The truth is that, as “magical” as our slick and gleaming cellphones may appear at times, they are essentially simply appliances. And, more often than not, the problems that the majority of people have with their phones are rather consistent. That means that whether you’re debugging your own device or attempting to help a stranded coworker, the chances are excellent that your issue can be resolved quickly.
Consider this your guide: it’s a collection of some of the most common concerns I hear regarding Android phones, as well as the most basic fixes I recommend in each case. You can enjoy the delight of feeling like a mobile-tech mechanic by applying the information to your own ailing gadget or passing it on to someone else who needs it (with or without the coveralls).
Problem No. 1: The First Issue With Android Is A Lack Of Storage
The age-old problem of finite space, certainly. Remember this catchy little phrase when your phone’s storage starts to run low: “Stop hoarding stuff, you unruly digital packrat.” (Alright, so it wasn’t nearly as catchy as I’d intended.)
In all seriousness, most of us don’t need much stored locally on our smartphones these days — especially on Android, where cloud synchronization and automated administration are straightforward. Begin by downloading the Google Images app and configuring it to automatically back up all of your photos and videos as you take them. That will allow you to remove the local copies (as well as give you a terrific way to access all of your memories from any device, at any time, even if your current Android phone is lost or broken), and that alone will free up a lot of space.
Second, download and install the Google Files app. It’ll show you all the bloat lying in your phone’s storage — including those now-redundant local versions of cloud-synced images, as well as junk files, duplicate files, and other easily removed items — and provide you simple one-tap options to remove any of it.
Finally, if you’re using one of Google’s Pixel phones, go to your system settings’ Storage section and hit the “Smart Storage” line. You can set your phone to automatically delete any redundant copies of previously backed-up photos and videos whenever your storage runs out.
Problem No. 2: The Second Issue With Android Is Its Lack Of Endurance
We could talk about Android battery life all day, but the quickest method to improve the longevity of your phone is to change the screen settings.
To begin, lower the screen’s brightness (either in the Quick Settings panel that comes up when you swipe down twice from the top of your screen or in the Display section of your system settings). The display consumes the most power of any component on your device, thus the lower you can set it, the longer your phone will last between charges. If your phone runs Android 9 or higher, search for an Adaptive Brightness option that adjusts the brightness level for you based on your current environment.
Second, reduce the value of your “Screen timeout” setting (also in the Display section of your system settings) to the smallest possible value. The less time your phone’s screen is turned on when you aren’t using it, the less battery power it consumes.
Finally, if you have Android 10 or higher, check for the Dark Theme option in the same area of your system settings. Darker colors use less power than the bright colors found in most interfaces by default, so switching to the Dark Theme all of the time or on a sunset-to-sunrise schedule should significantly increase the life of your phone’s battery.
Problem No. 3: The Third Issue With Android Is That There Is Too Much Bloatware
Unless you have one of Google’s Pixel phones, your Android handset probably came with a bunch of trash you don’t want, ranging from unnecessary manufacturer-provided services (hello, Samsung!) to carrier-added nonsense (to use the highly technical term). But don’t worry; most of it can be concealed out of sight, if not completely removed.
The best approach to do this is to seek for the whole list of installed applications in the Apps area of your system settings. When you come across an app you don’t want, tap its name and look for the Uninstall button — or, if it isn’t available, the Disable command. You won’t be able to get rid of everything that way (paging Bixby…), but you will be able to get rid of a lot of junk.
Problem No. 4: The Fourth Android Issue Is A Jumbled Up Home Screen
Android phones’ home screens are frequently anything but perfect out of the box, from built-in search bars you don’t use to goofy news streams you’d rather not see. However, you are not obligated to accept what your device manufacturer provides. Third-party launchers — alternate settings that totally replace your phone’s stock home screen configuration and app drawer organization — are abundant on Android. And there’s something for almost every choice and working style.
Problem No. 5: The Fifth Android Issue: A Sluggish Phone
Smartphones, like us mortals, are prone to slowing down as their virtual wits wear out over time. Your phone’s response time, unlike our mushy mammalian brains, can be enhanced.
Cleaning up your storage, deleting useless apps (both those that came pre-loaded on your phone and those that you installed yourself but no longer use), and trying out a custom launcher for a more optimum home screen setting are all things that should make a visible impact.
Beyond that, several of the same methods I discuss in my Android data-saving guide, such as removing superfluous background activity, compressing your mobile web experience, and switching to lightweight versions of apps, can significantly improve your overall device speed. (For a step-by-step breakdown in each of those categories, see that article.)
Finally, a hidden Android system setting could have the most noticeable effect of all. To discover it, you’ll need to activate Android’s developer options on your phone:
- Look for the line labelled “Build number” in the About Phone section of your system settings. (On Samsung phones, you must first tap the “Software information” line before seeing the “Build number” line.)
- That line should be tapped seven times.
- When prompted, enter your PIN, pattern, or password.
Return to your main system settings menu after that’s done. On some phones, a new Developer Options section will appear immediately in the main menu; on others, such as Google’s Pixel phones, you’ll have to go to the System section and then press “Advanced.” Tap that area and then scroll down until you see the Drawing header, whichever way you got there.
“Window animation scale,” “Transition animation scale,” and “Animator duration scale” are the three animation-related choices you’ll find there. Change the default “Animation scale 1x” to “Animation off” for each of those objects by tapping them. While you’re there, don’t meddle with anything else in the Developer Options area; it has some advanced features that aren’t intended for regular phone users and could cause your phone to malfunction if used wrong.
Problem No. 6: The Sixth Android Issue: Too Much Rotation
Our phones are built to work in both portrait and landscape orientations, but the sensors can become oversensitive at times, causing the phone to switch between perspectives more frequently than you’d want.
There’s a simple solution as of Android 9: March into the Display section of your system settings, press “Advanced,” and then change the toggle next to “Auto-rotate screen” to the off position on a Pixel phone or any device whose maker hasn’t messed with Android too much. From then on, rotating your smartphone will not automatically change the screen’s orientation; instead, a little icon will appear in the corner of the screen. You can then tap or ignore that icon to modify the rotation or leave it alone.
If you use a Samsung phone, the option is oddly absent from the system settings, but you can find a toggle for it in the Quick Settings area that appears when you slide down twice from the top. Look for the “Auto rotate” icon and tap it once to turn it off (the title will change to “Portrait,” which is a little odd, but it’ll do the thing).
Problem No. 7: Android’s 7th Issue Is Teeny-Tiny Text
Would you please stop squinting? If the text on your phone is too small, go to the Accessibility area of your system settings and try one of two options: “Font size,” which will enlarge text across your phone, or “Display size,” which will enlarge everything on your screen.
Problem No. 8: Notifications Are The Number Eight Issue On Android
Stop notification annoyances at their source, whether it’s an overly aggressive app or, ahem, an overly aggressive texter, simply pushing and holding your finger on the next unwelcome notice that appears. This will bring up a control panel that allows you to completely disable the related type of notice — or simply silence it so that it appears but doesn’t actively demand your attention.
Problem No. 9: The Contacts Saga
For crying out loud, it’s the year 2020. Your contacts shouldn’t be limited to your phone, and you shouldn’t have to go through any unnecessary hoops to “transfer” them from one device to another.
If you’re using a phone that isn’t produced by Google, make sure the Contacts app is set to sync your information with your Google account rather than the manufacturer’s own proprietary syncing service. This is especially important for Samsung users, as the company’s default contact sync service is its own self-contained service. That’s good if you only want to access that information from that one phone and only want to buy Samsung phones in the future, but in any other situation, that configuration will fail you.
Tap the three-line menu icon in the upper-left corner of the Samsung Contacts app, then tap “Manage contacts” followed by “Default storage location.” Then, in the pop-up menu, choose your Google account rather than your Samsung account.
Your contacts will be synced with Google Contacts from that point forward, which means they’ll always be accessible from the Google Contacts website, from any computer where you’re signed in, and from any phone where you install the Google Contacts Android app.
Problem No. 10: Call-Ending Issues On Android
Have you ever been in a hurry to terminate a call, only to find that your screen won’t turn back on quickly enough? Or perhaps the screen turns on but the order to hang up isn’t immediately available? By allowing you to push your phone’s physical power button whenever you’re ready to say goodbye, an Android accessibility feature can make your life considerably easier. There’s no need to look for the right icon or even look down at your phone – all you have to do is push a button along the device’s edge, and the person on the other end is gone (thank goodness!).
Simply turn on the “Power button ends call” option in the Accessibility area of your system settings, and you’ll be able to get off a call with greater ease than ever before.