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5 tweaks only the Android pros know

Android users are a diverse bunch and their phones reflect that. You can get high-end flagship phones stocked with the latest tech, or budget phones that go easy on your pocketbook.

Android owners can agree that it’s fun to customize their phones to match their personalities and needs, whether it’s changing out the wallpaper or playing around with the settings to unlock handy features.

Take the time to learn more about Android and make a few tweaks that will help it work better for you. You can turn up the privacy on your lock screen, customize the status bar and start switching between apps with ease.

Not all Android phones are eligible for the latest versions of the operating system, so your phone may look different or have different settings and menus available depending on what OS you’re running. Just keep that in mind if you’re hunting around for a feature and can’t find it. It may not be available in your OS, or you may have to dig around in your settings.

1. Add privacy to your lock screen

Notifications on your lock screen can inadvertently share quite a bit of information to prying eyes. You can lock down your lock screen and hide sensitive information with a small tweak.

Head into Settings and tap on Apps & Notifications>Notifications, or just Notifications, depending on your operating system. Look for a setting called “On lock screen.” You may need to tap on the gear in the upper right-hand corner to find it. Tap on the setting and and choose “Hide sensitive notification content.”

You will still get notifications on your lock screen, but certain apps will no longer share more detailed information, so people looking over your shoulder won’t see the contents of messages or emails.

2. Customize the status bar

The status bar at the top of your phone shows a pretty standard set of icons and notifications, like your battery life and signal strength. You can customize what appears in the bar by activating a secret settings menu.

To get there, swipe down from the top with two fingers to access your quick settings. Tap and hold down on the gear icon near the corner. You will get a message that System UI Tuner has been added to Settings, so head on over there next.

In the Settings menu, scroll down and tap on System UI Tuner. You will see a warning from Google that reads, “System UI Tuner gives you extra ways to tweak and customize the Android user interface. These experimental features may change, break, or disappear in future releases. Proceed with caution.”

If you’re not comfortable accepting Google’s warning, then this a tweak you should pass on playing with. Otherwise, you can turn icons on and off from the System UI Tuner menu using the toggle switches.

Keep in mind that older versions of the Android operating system may not have this particular feature, and the newest Android Pie makes accessing it a little trickier. If you have Pie, then check into downloading Nova Launcher to create a widget that will get you to the menu. Click or tap here to learn more about Nova Launcher and other ways to customize your phone.

3. Make one-handed typing easier

Not everyone is a thumb-typing ninja. When you’re trying to respond to a text message and your other hand is busy, you may find yourself struggling to reach all the way across the screen, especially if you have a jumbo-sized phone. Fortunately, you just need to take a couple quick steps to access the Google keyboard’s one-handed feature.

Tap and hold down on the comma key near the lower left-hand side of the keyboard and drag your finger over to the icon that appears on the right. It looks like a little hand over a square. This will squeeze the keyboard down and place it closer to the side.

Tapping on the chevron symbol on the side will move the keyboard closer to the other side if you want to use your other thumb. Tap on the four arrows pointing away from each other to return to the regular keyboard.

4. Put a message on your lock screen

You have your Android phone locked down so that it requires a PIN, password, or fingerprint to get into it. So what happens if you lose your phone? You can choose to leave an accessible message on your lock screen that anyone can see. Head into Settings and tap on Security & location, or just Security.

Look for the “Screen lock” setting and tap on the nearby gear icon. Tap on “Lock screen message” and type out what you would like it to say. This could include instructions for getting in touch with you if the phone is lost. Just remember that this message will be visible to anyone looking at your lock screen.

While the lock-screen message is one option, you can also choose to add emergency or medical information to your phone. Check out our tips for handling this for your Apple or Android device.

5. Dance between recent apps

Here’s an under-the-radar trick for moving between two apps. Depending on your version of Android, you may have three icons along the bottom of the screen: a triangle, a circle, and a square. Tapping the square in the lower right-hand corner shows all of your most recent apps tiled on top of each other. But if you double-tap the square, it will actually open the last app you were using. Double-tap again to switch between that app and the next most recent one. This will help you move between active apps more quickly.

The process for switching between apps using Android Pie’s new gestures feature is a bit different. You may first need to check that you have gestures working on your Pie phone. Open Settings, tap on System, tap on Gestures, and make sure “Swipe up on home button” is enabled. A short swipe to the right on the new, pill-shaped home button at the bottom of the screen will quickly switch between your open apps.

The Android operating system has a lot of features that may not be obvious at first. Exploring settings and making a few tweaks can really help customize your phone to your needs.

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