22 ways you can make your Android device more productive and secure
Welcome to the final edition of Android Dessert Bites (for the year 2021)! ‘Tis the season of giving, so I’m sure some of you were gifted a new smartphone or tablet. In today’s connected world, it’s hard to get by without a mobile device because so many services have moved online. But because Android has advanced so much in the last few years and there are so many different apps available, things can get pretty overwhelming for newcomers.
To help both newcomers and existing users in improving your productivity and privacy, I’ve compiled a list of tips and things you can do with your new Android smartphone or tablet. Some of these tips may seem obvious and thus merely serve as reminders for many of our readers, but you may nonetheless learn a thing or two even if you’re a veteran user!
- Improve your work-life balance by creating a work profile. Work profiles isolate your work apps and data from your personal data, and they can be turned off when you’re off the clock. If your phone isn’t managed by your employer through MDM software, it’s still possible to set up a work profile using an app like Shelter.
- Go to Settings and set up Digital Wellbeing. It’s preloaded on all Android devices (with GMS) and it lets you set app timers, avoid distractions with focus mode, and keep track of your phone usage. You can also schedule when your work profile should turn off.
- Enable notification history and snoozing so you can recover those notifications you swiped away too quickly and set a reminder to read them later. Here’s a guide on how to enable notification history, and here are steps on how to enable snoozing.
- If you use SMS, download the Messages app by Google and enable Chat features. RCS is the successor to SMS, and it enables a bunch of useful features.
- Get a password manager. Pick whichever service you like or self-host your database with Bitwarden or Keepass. Android’s Autofill APIs make it easy to fill data into forms in apps and websites, so you don’t need to copy and paste data manually (Android protects your clipboard data anyway).
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA)! Use an app that can generate TOTPs for services that support app-based MFA. andOTP, Microsoft Authenticator, Authy, and Google Authenticator are decent options.
- Audit which devices have access to your Google account. An attacker gaining access to your Google account through an old device that’s still signed in is a gateway to misfortune, so sign out of devices you haven’t used recently!
- Audit what permissions you’ve granted to apps! Don’t let your personal data be siphoned off without your knowledge. Use Android’s privacy dashboard (in Android 12) to see which apps have recently used sensitive permissions, or use Android’s permission manager to see which apps have been granted sensitive permissions.
- Bookmark Google’s Find My Device page so you can locate your device if you ever lose it! On your phone, you just need to sign into a Google account for Find My Device to activate — no need to download the app (though it offers additional benefits).
- Organize your files with a file manager app. Files by Google is adequate for most, but if you’re looking for a FOSS option, try File Manager or Amaze.
- If you have a tablet and frequently multitask, install the Taskbar app to get a desktop-like taskbar and app tray.
- Before you drop your phone and its screen breaks, set up ADB on a trusted PC. It can save you in a pinch if you need to access apps or data when the touchscreen doesn’t work.
- Use your device as a remote desktop client (Chrome Remote Desktop or Microsoft Remote Desktop are fine) to access your PC on the go.
- Use your device as a secondary screen for your PC (spacedesk or deskreen are two good options) if you need some extra screen real estate.
- Connect your device to a larger screen to get more work done. You’ll need a USB-C to HDMI adapter if your device supports DisplayPort Alternate Mode. If it doesn’t, you’ll need a DisplayLink adapter and the DisplayLink Presenter app.
- If you need to scan a document in a pinch, open the Google Drive app, tap the + button, and hit “scan”.
- If you have a Windows PC, download the Link to Windows app (previously called Your Phone) to sync texts, calls, notifications, and more.
- If you can’t get a home screen setup that you like, consider changing the launcher. Third-party launchers offer additional features and may simply be better depending on the device.
- Before you share your device, set up a guest profile or use screen pinning. The former will hide all of your personal data, while the latter ensures your guest only has access to a single app.
- Avoid getting throttled by restricting background mobile data usage. Go to Settings > networks > non-carrier data usage on most devices.
- Block apps from tracking you by setting up DuckDuckGo’s App Tracking Protection tool or a similar service like Blokada. Both use Android’s built-in VPN API. Alternatively, you can use Android’s private DNS feature and a service like NextDNS.
- Quickly share files between your Android devices or your Android device and Chromebook with Nearby Share.
I hope these tips will help you be more productive and safer with your new Android device!