Although the competition between Android and iPhone rages on, Android actually provides a more versatile option compared to Apple’s iOS operating system.
The majority of Android’s most important features are easily accessible and identifiable, like changing the screen brightness for example. We’ve found that there are some more advanced options that are not so obvious. To help make the most of your phone, we’ve gathered together some of the hidden features of the Android operating system and explain why they’re useful.
Stream your screen to a TV
If you have a Chromecast, you’ll know that by plugging the dongle into your TV's HDMI port you can use your phone to control what you watch on the TV. It’s especially useful for accessing video content from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, the Google Play Store and other Android services.
The latest versions of Android include a built-in option to cast your phone to a TV screen, which will mirror your phone.
To make this app convenient and easy to use, we’d recommend creating a shortcut in the Quick Settings panel. If you cannot find the ‘cast’ option, you need to make sure you have Google Home installed on your phone (if not you can download it from Google Play). Once the app is securely on your phone and your Chromecast is plugged in, open the app, select Broadcast Screen / Audio from the menu, and then choose Chromecast. Your mobile screen should then appear on your TV.
To keep your device safe, you need to set up a PIN, pattern or a fingerprint scan to unlock your phone. But this makes it more inconvenient to access your apps. Google’s Smart Lock feature lets you remove this barrier, giving you instant access to your phone - but only when you’re safely at home or in a ‘trusted place’.
You can set your Android phone or tablet to unlock automatically when the device detects that you are at home, and you also add other ‘trusted’ places. This means when you’re at home or in a defined “trusted place” you won’t need to enter your PIN or pattern in order to unlock the device.
Run apps side-by-side
One of the features added in Android 7.0 Nougat was the option to run apps side-by-side or one above the other. This feature comes in handy when you want to display multiple photos, or multitask.
How does it work? To set it up, tap the Overview button (the square icon below the screen to the left), and choose which of your recently used apps you want to see. Hold and drag it to the top or left of the display, then choose another open app to appear alongside or under it.
Zoom in with your finger
It's a classic Android feature, but it's often one of those functions that is forgotten about.
How do you zoom in on images, maps or web pages with your finger?
There’s no need for the two finger "screen pinch" gesture, you can simply double-tap the screen and keep your finger held on it. Slide down, and the image will zoom in, slide up and the image will zoom out.
Choose your favourite default apps
The ability to set default applications is a difference between Android and iOS (on iPhone you can't choose them).
On Android, you also can choose which applications open automatically when you do something on your phone. To customise this feature, go to Settings, then Applications, then tap the gear icon in the upper-right corner. Select the applications for default tasks, and you're done.
For example, you can select Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp as your default chat, or if you wish the default message option.
Retrieve lost notifications
Have you ever missed a notification by swiping to dismiss too quickly and wished you could get it back? Thanks to Android’s notification log it’s possible to retrieve lost notifications, it’s simply a little tricky to find.
To make the notification log easy to access, you need to create a new widget on the home screen. Tap and hold on an empty part of the home screen, and a screen-adjusting mode will pop up. Choose widgets, and find the settings shortcut. Drag this icon to an empty space on one of your home screens and drop it in place, and a list will automatically pop up. Choose notification log from the list and tap the icon to open up Android’s notification history.
While iPhone users have Siri, Android users have the help of Google Assistant.
This feature offers more sophisticated functions than Siri for several reasons. Most importantly, Google Assistant has access to Google's huge search engine database. It also integrates with other phone features including calendar and map apps.
If you have smart speakers, you can use Google Assistant to control them and any other smart gadgets connected to Google Home or Google Nest.