The best thing about Android is that if you don’t like the way it does some things, you can change it to make it more convenient. A recent thread over at Reddit’s Android page recommended some terrific time-saving shortcuts that Android users can take advantage of to improve their overall experience and some of them are too good to not share. Check out our three personal favorites below!

Smart Lock: This is a shortcut that doesn’t require installing any third-party apps or launchers — you can just enabled it right on your device. Here are Google’s directions for enabling Smart Lock:

  1. Open your device’s Settings menuSettings.
  2. Under “Personal,” touch Security. Make sure that you have Smart Lock turned on. Under “Advanced,” touch Trust agents and make sure “Smart Lock” is set to On.
  3. Under “Screen security,” touch Smart Lock.
  4. Enter your screen lock. If you don’t already have one set up, follow the on-screen prompts to set up a password, PIN, or pattern. You need to enter this screen lock any time you want to change your Smart Lock settings.

From here, you can ask Smart Lock to bypass the requirement to enter in a password or PIN whenever you’re in a trusted location, whenever the device recognizes your face or whenever you have a trusted Bluetooth device connected to it.

Tasker: This tool, which costs $2.99 to buy from the Google Play Store, automates a bunch of different actions on your Android phone based on different contexts such as time, date, location, events and even gesture. Here are some examples of what you can do with this, as offered by Tasker itself:

  • passcode-lock sensitive applications (e.g. for child safety)
  • change phone settings by
    • application: long screen timeout in a book reader
    • time: screen brightness lower in the evening
    • location: ringer volume high at the office, turn off ke yguard at home
  • wake up with a random song from your music collection
  • Text-to-speech; read out loud: incoming SMS/ phone number, WiFi/Bluetooth status, when it’s time for an appointment, when the battery is low etc etc (Android OS 1.6+ only)
  • launch a music application when your music SD card is inserted, otherwise a file browser
  • start the day with a particular application showing
  • change all your home icons and wallpaper every day, or in particular locations
  • turn the phone upside down to return to the home screen, tilt 90 degrees to the left and back to toggle speakerphone during a call
  • create a Home widget to
    • toggle bluetooth/wifi on/off
    • launch wireless settings dialog
    • show a menu of tasks to choose
    • send an emergency SMS with your GPS location
  • remap camera etc buttons to other applications, or show a menu of applications and/or actions
  • zip/unzip application data on the fly when an application is launched/exits
  • pause music playback while in a particular application, restart on exit
  • change the Home icon for any application
  • take a time-lapse photo series (possibly ‘secretly’)
  • make a regular backup of a file on the SD card
  • track your phone location via SMS in case of theft
  • extend the use of the media button on your headset: take a picture from a distance or go to the previous media track with a long press
  • record call times and destinations to the SD card
  • show a popup when an SMS arrives from a particular phone number
  • setup a birthday SMS to be sent months before it happens so you don’t forget
  • record battery levels over time to a file on SD card
  • make automatic recordings of what you say during phone calls to SD card
  • during the night, turn on airplane mode to conserve battery/reduce radiation, but turn it off every 15 minutes to check for SMS/voicemail.
  • setup a vacation SMS message, with different messages for different callers
  • launch a music application when headphones are connected

Tasker sounds like the perfect app for people who get tired of fiddling with their settings all the time… in other words, for everyone.

Nova Launcher: This is a very popular launcher that has a lot of terrific features. What’s interesting to us in this case, however, are features that are designed to save you time. Here are some of them as described on Nova Launcher’s official Google Play page:

Improved Widget Drawer – Widgets grouped by app makes it much faster to use

Gestures – Swipe, pinch, double tap and more on the home screen to open your favorite apps

Icon Swipes – Set custom actions for swiping on app shortcuts or folders

Hide Apps – Keep a clean app drawer by hiding never used apps

I tried out for Nova Launcher for a bit and was very impressed with its capabilities, although I did find it had a pretty negative impact on my phone’s battery life. Your mileage may vary, however, and there’s always the option to uninstall it if it’s hurting your device’s battery performance.

If you’re interested in seeing even more Android users’ suggestions for awesome shortcuts, check out the full Reddit thread here.

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