Customization is what Android is all about. I love that I can add to, or take away from the Android OS with a push of a button, or swipe of the finger. If you haven’t customized your phone, it’s time to get on it. Here’s a simple list of some special customizations to help you get the most out of your Android phone or tablet.
- Customize your home screen - this is the easiest of the Android customizations. The easiest change is to add a wallpaper to your phone or tablet. To change your background: Long press on screen > choose an option.
- Add Pictures to Contacts – I’ve just recently started adding photos to contacts, especially those who refuse to connect with Facebook or Twitter. To perform the reset on Android 4.0 devices, you can add a picture by selecting the contact > tap Menu > Edit > tap the contact portrait > select an option. For Android 3.0 and below, you can quickly add the photo by simply clicking on the portrait. If you sync with Facebook, LinkedIn, or some other app, profiles and their pictures should populate automatically.
- Add Widgets - normally, I’m not a widget fan since they tend to drain precious mobile resources. However, under a few circumstances, widgets are pretty cool, and handy. In ICS, you can find the widgets in the apps menu. For older versions of Android, follow these steps. I have a weather widget, My Verizon widget for monitoring data, Dropbox and Google Docs (Drive) widgets, and one for Waze. If you’re careful on which ones you install, widgets will add depth and simplicity to your Android device.
- Clean up your Android device – over time, some devices can acquire a lot of unused programs or data. Take a look at your device and uninstall apps you’re not using, backup photos to other spaces, and delete or clear unused files.
- Take Screenshots - ICS provides a simple an easy way to capture what’s on your screen (e.g. the 125 degrees on your weather app). To take a screenshot press and hold volume down and power for about 2 seconds. For older versions, use apps like Screenshot It ($3.99).
- Manage your data usage – ICS adds a new feature to its system menu, called Data usage. The screen measures your phone’s data useage and displays it in a neat graph. You can also scroll through a list of apps, and see what amounts of data they’re using. For me, I use the My Verizon (free) app to tell me where my limits are. It’s handy to know who’s using the most, but I really only care if it’s going to cost me extra money.
- Manage your batter usage – most people don’t know that you can perk up your device just by shutting down a few services. Of course, some won’t be significant, but others, such as your display, could be wreaking havoc on your battery life. To check which apps or services are the biggest resource hogs on your Android 4.0 device, click Menu > Battery. For older models, click Menu > About phone > Battery use.
- Manage your tasks – ICS has a task manager widget, or you can clear your task history by long-pressing on the home button. For older devices, you’ll want to grab a task manager app such as Advanced Task Killer (free). Managing and controlling apps is an important step in keeping your device in prime condition.
- Install a Custom ROM – you should only attempt this customization, if you’re fairly computer savvy. While the installation on some phones isn’t particularly difficult, you can run into some significant problems. My favorite custom ROM is Cyanogenmod, currently at build 9 for most devices.
- Go back to basic – every once in awhile, if you’re really brave, it’s nice to “toast” your phone altogether using factory reset. Note, you should back up your device before resetting. To perform the reset: click Menu > Settings > Privacy > select Factory data reset > follow the prompts.
There’s nothing better than cleaning up the device and setting it away “new.” The fresh start almost makes me forget about the shiny new devices offered by my wireless carrier.