15 best shortcuts for iPhones and Androids

Make your smartphone even smarter when you learn these time- and battery-saving hidden features.

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When you first unwrapped your new smartphone and examined it’s shiny face, you probably realized that you were holding the smallest, most powerful computer you’d ever had. But most of us don’t know how truly “smart” our smartphones are! When you know where to look, your Android phones and iPhones allow a wealth of personalization options that make your life easier and save battery life. To save you the trouble, we found the most useful shortcuts and tricks, straight from Google and the geeks at Apple:

samsung android phoneAndroid (version 4.0 or higher):

Put your frequent contacts on speed dial:

Contact friends and loved ones right from your Home screen, by giving them their own widget. To set up a shortcut for one-tap access to call, text, email, or message anyone you contact frequently, press and hold down an empty space on your Home screen and then tap through to Shortcuts > Contact, and add whoever you want.

Switch between apps quickly:

Tap the “recent apps” icon (the hardware or software button that has two squares on it) to quickly jump between applications. From this icon, you can also swipe away applications you’re no longer using.

Maximize power:

Get more out of your battery by using the Power Control widget to quickly manage display brightness, connectivity, syncing, and more. This can be found in your phone’s widgets folder. 

Type more easily:

Enhance the typing experience on your Android phone or tablet by downloading Google Keyboard on Google Play. Google Keyboard has Gesture Typing (which lets you glide through letters to form a word—just lift your finger to enter a space), automatic error correction, word predictions, and advanced keyboard layouts. You can also tap the microphone to compose messages with Voice Typing when you’re not able to concentrate on typing.

Understanding an unfamiliar icon:

If you’re not sure what an icon means, you can press and hold the icon, and the name of it will appear. Like if you’re viewing a message in the Gmail app, and you don’t know what the sealed envelope means, long-press it, and the icon will appear against a blue background and the description ‘Mark unread’ will show on the screen. You can use this trick in other Google apps, such as Calendar, Talk, and Maps in Android 4.0. For more information, visit the Android 4.0 Help Center.

Use voice-activated commands:

Free up your hands when doing common tasks like writing emails, sending texts, and calling friends by using Voice Actions. Just touch the Microphone icon in the Google Search bar and start speaking. You can write a message, call a friend, or ask what song is playing, by speaking verbal commands. 

Set data controls:

Many people buy limited data plans for their phones to save money, but going over those limits can cost you big. Android lets you set controls and manage network data usage through the Settings app: Tap “Data usage” to reveal charts showing your total data usage on each network type (mobile or Wi-Fi), and the amount of data used by each running application. You can set warning levels or hard limits on data usage or disable mobile data altogether. This feature also lets you manage the background data used by individual applications by tapping on an app below the chart.

iphone 5iPhone:

Extend battery life: 

In a rush to charge your phone? Bring your battery to 100% in half the time when by switching the phone to Airplane Mode in Settings.

Two ways to extend the daily life of your battery:

1) Make sure to double-click the home button and kill all the apps you’re not using—they draw on the battery even when you’re not actively clicking through them. 

2) Turn the brightness level of the screen down, especially if you have never changed it from the default.

Increase the operating speed (and make your screen easier to look at):

To increase the speed of your iPhone, turn on the Reduce Motion feature under Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion. An added benefit: Some people complain that the signature swooping movement of the iOS7 operating system makes them feel dizzy—Reduce Motion simplifies the movement when you toggle back and forth between apps and the home screen. The difference is subtle, but instantly noticeable!

Use Siri:

Most people don’t, but you can do so much with this automated assistant! Compose text messages and emails, make phone calls, set reminders, get directions, search the Web, and more. Our favorite task for Siri is composing text and email messages. Instead of taking your eyes off the world and fumbling with the tiny keyboard, say “Send Amanda a text,” then say what you want to type, including punctuation (kind of like an old-time telegram, hah!), and Siri will insert the text.

To activate Siri from your home screen, hold down the Home button until you hear two quick beeps and see the audio wave prompt. Speak into the microphone, and when you’re done, Siri will recite back your dictation.

Make Siri smarter by teaching her the names and locations you use often. Open Siri and say “John is my husband.” So when you want to call your husband, you can tell her “Call my husband” and she will! 

Make your lock screen more private:

You know how your emails, text messages, and alerts flash on phone, even when it’s locked? Well you can hide the content of those messages by disabling the preview. To hide your iMessage previews, go to Settings > Notifications > Messages > Show Preview. Tap the option and turn it off to exclude a preview of the message in alerts and banners.

Enlarge font to make it easier to read:

Have trouble reading the small font in emails or while browsing articles on the Web from your phone? You can either enlarge all text that appears on your phone by going to Settings > General > Text Size and adjusting the slider button. Or just ask your phone to read it aloud to you!

First you’ll need to activate the Text-to-Speech function in your Settings: Go to Settings > Accessiblity > Speak Selection and then turn it On. Then, when you’re in the email or article, tap and hold the first word you’d like to highlight and drag your finger to include all the entire portion you want to hear. Then your phone will prompt you to choose “Copy” or “Speak.” Tap “Speak” to begin an audio playback of the words you’ve highlighted. You might want to adjust the Speaking Rate, since we found the default speed to be a bit fast.

Navigate your emails and iMessages like a pro:

If you know you have no interest in reading a certain email or text message, you can delete it right from the message list. Swipe across the message from right to left to reveal a Delete prompt. 

Want to know exactly what time a text message was sent? Swipe across the message without releasing your finger from the screen to reveal a timestamp.

Fix your calculator typos:

If you’re in the Calculator app and type the wrong number by mistake, you don’t have to press C and start all over. You can remove the last digit you entered by swiping across it from left to right.

Get instant access to your camera:

Don’t forget the camera shortcut on your Lock screen. Your grandchild only walks for the first time once! Get to your camera faster, by swiping the camera icon up on the Lock screen (no password required), instead of unlocking your phone and opening the Camera app from the Home screen.

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