34 Things You’re Doing Wrong With Your Android Smart Phone

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You’re an Android user. You know better than to shell out over a thousand dollars for the latest and greatest iPhone, and you’re better off for it—your phone can do more than any iOS device, and you paid less for the privilege. There’s just one problem: You’re using it wrong. 

Well, okay, there’s no wrong way to use a phone (or to eat a Reese’s, as we’re contractually obligated to note). Still, you’re probably making some basic usage mistakes that prevent you from getting the most from your device. We’ve compiled our best advice, and we also collected some of the best answers from a recent Reddit thread in which the site’s users shared their favorite tips for taking advantage of Android’s hidden features. Continue on for everything you need to know to avoid the most common pitfalls of Android ownership. 

1. You’re not using a wireless charging pad.

Wireless charging pads are more convenient than corded chargers, but that’s not the only reason to use them: They provide some protection for your phone’s charger port. No other part of your phone is subjected to as much wear and tear, and when your charger port stops working, your phone’s on its way out.

While a widely shared article from ZDNet suggested that wireless pads wear down batteries, that’s not the case. “A phone’s battery is not drained when you use it while charging wirelessly,” Menno Treffers, chairman of the Wireless Power Consortium, told Digital Trends in response to the ZDNet article. “This is a misunderstanding.”

2. You’re using antivirus apps.

If you’re using a modern Android phone and you haven’t rooted it (more on that toward the end of this slideshow), you’ve already got virus protection. Antivirus apps can drain your battery without providing much benefit. One study found that 66 percent of Android antivirus apps don’t actually work.

Granted, Android viruses do exist, but they’re relatively rare. Avoid downloading apps you don’t trust, stay away from dangerous websites, and you’re probably in the clear. If you do decide to download an antivirus app, do plenty of research before choosing one. Legitimate options include Bitdefender and AVG Antivirus.

3. You think phone slowdown is unavoidable.

Your phone’s gradually slowing down. Time for a new phone, right? Wrong. While most phones slow down with frequent use, the causes of the slowdown have nothing to do with a lack of processing power. Most users cram their phones full of apps, leaving little storage space for necessary operating processes.

If your phone is slowing down, address the problem by deleting unnecessary apps. Check your device’s system options to see whether apps are running in the background; if they don’t need to run constantly, remove their permissions (don’t simply close the apps, as they’ll reopen). Restart your phone regularly, and if your device is still sluggish, consider resetting it to factory settings.

4. You’re not keeping your phone in a case…

Per a survey from consumer research firm NPD Group in 2013, about 25 percent of smartphone users don’t use cases. 70 percent of those unprotected consumers were Android users, while 20 percent were iPhone owners. Regardless of your phone’s design, you need a case that provides sufficient protection.

Person using their phone outside
Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

Look for a case that extends out past the edges of your phone screen. That should help to provide shock protection in the (practically inevitable) event of a drop. If a case only covers the back of your phone, it’s not actually doing much. Screen protectors can be a worthwhile investment if you keep your phone in your pocket.

5. Or you think that expensive cases are better than inexpensive options.

While you need a case, you don’t need to overspend. Designer cases look nice, but many don’t provide the type of protection you need for a smartphone worth $500 to $1,000. Research carefully; many cases offer some sort of warranty against damage, but if that’s a consideration, make sure that the warranty covers the phone itself—not just the case.

Often, cheap phone cases will do the job just fine. Make sure to pick an option that’s properly fitted to your phone, and resist the temptation to “test” your case by hitting it with hammers or other objects. That might sound obvious, but hey, people do dumb things with their gadgets.

6. You’re keeping your case on while you charge your phone.

Ideally, you should keep your phone in its case 24/7, with one exception. Modern smartphones output heat through their back plates, and if a heavy case prevents heat from escaping, it has nowhere to go. Under normal conditions, this isn’t problematic, but if your phone’s overheating for other reasons, the case could put it in danger.

Charge your phone whenever you can (there’s no benefit to running the battery to 0 percent before each recharge). Remove the case and lay the device on a hard, flat surface. Oh, and don’t leave your phone on your bed while it charges, as that’s a recipe for a house fire. You’ve been warned!

7. You manually close apps to save battery.

We all look for ways to get the most out of our batteries, and closing apps seems like a no-brainer. Sometimes, that makes sense; apps can use a tremendous amount of processing power in the background. However, if you’re closing an app only to open it again a few minutes later, you’re not saving energy by closing it.

Mobile operating systems are designed to manage resources effectively. Even if an app’s open in the background, it might not draw much computing power—and it’ll use far more when you boot it up. Unless you’ve got a clear reason to close an app, trust your phone to handle your multitasking.

8. You never restart your phone.

While closing individual apps is mostly useless, restarting your phone can improve performance and battery life. During the day, your phone constantly reads and writes data, storing a significant amount of information in its random access memory (RAM). Restarting the phone clears the RAM and closes all of your apps, allowing your phone to perform some essential maintenance.

You don’t need to restart your phone every day, but try to restart at least once per week. Turn your phone completely off and wait about a minute before turning it back on. You’ll likely notice better performance and fewer app crashes—but even if you don’t immediately notice these benefits, it’s an important practice to keep in mind.

9. You’re trusting an inexpensive memory card.

If your phone has an expansion slot for external memory, use it. Just avoid cheap memory cards, which are more prone to data corruption than high-quality alternatives. In some cases, they’re also slower—not great news if you’re using your memory card to store apps that require fast access to data.

Phone with memory card slot open
Photo by Silvie Lindemann from Pexels

“You get what you pay for,” Ben Carmitchel, CEO of Datarecovery.com, tells Urbo, “but flash memory is pretty inexpensive anyway. Just look for a well-known brand and check out the reviews. Avoid generic products, even if they seem like a good deal.”

10. You’re not using your memory card.

Provided that your phone supports external memory, you should use it. All flash memory breaks down over time, becoming less stable and more prone to data corruption. By storing data on your memory card, you can reduce the wear on your device’s internal memory, potentially extending the life of your handset.

If you’ve got a flash card installed, make sure you’re using it properly. You can move many apps to your external storage by long-pressing them on your home screen, selecting App info, and tapping Storage. You can also switch the data storage locations of your music and camera apps, although the exact process varies depending on the app.

11. You’re keeping your old phone around after you’ve upgraded to a new one.

Neglected phone batteries can catch on fire under certain conditions. It’s extremely rare, and in most cases, the battery will expand considerably before it becomes dangerous, pushing apart the phone’s casing. Unfortunately, if your old phone is in storage, you won’t see it until it’s too late.

When you get a new phone, sell the old one or donate it to charity. Don’t throw it away; discarded lithium batteries can wreak havoc at waste facilities. If you notice an old phone starting to bulge, contact your local waste handling facility right away. 

12. You’re using a cheap wall charger.

Generic chargers often have limited insulation, which prevents them from evenly distributing electricity to your phone. They’re poorly built and more likely to damage your phone—or worse yet, start a fire. Don’t take the risk.

You don’t need to swear off all generic chargers, but choose highly rated products from well-known brands. If you can’t research a charger before you buy it, don’t buy it. When possible, use the charger (and, ideally, the charger cord) that came with your phone. This is also important for car chargers.

13. You’re buying your phone from your cellular provider.

In some situations, an unlocked phone, or a phone that will work with any carrier, might be less expensive than what you’d pay for that same phone through a provider’s plan. That’s not true with every phone, but it’s worth consideration if you’re in the market for a new handset.  

Typically, the only difference between a locked and an unlocked phone is that the unlocked phone doesn’t have pre-installed software from your cell provider. Some of that software is useful (it might, for example, help to limit your data usage while traveling), but it’s certainly not worth hundreds of dollars. If you can afford a relatively large upfront fee, buy your phone unlocked.

14. You haven’t switched from the apps that came preloaded on your phone.

Your phone probably came with some preloaded software, including a browser, fitness apps, and other basics. If you’re happy with those apps, by all means, stick with them—but there’s probably something better.

After you’ve upgraded the basics, keep exploring. Check out apps like Tasker, which sets up actions you can trigger under set circumstances (so, for instance, you could turn on your smart lights automatically when you arrive home), or IFFT, which is very similar. IFTTT (Play Store link here) stands for “If This, Then That.” Basically, the app lets you set conditions to automatically change how your phone works; you could have it turn off your wifi when you leave the house, for instance, but turn it back on when you’re back home.

“It’s great to have both, as IFTTT is more focused on making web services work together and unlocks more features in your favorite products, while Tasker is for more technical stuff on the device. Thanks to AutoApps, it can be integrated with other things,” Reddit user Chic_luke wrote.

If you’re looking for ideas for getting the most from the app, Chic_luke has a few key suggestions:

“Mute the phone when you go to bed and unmute in the morning automatically. It saves you those five seconds a day [and you won’t] get some random game notification that wakes you up in the middle of the night if you pass out before you remember to mute your phone.”

Chic_luke says you should also “add new stuff to Google Assistant or edit existing commands. You can do the gimmicky custom replies for custom things you say, but you can also integrate it to other products. For example, Android Reminders is terrible, and thanks to IFTTT, I use Google Assistant to route that job to a better App (Todoist), and I can easily track my expenses in a Google Sheet by just telling Assistant how much I spent.”

Android phones have more functionality than iOS devices, provided that you’re willing to look around the Play store.

15. You’re not doing your research before buying a new phone.

You’re an Android user—you’re smart enough to avoid the “walled garden” of Apple, and generally speaking, you’ll pay much less for your device than an iPhone owner. However, many Android users make their purchasing decisions at the store without doing much research.

Galaxy Note 9 phone
Damo T. on Unsplash

Before you head out to buy your phone, look at things like processing power, camera quality, and screen resolution. Often, you’ll find an equivalent option from a lesser-known brand that matches the capabilities of a major-model phone (for instance, the Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy series) while costing hundreds less. 

16. You’re not updating your apps regularly.

Android app updates provide crucial security fixes, and they can stop memory leaks that draw unnecessary processing power (and therefore battery power). It’s true that some updates don’t add any new functionality from the user’s perspective, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.

To update your apps automatically, open the Google Play Store app, then tap Menu, then Settings. Here, you’ll find the Auto-update apps option. Tap it, then select one of the options: Over any network will update apps more quickly, but may use mobile data, while Over Wi-Fi only will use…Wi-Fi only. 

17. You’re using Launchers.

Launchers allow Android users to customize their home screens and display cool animations, and they’re worth a try if your phone has great battery life and plenty of processing power. Some of the animations are fairly complex, and they’re a good way to show off your phone’s capabilities (while making Apple fanatics jealous).

However, Launchers also use up a ton of processing power, which means they also use up your battery. Every time you trigger the animation, you’re sacrificing a tiny bit of your battery, and if you check your phone several times an hour, the power draw can be significant. Avoid Launchers if you’re having any other issues with your Android device.

18. You’re rooting your device (for no reason).

If you’re tech savvy, you can root your Android device, which opens up hundreds of new possibilities. Rooting a device gives you root access (hence the name) to the Android operating system code; you can install software that your phone’s manufacturer wouldn’t allow, and if you know what you’re doing, you can greatly expand your phone’s capabilities.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, however, you can easily turn your phone into a useless chunk of metal and plastic. Rooting a device carries inherent risks; it compromises your security, voids your warranty, and can slow down your phone. Besides, if you don’t have a clear reason for rooting, you probably won’t notice any significant advantages.  

19. You’re not backing up your data.

Any digital device can lose data at any time. Your phone is no exception; while phones rely on reliable flash memory to store information, flash devices are susceptible to issues like file corruption. When data loss happens, there’s no going back—unless, of course, you have a backup.

In one survey, 37 percent of mobile device users said they didn’t back up their data. The real number is likely higher, as many consumers believe that they’re backing up, only to receive an unpleasant surprise when a disaster occurs. Make sure you’re backing up to a cloud service (that way, you’ll still have your data if you physically lose your phone), and make sure your backups are automatic. 

20. You’re downloading microtransaction apps.

You’re bored, so you hit up the Play Store to find a game. You find one that looks fun—and it’s totally free. Hey, there’s nothing to lose, right? You download it, play for a while, and hit a wall: In order to progress in the game, you’ll need to watch a few ads or pay a few dollars for some in-game currency.  

Get addicted to a well-designed game—Candy Crush Saga, we’re looking at you—and you might end up spending plenty of money for that “free” entertainment. Stick with microtransaction-free apps to play it safe.   

21. You’re putting off those annoying Android updates.

Operating system updates take valuable time, so we put them off. That’s a mistake. Those updates include crucial bug fixes and security updates, and by refusing to install them, you’re putting your device at risk. While you might not notice the improvements, you’ll certainly benefit from them.

Depending on the nature of the update, you could experience data corruption, lagging performance, or a host of other issues. Go ahead and tap the “update” button as soon as you see it—or, if time’s really that much of an issue, set the updates to install automatically when you’re not using your phone. 

22. You’re browsing sketchy websites.

While we’re on the subject of security, let’s briefly discuss your browsing habits. Android viruses are rare, and generally speaking, you don’t need to worry about them. Browsers like Chrome have plenty of built-in features to keep your phone safe, and if you use your phone normally, you don’t need any extra protection.

However, some sites can hijack your browser and expose your phone to dangerous code. These are few and far between, but use common sense—don’t visit any site on your phone that seems obviously untrustworthy, and don’t enter payment information on any site without making sure that it has a valid security certificate. 

23. You’re playing around with the Developer Options menu.

The Developer Options menu enables functionality that developers use when testing their apps (we know, it’s shocking). You might want to enable the option if, say, you’re installing an app that requires root access to your device. Our favorite of these is bxActions, which allows rerouting of the annoying Bixby button on Samsung Galaxy phones.

However, enabling Developer Options can also negatively affect functionality. Generally, you should leave it alone unless you’ve got a clear purpose. If you’re curious, you can check it out by going into settings, tapping Software Information, More, and tapping seven times on Build Number (the exact process varies by phone).

24. You’re worried about using the Always On Display option.

Some newer phones offer an “Always On Display,” although the feature might go by different names. The idea is pretty self-explanatory: Your device’s screen stays on at all times, showing you the time, notifications, battery percentage, and other pertinent info. To most users, it’s an unnecessary waste of battery life.

However, on most phones, the feature doesn’t actually use much power. A Techspot piece found that the Galaxy S7 Edge uses about 3 percent more power with the Always On Display activated. That’s because the phone only activates the pixels that are in use—for the most part, the display’s off. If you like the feature, go ahead and use it. It doesn’t really have a significant negative effect. 

25. You’re not reading app permission requests.

When you install a new app, it presents a list of required permissions. You click “grant permissions” and go on with your day. Meanwhile, the app collects private data, which it sends back to the developer. The developer sells that data or uses it to send you targeted ads—or, worse, they store that data, then lose it in one of the thousands of data breaches that occur every year. 

Or not. Many apps don’t use permissions for nefarious purposes, but if you’re not reading carefully, you might not know how your apps function. Are they running in the background? Collecting personal data? Texting insults to your mother? To find out, head into Settings, then tap Apps or Application Manager. Tap on an app, then tap Permissions.

Remember, Android is a more versatile operating system than iOS, and it’s no less secure, provided that you use some common sense. Be sure to share these tips with friends, and while you’re at it, be sure to gloat about your awesome phone to any iPhone owners.

26. You don’t know how your keyboard works.

Upgrading your keyboard can make your phone much more useful, particularly if you have trouble using your phone’s built-in board.

“I have an intentional tremor which means my hands always shake,” wrote Reddit user Netsrak. “The shake also worsens when you are focusing on something small, so typing on a phone without physical buttons is hard.”

“The keyboard I use is called Simeiji. It’s predominantly a Japanese keyboard, but I like the way it handles English. It puts each key in an old-fashioned phone layout. You press a key and slide to a direction to get a different input. It lets you use bigger keys without having to worry about autocorrect or turning your phone.”

Person holding android phone, with home screen open
Masakaze Kawakami on Unsplash

If you’ve got Gboard—Google’s keyboard (Play Store link here)—you can efficiently fill out forms without tapping all over your screen.

“Swiping sideways on the spacebar on Gboard will move the cursor backwards and forwards,” wrote Froody-towel. “Also, hold the delete key and swipe left to highlight [one word at a time]. Releasing your finger will delete everything that’s highlighted.”

Other general tips, courtesy of Froody-towel:

“The date in the notification shade can be tapped to take you quickly to the clock app. And another comment mentioned enabling Developer Options; you can adjust the animation speeds here to make it seem like your phone runs quicker. I have mine set to 0.5x.”

27. You take too long to get to your camera.

“[People should know about the] WorldstarHipHop button,” wrote one Reddit user.

“All Android phones have it. Crazy [stuff] going down? Double tap the power button. Boom! Straight to camera.”

On Motorola phones with the Moto Actions feature, you can set up a gesture to trigger the camera (or other app functions, for that matter).

“I chop my phone and it goes straight to camera,” wrote Haccthaplanet. “I love Moto gestures.”

To set up Moto Actions, tap the Moto app, then Actions, then work your way through the settings to configure your phone. One of the coolest options here is “Pick up to stop ringing,” which works exactly as you’d expect. It’s especially useful if you’ve got an embarrassing ringtone (we’re looking at you, guy who still has the Crazy Frog ringtone).

28. You’re unaware of some basic features.

Several Reddit users shared tips for easily navigating your phone. While some seem pretty basic, they can greatly improve the user experience.

A Reddit user (whose account has since been deleted) acknowledged that this one could be well known, but went on to say, “Once you expand any notification, you can swipe up with two fingers to collapse it to its previous state.”

“If you double tap on a moveable thing—like a picture or map—and keep your finger down on the screen on the second tap, moving your finger up/down will zoom out or in,” wrote BeCarefulNow.

“If you don’t know what happens when you select an option in an app’s action bar, you can long-press the icon to show a dialog box that tells you what it does,” wrote Hbs18.

“On Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9, if you want to go back to the previous page, but you don’t want to reveal the navigation bar, just hard-press in the middle and swipe to the right (or left, whichever side you have your back button on) and you’ll go back,” wrote Ogreislyfe. “That’s a pretty neat little trick.”

“If you swipe sideways on the top search bar in Chrome, you can move between pages,” wrote Real_sadboi.

29. You’re not protecting your privacy.

Sometimes, you don’t want people going through your phone, but you don’t want to fiddle with your phone to change your automatic lock settings. Fortunately, there’s a quick fix.

“Let’s say you have auto unlock or some form of smart lock,” wrote E06SP. “When you turn on your lock screen, you can tap and hold on the tiny lock icon to lock your screen.”

Of course, sometimes you have to loan your phone to a friend. When that’s the case, make sure you keep them in their place.

“Most people don’t know about screen pinning,” wrote FastbootGeek. “When you give your phone to someone just to make a call, and you don’t want him to use any other part of your phone, just go to Settings, then Security, and tap Activate Screen Pinning.”

That’s extremely useful when a stranger wants to make a call—or when your nosy friends want to explore your photo gallery.  

30. You’re not taking advantage of Android’s file management options.

“File explorers are amazing,” wrote thehumble_1. “You can view files on your phone and share them, copy them, print them, or just move them around like you own them. Also, Google Photos is amazing. You can search your photos for anything.”

Your phone probably has a built-in file manager, but if it’s missing, a free option like Asus’s File Manager (Play Store link here) should do the job nicely. You can use it to move, copy, or rename files, but be careful; changing some files might stop certain apps from working correctly.

If you’re fairly tech savvy, you can also delve into your operating system’s backend. Just make sure that you know what you’re doing—don’t make any changes unless you’re confident. If you simply want to see what’s back there, there’s an easy way to do so.

“You can actually lurk in the Android.secure folder using the stock Android 6.0+ file explorer,” Haduken2g explained. “It’s not like you will be able to change anything, but at least you can see what’s in there.”

“I found [large] files from old apps eating my storage away, and I didn’t even have an idea they were there. It’s not a bad idea to take a look if you think your SD card or internal storage is unnecessarily full. Also, the only way to wipe this folder on the SD card is actually leaving [the card] in during a factory reset.”

31. You’re not controlling your notification bar.

“To immediately access quick settings, use two fingers to swipe down the notification bar. Works on Android Lollipop and above,” wrote one Reddit user.

That might sound obvious, but somehow, we missed it—and we’ve been using Android for a while now.  

“You can create a shortcut to access your Notification Log, which gives you a list of recent notifications and the apps they originated from,” wrote FastbootGeek. “I’m not sure if it’s organized by length of time or number of notifications, so it’s probably best to check sooner rather than later.”

To set up that shortcut, go to Widgets, then Settings, then Settings Shortcut, and tap on Notification Log.

32. You’re not optimizing your phone’s battery life.

We use our phones for everything—but in many situations, we don’t need the actual phone features. If you’re stuck in a waiting room, waiting for a flight, or in another situation where you don’t need phone access, turn it off and enjoy dramatically improved battery life.

“On later versions of Android, turn on Airplane Mode,” wrote Dyolf_Knip. “Then turn on wifi. The phone’s still in airplane mode, so doesn’t try polling for cell towers, meaning the battery lasts a lot longer.

“The cutoff seems to be [Android versions] 3.0+,” they noted. “Still, useful for cell phones repurposed as music players, surveillance devices, etc.”

When you’re not going to be able to charge your phone for an extended period of time, you can always pull out the nuclear option.

“If you really want to save battery, switch into Ultra Power Saving Mode,” wrote Dirt_Bike_Zero.

“To do this, you probably need to edit your Quick Launch pull down. Pull down from the top of your phone, tap Edit, then look for an unused icon called ‘U. Power Saving.’ Add it to your Quick Launch options. When you switch into it for the first time, you’ll say ‘wow,’ or maybe even ‘holy s***.’”

We just said “wow,” but your experience may vary.

33. You’re not stealing your friends’ apps.

“For someone coming from iOS: Android allows you to share app APKs,” wrote stereomatch. If you’re not technical, an APK is basically the installation file for an app.

Of course, you could always just go to the Play Store to grab the app in question, but sometimes apps disappear from the store. Download an app like APK Share Bluetooth (check it out here), and you can grab the installation file straight from another Android phone.

An important caveat: You should only install an APK if you completely trust its source. Some APK files can harm your phone, particularly if they’re not vetted by Google.

34. You’re needlessly messing with your Bluetooth audio settings.

This quick hack makes Bluetooth headsets and speakers much more usable.

“[Newer Android versions] can remember the Bluetooth volume for each device,” wrote one Reddit user. “The Bluetooth volume needs to be at like 30 percent for my headphones and about 95 percent for my car. I hate how every time I switch between the two, I have to frantically lower the volume on my headphones before they blast me with sound. And then I always forget that the volume’s been lowered for my headphones and wonder why no sound is coming out of the car…”

To do this, you might need a separate app, depending on your Android version. Bluetooth Volume Control (linked here) is one option that should work for every type of phone. Install it and you can independently alter media and call volume. Be sure to access the Settings menu and select the “Restore volumes” option, along with “Restore on boot.”

You’re now officially an Android expert.

Well, not officially. We don’t have a certificate to give you or anything, but you now know the basic mistakes that hamstring most Android users. Hopefully, you’re a little bit wiser (or a little less prone to bad phone habits). 

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