20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know Your Android Could Do

These devices get increasingly sophisticated and multi-functional, and in case you still use your Android-powered smartphone to make calls and send text messages, we suggest you go through the following list of ideas you might want to try. After all, live and learn was not invented for nothing.

#1 Use your smartphone as a TV remote control

Some Android smartphones come with infrared blasters, for example HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, but even if your is not equipped with one, you can still use your device as a TV remote control. Thankfully, there are apps on Google Play that will help you do just that. In theiry, though, the infrared blaster equipped smartphone can control anything that works with infrared signals – garage gates, blinders, thermostats, set top boxes.

In Samsung, check out the app called WatchON – you can program it to control your TV.

#2 Identify Songs

Ok, most of you hipsters know about Shazam, but surprisingly, many people still don’t, so if you ever wondered what song is it playing, you can just install Shazam or SoundHound, or make do without third=party apps. Google has its magic identifying music, too. It is called Sound Search, and even if you can’t find it on your phone, you can easily get it from Google Play. It lives as a widget on your home screen, and the next time you want to identify a song, just tap it and voilà!

#3 Check Ambient Temperature and Humidity

Ok, this may not be available in all smartphones, but the Samsung Galaxy S4 and some select others, but why not use it if it’s there to get an accurate reading on your in-house temperature and humidity? This feature can be especially handy for those who have asthma, allergy, any respiratory chronic diseases and newborn babies. In Samsung, go to S Health app and see Comfort Level.

#4 View Your Voicemail

If you hate voicemail because you have to listen through all of the messages, many of which are just people hanging up on a voicemail, you can download a visual voicemail app and enjoy the regular visual interface to sort through your voicemail and choose to listen to those messages you consider important. There are a number of apps on Google Play, including T-Mobile Visual Voicemail, YouMail Visual Voicemail, Nteract Visual Voicemail and many others – you just have to choose which suits you best.

#5 Automate your Android

Well, I wouldn’t recommend this one for the uninitiated, but if you are ok with the basic of ‘if this then that’ logic, you can automate some tasks on your device, which makes it incredibly easy to perform routine tasks. For example, you can program your device to enable WiFi automatically when you come home, or Tweet updates whenever you post a new blog entry, or launch your favorite music app when you plug in your headphones. There are two particularly smooth apps that have a huge implementation ground – Tasker and ITTT.

#6 Share Your Smartphone’s Internet with Your Other Devices – WiFi Hotspot Tethering and share laptop’s USB modem connection with your Android device

You can share your smartphone’s Internet connection with your tablet or laptop if you set up WiFi hotspot, also known as tethering. For a detailed walkthrough, read this article. Also, check out the dedicated guide for Galaxy S5 and Nexus 5. Likewise, you can use your laptop’s USB modem Internet with your Android device. If you could use a couple of ideas on that one, check out this tutorial.

#7 Measure Distance and Speed, Use It As A Compass

Smart Distance app, as the name suggests, measure distance between two objects while Speed Gun app will measure the speed of a moving object. Field Compass Holo will show you the true, or magnetic North and do the accurate readings of your location. The entire pack of Smart Tools app  gives you an entire arsenal of measuring, leveling of angles, alerts and locks.

#8 Harness the power of Google Goggles

If you point your camera at something you would like to get more information about and take the snapshot, Google Goggles app will search the Internet of images for you, and get the relevant data in search results. You can skip the typing and keyword searching part – handy, isn’t it?

#9 Scan QR and Barcodes

This feature makes shopping for consumers and contact information exchange for business people a true bliss, so check out our roundup of apps that do the trick.

#10 Know where your plane is right now

With the planes going missing every other day, some of us become more airborne panic-stricken, so here is one trick Android smartphones can help you know where your plane is at the moment – FlyoverGPS app. When in Airplane mode, Android phones don’t shut down GPS, so when you are airborne you can map out your flight toying with this app that also works offline, tapping into your Google Maps Tiles and displaying data about your aircraft’s location, speed, altitude and position.

#11 Exchange photos, apps, contacts by tapping two phones

Your device needs to be NFC-enabled and have the Android Beam capability, which lets two NFC-enabled devices touch one another to exchange photos, app specific content like favorite Shazam songs, contacts, music and videos. To see if your phone can do the trick, go to Settings -> More -> Connections -> NFC option -> Android Beam or S Beam and turn it on.

#12 Emulate Games on Android

Check out this awesome guide on how to emulate, or play, PC games on Android devices, with examples, and use your portable hardware to its full potential playing NES, SNES, GBC, GBA and Nintendo games on your Android device.

#13 Sync your Android with your PC and type text messages on a desktop, but have your smartphone send them from your number

Busy working bees, I know how tedious it gets jumping from one device to another in the middle of a working day, replying text messages. By the way, multitasking kills off productivity and shrinks your brain, so don’t abuse it. If you want to be able to type text messages and do a lot of other cool things on your Android device from your desktop computer or laptop, check out this guide.

#14 Facial Recognition Lock

Settings -> Security -> Screen Lock -> Face Unlock and an optional Presence Check for blinking enabled lets you take a picture of yourself and unlock your device with your face. The Presence Check will make you blink just to make sure a culprit it not using a picture of you to unlock your device.

#15 Add words to your dictionary

Do you wish your ‘intuitive’ keyboard was really intuitive? You will have to help it learn, and entering specific words in to your device’s memory is the best way to do it. In newer devices, you can just long-press on a word and add it to your dictionary. On older Android OS version, you can use this guide to add words to your dictionary and use them the next time you type a text message or an email.

#16 Read things to you, tell you who is calling

Settings -> Accessibility -> Talk Back enabled lets your phone read things to you. If you don’t have it, you can download it from Google Play. Your phone will read incoming notifications when your don’t hold the device, and everything you ap on when it is in your hands. Under Settings -> Accessibility -> Text-to-Speech options you can adjust speed rate and voice engine. If you enable Hands-free mode in the Settings, your phone will tell you who is calling or sending you text messages.

#17 Set your own vibration pattern

For those cases when you turn the sound off, but still want to know who’s calling by the vibration pattern of your device, go to Contacts -> tap a contact name -> select Vibration Pattern -> Default -> Preset Pattern or Create to create your own vibration pattern for the contact. That way, you won’t miss a cal from your kids when you are on very important meetings.

#18 Use LED notifications instead of vibrations

Sometimes, your meetings are so important you even turn off vibrations, but if you still want to know when notifications come, you can enable LED notifications and have your camera flash to let you know. This can be done in Settings -> Accessibility -> Flash notifications on.

#19 Say Cheese to take a picture

Launch the camera app -> tap the Gear icon -> enable Voice control -> have your Android take pictures of you by triggering the action when you say ‘capture,’ ‘smile,’ ‘cheese, ‘ or ‘shoot.’

#20 Take a screenshot or silence the phone by swiping your palm across the screen

This trick is only available in Samsung devices, but if you own one, you must be delighted to be able to just swipe your palm across the screen to silence the call or take a screenshot of the device’s screen. This feature can be enabled in Settings -> My Device -> Motions and Gestures -> Palm Motion. There, you will see options to screen capture and pause or mute sound.

This is by far an incomplete list of less than obvious things you can do with your Android device. If you want to know more, you can browse for ‘accessibility’ options for your specific make and model of a smartphone. Likewise, we encourage you to stay up-to-date with our Guides section, where we try to cover some of the nifty tricks for average users.

Are you using any of these tricks listed above? Do you have more tricks to share, or cool apps that help users do the neat tricks with their Android devices? Join the conversation and post your comments in the section below.