How To: Check Your Android Security Patch Level to See if You're Protected Against the Latest Vulnerabilities
Numerous potential exploits are found for every operating system each month, and Android is no exception. Trouble is, lots of Android devices don't receive timely updates — but many are now getting regular monthly security patches to at least shore up these vulnerabilities.
If you save your passwords in Chrome or even just use Android's default password manager, Google has some new security tools you'll be interested in.
Android's open source nature means it gets modified quite a bit. First, the phone manufacturer will add their customizations, then your carrier will add even more on top of that. Between the two, someone almost always adds a startup sound so that you and everyone around you will hear their jingle every time your phone reboots.
Back when Android used navigation buttons, there was a large black bar at the bottom of every screen to house the back, home, and recent apps buttons. But after switching to full-screen navigation gestures in 2019, there was no longer a need for it — however, a vestigial black bar still shows up when you're using your keyboard.
Smartwatches are great for notifications. No need to dig your phone out of your pocket or purse when someone texts you — just glance at your wrist! It's great for driving, walking, and any other activities where you need to stay connected to your surroundings. Except it can still be a little distracting, depending on your settings.
Back in Android 9, Google took away the expanding mini-menu for Bluetooth connections. The way it used to be, you could long-press the Bluetooth toggle in your Quick Settings, then the panel would turn into a fast-access menu for Bluetooth settings. It was a fairly minor feature, but dropping it has made it a lot harder to switch between your various Bluetooth accessories.
If you buy an Android phone from any of the big US carriers, it will come with several extra apps in addition to any apps the manufacturer preinstalled. It's all in the name of profit, of course. Some of these apps are from companies that paid the carriers to distribute their software, and some are from the carriers themselves, usually aimed at upselling you or perhaps collecting a little data.
With Samsung's One UI 3.0 update, the main on-screen volume slider has a little menu button on the top of it. Tapping this will expand the slider into a full-blown volume panel, complete with controls for all of the various types of sounds your Galaxy might make. Standard stuff, really, but there's more to it.
Reddit has been pushing for more first-party content over the last couple years. So instead of just being a place to submit links, you can now upload photos and videos directly to Reddit's servers. But unlike Imgur, Gfycat, and other popular file hosts, Reddit doesn't give you an easy way to download videos.
I'm always looking for solutions to problems people are having with their smartphones. This means I spend a lot of time browsing forums and release sites looking for new apps. In doing so, I find a lot of apps that don't quite solve a major problem, but are nonetheless pretty cool. I came across four of those this week.
You don't have to be hearing impaired to appreciate one of Android's best audio accessibility features. This one can notify you when a baby is crying, a smoke alarm is going off, or when various nefarious sounds such as breaking glass are heard.
Progressive Web Apps hope to one day bridge the gap between websites and apps by giving the former more access to your phone's features, but they're not very common yet. In the meantime, you can take matters into your own hands with an app that uses your system WebView to render websites in a full-screen, borderless window with a few extra features — a lot like a native Android app.
Nova Launcher can be customized to do just about anything, but that can get overwhelming. If you're mostly interested in getting a Pixel-like experience, you'd normally have to spend all day tweaking mundane settings like dock padding and drop shadow placement. Well, we've already done that for you.
Most of you probably hate ads on your smartphone, but they're a part of modern digital life. As long as apps like Instagram are free to use, then we'll need to pay by dealing with posts, videos, and pop-ups trying to sell us stuff. Well, not necessarily, so long as you're OK with a few compromises.
When an app needs to be absolutely sure it won't be cleared from RAM by Android's memory management system, it posts a persistent, ongoing notification. Another time you'll encounter non-removable alerts is when your phone or carrier really wants you to do something, like apply an update.
Google released the first build of Android 12 almost exactly one year after dropping Android 11, which is remarkable in the midst of a global pandemic. But you can tell the Android engineers have been hard at work while quarantining, because the latest OS version is absolutely packed with new features.
Google's "At A Glance" widget gives you the current weather conditions and upcoming events from your Google Calendar in a handy spot right at the top of your home screen. But on Pixel phones, this widget is permanently embedded into the launcher, so you can't just long-press it to remove it.
If you're using a VPN-based ad blocker with full HTTPS functionality on a Samsung phone, you'll get a notification informing you there's a third-party security certificate in use. No big deal, except it shows up every time you restart the phone. Samsung isn't alone in this type of annoyance, either.
Apple just rolled out the of iOS 14.5 to developers and beta testers, and one of the headlining features is the ability to keep your iPhone unlocked when your Apple Watch is nearby. As these things tend to go, Android has actually had this same feature for years, though it isn't quite as polished.
These days, the only thing your eyes view more than your phone's home screen is the backside of your eyelids. So it goes without saying that whatever picture you have as your background gets old pretty fast.
Every mainstream Android home screen app looks and behaves almost exactly like Google's Pixel Launcher. It's the trendsetter, like the Nexus Launcher before it. But when all your options are modeled after the same thing, that really takes the "custom" out of "custom launcher."
One of the easiest ways to change up your Android experience is by swapping out the stock launcher with a new one. The word "launcher" is Android lingo for "home screen app," and it's a common term because of how easy it is to switch to a new one. So if you're looking to revamp your home screen, this guide's for you.
Samsung's One UI 3.0 skin is built on top of Google's Android 11 open source code base, which means you get all of the standard features, plus some cool bonus stuff from Samsung. However, it's one of those standard AOSP features that you might find most useful if you send a lot of ADB commands.
Things tend to get noisy when you're in a big group chat, which is why the notification sound for that thread shouldn't be your standard, attention-grabbing ringtone. But you don't want to set the default notification sound to something too subtle, otherwise you'd miss messages that actually matter.
Apps don't need to come bundled with an entire browser just to be able to display web pages — instead, they can call on the system WebView browser to render content for them. Android's default WebView renderer is Google software, which isn't quite as privacy-forward as some other options.
Android Messages, formally named simply "Messages" now, has built-in spam protection. This doesn't get every spam SMS message, however — in fact, you can still get unwanted texts multiple times daily even with the feature enabled. Thankfully, you can manually block numbers, too.
Google's legendary phone series fittingly ended with the Nexus 6 (P), and all the replicants that have come in its wake failed to unite the geek crowd quite as well. It might seem silly to think back on a smartphone with a sense of nostalgia, but if any Android phone deserves it, it's the Nexus.
ADB and Fastboot are powerful tools that have always required a computer. But with the right setup, you can now send commands to a phone using another phone.
Pixels don't have a "Download Mode" like Samsung Galaxy phones, so there's not an easy, point-and-click way to send firmware files and low-level commands from your computer. What they do have is an even more powerful tool: Fastboot Mode.
Okay, so you rooted your Android phone .... now what? There are a few ducks you need to get into a row, like backing up your stock boot image, getting SafetyNet sorted, and improving security with biometrics. But there are also awesome root mods waiting for you — just don't get ahead of yourself.
The iPhone has a setting that will obfuscate the content of notifications on its lock screen until you're recognized by Face ID. Google implemented this same feature in its Pixel phones, but many Android devices have no such option. At least, not by default.
Bloatware is a problem on Android, and it's not just a Samsung thing. Removing apps that have the Uninstall or Disable button grayed out in Settings has always involved sending ADB commands to your phone from a computer, which itself was always such a pain to set up. Thankfully, that has finally changed.
There are modded Spofity APKs floating around that essentially give you a Spotify Premium account for free, but the music streaming giant has been aggressively banning users who go this route. So if you're tired of listening to ads, but you don't want to do anything illegal, you'll want to know about this new app.
There are three tiers to Android customization: things you can do by default, things you can do with ADB, and things you can do with root. While root is still pretty tricky to get, ADB mods just got a lot easier.
Google switched to gestural navigation in Android 9, and in removing the back/home/recents buttons, they were able to greatly reduce the size of the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen. However, there's still a white line, aka "The Pill," taking up space to show you where to start your gestures.
The two primary design paradigms in Samsung's One UI Android skin are vertical padding and rounded UI elements. The extra empty space at the top of most menus moves touchable elements closer to your thumb, and the rounded UI elements match the curved corners of modern smartphone screens. While you can't add the vertical padding on other Android phones, you can now get the rounded corners.
Everyone raves about Gboard and SwiftKey, but the stock Samsung Keyboard on Galaxy devices is awesome in its own right. It's preloaded, so you don't have to do anything to get it, but at the same time, it's packed with features — even some you might not know about.
Nowadays, even the dumbest thieves know that the first thing you should do after you steal a phone is turn on airplane mode. Not only does this make it harder for police to track the phone through cell tower triangulation, but it also disables security features the person you stole it from may have implemented — for instance, Samsung's Find My Mobile service.
Codecs are like ZIP archives for media files. Rather than storing an entire analog sound file, the digital version is compressed to save space. The algorithm used to reduce file size is called a codec, as it encodes to digitize and decodes when it's time to play the file back. So as you can imagine, a better codec can lead to drastically improved sound quality.
Standard notifications on Android are pretty intuitive, but the little popup toast messages that appear at the bottom of the screen can be a bit elusive. They come and they go, and that's about it. You can't long-press them to change their settings or even tell which app displayed them in the first place.