Whether you have a brand-new Android phone or are a longtime user, change these settings to make your phone work for you.
The default settings on an Android phone are alright, but they don’t help you get the most out of your phone. Instead of settling for the same experience as everyone else, take a phone minutes to tailor your Android phones’ settings.
As we approach the holidays, there are plenty of opportunities to find a good deal on a new Android phone, whether as a gift or an excuse to treat yourself. For the most part, the Android experience is the same, no matter who makes the phone. That’s what makes Android great, well, that along with a wide range of customization options and settings, which have given Android users bragging rights over iPhone owners.
We’ll guide you through squeezing every bit of battery life out of your new device — or the one you already have — taking preventative steps in the event of a lost or stolen phone and keeping your home screen free of unnecessary clutter.
Settings to improve battery life
Living with a phone that has poor battery life can be infuriating, but there are some steps you can take to maximize each charge right from the very beginning:
1. Turn off auto screen brightness and set the slider to under 50%. The brighter your screen, the more battery power it requires. Pull down the shortcut menu from the top of the screen and adjust the slider.
Some phones also have a toggle for auto brightness in the shortcut panel; otherwise, you’ll need to open the settings app and search for “brightness” to find the setting and turn it off.
2. Use Adaptive Battery and Battery Optimization. Google first introduced both of these features in Android 9.0 Pie: They focus on learning how you use your phone, knowing which apps you use and when, and then optimizing the apps and the amount of battery they use.
Some Android phones will have a dedicated Battery section in the Settings app, while other phones (looking at you, Samsung) bury these settings. It’s a little different for each phone. I recommend opening your settings and searching for Battery. The results should get you to the right screen.
Dark mode is your friend
Another way to improve battery life while also helping save your eyes is to use Android’s dedicated dark mode. Any Android phone running Android 10 or newer will have a dedicated dark mode option.
According to Google, dark mode not only reduces the strain that smartphone displays cause on our eyes, but it also improves battery life because it takes less power to display dark backgrounds on OLED displays (used in most flagship phones) than a white background.
Depending on which version of Android your phone is running, and what company made your phone, you may have to dig around the settings app to find a dark mode. If your phone runs Android 10 or newer, you’ll be able to turn on systemwide dark mode. If it runs Android 9, don’t despair. Plenty of apps have their own dark-mode option in the settings that you can use whether or not you have Android 10.
To turn it on, open the Settings app and search for Dark Mode, Dark Theme, or even Night Mode (as Samsung likes to call it). I suggest using dark mode all the time, but if you’re not sure, you can always set dark mode to automatically turn on based on a schedule, say from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day, or allow it to automatically switch using your location at the time of sunset/sunrise.
Keep your home screen free of clutter
Planning to hit up the Google Play Store for a bunch of new Android apps? Be prepared for a lot of icon clutter on your home screen, which is where shortcuts land every time you install something.
Thankfully, there’s a simple way out of this: Long-press on an empty area of your home screen and tap Home settings. Find the option labeled something along the lines of Add icon to Home Screen and turn it off.
Presto! No more icons when you install new apps. You can still add shortcuts by dragging an app’s icon out of the app drawer, but they won’t clutter up your home screen unless you want them to.
Set up Do Not Disturb
If your phone routinely spends the night on your nightstand, you probably don’t want it beeping or buzzing every time there’s a call, message or Facebook alert — especially when you’re trying to sleep.
Thankfully, Android offers a Do Not Disturb mode that will keep the phone more or less silent during designated hours. On some phones, this is referred to as the Downtime setting or even quiet time.
Bottom line: Head to Settings > Sounds (or Sounds and notifications), then look for Do Not Disturb or a similar name. Using the feature, you can set up a range of hours (usually nighttime) when you want to turn off the digital noise. But don’t worry, any notifications you get while DND is turned on will still be waiting for you when you wake up.
Also, you can typically make an exception that allows repeat callers and favorite contacts’ calls to go through. Turn that on. If someone is calling you in an emergency, odds are they are going to keep trying.
Be prepared to lose your phone
Is there anything worse than a lost or stolen phone? Only the knowledge that you could have tracked it down if you had turned on Google’s Find My Device feature.
To set yourself up for a successful recovery, here’s what you need to do: Open the Settings app and then search for Find My Device. It’s usually in the Security section of the Settings app.
Or if you have a Samsung device, you can use Samsung’s Find My Mobile service found in Settings > Biometrics and security > Find My Mobile.
If you run into any trouble setting any of this up, be sure to read through our complete guide to finding a lost Android phone.
Assuming your phone is on and online, you should be able to see its location on a map. From there you can make it ring, lock it, set a lock screen note to tell whoever has it how to get it back to you, or, worst-case scenario, remotely wipe the whole thing.
There’s a lot more to learn about a new phone, of course. If you have a phone with Android 11, like the Pixel 4A 5G, check out these features. Or if you’re looking for ways to improve battery life on the Galaxy S20, read this. Gestures are a new way of getting around that relies on taps and swipes you’ll need to learn. Don’t forget to move Google Authenticator when you get a new phone.
Phone makers are evolving and innovating faster than ever and 2020 has been one of the most interesting years for phones. Not only have we seen more handsets with 5G or devices with flexible screens, but there has been an influx of phones that tout premium specs and affordable price tags. Some things though, remain the same — like the fact that Apple and Samsung still dominate the market. Their newest flagships, the iPhone 12 and Galaxy Note 20, respectively, offer powerful processors, fantastic multi-rear camera setups and 5G.
But despite Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy lines being the top choice for many, other companies like Motorola and OnePlus sell great phones too. The sheer amount of solid competition gives users excellent options to choose from at a range of prices.
To help you figure out the best of the best, we gathered our favorite phones of 2020. Every phone on this list has been thoroughly reviewed and tested, from their cameras to their batteries. We update this list regularly to ensure the best phone is always represented.