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Smartphones & gadgets

10 steps to take with your Android now that we’re starting to leave home

The world has been at a standstill recently, but as restrictions lift across the nation we’ll start to venture out and get back to our regular schedules. At some point in the near future, you may even be leaving your home for work or school — a stark contrast to what life has been like the last couple of months.

Before you venture out, though, it’s important to take time to optimize your Android phone for your regular schedule. You may have downloaded games to pass the time, given permissions to websites that you don’t need, or subscribed to educational apps to help with your kid’s schoolwork. Related: Delete these apps from your Android phone.

It’s time to undo those changes in preparation for life outside your home. Let’s take a look at the steps you should take to optimize your Android.

1. Delete unnecessary apps

If you’ve been acting as a temporary teacher during the COVID-19 crisis, you’re probably relieved that summer is approaching and you’ll be able to step out of those educator shoes. And once summer hits, you’ll also be able to delete all of those educational apps you loaded on your phone to help.

If you’ve been playing the role of at-home educator — or you just want to remove the apps on your phone that you never use — you can use the steps below to get rid of apps you don’t need anymore.

Doing this will clear the clutter off of your phone. And don’t worry — if you need the apps at a later time, you can download them again. The app data is stored for this purpose, even if you remove them from your phone for a while.

How to delete an app:

  1. Open the Google Play Store app.
  2. Tap Menu > My apps & games.
  3. Tap on the app or game.
  4. Tap Uninstall. 

2. Reduce cellular data by using Data Saver

You were most likely connected to Wi-Fi while sheltering in place. But now that you’re going to be venturing out again, you run the risk of running through a ton of data.

If you’re trying to reduce the amount of data you’re using, consider turning on Data Saver mode on your Android. This mode keeps data usage in check by restricting or reducing the amount of data your background apps are using. The downside is that you won’t get alerts from your Gmail, Twitter, or other apps that use push notifications.

To enable Low Data Mode:

  1. Tap Settings > Data Usage > Data Saver.
  2. Toggle the setting to On.

3. Change the way your phone charges with Charge Mode

Once you’re back on the go, you’ll want to change the way your phone charges to optimize battery life and keep your phone from dying. This setting likely didn’t mean much when you were at home with a charger on hand, but it’ll be pretty helpful when you’re back to your normal schedule.

You can optimize your phone’s charging capabilities by specifying what type of connection you’re using when you plug in a USB cable. On the most recent versions of Android, you can do this by accessing the hidden in the Developer Options menu and enabling charge mode.

To access the Developer Options menu:

  1. Open Settings > About Phone > Build Number.
  2. Tap on the build number 7 times in rapid succession. (Note: Tapping a couple of times in succession will open a countdown menu to alert you to the number of taps you have left.)

To enable Charge Mode:

  1. Open Settings > Developer Options > Select USB Configuration.
  2. Under the options, make sure Charging is toggled on.

4. Optimizing Do Not Disturb

You likely know you can get some much-needed peace and quiet by setting your phone to “Do Not Disturb” — but what happens if someone needs to reach you? Well, you can set groups, favorites, or other important contacts to bypass the DND setting on your phone.

First, you’ll have to either favorite the people you want to bypass DND or create a group that can bypass it.

To favorite certain contacts:

  • Tap on a contact’s name and select the “star” icon up at the top of the contact card.

To create a group on your Android:

  1. Open Contacts > Menu > Create Label.
  2. Type the Label name for your group > OK.
  3. Tap the Add Person icon on the upper-right corner of the screen.
  4. Select a contact you want to add to the group.
  5. Repeat for any additional contacts you wish to add to this group.

Once you have your favorites or groups created, you can set those contacts to bypass DND.

To set individual contacts to bypass DND:

  1. Open the Contacts Select for the person you want to set an exception for.
  2. Tap Edit in the upper right corner.
  3. Tap Ringtone.
  4. Toggle Emergency Bypass to on. You can also let texts from an individual bypass DND.
  5. Go to the Contact card and tap Edit > Text Tone.
  6. Toggle Emergency Bypass to on.

To set groups to bypass DND:

  1. Open the Control Center by swiping down from the top of the screen.
  2. Tap and hold Do Not Disturb, which will open the Do Not Disturb settings screen. 
  3. Tap Allow exceptions.
  4. You can specify how you want DND to work — in this case, you want to create an exception for groups — on the Allow exceptions page.

5. Reset web permissions for your camera and microphone

Have you been entertaining yourself with websites that use your microphone or camera? If so, you’re going to want to reset those permissions. Do this ASAP to avoid any issues down the road — you don’t want to find out those websites have been listening in on your conversations or accessing your images after the fact.

To reset your web permissions for your camera or mic:

  1. Open the Chrome app on your Android.
  2. Visit the site that wants to use your microphone and camera.
  3. When prompted, tap Allow OR Block, though in this case, you will probably want to block it.
  4. Make sure to note, though, that some sites won’t work if you block them from using your mic or camera. Whether it’s worth the risk is your call.

You may also like: 5 ways to extend your Android battery life

6. Double-check Find My Device

If you’re prone to misplacing your phone, you’re going to want to make sure “Find My Device” is toggled on in your settings. That doesn’t just go for people who are on the go a lot, either — it’s just as easy to lose your phone in the couch cushions as it is in your office.

Using this setting will help you avoid the frustrations of a misplaced phone by pinging it so you can find it, lock it, or erase it if it’s been stolen.

To make sure Find My Device is on:

  1. Open your device’s Settings app.
  2. Tap Security Find My Device.
  3. If you don’t see Security, tap Security & location or Google > Security.
  4. Make sure Find My Device is turned on and toggle it on if it’s off.

7. Cancel subscriptions

You may not realize how much you’re spending on streaming services, games, or meditation apps each month. But those monthly subscription charges can add up quickly.

You should cancel app subscriptions that you no longer need. Do this before your free trials run out, too, or you’ll end up paying for subscriptions you never intended to keep.

To cancel subscriptions:

  1. Open the Google Play Store app.
  2. Tap Menu > Subscriptions.
  3. Find the subscriptions you want to cancel and tap Cancel Subscription.

8. Change the order of your preferred Wi-Fi networks

Your phone automatically joins Wi-Fi networks based on its security level, but that can end up being a hassle if your phone wants to automatically connect to the coffee shop you occasionally work in instead of your office Wi-Fi. The problem is that if they’re all equally secure, the strongest signal wins out — which could mean your phone wants to auto-connect to Wi-Fi networks you would rather not be using.

To avoid this, you’ll need to change the order of your preferred Wi-Fi networks. Luckily, it’s easy to do — especially because some Androids come with the built-in option to do so.

To change the order of your preferred Wi-Fi networks:

  1. Open Settings > Network & internet > Wi-Fi.
  2. Tap on the Overflow menu > Advanced Wi-Fi.
  3. If this gives you a Wi-Fi Priority option, set your preferred Wi-Fi priority.
  4. If you don’t see the Wi-Fi Priority option, consider using a third-party Wi-Fi priority app. There are plenty available — just do your research first to make sure what you’re downloading is safe to use.

Related: Find out if a Google Play app is safe

9. Mute email threads

People have been finding all sorts of unique ways to communicate. One of those ways may have been with email threads to friends or family — but once we’re free to roam around again, those group email threads could become overwhelming.

You can silence the nonstop pinging of your email alerts to give yourself a little peace of mind. You’ll need to be using Gmail to do so, but aren’t most people using Gmail these days anyway?

To mute Gmail threads:

  1. Open the Gmail app on your Android.
  2. Press and hold the email thread you want to mute.
  3. Tap the three-dot button (…) on the upper right corner of your screen.
  4. Choose Mute to silence the emails in the thread.

10. Make sure DND is on while driving

Do you know what the best kind of driving is? Safe driving. To drive safely, you should make sure to turn on Do Not Disturb, which will alert the people calling or texting you that you’re driving and will get back to them as soon as it’s safe to do.

To set DND to turn on automatically while driving:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Press Sound > Do Not Disturb.
  3. Select the option to Turn on automatically.
  4. Tap Add rule > Driving.

We’ve all been going through a serious rough patch. With these simple tips and when things get back to normal, you can get the most out of your Android gadgets without worry.

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