50 Android Jelly Bean tips Part 1

Jelly Bean may not be the same huge leap forward as Ice Cream Sandwich, but it still brings a lot of new features and functionality to the operating system.
Many of these are improvements to the smoothness of rendering on the device - it even briefly boosts the CPU when the screen's turned on to make things super slick and speedy. Google dubs these little performance and software improvements as being "buttery", assumedly referring to some nice spreadable Lurpak rather than a solidified hunk of congealed milk.
The other big addition here is Google Now. This adds personalised recommendations and information based on your browsing history. Some people love its perceptive usefulness, others hate its pervy, intrusive nature.
One thing's for sure though: the Siri-like voice search feature is awesome.
As ever, these tips are based on the vanilla installation of Android, so your mileage may vary depending on how many layers of extra "features" have been added by your phone or tablet's manufacturer.

1. Say "Google" to search

If you're in America, you can open Google Now and say "Google" followed by your query to search the net. If you're not in America, you can trick Android into thinking you are. Open the settings on your device, choose "Language and input", then switch Google Voice Typing's language from "Automatic" to "English (US)". Next go to Google Now's settings and again change the language to "English (US)". You should see "Search or say Google" in Now's search bar. Faking an American accent: optional.

2. Now settings

You can open now in two ways - either swipe up from the Home icon, or swipe the lock icon up when the screen is locked. When you first start it, Now will run through the basics of what it does, and even show you some example cards. In Now's settings, you'll find each card has its own notifications settings, which apply to both the Now homescreen and the Notification shade. Standard means that new cards are accompanied by a ringtone and vibration, Low priority places them at the bottom of the list without any notification, and off, well, turns them off altogether.

3. Talk to Google Now

Google Now also includes Siri-like functionality, supplying spoken answers to your inane questions. Try things like, "what time is it in Kuala Lumpur?", "when's Tom Cruise's birthday I want to send him a card?", "how do I get home?" or "will it be sunny tomorrow?" and Now will speak the answer back at you or search the web for relevant pages.

4. Get more Google Now cards

Google Now presents relevant information such as weather and places on "cards". To begin with it may be a little sparse, but searching the web from any device will give you more. Just make sure your web history is enabled: visit history.google.com, hit the settings cog and ensure that Web History is on and not paused. Next, search Google for favourite football teams, planned flights and destinations and the relevant cards will pop up automatically.


5. Notification Shade

We previously referred to it as the "pully-down menu thing", but apparently it's officially called the "Notification Shade". Niftily, certain notifications in the shade can be expanded by sliding two fingers outwards on them, giving you an overview of the subject headers in your email inbox, for example. Moving two fingers inwards on a notification neatly contracts them, too.

6. Rotation lock

You're sitting on a plane watching a vid in horizontal orientation. Suddenly, the plane banks sharply to the left and - oh no! - the video changes orientation. This worst-case-scenario can be avoided by tapping the rotation lock in the Notification Shade, which keeps the screen in its current orientation. Tap it again to unlock the rotation.

7. Turn notifications off

Install enough apps and the notification bar at the top of your Android device becomes the digital equivalent of an unending stream of ticker tape. In fact, Airpush is an entire advertising company that makes money in this way. Fortunately, each and every app you install in Jelly Bean has the option to turn this off. Go to its info page under Apps, uncheck the box labelled "Show notifications" and enjoy your empty notifications bar.

8. Equalize your music

The ability to adjust those all-important bass and treble settings has been sorely missed on Android devices - so much so that a bunch of apps have been made to enable it. It's fixed in Android's stock music player, though. Open a music file in the stock player, hit Settings then choose Equaliser. Here you'll find manual sliders, a load of presets and bass and 3D effects. Unfortunately it doesn't work for the whole device, but it will give your tunes a little more oomph.

9. Rearrange your home screens

Long-press on any icon or widget on your homescreen and you can move it around, and other icons and widgets will shift out of the way to fit it in. Bigger widgets can also be resized by long-pressing and releasing them, and then dragging the circles that appear on the edges. It's actually quite fun and satisfying. We just spent three hours doing nothing but this.

10. Fling to remove

Homescreen app clutter (surely the worst of all types of clutter) can be quickly and easily defeated. Long-press an icon or widget, then fling it upwards and it'll ascend into shortcut heaven. This won't uninstall the app, though - it'll still reside in your app drawer.

11. Owner info

Wait! Put down that blunt rock you were about to use to chisel your contact details into the back of your Android device! Jelly Bean includes the ability to display a few lines of contact details on the lock screen, such as your email address, name and phone number. You'll need to enable a screen lock from Security, and then you'll see the Owner info option appear. This information is mirrored across all Jelly Bean devices, too.

12. Access App info

The all-important App info screen - which allows you to uninstall, stop and disable apps - can be accessed in a completely new way with Jelly Bean. Pull down the notification shade, long-press on an open task and you'll be taken straight to the settings page for the relevant app. It's handy if you don't know which app displayed the notification.

13. Volume controls

You can now set the volume for all the noisiest bits of your Android device individually. Press the volume up or down key and you'll the familiar little slider with a settings icon to the right of this. Tap this and you'll see separate sliders for media, and notifications and ringtones. Bonus tip: each of these sliders can be, er, slid, with your finger.

14. Talkback

Designed for blind and low-vision users, Talkback provides an ongoing narration of what's displayed on your phone or tablet. You can turn it on via Accessibility, and then you'll be taken through a tutorial of its functions. It's a very different way of navigating your device, and quite interesting to experience. It also supports braille input and output devices via USB and Bluetooth.

15. Blink to unlock


While face unlock is smart and quick, more paranoid users may worry that a ne'er-do-weller could somehow steal an image of their face - or their actual face - and use it to access the device. Android's Liveness check requires the user to blink before the device is unlocked, preventing access if a quick eye-shut isn't detected.


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