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The Holy Grail of Android: Insider Secrets of the OS


Google may not be taking over the world yet, but it is well on its way to dominating another slice of the communications spectrum. With the leading search engine, a vast advertising operation, and play in the browser market, tasking its Android Operating System (OS) to run devices from netbooks to phones shows Google is making all the right moves. If you own an Android device, you have discovered that it is broadly capable, with features that do not make it into the user manuals. Here are the essential things you need to know about the Android OS, along with some insider secrets you may not have known.


Stay Close to Home (The Home Key, That Is)



Keep your friends close.


With the number of Android apps increasing by the nanosecond, you may end up with many, if not dozens of them on your device. If you are not eating up your Android phone’s memory, you still may be creating a problem for yourself by making it harder than necessary to select or move among them. Hold down the Home key and you can easily see and choose from up to six of your most recently used apps.


Keyboard Upgrade



You can shop around for keyboards.


It is no secret that third-party developers, from huge phone companies to lone coders, are excited about creating Android apps (and are also having an easier time of it than iPhone developers who have to deal with Apple’s notoriously stiff-necked “app gatekeepers”). HTC’s IME keyboard, the Better Keyboard, and a new offering from Swype, have various improvements over the standard component.


Single Finger Power



Two-finger power user for pros.


Why waste all that time swiping and scrolling and poking when you can make a shortcut on your Home screen that one finger can activate?


You can add a shortcut to your Android Smartphone with a long press on an empty space. Shortcuts are perfect for navigating quickly to favorite Web sites, bringing up certain contacts, opening inboxes and selecting media playlists. Many people will create main screen shortcuts for their most-used apps (messaging, maps, browser, e-mail), then one screen over will have their contacts, calculator and other needed tools. The most important thing is to streamline your workflow and minimize wasted moves.


Portable Publishing



Why, yes, I am reading that right now!


WordPress has revolutionized Web publishing, turning once-staid blogs into marvels of on-screen communication. With browsers on everything from phones and media players, to netbooks and tablets like Apple’s iPad, people can access your WordPress wonder from anywhere, at any time. You need portable publishing power!


WordPress for Android lets you take care of blog business wherever you are. Rather than trying to navigate WordPress online with your browser – tolerable on a tablet, no fun on a phone – with WordPress' app you can review comments, edit, and add posts, delete copy, and manage things well.


Car Mode Is Cool



Some states are outlawing window mounts.


Android’s GPS capabilities are not the only reasons you would take your Android phone with you in the car (as if you would go anywhere without it).


Before you go sticking a phone carrier on your inside windshield, make sure it is still legal in your state. If not, there are plenty of dashboard mounts around. All post-2.0 devices have a “car mode” that activates when the phone is inserted in a cradle. Add a Bluetooth headset and you are, well, set!


Expand that Memory…



That’s Sergeant Pepper there!


That you can expand your memory with a Micro SD card is not a secret, but the number of people who do not add a card suggests the word has not gotten around yet. The main reason to add a memory card, aside from the obvious extra room for apps and media, is that your phone’s apps will run faster and more efficiently. With 8GB cards costing less than $20, there is no reason not to get one (or a few), and even install apps directly on them along with your movies and other digital bric-a-brac.


Manage Your Storage or Things Can Get Messy



You don’t have to go this far to clean things up.


No matter how many gigs of storage you have, you always seem to max out at some point. This is a good reason to have multiple memory cards, but it should also encourage you to keep your stored data shipshape. You might need a few pointers if you want to free up internal storage space. Here are some tips:


1. Go to Settings > Applications > Manage applications.

2. Press the Menu button and choose "Sort by size."

3. You are looking for apps that have large caches, because you can reclaim that digital real estate. Of course, if you run across an app toward the top of the list that you do not use, go ahead and tap on it to bring up the Uninstall option.

4. Select an app in the list and you will find out if it has a cache, which you can clear with a simple press of the "Clear cache" button. You will likely find large caches in Market, Maps, Photos and Internet.

5. If you want to clear all the data associated with a particular app, whether you delete the app or not, you can do a hard reset from the "Application Info" screen.

6. If you have installed a home screen replacement with something like LauncherPro, and will not go back to the default one, clear the data for (HTC) Sense or Home.


Such tools as Quick App Clean Cache, CacheCleaner, CacheMate and MoveCache can help you with this task. Think how much more efficient we would all be if we could clear unnecessary data from our own memories!


The Android OS has many benefits and exciting features. For newer Android OS users, there are useful tips and information available all over the web. With the little known tips you’ve learned here, and a little time and experience, you’ll quickly become an Android OS master.

Android™ is a trademark of Google, Inc. The Android Robot is reproduced or modified from work created and shared by Google for use according to terms described in the Creative Common 3.0 Attribution License.