The Best Android Shortcuts You Should Be Using

Launch your camera, send a text, and find answers in just seconds

Close-up shot of brand new Google Nexus 5
Bloomicon / Shutterstock.com

Smartphones are supposed to save us time and give us convenience, but to get the most out of our devices, we have to do a little legwork, at least for now. Android devices are highly customizable and feature-packed, but some of its best time and sanity-saving shortcuts have to be unlocked. Here, we present a bunch of ways you can take quick pictures, send texts and make calls without fumbling through your contacts, and make efficient use of Google Assistant and voice commands.

Note: The directions below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Launch Your Camera

Have you ever wanted to capture a photo of something interesting, like a dancing squirrel, only to find the squirrel gone by the time you launch your smartphone's camera? Luckily, there's an easy fix. On many Android smartphones, you can quickly open the camera by double-tapping the power or home button. This shortcut should work on most newer Android devices. Many Motorola smartphones let you launch the camera by twisting your wrist, as long as you have gestures enabled.

You can also launch the camera from the lock screen if your smartphone runs Android Marshmallow or later, Tap, hold, and swipe the camera icon and snap a photo without unlocking your phone. Don't worry; this doesn't expose everything on your device; once you exit the camera app, you're back to the lock screen, so you don't have to worry about nosey friends and family or would-be thieves or hackers seeing your private information or compromising your device.

Unlock your Device

Unlocking your device isn't time-consuming, but it can be annoying to constantly unlock it when you're comfortable at home or work or anywhere you don't feel the need for a lockdown. Google Smart Lock lets you keep your device unlock when it's in a trusted place, paired with a trusted device such as a smartwatch, or even when it recognizes your voice. You can also use this feature to save passwords.

Time Savers and Gestures

Android has a lot of gesture-control options, but they vary by device and operating system. If you have stock Android, which includes all Pixel and Nexus devices and many third-party flagship smartphones, you can use one finger swipe down to see all of your notifications or two-finger swipes down to view quick settings (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, etc.).

If your phone runs Android Nougat (7.0) or later you can quickly toggle between two apps using the overview button at the bottom of your screen. Next to the home and back buttons, this square key, if pressed once, displays all of the apps you have open, but if you double-tap it, opens the most recent app you've used so that you can switch back and forth. If you need more multitasking power than that, you can use Android's split-screen mode, by pressing and holding the overview button.

Phones with Android 7.1 or later can access app shortcuts--think of it like right-clicking on a PC. Press and hold an app that supports this function, and you'll see a list of shortcuts. For example, the Gmail app will show a list of accounts you've connected to your device, a compose button, and a widget menu.

Devices that run Marshmallow and later have an easy to find app search function in the app drawer. If you don't have Marshmallow, you can launch app search by double tapping the drawer icon at the bottom of your screen, just above the home button.

Another helpful gesture is refreshing a website, social media page, or other content by pulling down on the screen.

Finally, if you need information about any of your apps, such as how much storage it's using, how much data it eats up, notification settings, and more, there's an easy way to do so. Rather than going into settings, choosing apps, and then scrolling through a long list, you can go to the application drawer, tap and hold an app icon, and tap on the App Info button, which brings you directly to the apps settings page.

Phone Calls and Messaging

Widgets are one of the best features that Android offers. You can create app widgets as well as contact widgets for your favorite people. Press and hold the home screen, choose widgets and then go to the contacts section. There you can add widgets for calling and messaging any contact on your device.

You can also take advantage of Android's accessibility features, such as the option to end phone calls by pressing the power button. This method is a surefire way to know you've disconnected after a call if the other person on the line doesn't hang up right away. Likewise, there is a shortcut to answer your Android phone by pressing the home button. Set up these options in the phone dialer settings under answering and ending calls.

Google Assistant Voice Commands

Most new Android smartphones support Google Assistant. You can enable the Google Assistant's "OK, Google" command on any screen by going into the Google search app's settings and selecting voice, "OK Google" detection, and "from any screen." Enabling "OK Google" also lets you use the aforementioned trusted voice option in Google Smart Lock. Use Google Assistant to settle bar bets: how many Oscar's has "actress" won? Ask simple questions "when is the next Mets game?" or better yet "when is the next home game for the Mets?"

Of course, you can also use voice commands to get things done, such as texting a friend, setting up a reminder or an appointment, making a call, or firing up Google Maps to get directions. Voice commands are convenient when you need a hands-free solution while you're driving, but it's also handy when you don't feel like typing.