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
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Android devices are highly customizable and feature-packed, but some of the best time-saving shortcuts in Android are hidden. Here's how to find these features to take quick pictures, send texts, and make calls without fumbling through a list of apps. You'll also find tips to make your Android experience efficient with Google Assistant and voice commands.

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

Launch Your Camera

When you only have a split second to launch your smartphone's camera and capture a photo, there's a shortcut that will quickly open the camera. On many Android smartphones, double-tap the Power or Home button. This shortcut should work on most newer Android devices. To launch the camera on many Motorola smartphones, enable gestures on the phone, then twist your wrist.

Camera icon on Android Lock Screen

If your smartphone runs Android Marshmallow or later, launch the camera from the lock screen. Tap, hold, and swipe the camera icon and snap a photo without unlocking the phone. When the camera app is closed, the phone displays the lock screen. No one sees your private information or compromises your device.

Unlock your Device

When you're comfortable at home or work or anywhere you don't feel the need for a lockdown, use Google Smart Lock. With Smart Lock, the device can be unlocked when it's in a trusted place, it's paired with a trusted device such as a smartwatch, or it recognizes your voice. You can also use this feature to save passwords.

Time Savers and Gestures

Android has several gesture-control options that vary by device and operating system. On stock Android, which includes all Pixel and Nexus devices and many third-party flagship smartphones, use one finger to swipe down to see notifications, then swipe down a second time to view quick settings such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Airplane Mode.

If your phone runs Android Nougat (7.0) or later, quickly toggle between two apps using the Overview button that's next to the Home and Back buttons. Press the Overview button once to display your open apps. Double-tap the Overview button to display the previous app you used; this makes it easy to switch back and forth between two apps. If you need more multitasking power, press and hold the Overview button to use split-screen mode.

Overview button on Android home screen

Android 9.0 Pie introduces a setting that removes the Overview button in favor of a swipe-up gesture that displays all open apps. You can also swipe up twice to open the app drawer.

Phones with Android 7.1 or later display app shortcuts in the same way that a right-click on a PC displays a menu of choices. Press and hold an app that supports this function to display a list of shortcuts. For example, the Gmail app shows a list of accounts that are connected to your device, a compose button, and a widget menu.

Devices that run Marshmallow and later have a search function in the app drawer. On earlier versions of Android, double-tap the drawer icon to launch app search. The drawer icon is at the bottom of the screen, above the home button.

To refresh a website, social media page, or other content, pull down on the screen.

There's also a gesture to find information about any app such as the amount of storage and data it uses, app notification settings, and permissions. Go to the application drawer, tap and hold an app icon, then tap the App Info button to open the settings page for the app.

Phone Calls and Messaging

Widgets add a shortcuts feature to Android. For example, use the built-in widgets to create app widgets and contact widgets for your favorite people. To create a widget, press and hold the Home screen, then choose Widgets. You'll find widgets that automate routine and frequent tasks:

  • The Contacts widget automatically dials a call to a selected contact.
  • The Chrome widget places a resizeable window on the screen that contains a list of your Chrome bookmarks.
  • The Gmail app shows a selected folder of Gmail email messages in a resizeable window.
Widgets button on Android

Android's also has accessibility features. To set up these options, go to the phone dialer settings and select Answering and ending calls. Then, press the Power button to disconnect a call and press the Home button to answer a call.

Google Assistant Voice Commands

Most new Android smartphones support Google Assistant. To enable the Google Assistant OK Google command on any screen, open the Google search app, select Settings, then choose Voice. In the Voice screen, select OK Google and turn on Google Assistant. You have the option to use Google Assistant when the screen is on and when the phone is locked.

Use Google Assistant to search for information on the web and answer your questions. Use voice commands to send a text message to a friend, set up a reminder or an appointment, make a phone call, or find directions on Google Maps. 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.