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10 cool things you didn't know your Android could do

As smartphones have become more powerful, they've taken on more and more roles: digital camera, MP3 player, GPS navigator, flashlight and more. Add a third-party app store such as the Google Play Store to the mix and the number of ways you can use your phone grows even further.

You're probably aware of most of these uses – checking social media, sending emails, even making phone calls and sending texts – but you might not have discovered all of the ways you can use your Android smartphone. Here are 10 superpowers your phone has that you can take advantage of.

androidpit google search 4
Google has filled Android with great features. You just need to know where to find them. / © ANDROIDPIT

1. Voice search with the screen off

Not everyone knows this (and not everyone has the ability to enable it) but some Android smartphones let you voice search with the “OK Google” hotword even when the screen is off. Many phones have the ability to search from any screen when the screen is on, but only a few phones with a dedicated listening core can search even when the display is inactive.

AndroidPIT Google Now OK Google detection always on
Check your Google voice settings to see if you can control your phone even with the screen off. / © ANDROIDPIT

To find if your phone can do this, go to Google settings > Search and Now > Voice > OK Google Detection > Always on and flip the switch. Remember you'll need to train Google to recognize your voice first (the options are on the same screen). Unsupported phones will say From any screen rather than Always on.

2. Remote lock or wipe your lost phone

There's not much worse than losing your phone, apart from losing your phone and knowing that someone might have access to your data. It's not only depressing, it's downright dangerous. Did you know that Google has an awesome feature called Android Device Manager that lets you track and take control of your phone if you ever lose it?

AndroidPIT activate Android Device Manager
As long as ADM is activated you can remotely call, lock or wipe your lost device. / © ANDROIDPIT

ADM goes beyond just tracking your phone though: you can use it to ring your phone, remotely lock it or even factory reset it if you know you're never getting it back. Just enable Android Device Manager in Settings > Security > Device Administrators and access the site on your computer if you ever lose your phone.

3. Get a do-it-yourself dark theme

Android Marshmallow may have ditched the system-wide dark theme for now, but there is already a kind of do-it-yourself dark mode already on every phone. Simply head to Settings > Accessibility > Color inversion (or on devices with Invert colors in the Quick Settings, just tap that) to reverse the colors on screen.

AndroidPIT color inversion invert colors
In Accessibility flip the switch for Color Inversion or Invert Colors from Quick Settings. / © ANDROIDPIT

Screenshots will still come out normal and you'll have some pretty wild looking app icons, but if you have a generally light theme, flipping this switch will instantly get you some much-needed darkness. It may not be a setting you want to use all the time, but it can be very handy for reading at night or in bright light.

4. Access Chrome tabs from other devices

If you're using Chrome as your default browser – and let's be honest: who isn't? – were you aware that you can access the Chrome tabs from your other devices on your phone or tablet?

AndroidPIT Chrome recent tabs other devices
Tap Recent Tabs (left) and sign in to access Chrome tabs on all your devices. / © ANDROIDPIT

As long as you're logged into Chrome, when you launch a new tab you'll see the Recent tabs option at the bottom right. Tap this to see the urls that are open on your other logged-in devices and quickly access any of them.

5. If found, return to:

This is another great tip for anyone with a tendency to misplace their things or for those with the bad habit of leaving your phone on the restaurant table while they dash off to the bathroom. If your phone gets lost and you suspect it has been picked up by someone, you can put a message on the lock screen telling the finder of your phone how to get in contact with you.

AndroidPIT Android 6 0 Marshmallow lock screen message
Threats, email, phone numbers, begs for mercy: you can put it all on your lock screen. / © ANDROIDPIT

You can achieve the same thing with Android Device Manager if you've already lost your phone, but the option can be done in advance as a safety measure. Go to Settings > Security > Lock screen message to add your phone number, email or return instructions. Offering a reward for your phone's safe return isn't a bad idea either.

6. Document scanner

In the early days of digitizing documents and photographs, you had to invest in a large flatbed scanner to make the physical digital. Nowadays you can use your smartphone camera as a makeshift scanner. Although the quality isn't quite as good, the process is a lot more convenient.

androidpit camscanner ii
CamScanner is one of the best document scanners. / © ANDROIDPIT
CamScanner -Phone PDF Creator Install on Google Play

If you want to use your phone in this way there are a number of options. You can just snap a document and save it as an image, while Google Drive can convert scans into PDF files and read the text within them, as can the excellent CamScanner and Evernote.

7. Be a Wi-Fi hotspot

Tethering is a feature that most of you will be aware of, but not everyone knows you can turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot, and it's easier than ever to do on Android Lollipop and Marshmallow. The process turns your phone's cell connection into a Wi-Fi network that other devices can log into.

androidpit wi fi hotspot
Set up your own Wi-Fi hotspot. / © ANDROIDPIT

Head to Settings > More > Tethering & portable hotspot. You can set the network name and the password required to access it, but make sure you keep an eye on your phone's data usage, otherwise you might be met with a steep bill.

8. Compass and barometer

Do you know about all of the different sensors packed inside your phone? Not only does your mobile know which way is up or down, it also knows which way is north or south. You can download an app such as Smart Compass or AndroiTS Compass Free to use your phone to navigate your way around.

androidpit compass
There are plenty of compass apps for Android. / © ANDROIDPIT
Smart Compass Install on Google Play AndroiTS Compass Free Install on Google Play

Many phones have a barometer too, so you can turn your mobile into a portable weather station and get your own forecast for the exact spot you're standing in. Apps such as Barometer Altimeter DashClock and Barometer Monitor can help you see which way the weather's turning.

Barometer Altimeter DashClock Install on Google Play Barometer Monitor Install on Google Play

9. Scan barcodes

Back to the camera on your smartphone: You can turn it into a usable barcode scanner with ease and an app such as the aptly named Barcode Scanner. The app works with QR codes as well as barcodes and there are plenty of third-party apps on the Google Play Store that do the same job.

androidpit barcode scanner
Scanning a barcode with the Amazon app. / © ANDROIDPIT
Barcode Scanner Install on Google Play

Why would you want to scan a barcode? It largely depends on the app you're using, but shopping is the main reason: If you see something in a store you can check the online price, for example, or you can use it to order something you're about to run out of.

10. Fitness tracker

Many of the sensors and bits of circuitry inside a smart wristband can also be found on your phone. This means you can track your walking, running and other activities without the need for an extra fitness tracker that you wear around your wrist or clipped to your clothes.

androidpit google fit ii
Google Fit in action. / © Google

Google Fit is the obvious place to start, but many of the well-known fitness tracking apps can work with phones as well as wearables. If you need extra data then that's possible too – apps such asRuntastic Heart Rate Monitor can measure your heart rate through your phone's camera.

Google Fit - Fitness Tracking Install on Google Play Runtastic Heart Rate Monitor Install on Google Play

What other Android secrets do you know? Share any you've found in the comments below.


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  • Sumit Pal 3 months ago Link to comment


    1) Play media stored in your phone / computer / YouTube on your Smart TV using DLNA apps. Even stream to Apple TV using AirPlay with AllCast.

    2) Mirror your mobile screen to your Smart TV using MiraCast (wireless) or MHL adapter (wired).

    3) Connect your mouse, keyboard, gaming controller to your mobile using OTG adapter.

    4) Charge another mobile using an OTG connector.

    5) Connect Large Hard Disks (ex 2 TB HDD) using a powered USB hub connected to your mobile using an OTG cable.

    6) Watch Digital Terrestrial Television on mobile on the go using a DVB-T2 adapter (without using any internet bandwidth).

    7) Turn your phone into a Metal Detector (app Metal Detector), Monitor Heart Rate by just using Camera ( Instant Heart Rate Monitor), Decibel Meter(Sound meter), measure distance (smart measure), Measure Lumen output of bulbs (Lux Meter), measure Speed (gps speedometer), altitude, use it as a compass(smart compass)

    8) Surveillance device with movement detection (IP Webcam).

    9) Use as a wifi-repeater / extender (FGRouter)

    10) Place it in a VR Headset and watch 360 degree videos on YouTube (gyro sensor should be present in phone) or watch SBS 3D movies.

    11) Use it like an Activity and sleep tracker using Google Fitness app.

    12) Customize your phone's appearance using third party launchers. Deploy Custom ROM'S, Dual boot, Run Linux, etc.

    13) Use it as a torch.

    14) Detect infrared light using camera to check if remotes are working.

    15) Of course, call and text people as well.😂

  • It is an easter egg, I believe every version of Android has something. That is one of the many great ways that we differ from Apple.Steve Jobs did not believe in putting Easter eggs on his phones.

  • I found a hidden game on my phone today by going into settings, about phone, then tapping repeatedly on the Android version button. A lollipop pops up on the screen, changes colors with each tap, and when long pressed, it launches the game where you have to guide the Android through 2 lollipops!

  • Since they cleverly put the paper switch DIRECTLY OPPOSITE the volume controls, they should make the power off be a "no action for 3 secondary button " to avoid switchology confusion. Next physical redesign should take a lesson from iPhone and put the power button on the top.

    • The iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus all have a power button on the right side of the phone, directly opposite of the volume buttons mounted on the left side of the phone.

    • Ehrm, which phone do you have? My Nexus 5 has the volume opposite, but my Moto G has the volume underneath the power. I find the buttons on the Nexus 5 are in a much better position - particularly if you need to use them together to take a screenshot!

  • I didn't know.

  • All mobiles are not compatible for compass function, actually there are only rare in this phone need a hardware like geomagnetic sensor for this.

  • In android application development, orientation is the deciding factors for presenting the layout in a row wise or a column wise fashion. Set orientations are used for setting the values and values can either is horizontal or vertical.

  • Things here listed out here is something I didn't use that before and many are I'm using still now. Not too bad.

  • This is my first AndroidPIT article and probably my last. Nice clickbait article that will help out barely anyone, Android Cesspit.

  • Simon P 10 months ago Link to comment

    I knew all that! I'm still hip

  • Sean Dent 10 months ago Link to comment

    Don't forget phone calls. As well as all these other amazing secrets it can make phone calls and even calculate numbers. So glad I click baited this.

  • Teresa D. 10 months ago Link to comment

    Great article! I'd say I knew of @ %70 of this already. But this came at a perfect time as I just cleaned out some unused apps off my phone! I just downloaded some and Im excited to get to tinkering around! Always look forward to your articles Kris! You should check out "flying camera" by Sasha "suchnsuch" .

  • Luka 10 months ago Link to comment

    When mentionings things like this instead of hotspot for which everyone knows, maybe you should put Photomath which is absolutely great yet not that many people know about it

  • Amit Sapre 10 months ago Link to comment

    LOL, all points mentioned here are well known, may be I phone users are unknown of these ROFL

  • storm 10 months ago Link to comment

    There's an app called book catalogue. You scan the barcode or enter the ISBN on the back of the book and it will create an entry with the cover and the other info about the book. It builds you a complete list of the books you own just by scanning the barcodes. A great personal library app. You can also use it to tell books you've loaned or where they are stored.

  • you can also do all kinds of distance and dimensions measurements with your camera (apps from vistech.projects developer)

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