braille to help properly guide users through the interface. There is even output available via USB and Bluetooth devices.

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7. The knowledge graph

Google pushed this new update through for PC-based search. Now, it's available on Android as well. When conducting searches on specific topics, such as people, places, books, movies and more, Google will look for data relevant to the search.

For example, Google a popular movie and you'll find information to the right of the screen which showcases a short summary, cast of characters -- along with the actors' real names -- and other movies people search for in the process.

It's great for finding something similar to your interests.

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8. Access notifications and apps without unlocking your phone

Suppose you're in a hurry and don't want to needlessly unlock your phone.

From the lock screen itself you can slide from the top of the screen to the bottom. This will open the notifications tab and show you any new messages or updates you may have. If you press on a specific item, it will open that app right away. You can also customise your lock screen for numerous shortcuts to different apps.

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9. Taking screenshots with the device

A long awaited feature for Jelly Bean has been the ability to take screenshots of whatever is happening on the home screen.

The shortcut for doing so is to hold the power button and volume down key. This will take a screenshot of whatever your home screen currently has displayed. You can then edit, crop and even share the photo among friends.

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10. A softer night browsing experience

For those who use their smartphones in the dark, with no external background light, viewing text on screen can be a harsh experience for the eyes.

Google has introduced the means to invert colours on the browser for easier reading. Go to Settings and then Accessibility. Scroll down from there to find "Inverted Rendering". This transforms the browser to showcase white text on a black background.

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