How to Customize Android Through Settings

Screenshot of Nvidia Shield Tablet

What is it about settings on our smartphone or tablet that seems so mysterious? For some, the idea of going into settings on their Samsung Galaxy S, Google Nexus or Pixel may seem like a magical journey involving swiping from the edge of a screen or pressing a series of buttons on the exterior of the device. The truth is a bit more mundane. The Settings feature on your Android device is nothing more than an app you can use to customize your device.

While the icon and location may change slightly from device to device, the Settings option looks like a gear and is usually on the initial home screen. The easy way to get into your device's settings is through the App Drawer, which is the icon with the dots on it. The App Drawer is usually either white with black dots or black with white dots.

After you open the App Drawer, all of the apps on your device will be listed in alphabetical order. This makes it easy to find any app, including the Settings app. If you have downloaded a ton of apps, you can also use the search bar at the very top. The list will narrow as you type, so you may only need to type an 'S' and maybe an 'E' for Settings to float to the top.

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

Increase the Font Size, Set the Wallpaper and Customize the Screen Saver

If your eyesight isn't quite what it once was, you will be very interested in this setting. You can adjust the default font size on your smartphone or tablet by opening Settings, scrolling down and tapping Display. The Font Size setting is in the middle of the Display settings.

On a newer device, you may see a sample of text displayed on the screen while you adjust the default size. This makes it very easy to get the right setting. To adjust the font, move the slider at the bottom to the right for larger or left for smaller.

You can also change the background image on your home screen by tapping Wallpaper in the display settings. You can choose from default wallpapers or browse through your Photos for that perfect image. On a newer device, you can also download and use Live Wallpaper, which is an animated background. However, Live Wallpaper can bog down your device, so it is not recommended. Read more about choosing background images and how to download new wallpaper

One neat way to customize your device is with a screen saver. By default, most devices simply display the time, but if you tap on Screen Saver in the Display settings, you can set it to use a variety of photos, either from a specific album or from your entire photo library.

Do you find yourself wanting to adjust the screen's brightness on a regular basis? Adaptive brightness is another great option in the Display settings. It will check the ambient light and adjust the screen's brightness based on how light or dark it is in the room.

How to Filter Notifications

Notifications are those messages that pop up on the lock screen and are accessed by swiping down from the very top of the Android's display. If you find that you are getting way more notifications than you want, you can filter some out through the Notifications settings. 

When you tap Notifications from the Settings menu, you will see a list of all apps on your device. Scroll down the list, tap the app you want to remove from Notifications and choose Block All from the list. If you still want to see the notification but don't want your smartphone or tablet to beep at you, choose Show silently.

Override Do Not Disturb is an interesting feature that turns your Do Not Disturb setting into a priority list. By tapping Override Do Not Disturb, you will still receive Notifications from that particular app even Do Not Disturb is enabled.

Don't want any notifications showing up on the lock screen?  You can keep Notifications off the lock screen by tapping the gear button at the top-right of the screen when viewing all apps in the Notifications settings.  Tapping On the lock screen lets you switch between enabling or disabling Notifications showing when your device is locked.


How to Disable or Uninstall Apps

When you remove an app from the home screen, Android doesn't actually delete the app. It just removes the shortcut. If you want to uninstall an app because you no longer use it or want the storage space, you can do so in the Settings.  

You can find a list of all apps installed on the device by tapping Apps from the Settings menu. Scroll down and tap on the app you want to delete from the device. In most cases, you will see Uninstall at the top left of the screen. Tapping this will remove the app from your smartphone or tablet.

Unfortunately, some apps that came with your device cannot be uninstalled. In this case, you will see Disable in place of Uninstall. It's a good idea to go ahead and disable these apps just to make sure they don't use up any other resources.

Curious about Force Stop?  This option closes the app out of memory.  It's a little different from closing apps through the normal task manager.  Normally, an app is given an indications that it is about to be closed, but sometimes a frozen app can get stuck in a state that doesn't allow it to quit.  Force Stop will close any errant app without giving it any warning.  Ideally, you should never need to use it, but if you have an app that gets stuck in memory, Force Stop will deal with it.

How to Update to the Latest Version of Android

It's always important to keep on the latest version of the operating system. One of the most common reasons for a patch or update is to fix security holes found in the system. Updating is also a great way to get cool new features installed on your device.

You can check for updates by tapping on About smartphone or About tablet at the very end of the Settings list. The first option is System upgrade. You will also see your Model number, Android version and other information about the device. If the operating system isn't on the latest version available for your device, you will be presented with an upgrade button.

Remember, not all devices get operating system updates at the same time.  Often, your carrier (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) will need to sign off on an update.  So if you hear about an update but it isn't listed as available on your device, you may want to check back in a few weeks.

A Few More Things You Can Do in Settings

A very useful feature found in settings is the ability to find out what apps are using the most space on your device.

What else can you do in Settings? For adjusting the brightness, joining Wi-Fi networks, adjusting the display's brightness, putting your phone in Airplane mode or turning on Bluetooth, there is a quick menu that can be used faster than opening Settings.  This is accessed by sliding your finger down from the top of the screen to display the Notifications and then sliding your finger down further to reveal the quick menu.  Find out more about the quick menu and all the cool things you can do with it.

But there's a ton of cool features hidden in settings.  You'll find device-specific settings, such as how to react when the smartphone or tablet is connected to a TV for devices that have an HDMI input.  You can also set up a printer by going to Printing in the System settings and choosing Add service.  

Here are a few more things you can do in Android's settings:

  • Find out what apps are eating up the most storage space. Tap Storage from the Settings menu and then tap Apps. This will display a list of apps with those requiring the most storage space listed first. 
  • Find out what's using the most battery power. If you tap Battery from Settings, you will see a list of apps and services that have used the most power over the last few days. Most of us will see idle time, screen and the operating system near the top, and there's not much you can do about those. But if you see an app on the list you rarely or never use, it's likely that app is being automatically loaded when you turn on your device. You can disable or uninstall the app using the instructions above. This is a great option if you find your smartphone or tablet running slow.
  • Create new user profiles. If you are on a tablet used by multiple people, you can set up a profile for every user. This allows each person to set up the tablet how they want it.
  • Setup Android Pay. If you want to start using your Smartphone to pay at cash registers, you can setup Android Pay by tapping Google from Settings and then tapping Android Pay. You will be prompted to add a credit or debit card. To get the most out of Android Pay, you should download the app.
  • Reset the device to Factory Default settings. This is important if you want to sell your smartphone or tablet. It can also be a last resort troubleshooting step if you have a problem that can't be fixed by rebooting the device. This process will erase the data and apps on the device and put it in the same state as when it was new. To reset the device, tap "Backup & reset" and then tap "Factory data reset." Find out more information on resetting your device.
  • Set a password or pattern to unlock the device. In the Security settings, you can choose Screen lock to set up a 4-digit pin or an alphanumeric password that is required before anyone can gain access to your smartphone or tablet. You can also use a pattern to unlock the device, and if you only want it to be locked when you are not at home, choose Smart Lock and add a safe location.