Master Google Android: 40 tips and tricks

We've assembled 40 tips and tricks to help you make the most of your Android phone

18. Get extra calling power by integrating Google Voice into your phone. Once you've signed up for an account, download the official app and watch your options expand. Bonus tip: Add the Google Voice widget to your home screen for one-touch toggling of your outgoing-call preferences. (Sadly only people in the US can use Google Voice at the moment.)

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19. You can send text messages for free through Google Voice--everything you need is in the app. Just make sure you change the settings to refresh every 5 minutes so that incoming messages won't be delayed. If you want faster notifications, log in to the Google Voice Website and configure your account to send you e-mail alerts when a new text arrives.

20. Get unbilled talk time by using Fring, a free mobile chat client for Android. Fring lets you make calls over Google Talk, Skype, and any SIP calling service.

21. Cut down on calling headaches by using the free Dial Zero app to call the companies you do business with. It lets you bypass annoying phone trees and get right to human representatives.

22. Keep annoying callers away by routing them directly to your voicemail. First, open the offending person's profile in your contacts list. Then, press the Menu button, tap Options, and check the Incoming calls box.

23. The Incoming Calls screen also holds the option for setting custom ringtones for callers. Tap Ringtone and change each person's tune as you wish.

24. Want to use your own MP3 files as ringtones? No problem: Make a new folder on your memory card and name it ringtones. Copy your MP3s there, and they will automatically show up in your selection list. Folders called alarms or notifications will do the same thing for those respective functions.

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25. Check out the free app RingDroid. With it, you can easily edit an MP3 file to grab a precise segment of a song for a ringtone or system sound.

26. Android lets you keep multiple browser windows open at the same time. Long-press any Web link to open it in a new window. Tap the Menu key while in the browser to toggle between windows.

27. Prefer seeing Web pages in landscape mode? You can tell Android to always display sites that way. Select the Landscape-only display checkbox in the browser's Settings menu.

28. Android's built-in browser isn't your only option. Try Dolphin Browser for cool features such as tabbed browsing, gesture-driven commands, and multitouch zooming (yes, even on the Droid).

Secure Your Smartphone

29. Android includes an option to use simple patterns to secure your phone; to unlock the handset, you swipe your finger across the screen in a specific pattern. Look for Screen Unlock Pattern under 'Location and Security' in the main System Settings menu.

30. Want to back up your phone's data? Try MyBackup, which saves your apps, contacts, call logs, texts, and even settings to either your SD Card or a secure Internet server. You might also like SMS Backup, which periodically saves all of your texts into your Gmail account.

31. For even more protection, download Mobile Defense. The app allows you to use a PC to track your phone via GPS, remotely lock it, and then back up and wipe all of your data.

Add Essential Apps

32. If you handle a lot of Office files, Documents To Go may be just the thing for you. The free version gives you the ability to view Word and Excel files. The full paid version adds editing capabilities, along with PDF and PowerPoint viewing options.

33. Prefer working in the cloud? Get your hands on GDocs or ThinkFree Mobile Office, both of which make it a cinch to connect with your Google Docs documents.

34. If basic note-taking is all you need, download a PC-synced notepad such as GDocs Notepad. It saves documents directly into your Google Docs account for easy access.

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35. For on-the-go photo editing, Adobe's Photoshop.com Mobile app is tough to beat--and it's free, too.

36. Jazz up your Android music experience with TuneWiki, which automatically finds and scrolls lyrics next to your songs as they play. Plus, it gives you access to Internet radio streaming and some cool community-sharing features.

Customize Your Phone Completely

37. Adjust how your phone acts by using Locale. The app lets you set custom profiles for practically any circumstance--having your ringer shift to silent when you're at work, for example, or making your screen glow brighter at night.

38. Take full advantage of your phone's LED by installing Missed Call, which configures your phone's light to flash specific colors when calls from certain people slip by.

39. Edit Android's custom dictionary to include your name and other proper nouns. That way, they'll pop up in the auto-complete list as you type. Look under Language and keyboard settings in System Settings to get started.

40. If you try an Android app and decide that you don't like it, return it. The Android Market will give you a full refund for up to 24 hours after any purchase, provided that you haven't tried to return the same app before.

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JR Raphael

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